Wednesday evening. Around 9 PM. I called up Chitto to discuss about the Goa-trip that we three (third one being Pravu) had planned for the first weekend of December. Tickets were booked, researches were in progress to have some serious kick-ass fun and my intent for the call was to finalize the place of stay. Having exchanged the pleasantries ( both of us greet each other with a “Hello Sir!” for reasons unknown), we decided to get Pravu too in the conference.. He stays in Gurgaon but was in Kharagpur at that time.
Just when we finalized on a Hotel on Calangute beach, Chitto asked us whether we heard the sounds of bullets in the background. Chitto stays in Colaba and informed us that there’s a gang war going on in Colaba at various place and he has switched off all the lights and bolted the doors & windows. I googled “Colaba” for any such news, but there wasn’t any update till then. I jokingly told him to show some enterprise, become a citizen journalist and take some snaps of the gangsters. He then heard the booming sound of a bomb or a grenade perhaps.
We decided to hang up some time later and I immediately called up my brother who stays in Wadala which is a few Kilometers away from Colaba. He is a party animal and visits places in Colaba quite often. He was at a friend’s place in Dadar at that time and was aware of the “situation” in Colaba. He assured me that he will leave only after the gang war is over. By this time rediff had a headline about shootouts in Colaba; details were missing.
A couple of hours later I checked the news again and by this time it was clear that Mumbai was under an terrorist attack at various places and around ten people have died. Once again I called up brother. He was still with his friend Munish in Dadar. Three of Munish’s friends were missing and not reachable. They were supposed to be in Colaba at that time. Brother told me that he will leave only in the morning now. He had called up our parents & informed them. This is something that we both always do; we both never get calls from home in times of crisis and it is we who inform them that there is a crisis and we are safe.. Last time there were blasts in Bangalore, I was the one to inform my father that there are blasts and that I am far away from the area where blasts took place which was a lie ; the affected areas were at walking distances.
Thursday morning I logged on to the net as soon as I was up. The death count was 100 and the attack was rightly termed as unprecedented in terms of impact and manner in which it was being carried out. All the news headlines were in bold and there was absolutely no coverage for any other news which included state elections. A picture of burning Taj was shown along with the count for dead, hostages and injured. Experiences of narrow escape and horror abounded.
I went to office and then called up Chitto once again. He told me that the Nariman Point house where a Jewish family is taken hostage is just two streets away from his place. There are trucks of army and firemen around his place. He didn’t have any option but to stay locked inside the house. Once again I called my brother. Two of Munish’s friends who were missing last night were shot dead in Leopold Cafe. The bullets went right through their heads. One of them was two years junior to me at IIT Kharagpur and was about to get married in December. The other was from Indore.
The idea of a rocking trip to Goa seemed too perverse at that time and I discussed the same with Chitto. We decided to call it off, but gave ourselves a couple of days before we put a death nail into it and inform Pravu. My brother was going to Dewas the next day and he too cancelled the tickets now. The carnage was still on and the end was nowhere in sight. Contradictory news and rumors abounded. Taj and Oberoi were reported to be free a couple of times only to be followed by with news about raging fire and even more bullets and grenades.
My brother works for Yes-bank and Friday afternoon I got a call from him that Yes-Bank chairman Ashok Kapur was found dead in Oberoi. Saturday morning I went out for a walk and saw some reporters at the Frank Anthony school which is quite close to my place; one can hear “We shall overcome someday” when they sing in the assembly. The reporters were here because the NSG Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who died bravely combating the terrorists, studied at this school.
By Saturday afternoon, the trauma had officially ended. This was the first time things were happening to people connected to me. Thinking about my feelings about all this seems guilt filled indulgence to me. How does it matter if everything would be forgotten in a few days? Many of us are expressing rage, offering solutions, analyzing the situation, writing articles, commenting on the news sites. Will it be the same short lived patriotism, rage and sadness? Would the voices once again die down without any actions? One-minute-silences would follow, dead would be forgotten and then life will go on, waiting for another day when once again these maniacal devils would come to play with their bullets and bombs and bathe with our blood.
For this one time I wish there is a One minute where entire Mumbai erupts with people shouting at top of their voices. Let there be screams and cries, let there be shrieks, let the city roar. Let the twenty million souls voice there anguish and anger together; the sound would be loud enough to tremble Delhi and Karachi. This time Mumbai shouldn’t be praised for its ‘resilience’, but for its strength and the will to not to forget what was done to it and to not let this happen again. How we all wish that. But would those wishes remain a dream and would we once again allow the reality to become a nightmare.