Bombay 26/11 – Delhi is Far
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The show goes on in the Capital.
[Text and picture by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Bombay, the site of 27/11 terror attacks, is far from Delhi. Here the metro train is speeding towards Mandi House. The traffic light is turning green at Bhagwan Dass crossing. The Faridabad EMU is chugging on the railway overbridge. All seems normal.
I walk to my office in Connaught Place. A colleague teases me about my Pakistan connections. “Mayank, you should no longer hang out with Pakis or you too will become a terrorist,” she advices. “What does your Arundhati Roy have to say,” another asks.
I go to the window and look at the city outside.
Here is the skyline. Regal building, L-Block, Palika Bazaar Parking, Statesman Tower. I think of Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay where terrorists are still holed up with several guests as hostages. I’ve never been to that hotel and yet today it feels like a lost home. Its old wing in tatters. Its dome destroyed. Its rooms burned.
If such an attack takes place in Delhi, where would it be?
India Gate? Red Fort? Where’s the Delhi’s heart?
But it doesn’t matter.
I take an auto to the Taj Mahal hotel in Mansingh Road.
The entrance is heavily guarded. I slip inside and walk up the driveway. Something’s amiss. On entering, my shoulder bag, my jeans pockets — everything — is frisked. I walk under a metal detector, and then… the usual 5-star sights — the speckless glass door, the turbaned doormen, the pretty hostesses and the handsome duty manager.
The show must go on.
While their most prestigious property is now a war zone, the facade of it’s-just-another-day is at full play in the lobby here. These serious luxury hotels just don’t have to pretend that nothing has happened but they also have to make sure nothing happens. The music playing on, the houseguests on sofas, and friends chatting in the tea lounge. But something’s amiss. Two Delhi Police cops sitting at a corner with rifles on the table.
Strange times, strange sights.
I walk over to Khan Market, into Full Circle bookshop and up the stairs at Café Turtle where I see an expat family. I want to have coffee with them and talk about Bombay. But this Australian family isn’t aware that my country is hit by its worst-ever terror attack.
You can’t get lonelier.
Security Check outside Taj Mansingh