Wednesday, December 03, 2008

T Is For The Tricolour

In Memory Of Mumbai, A City Of Indomitable Spirit

The Indian tricolour. Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


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.

For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

36 comments:

lime said...

such a horrifying and terrible thing. my heart goes out to those who have suffered due to this tragedy.

The Muse said...

My heart is greatly saddened by all that has happened. And my family reaches out to those who are suffering such loss....

RuneE said...

A timely post if ever you have mad one (and you have made many). The atrocities that humans can cause each other for religious and/or political/ideological reasons are immense.

We are the first species who are capable of destroying ourselves. The earth may survive what we do, but I very much doubt that we will.

RuneE said...

One more thing:

Make you own post "Post of the day".

Lee said...

David, Thank you for giving me a better understanding of this event. I hurt for your friend and all those who lost friends and loved ones in the attacks. I hope other countries are rallying to support India in dealing with this and the aftermath. I'm glad you and your family weren't there during them and know that you are a source of comfort to your friends who were.

Peace! & Hope!

distracted by shiny objects said...

Just when you think there are no more tears you can cry...All over the world, we are all becoming too familiar with this violence and share the burden of the pain with you and Mumbai Blessings to all.

Indrani said...

Very very touching, David.
I am choking for the right words to put here.
God bless, friend.

Hilary said...

Such a sad and horrific event. I always struggle to believe that human heart of this sort of ugliness in them. My own heart goes out to you and yours.

katherine. said...

there have been many stories of the brave and calm actions by the hotel's staff...

fishing guy said...

David: The fact that you are from there has to make it so much worse. I sometime ask myself why has the world become worse. We seem to be on a downhill slide that will never end.

Luke said...

David,

Thanks for writing this.

Thoughts and prayers for all those who have suffered during this difficult time.

Mojo said...

A stunning photo and a very moving post to go along with it. But out of all this, what we will see in the coming days and weeks is the incredible resilience of India and her people. Mumbai has been given a bruise, but she will heal. No terrorists, no matter how brutal, no matter how well funded can break that spirit. I know of no other people on earth better able to rise above tragedy than those in India. It's one of the things I admire most about the country and the people who make it up.

jite raho mataram!

Daryl said...

Just a horrible act of violence ... my boss and his wife were there just 2.5 weeks ago .. so scary!

:-Daryl

A Blog In The Rough said...

wonderful memorial

Sylvia K said...

It has been such a horrifying thing, there is one picture I can't get out of my mind, I posted it because I could so feel for the woman there who had lost her son, it could have been mine. My heart goes out to all of those who have suffered losses during this most recent tragedy.

French Fancy said...

I can hardly bear to watch it on the news but I make myself, I have to see it but I can't understand it.

Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and moving tribute, David. My thoughts and prayers are with all those who grieve following this tragedy.

Maggie May said...

It is a really sad thing that has happened there and I was wondering if you would mention it and if you would be affected by anyone you knew who might have been caught up in it.
The post was very sensitively written.
Heartrending.

cheshire wife said...

The TV images have been horrific. So much blood shed and loss of life. And all for what?

Queen-Size funny bone said...

I hope this New Year will bring Peace to everyone. This is heartbreaking.

Queen-Size funny bone said...

I hope this New Year will bring Peace to everyone. This is heartbreaking.

Leslie: said...

Such a horrifying thing to watch and it reminded so many of 9/11 in the USA. So much madness in the world these days! What makes much of it so sickening is that it's done in the name of someone's "god." I pray that peace might reign magnificently some day very soon.

Tiaras and Tantrums said...

. . incredibly sad and horrific

Fireblossom said...

I can't understand what drives people to do these things. It's inhuman.

spacedlaw said...

Such a tragedy (which sadly begins with a T too). Thanks for putting this up.

Shrinky said...

Thank you for this moving account David. So tragic.

Bear Naked said...

It is times like this that I wish for peace on earth.
Will we never see it in our livetime?
Our children's?
Our grandchildren's?

Bear((( )))

The Egel Nest said...

This post is sad and beautiful all at once...your love for India shines through...

Bradley
The Egel Nest

Cuckoo said...

Thank you David for such a moving post about my country. I have been to umpteen no. of times to those places, they are so familiar that I am yet to come to terms.

Cuckoo
Mumbai

Jo Beaufoix said...

Great post David. Such a terrible and terrifying event. My heart goes out to all the people ivolved and their families and friends.

Bee said...

This is one of the best things I've read about this horrific event. It is absolutely soul-sickening.

mrsnesbitt said...

I agree David, a definate post of the day. Written with such integrity.

babooshka said...

Such a terrible loss. Many bloggers who I only know virtually seem to be caught up or know of someone caught in such horrific incidents like this. Will there ever be an end to such things. I doubt in my life time and are supposed to be more civilised than any other time in history. Very poignant post.

SSQuo said...

Its been hard and I can only pray for the people who lost their lives, people who lost their loved ones, and for yet others who lost a part of themselves.

Lakshmi said...

Its a city that had groomed me and mu heart goes out to those who have lost their lives and their near and dear ones..india has vowed never to tolerate terrorists every again

Sandi McBride said...

When I think of India I can't help but think of peace and tranquility, though I know many many others would not agree with me. Perhaps its the sacred cows that are allowed to roam without fear of injury from human, which is a miracle in itself. Perhaps its the calmness with which things seem to be approached. In the back of my mind I know that there is as much violence and devastation in the land of India as anywhere else. But it seems a sacrilege for it to be so. Perhaps appearances that are deceiving are responsible for the shock we feel in our hearts now.
Sandi