MUMBAI, India — In a newly crafted display window, tucked in the back corner of the lobby of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, was a piece of art, aptly named the “Tree of Life.” The work, beside a plaque listing the names of those who had perished in the Taj, was all that remained visible of the day that terrorists had stormed the lobby, and held hostage its guests and staff. In front of the window, hotel guests lined up to sign their named in a book, writing things like, “The spirit of the Taj is uncrushable,” and, “terrorism will not prevail.”

These sorts of comments have come to engender the spirit of the Indian population. As a nation, India has endured nearly one terror attack every month since last July, and lost over 2000 people to these attacks in the past year, but in the face of terror, the country has always bounced back immediately. Though the Indian media jumped at the chance to compare they day they dubbed “26/11” to 9/11, the societal reactions haven’t compared.

When I made my first visit to New York, two months after the assault on the twin towers, the city was still in deep mourning, wreaths, candles, and photos of missing loved ones plastering every corner of the metropolis. When I eventually moved there three years later, the photos of missing people had vanished, but little else had changed. After seven years, New York City is still having trouble moving on. Every September 11th the city fills the skyline with two perpetual spotlights in place of the towers. Bagpipe players mourn for the dead in the streets of the Financial District, as throughout the day all the names of those who were lost when the towers crumbled are read aloud. As we come into 2009 the site of the twin towers is still nothing more than a gigantic hole in the ground, an open wound that refuses to allow New York City to move on. The Financial District is still a comparative ghost town.



One month to the day after gunmen entered the Taj Mahal Hotel on November 26, the lobby of the hotel looked once again as it always had. In the hours of the attacks, the perfectly polished marble floors were stained with blood, the stately atmosphere muffled by screams and sprays of bullets. But by December 26, the hotel that had once played host to Mick Jagger, Jackie Kennedy and The Beatles had regained its regal composure, the lobby decorated for Christmas as it buzzed with equal mixes of tourists and the well to-do. Easily the most majestic landmark of the Mumbai skyline, the Taj is an architectural marvel that has played host to many of the worlds most powerful since it first opened its doors in 1903, founded by industrialist Jamshedji Tata, as the first luxury hotel in the city that booked Indian as well as white guests.

The day after the firing stopped, Indian papers and news stations reported of an eerie ghost town Mumbai had become. But by that time , everyone was already back at work. And only one month after the attack on Mumbai, life had once again become de rigueur, at least partially because for Indians, unlike Americans and 9/11, terrorism is the norm. In New York, we obsessed over the events of 9/11 for years, letting our obsession dominate our public space, and keep us from resuming our normal lives. In India, even though the Mumbai attacks were thus far unprecedented and surely have had a lasting impact on the people of Mumbai, Mumbaikers have learned not to let terrorism get the best of them. They pull together, go back to work, and refuse to let such evil misdeeds interfere with their way of living.

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About The Author

Special Blast Magazine Correspondent Kristen V Brown is a former New Yorker working as an editor at The Caravan magazine in New Delhi, India. She has previously written for the New York Daily News, amNew York, Newsday and Curve magazine.

One Response

  1. ScaredToDeath

    People often condemn terrorism without knowing about the minute details of it. Of course, terror of any kind is not correct at any given time but if you are ever involved in any type of terror, then you do not have the right to speak against it. Why such things begin first in Mumbai city ? Something must have gone wrong there otherwise; the entire city would not have been put to test. If you forgotten, let me ask you, is it a ghost terror which started by Mumbai people 15 years ago on a single man ? The poor man left Mumbai but still people of Mumbai did not leave him. Is it not a terror of victimization by masses, that too by inhuman means (ghosts)??? Entire city was against him along with the ghosts, for what ? Is anybody justifiable for troubling that man who was Indian by birth, sacrificed his life for humanity. He was too brother/son/friend of somebody. How many such innocent lives you destroyed by your evil methods and ego, just because there is no law for your evil doings. There were so many suicidal proposals/techniques implemented to get rid of that man. One person’s unfairness to live can question your humanity and put you to test to restore humanity. Nobody thought about his nationality then, because that time, it was not just suitable for them. Violent mob always go scot free. The same things happen in the riots where people go out of control before realizing what humanity is. Now, if you check same people were laying on the floors to get saved from the terrorists. Guess why such things happening….

    Do Mumbaikars really believe/understand what they are doing ? On one hand they do not allow people from other states to live in Mumbai and on the other hand, they want commandos from other state to protect them from terrorist (not a single Mumbai commando). Who will make them understand what is correct or wrong. Fearsome and poor people will leave the city to get rid of the violence but see what happens when terrorists attacks. VT station was like a ghost station when terrorist captured it. Do Mumbai-cars really understand the worst possibilities that could have happened? It has become very simple for politicians and their followers (citizens) to blame other countries and be safe but it is for public to understand (if they have not gone berserk) why they blame other countries and spoil the developing relations. What would be the aim of terrorists, if relations between the two countries improvise and no issue remains like kashmir.

    As it is selfish Mumbaikars do not care the Indian sentiments, be it a ghost terror or any such issue related to nation but want entire nation to come to their rescue. How wrong is it to take lessons from Kasa(b)re and continue ? So many adversities only suggest that root cause is in the evil minds of the Mumbaikars who still believe in promoting the ghost terror and export it to other countries.


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