Of Cabbages and Kings

January 6, 2009

Menon on Mumbai

Filed under: Across the Universe — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 12:58 am

Meena Menon has written an excellent account (which I found via Law and Other Things) of the period in which Mumbai was attacked. I rarely make it  to the end of news reports on the Mumbai tragedy these days. Most authors seem to explore the same tired themes and offer what have now become familiar images. This piece is different. It took me back to Nariman point, to stand among the people of Mumbai. Not just the heroes, furious people or tragedy-stricken people but All the people: the fascinating mix that will save lives, mistake gunfire for domestic sounds, bring popcorn along to see the “live action” unfold, jog on Marine Drive while there are terrorists in the Trident and protect their guests even in the midst of the most frightening events they have ever seen. Excerpts:

At first, many had thought the firing was firecrackers, and so had not thought of escape. A lady whose husband had been killed in the firing inside said, in an interview much later, that the gunshots had sounded like chana spilling on the ground…

A bald tourist in a pink silk bathrobe was being pestered for interviews. His face blackened by soot, he was clearly in a state of panic, trying his best not to speak. Still the journalists persisted. He had run down the fire escape, more than 20 floors…

In the high drama that was captured moment by moment on live TV at the Taj, the Oberoi and Nariman House, people somehow forgot Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. The stories of death and disaster from the historic landmark became known only later, but they were no less traumatic. An announcer who cleared the suburban concourse saved many lives; a motorman who was able to keep his wits suggested the announcement; a railway policeman who fired at the attackers with an outdated rifle – these and other stories of alertness and caring came later. In the rush to cover the siege, we had all but forgotten that 56 people were killed in that railway station, named after Queen Victoria and renamed after Maharashtra’s most famous king.

The two armed policemen who had shot another attacker, who was driving a hijacked Skoda, had never before fired their 9 mm pistols. One policeman trying to grapple with the captured Kasab did not realise that the gunman had an AK-47 along his prostrate body, and died after taking five bullets.”

I wouldn’t miss this article if I were you.


November 26, 2008

Mumbai attacked

Filed under: Across the Universe, Personal — Tags: , , , — Chinmayi @ 9:09 pm

This seems to be a week for violence. Bombay is under attack as I sit in this faraway country and look up the next day’s reading material. The Hilton – which is brightly lit all night – looks tired and decrepit and has the army and the police swarming all over it. Arrogant powerful business-people are now frightened hostages huddled inside. People hurrying home after a long day’s work have died and their relatives cannot get to them because it is too dangerous.

A crowded raiway station, three (possibly four) of the most exclusive hotels and a busy central shopping avenue have been attacked. Machine guns and grenades seem to be flying about, there is blood splashed on the sidewalk and the most powerful and resilient city in my country is terrified and falling apart. A man that heads the firm that I used work at managed to escape from one of the hotels under attack. My friends are confined at their offices because to leave would mean to walk straight into restricted areas and gunfire. 

Tonight I will pray. That this madness stops. That more people are not hurt. That the retaliation is not worse than the attack. That the cycle of violence stops here and Bombay has time to heal as it has so many times before today.

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