Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai under Attack

The area of Mumbai under siege is known as Colaba. It is the most popular area for tourists to visit and I admit that I was there myself twice in the past week.

The new batch of film students and I had decided to visit Elephanta Island, which is reached via boats departing off the Gate of India dock. Having arrived early, I holed up in the lovely air-conditioned lobby of the Taj Hotel and then met them in front of India Gate for our time on the island.

Our boat ride back to India Gate gave us exquisite views of the Taj Hotel from the sea, likely the same view held by the terrorists who arrived by the same route. To refresh ourselves, we rested in the Taj's beautiful lobby; I remember paying some attention to the serene and graceful staff.

After leaving the Taj, we went around the back to go eat at Delhi Darbar, allowing us to walk through the main street of Colaba, which included Leopold Cafe. I was on a little bit of a Leopold's kick from reading 'Shantaram', so I made sure to take a photo of the restaurant and also point the place out to the group. It was packed full with foreigners.

Leopolds several days before the attacks

Last night, Aaron, Luann, Rina, Kavika and I got together at the ISAC apartment to have a little party. The apartment is in Goregaon, in northern Mumbai, and a full hour's local train ride away from Colaba. Around 10:00, the phone calls began to come in. They insisted that I stay there overnight. We didn't sleep until 2 am.

In the morning, I knew I had to leave to go back to Andheri. It was a hard decision to ride the auto back, especially with the cook, Lalita, telling me not to go and showing me the headlines in the morning paper. I'm just glad I didn't know at that time that a grenade had been thrown into an autorickshaw the night before in Ville Parle, the neighborhood just "under" mine. Riding back, there was VERY little traffic. Two white police jeeps were on patrol and sections of the roads were barricaded for random checks. Once I reached my place, I suited up my video camera and set out to catch some interviews. Most people I interviewed expressed an indifference about it all, saying they were used to it. However, I don't think they realize just what a big impact this particular incident will have on their society and economy.

Aaron called later on in the day to make sure I was safe. A reporter interviewed me and today, several local YWCA staff said they saw me on the news.