Ten Years On – Mumbai’s terror attack #MondayMusings

Today is a Monday that is quite unlike any other Monday this year. It is the 10th Anniversary of the terror attack that shook my city. An event that forever changed the fabric of Mumbai. 

Image for Colaba Backbay

The quiet sleepy fishing village from where the terrorists entered the city

Memories of the Taj

For many a Mumbaikar, the Taj Mahal Hotel holds special memories. I remember it as a place my friends and I would sneak in from the rear entrance for a quick pee in the opulent surroundings. It was definitely better than our stinky loos in college nearby.

We also frequented it albeit rarely as college kids to celebrate a special event where we would spill out our loose change on the table to pay the tab!

Then as newly weds we would go to the rooftop bar for my favourite Mai Tai while we watched the lights flickering below. The Shamiana and the Patisserie were popular with the children who looked forward to the Chocolate Fuffle ( truffle) cake that was insanely chocolate.

And I can’t count the number of times we entertained our foreign visitors at the Tanjore. It was a wonderful place to introduce the foreigner to the Indian palate with some Indian Culture on the side.  The Golden Dragon and later on Wasabi became our  go-to place for a special treat.

Apart from the restaurants I used to love browsing in  the book shop and the shoe shop . And of course the lobby was a great place to people watch while I waited for many a visitor to show up.

The Taj used to be like that in the old days – laid back and easy to walk into. Today it has become a veritable fortress. The rear entrance is completely sealed off . The side entrance is shut too. And even if you are dressed for a wedding, you have to go through a rigorous screening process that includes putting your bag through an X ray machine and have a gun detector run over your body.

Besides, the exorbitant prices, miniscule portions and the proliferation of fantastic stand alone restaurants in the area, have reduced our trips to the Taj.

But I still get nostalgic when I pass by and would like to share my thoughts on this iconic hotel that has become the face of Mumbai’s Terror attack.

This post first appeared as http://mumbaionahigh.com/2008/12/taj-after-attack.html

Just watching last night’s news item covering the re-opening of Mumbai’s premier hotels which were under attack a mere three weeks ago, brought me close to tears.

Not one for crying, I found it hard to watch the footage of the brave Staff of the Taj  as they solemnly walked into the hotel.  They got a  standing ovation from the 1000 special guests invited for the opening. For some strange reason a deep sadness enveloped me and I wanted to go to the Taj.

So, this evening we drove past and actually stepped in.

Getting there was not easy. We could only enter from one of the rear roads, stopped by two security guards who checked the boot, the bag inside the car and asked us what we wanted before allowing us to go. As we went past the Northcote side, we saw the old place boarded up.  While going along the seafront, we caught a  glimpse of a chandelier in passing. We saw the blackened space which was the Wasabi. Once the finest dining experience in Mumbai it was now known as the place of the last pitched battle .

Image for Christmas Tree in the Taj Lobby


My tiny handbag went through the scanner and I followed through a metal detector. We entered the lobby to hear the sweet, innocent voices of the Blind School’s  choristers from  singing carols . As the Yuletide songs filled the air, the Christmas tree with bows and doves presided over a strangely bereft and sombre lobby. Once,  it was a bustling place place bursting with activity. Important looking people in business suits, bejewelled women and curious tourists  filled the place. Today it was sadly empty, forlorn and desolate.

The corridor leading to the old Taj was cleaned up. Partitions  neatly boarding off the Harbour Bar, The Golden Dragon and the lifts to the Heritage wing, with the efficiency only the Taj can boast of,  cleverly hid the destruction behind.

Image for wall of remembrance

In the courtyard, a fine granite plaque, with names of those who had lost their lives inscribed on it, reminded us  that though things seemed normal, they were not. We walked past the shopping arcade and went inside the Patisserie. We wanted to buy something just to show our solidarity with the Taj , but found  nothing suitable.

Our lives at home had changed too : with the children gone,there was no one to eat the chocolates and the pastries and puffs!

We came away, saddened beyond belief. One part of me wants to go there . I want to patronise the restaurants for old times’ sake . I want  to re-establish another tomorrow but another part feels hollow : how can we go back and “enjoy” a meal where just weeks ago so much blood was shed?

Image of Bellybytes

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A granny who always sees the humour in life and tries to do things differently. When others make cupcakes, this granny makes banana fritters. When she’s not busy chasing her grandchildren who love making her run around, she indulges in her passions of reading, writing, meeting friends and watching movies. And somewhere between all this she enjoys travelling and cooking!

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16 Responses

  1. RT says:

    I agree that going back and enjoying where people were cruelly killed may seem abhorrent, but the underlying intention outweighs that sentiment: i.e. as citizens we need to go there to show a united front against terror. I only wish that our leadership showed that same commitment. I feel that it is always the citizens that show the spirit, and very rarely the government. Just my two cents.

  2. RT says:

    While the thought of eating there might seem abhorrent, I think the intention underlying your thought outweighs the first sentiment. We must, as citizens, show our solidarity and support. I only wish that our leadership showed such conviction and thought. Why is it that it is always the citizens that show the spirit, and never the government?

  3. Bangalore, often termed to be the Silicon Valley, holds a major chunk of the responsibility of transforming India into an economy to reckon with that it is now and a prospective superpower in the near future. The excellent weather, the warmth of the people, and the beauty of nature have always put Bangalore on the high ranks in a travelers’ book. In the past decade or so Bangalore has become the IT capital of India and immediately the city saw a phenomenal spurt in its tourism sector. Bangalore was no longer a leisure traveler’s delight, but the city became a major financial hub. Soon delegates from all over the world had to visit the city. In keeping with the taste and travel inclination of the international delegates and business travelers a number of world class luxury and business hotels in Bangalore were opened. Big names in the hospitality industry like the ITC Welcom Group, the Taj Hotels etc have multiple hotels in Bangalore. Only recently Taj opened its 5th property in this beautiful south Indian city. A few months back ITC Welcom Group also opened its 2nd property in Bangalore. The hospitality industry is also opening budget hotels in Bangalore that have a fine mix of business and luxury in a flexible budget

  4. It was a sad time for Mumbaikars – people trapped inside and everyone outside awaiting their safe return. Not even 2 years of my coming to Mumbai and I was wondering – is it worth living here? When your own people betray you, your safety and security are compromised.

    Just a couple of months earlier I had visited this hotel and as you said, the security is quite tight. But after what they have gone through, it only makes sense; even guests/tourists all over the world have become accustomed to it at airports, movie theaters and hotels.
    Anshu Bhojnagarwala recently posted…#TellTaleThursday – 22nd November 2018My Profile

  5. Alana says:

    As someone who grew up in New York City and was indirectly impacted by the events of our “September 11”, it is so important for us to remember that people all over the world have suffered through various terrorist attacks. The people of Mumbai are in my thoughts today.
    Alana recently posted…Music Monday – Blue ChristmasMy Profile

    • Bellybytes says:

      Thanks Alana. 9/11 was horrific! I remember watching it happen on TV and thinking how surreal it was . And when I visited Liberty Park in Jersey I visited the memorial and it brought back all those memories. No matter how far we are removed from the actual tragedy all of us feel the pain of those who were actually impacted by such events.

  6. I see going back and reflecting as being courageous. It’s been 17 years since 9/11.

    • Bellybytes says:

      That’s one day I’ll never forget because that was the day my daughter went to the US for her undergrad studies. She couldn’t come home that Christmas and that completely turned our world upside down . I hope 9/11 didn’t personally impact you

  7. anouradha says:

    It is important not to forget, but as important to move on. Beautiful post

  8. Dahlia says:

    Beautiful post, moved me to tears
    Dahlia recently posted…EnslavedMy Profile

  9. Esha M Dutta says:

    I remember the day like it was yesterday even though so many years have passed since that fateful night! For most of us it was a horrific nightmare we were unable to comprehend fully at that time, glued as we were to our TV sets, since so much was still to unfold over the next couple of hours and days, but for many, their world had come to complete shatters, changed beyond one would have ever imagined! My respect to all the brave souls who showed exemplary courage and saved lives and prayers for the families who lost their loved ones in that one night! Look back we must, but life can only be lived forwards, so we must learn our lessons and move on. Thanks for sharing this post, Sunita.
    Esha M Dutta recently posted…Why You Must Support Project WHY |#GivingTuesdayMy Profile

  10. On Sunday, husband reminded me it is now 10 years of 26/11. His just mentioning it brought all the TV footages to the forefront of my mind and also the dread. At that time, I was far away in Delhi and I had no connection with Mumbai. It was unbelievable watching everything that was going on at the Taj Hotel and the other places were for real. I can only imagine what the Mumbaikars would have gone through at the time and for the people who had a close connection with the affected places.

  11. Ashvini Naik says:

    I shuddered at every word you’ve written & then saw that you had written this 10 years back.

    I can only imagine how horrible it must have felt for you to revisit the place just weeks after the gory bloodshed. All I remember of that day was me preparing for my 4th semester engineering exams & being shell-shocked as the unbelievably scary relays of the attacks over the news all day.

  12. Rajlakshmi says:

    The true accounts of the terror attack that I have been reading recently brings tears to my eyes. So many brave and innocent souls were lost. I am sure it would be hard to eat and enjoy in a place that has witnessed such horror. Your post is so touching… Your words express the sadness that Mumbaikars must be feeling on this anniversary.
    Rajlakshmi recently posted…Black Pen Illustrations – Art IdeasMy Profile

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