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On the Anniversary of the Mumbai Terror Attacks

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Today is the anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

On November 26, 2008, the city was attacked by a group of men from the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (Taiba) organisation, who came to Mumbai from Pakistan by boat. 166 people were killed in a collection of attacks across the city.

Mumbai is a city that I fell for. Hard. The heat, the rubbish and the busy, crazy streets only served to make me all the more enamoured with this heart of India.

beauty in the gutter- bombay thetraveloguer.com

The city did not bow to the cruelty inflicted on it by the terrorists who attacked six years ago, and yet, when you visit Mumbai, reminders of the attack are still evident.

The regal Taj Mahal Palace hotel stands proud and strong. Evidence of the attack it endured is hard to see. As you stand before its slate grey walls and take in the castle-like windows, it is difficult to imagine it as the same place we saw engulfed in smoke, a prison for the guests trapped inside.

wpid-taj-hotel-bombay_wm.jpg

And yet, there is something that causes a chill, despite the cloying Mumbai heat that is the cause of a permanent sheen of dirty sweat coating your body. The beauty of the building, its imposing grandeur and the experience of being in a city I have long loved from afar, combined with the history that took place there, and the affection I feel for the Bombay locals made craning my neck to take in the sight painful on more than one level.

When I first saw the scenes unfold on my television screen, I was a journalism student, and for me, the story was framed solely in the context of the journalists who were injured and who strove to bring the story to the press.

I worried that the reputation of an entire country was being damaged by the framing of this event of terror. I was already aware of the dangerous misunderstanding of Muslims, of terrorists and of the fear that was being shoved down our throats by the media, and I worried that people would begin to judge Indians by the same mistaken prejudices, thanks to a few extremists.

A few years passed, and my interest in India became a consuming passion, thanks to Shantaram and extended travel.

When I finally made it to Mumbai, the infamous Leopold’s was high on my list of places to visit. A well-worn backpacker’s haunt, and romanticised by Gregory David Roberts, there was now another reason for its notoriety.

On the night of November 26, 2008, four men entered Leopold’s Café. They threw a grenade inside, and opened fire on the patrons. Ten people were killed, and more injured.

Leopold Cafe in Bombay, a site of a 2008 mumbai terror attack

In a perfect example of Mumbai’s resilience and spirit, the owners of Leopold’s opened their doors after only four days.

Crowds flocked to the café in a show of support, so much support, that the police were forced to close the place a short while later. Leopold’s became a symbol of resilience, and began to draw a crowd of middle class Indians for the first time.

Today, the bullet holes of the attack have become a tourist attraction in themselves. You can even buy a mug with a bullet hole emblazoned on it, and you can stick your finger in the holes left by the bullets.

bullet hole in leopold cafe, bombay 2008 attack

When you enter Leopold’s today, there is an armed security guard. Her presence competes with the proud displays of the scars left by the attack. On one hand there is proud defiance and survival, on the other there is the reality of the danger and horror of the attack.

One thing is certain, no matter what is thrown at the city of Mumbai, it’s spirit and strength can never be beaten.

india is great- annuversary of 2008 terror attack in mumbai

 

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16 Comments

  • Reply
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    November 27, 2014 at 5:18 am

    I never noticed the security guard now at Leopolds. Will be taking my parents there in Decemeber.. I do love Bombay and like you Shantaram is part of the reason I was intrigued by it. It started as my least favorite city in India 2 years ago… then as I found friends in Bombay and saw the other side of it, it’s one of my favorite places in India. No city like it!
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    • Reply
      Christine
      November 27, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Yeah, there was one there both times I visited, but I don’t know if there’s always one there actually. I was really excited to see Bombay, and I pleasantly surprised when I did, as I didn’t expect it to have so much greenery and to be so pretty in parts. I can’t wait to go back. 🙂

  • Reply
    Silvia
    November 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Wow, I’m sad to say I had totally forgotten about these attacks until reading your post. I didn’t make it to Mumbai when I was in India, but it’s definitely high on my list for my next trip!
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  • Reply
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie)
    December 1, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I remember the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks well. It was frightening to watch and I remember that sick feeling you get in the gut when something is so far from reach and so far out of your control. I have a great deal of admiration for both their comeback, and their ability to look back.
    Jacqueline Gum (Jacquie) recently posted…Wisdom and Aging… Where’s The Justice?My Profile

  • Reply
    andleeb
    December 1, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    I still remember about these attacks the way the building was in smoke and few people moving around with guns. These scenes always pain many throughout the world. I feel sad about many people who have lost their loved ones. I hope that we will better understand each other and try to live with peace.

    The solution of all such problems is peace. I always think to visit Taj Mahal in India. I hope I will make it till there some day in my life.
    I was surprised about the cups with bullet holes are still on sale.
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  • Reply
    Lenie
    December 1, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    Christine, this post really showed your passion for Mumbai and India. I am so glad you were able to go there and experience it for yourself. I well remember the horror of that attack – impossible to imagine anyone inflicting that kind of terror on others. It would be wonderful if we could all get along and have peace but that’s not likely. There will always be extremists. I do hope you’re able to go back soon.
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  • Reply
    Ken Dowell
    December 2, 2014 at 1:06 am

    Viewed from afar terrorism is not something I think about when I think about Mumbai. I’ve never been there but from reading your post it seems as though in some ways the city found its strength in showing its resilience.
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  • Reply
    Noelle McNamara
    December 2, 2014 at 4:44 am

    Wow, they really came back strong after the attacks. I feel sick to my stomach when i think about all these attacks that happen every day of the year throughout the world…and for what?
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  • Reply
    Megan
    December 2, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post as a tribute for the loss and a recognition to the people for their incredible determination and grace.

  • Reply
    Donna Janke
    December 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Interesting look at Mumbai. Leopold’s is a great example of how an attack like this marks a city and of how strong and resilient people can be.
    Donna Janke recently posted…You’ve Got MailMy Profile

  • Reply
    William Rusho
    December 5, 2014 at 6:30 pm

    This is an interesting post. We look at the terror attack, at that instance. It becomes an anniversary, but rarely do we look at the place of that attack, revisit it and see if there is any residue of that terrorist attack. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
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