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Watching the Taj Burn

November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving dinner this year was a fantastic meal, and it went really well, but obviously, in my life there was a more dominant subject than giving thanks- the terror attacks in Mumbai. To say that it put a damper on my weekend would be a pretty big understatement. At one point, I left the apartment in order to get away from CNN and NDTv. I decided to go the gym only to find two out of three TV’s in the gym on CNN. I had one changed, so that I could look at something else.

Overall, it’s generally upsetting, but I think what makes it more upsetting to me is the fact that I have been to at least three of these locations only five and a half months ago. Sister and I spent were at Victoria station (called Chatrapatti on the news) a few times. We went inside the Taj to see the beautiful interiors, and walked past it three or four times. Also, out of four evenings spent in Mumbai, three were spent at Cafe Leopold. In addition to that, we had cold CocaCola and vanilla ice cream there two different days.
One of the things that the news didn’t adequately explain in my opinion is the reputation of Cafe Leopold, and also, I think they were too vague on the role of the Taj Hotel in Mumbai life. First of all, the Taj Hotel is famous in Mumbai for lots of things. Obviously, it is a very fancy hotel, too expensive for even most Westerners, but also it’s restaurants are where a lot of big business gets done. It where the rich businessmen of the city take clients to wine and dine them. It’s where the big weddings occur. Not only does it represent Western tourism of the Western elite, it also represents Indian elite, and capitalism. As for Cafe Leopold, it features prominently in two books that almost every backpacker has in the backpack when traveling through India. The first is Lonely Planet India, and the second is Shantaram. Shantaram is a partly fictional memoir about a Westerner who escapes prison and spends the next decade or so traveling around India going from trouble to trouble. But he spends almost the whole time in Mumbai at Cafe Leopold.
I haven’t read it, but that was mostly in rebellion to the multitude of people who told me I had to while I was traveling. Basically every single Western backpacker that goes through Mumbai stays in Colaba (the name of the neighborhood that was attacked the worst) and eats at Cafe Leopold at least once. Everytime Sister and I ate there, it was about 75% white, and that was on the low season.
All that to say that when CNN kept asking, “Do you know that they were targeting Westerners?” to the people they were interviewing, it irritated every one in this household. They went to the most popular places that Westerners stay and eat. Of course they were targeting Westerners. I’m am genuinely surprised at how low the number of foreigners killed is. (Is that correct grammar?)
For those who are wondering, my boyfriend’s entire family, except for one sister is in Mumbai, but they are all fine. They live far north of where most of this occurred, but it is obviously quite traumatic for a lot of them. The bf grew up there, and knows the city very well, and he is extremely sad by all that has occurred. It is like watching the Twin Towers fall all over again for him in a way, I suspect. (He actually watched Tower 2 fall, from his apartment window.) But he knows as do I that Mumbai will bounce back. Indians are a hardy lot, and it won’t defeat the 1 billion members of the largest democracy in the world, just as it doesn’t defeat us Americans.
I think that this will hurt the tourism of India, which is a shame, and I hope it doesn’t. Although I had my fair share of ups and downs during my travels there, it is an experience that you can’t explain and must be experienced to understand. I wish the citizens of Mumbai luck in rebuilding the city. I pray for the families of those who lost members. I pray for the terrorists families, that whatever situation bred the hate these individuals suffered from will be eradicated and terrorism will collapse inside itself. I wish Muslims luck as they try to keep these terrorists from holding their own religion hostage.
How will this end? I don’t see it ending at any point, and it makes me very sad.
*The pics are from our trip. First pic of the Taj was taken by Sister, from a boat that took us to Elephanta Island. As you can see, it is right near the water, and would have been very easy to hop off a boat and get into the hotel fast. The second pic was taken by me from across the street of the Cafe. Despite what it looks like in the picture, Cafe Leopold is on the busiest street in Colaba.
One Comment leave one →
  1. December 2, 2008 3:01 pm

    I was wondering what your take on all this was and how the bf was doing with it all. Glad to hear your perspective.(How did the writing go?)

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