"There's no place that's safe anymore," messaged my shocked friend from Bangalore after serial bomb blasts jolted India's IT city over four months ago. That attack was the second of what is today a total of six major terror strikes that have taken place in India this year. Mumbai is the latest in the series.
This is India's urban heart -- a glitzy, big money, Bollywood crazy city that pumps out 5% of the country's annual wealth. It's also a heart that has suffered some of the worst attacks. Mumbai could never have hoped to escape the phenomenal violence and fear that Indians have been facing through 2008. The city has been subjected to four major terrorist attacks over the past five years. In 1993 it was the site of one of India's most destructive bombing attacks ever -- 13 coordinated bomb attacks blasted away 250 lives and crippled 700 others. Yet, the security forces of the city that never sleeps were caught napping today and in the sleep-sloppy efforts it made to battle what eye-witnesses have described as groups of gun and bomb wielding youths, the state's Anti-Terror Squad Chief Hemant Karkare was killed. He died just like over 80 others died tonight -- caught unawares by an attack that managed to be scatter-shot and coordinated at the same time.
As a journalist, I'm wary of allowing myself to be sucked into the emotional vortex that big events create. That vortex is much more powerful when in the eye of the storm is your country, and the city you love. But it's not just because I'm Indian that my heart breaks to see Mumbai suffering this way. It's been said before, by businessmen, traders -- yes, journalists as well -- and by virtually every one of the men, women and children who live in the city, that the famed Mumbaiyya attitude has been tested one time too many. The resilience and gutsy spirit of Mumbai has been taken for granted as the city has time and again dusted off and gotten back on its feet, no matter what's been thrown at it -- terror attacks, floods that drowned much of the state of Maharashtra in 2005 or divisive state politics that pitted the people against one another on religious and regional bases.
The bombing and gunfire that took place across South Mumbai today shook a city that virtually all of India admits is unshakeable. I now live over 5,000 miles away from Mumbai in London, and even I'm shaken. Just how many more attacks is this city going to face in the years to come? Just how many more attacks lie in store for India this year? At times like this, the best and most heroic traits seem to be drawn out of the men and women who protect us. Nevertheless it's clear that India's police and anti-terrorist forces are simply not geared to face the challenges that terrorists have planned for the country. And no matter how gutsy or how hard-working, the spirit of a city can only take so much battering before it breaks.