On 15th August 2010, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai was reopened after restoration. A few months later, US President Barack Obama stayed in the very same corridors that had been enveloped with pungent smoke of blood and growls of gunfire, just two years ago. In a speech from the terrace of the hotel, Obama said that “the Taj has been the symbol of the strength and the resilience of the Indian people.”
On 26th November 2008, the city of dreams had become a war-zone for a few brainwashed men. The city that never sleeps wept in horror as siege went on for almost sixty hours. The world had watched the images of the burning dome of the hotel as the people of Mumbai grappled with a new reality that had struck home.
The busy life of the city, one that hardly lets you stop and stare at itself, stopped and stared in disbelief. The courage of a people, that is often taken for granted, stood at crossroads with fear. Not for long, however. The collective conscience of the people was shaken but it did not despair. The attack did happen but the recovery despite the losses was a dream realised. The firefighters, the policemen, the nurses and the doctors, the ordinary people lifting people up literally – that was extraordinary.
They attacked the symbol of spreading Indian influence and imagination, the image that thousands of tourists adore daily at the shores of the Arabian Sea. They could not destroy the spreading Indian influence and imagination. It still holds after eight years and will continue to do so.
“He said that we had to fight the war for Allah. He said if we died waging jihad our faces would glow like the moon. Our bodies would emanate scent. And we would go to paradise”, Ajmal Kasab, one of the captured men, told the then Joint Commissioner of Police, Rakesh Maria during interrogation.
He was then taken to the mortuary where the dead-bodies of the nine killed terrorists had been kept. Afterwards, JCP Maria asked him, “So, did you see the glow on their faces and the smell of fragrance of roses emanating from their bodies as Hafiz Saeed had told you?”
Bitterly, he sobbed. For, the chaos, that those perpetrators lived in and wanted to project onto us, could never sustain itself. It had proved to be too unsatisfying.