In Memory Of Mumbai, A City Of Indomitable Spirit
This is supposed to be the wedding season in Mumbai. Instead, there are funerals. Far too many funerals.
For generations, the sea brought trade and wealth to an ancient land of many cultures. Last week, the sea that kisses the shores of the city instead brought a team of gunmen.
Many stories stand out from the three days of terror. Far, far too many to mention. But I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight the case of the two young Australian tourists at Cafe Leopold. When the shooting began, they rushed to an exit when the young man suddenly realised his girlfriend wasn't with him.
He went back to find her crawling towards the door. She had been shot through the femur. He carried her through the doorway where he saw another gunman. The young couple survived. They had, in the words of the girl's mother, only been in Mumbai for three hours.
Another person at Cafe Leopold was an Indian man who escaped the bullets but left his cell phone behind on his table. His wife, who wasn't with him, heard about the killlings and immediately rang the cell phone.
The call was answered by a policeman who told the woman the phone had been left on a table and that he could not tell her if her husband was alive or was among the bodies in the cafe. Eventually, the man was able to ring home on a landline and assure his wife that he was safe.
On that terrible day last week, a friend told me of a group of seven people were at the Oberoi hotel. Three couples and woman, like so many others in the city that never sleeps, enjoying each other's company in one of the towering edifices symbolic of the city's prosperity.
It was just a normal day, like any other in Mumbai, the city that never sleeps.
When the shooting began, the woman was saved by hotel staff. Her six companions died. From what had been a convivial gathering of friends, little remained except the freeze-frame moments of carnage.
It was - suddenly - no longer a normal day in Mumbai.
India is the country where I was born and where I was educated. Far too many of my close friends in the city, the financial capital of India, had poignant tales to tell last week. Their home turf is now the subject of an investigation that will include not just the best-known forensic experts in the country, but British investigators and teams from the FBI and Interpol as well.
Mumbai (formerly Bombay) was part of the dowry that Catherine of Braganza brought to her marriage to the English monarch Charles II of England in the seventeenth century. Marine Drive, with its distinctive arc bisecting the Arabian Sea and some of the world's most sought-after real estate, is still referred to as "the Queen's necklace".
Too often, the city has been synonymous with terror attacks. In 1993, in the co-ordinated series of atrocities known as the Stock Exchange bombings, at least 200 people died and 800 were injured as more than a dozen bombs exploded across prime locations. Then came the train bombings in 2006 that killed almost 200 people.
Last week, a woman who grew up in Mumbai and now lives in the Far East told me she could not bring herself to watch the coverage of the terror attacks and live footage of gun battles at the Taj. She and her husband and their toddler had been in Mumbai and had opted to stay at the Taj. Their room was under the historic dome that was ringed by fire and viewed on TV screens around the world.
They had checked out of the hotel just four days before the terrorists struck.
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