26/11

Me

Me

Today I can’t bring myself to wax eloquent about the “who’s who” and “wear’s what” of Mumbai glitterati.
Today I need to tell you like it is.

What started out as an average Wednesday in Mumbai (laced with just enough excitement for an evening of disco salsa with new friends) quickly spiralled into a night of total terror as I watched my Mumbai burn. I had plans to meet my friend for drinks at Dragonfly which happens to be bang opposite the lobby of the Trident Oberoi. Ironically, I had suggested we meet in the hotel lobby at 9:45pm since it would be easier for his cabby to find. By what feels like much more than a stroke of luck I happened to arrive early and decided to head up to Dragonfly instead and told him to stop and call me when he took the “INOX left.” Literally 30 seconds after he stepped out of his taxi we heard (what I immediately assumed to be fireworks) and saw sparks flying around the main entrance to the Oberoi lobby. (I recall my brain trying to rationalize this odd display cricket celebrations? perhaps a prank?) and I blurted out, “Haha it’s either fire works or gunshots, either way maybe we should go upstairs!”

The next 20 minutes were spent learning disco moves with the good natured salsa crew I’ve been raving about (with even more reason now.) Even two tremors later (apparently the grenades that set the Oberoi ablaze) we couldn’t possibly have imagined what was really going down. I think it only really hit me when the owner of the club told me “I have bullet proof glass, come I show you.” And whisked me away to the adjoining restaurant and pointed at a freshly lodged bullet in one of the tall glass windows. From this point on the night is a blur of frantic phone calls, SMS updates, angry reminders of “keep-away-from-the-glass, please!”, phone-battery lows (or woes) news-channel surfing, friendly sniffer-dogs, tablecloth blankets, and two failed attempts to leave. We watched stunned, reports flooded in of explosion after explosion and the death toll kept rising as this mindless conspiracy unravelled itself.

I don’t think I will ever be able to erase the memory of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel dome engulfed in flames or the agonizingly young and bitter face of an AK47 wielding terrorist. Even now, the chilling realisation that I remain unharmed while so many lives have been erased in an instant humbles me. At 5:00am when we finally made our way home, full of trepidation and fear dawn brought us an eerie sense of calm as oblivious joggers made their daily trek up marine drive while the battle ragged on less then a kilometer away.

I don’t know if this qualifies as insensitive or resilient, but I do know this; in times of crisis, when we need it most, a motley crew of Mumbaikers will always pull out all the stops and  show you the love. Thank you Pankhil, Shaneen, Derek, Anshul, Avan, Kaytee, Shyaam, Swati, Sahiba, Nasir, Tarana, Diana, Magalie, Aalia, Andrew, the generous guys who dropped us home, and the life-saver girl with the phone charger (I still have it!) I feel like I lost a little faith but gained a lot of friends.

One Spirit, One Love, One Mumbai.

Listen to my reports for The Take Away:

Updates on Mumbai Terror Attacks
Mumbai: sifting facts from rumors
Mumbai: how India responds

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10 Comments

Filed under 26/11 Terrorism, Random Thoughts, Strange But True

10 responses to “26/11

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  6. Steve

    Malini, If only we humans could put our ‘stupid differences’ aside 😦

    I really can’t understand what these people are trying to acheive!

    It’s understandable that u feel a sense of guilt for resuming back to ur life, but what else can u do?

    And it’s not as if you or anyone can forget this and all the other incidents.

    Whatever happened to our world??
    So much hatred and anger…

    But equally, compassion and love are also here.

    That’s what binds us.

    And no terrorist can take that away…

  7. missmalini

    Days go by and I can only think of those who’s nightmare has only just begun. Deepti, Tanmay – I share the bitter-sweet relief of having escaped unharmed and know exactly how you both feel… I also continue to live a parallel life in my mind which is much more horrific. 😦

    Steve it is heartening and natural that you feel heartache. It is a terrible thing and I hope if anything good can come of this it will be the universal desire to heal each other and put aside our stupid differences.

    My heart bleeds for Mumbai and the times we live in. I feel guilty for moving on so soon and resuming my life, but I suppose part of their plan is to terrify everyone into in-action so we can’t do that either…

  8. Steve

    Deepti, ur extremely fortunate.
    Just reading ur account of the evening made me shudder.

    Malini, thankyou for sharing that with us.
    I could almost ‘hear’ u, as i’m familiar with ur voice from the radio.

    It’s just…
    I’m still struggling to find the words.

    I’m not from Mumbai, or India for that matter.
    But I feel so saddened by all this.
    I just can’t stop thinking about this…

  9. deepti

    it was one of those hectic days for me yesterday.corporate law has its downswings.erratic work hours, unbelievable dead lines and the works.yesterday was one of those ‘achieve-the-target-before-time’ days.The clock struck 7 and for some weird reason i just felt like rushing back home.my conference call with foreign clients which was scheduled for yesterday evening was postponed to an early morning call today.I wanted to be in my element for the con call and so i decided to shut shop in spite of truck loads of work.i went to CST station to catch my train back home, the same station which i always thought was safe even when i travelled back home late in the night(which happens more often than not). I reached home and was flooded with calls about my safety coz i am one of the 2 people who travel to the burbs via CST.And then i realised how narrowly i had missed being caught in the mayhem.i dont even want to think what would have happened i i had decided to wait and work and catch my usual 9:47 fast train from CST. I guess someone up there loves me too much so as to make me trust my instincts yesterday!

  10. I travelled to Mumbai and was at Trident Hotel (Oberoi) to attend a meeting just a day before. I was fortunate to have escaped this horror by just 24 hours – but I am not elated and overwhelmed because I know that many others who lost their lives had no escape route when death came calling! Even those who are held hostage as I write this have no escape route!

    We say Mumbai is resilient and will bounce back. Life soon returns to normalcy after a few days whenever terror strikes anywhere across the globe. One has to move on and be resilient when there is nothing one can really do! Resilience then is not by choice, but merely by force.

    Love, care, empathy and compassion really come to fore in such difficult times and hats off to Mumbaikars for pouring that in abundance on injured and victims.

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