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Tahmineh Khajotia Headshot

Mumbai Buzzing With Criticism and Praise

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For three days I could not leave my home, helplessly glued to the T.V, listening to the live audio from my window. There were several locations in Mumbai which were attacked, only three of which have received any real attention: The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, The Oberoi-Trident Hotel, and Nariman House, a small building with mainly Jewish residents. These three locations are less than five minutes away from where I live.

On the night of the first blasts, I was at home sitting down to dinner with my family. My mother, who is associated professionally with the Taj, was supposed to be there that night. She received a panicked phone call from an employee, telling her there had been a shooting, and she should not come. Within a half hour, the news had developed from being a possible Colaba gang war, to a full fledged terror attack on South Mumbai.

As the days have gone by, people are becoming more angered that this was allowed to happen. Forget who is behind these attacks and forget what they wanted. Mumbaikars are angry at how WE, this city and this country, allowed something like this to happen. As the hours pass, more and more information is being shared with the public, about who knew what, and when. The Intelligence Bureau reportedly warned the Government of India (who doesn't even deserve a capital G today), in January, September and November of this year, of a possible attack, and even specified that it would be via the sea route. The Fisherman's Union wrote a letter to the Maharashtra State Government informing them of the possibility that RDX was being smuggled in. This claim was ignored, dismissing the Head of the Fisherman's Union as 'just an opportunist.'

Let us talk about opportunists. As fantastic a job as the media has been doing covering this entire story, it has been impossible to ignore the countless times news channels claim to be the first to report a certain incident. It is almost sickening. Before the incident is reported, they remind us that they are the first to be reporting it. Is that really the most important side of a developing crisis?

Worse than our news channels are the multiple politicians fluttering in to Mumbai trying to gain mileage on their own political agenda. I went for a remembrance march next to the Oberoi Hotel on Sunday. Just one day after the attacks ended, at least 1500 people came to walk with a candle down Mumbai's Marine Drive, otherwise known as the 'Queen's Necklace.' We stood peacefully, walked calmly, as one. Then we began to sing the national anthem, drowning out the orchestra of honking cars and police whistles.

Just then one of these such politicians, let's call him Mr. Political Opportunist, arrived and tried to take over our spirited chants. He held up a banner, defending a certain corrupt political party member whose head is one of many that is likely to roll as early as tomorrow. But no matter what the political message on his banner read, and no matter what vilely insensitive slogans he tried to get the crowd to recite, this man received exactly what he deserved: a hundred looks of death. For the rest of the march he stood in one place, holding up his banner in silence.

The Heroes (with a big fat capital H), consist of those men whose agencies are today under scrutiny. As much flack, suspicion and criticism is being given to the NSG (National Security Guards), army, navy, police and intelligence agencies, Mumbaikars are effusive in their praise for those individuals who were physically in the line of fire. It is the top brass of these agencies and the Government who are being questioned today. The NSG Black Cat Commandos were finally the force that managed to conquer the terrorists.

It is not, however, on the job description of countless hotel staff to smuggle guests out through service exits, only to rush back in to a burning hotel to rescue more people. A school friend of mine has Rajan to thank for her life. He was a Taj staff member and practically a human shield who took bullets to save his guests. In this bitter-sweet tale, her parents, both doctors, fought for 12 hours to save Rajan's life by dragging him into a room, putting his intestines back into his body, thereby preventing him from slipping into a coma until they were rescued. All four of them survived.

Mumbai is buzzing with criticism and praise, barely out of the ashes of this tragedy. Today it is fresh on our minds, and your guess is as good as mine how long this innate activism will last in all of our hearts. There is a lesson to be learned, especially for those opportunists. The NSG Black Cat Commandos, the most skilled security force in the country, would not even show their faces to the public, or disclose their names. They must be the most humble people that exist, as they risk their lives for our protection, yet do not give us the chance to thank them by name in our prayers. 'It is our duty,' was all they had to say.