Rahul Bose in Outlook.India:
It started with the smses. Ten or 12 from around the world, asking if I was okay. I did what every Bombayite does at such moments: turned on the TV. It makes you wonder about the pre-sms terror days: could we have stopped, for instance, the damage caused by rumour-mongering if we had mobile phones and smses in 1992-93? With all that Bombay has been through, I was still unprepared for the news—the sheer audacity of Wednesday night’s attacks. Bombay is going to suffer internationally for the next five to 10 years, was my first thought when I saw the news. It’s not merely a cricket tour being called off, but the inevitable perception that Bombay is now unsafe for foreign tourists and businessmen. This attack is very different from bombs going off in Jhaveri Baazar or the stock exchange, which were meant to shatter the morale of the ordinary Bombayite. Last night was intended to send a message to the world.
I stayed glued to the TV screen till 5.15 am. It was an especially poignant moment to watch the Taj go up in flames. The Taj has an emotional connection, especially for those of us in south Bombay. I’ve been closely associated with it since I was in advertising—been to the rooms which were now burning, to the dome, to the presidential suite. I’ve marvelled at its antiquity and structure. It’s not just a five-star hotel but is iconic for the values of old Bombay, where the best and brightest walked through its doors.
But what do last night’s events signify to the ordinary Bombayite?