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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai's nightmare: a terror attack on tourism (on innocents abroad - and at home)

Terry and I stayed at the majestic Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai on a trip to India about six years ago or so. We ate dinner at the Indian restaurant that was the scene of a seige by terrorists this week; the restaurant whose chef was one of the first to get shot. And after a sweaty day's sightseeing in the city, we'd cool off with a gin and tonic on the antique swing seat on the elegant terrace by the swimming pool, where this week guests stepped over corpses as they attempted to escape. I spent hours browsing in the hotel's excellent bookshop and took home a dozen or so novels by Indian writers - they were a bargain. If the destruction described in this story in the UK's Telegraph newspaper is indicative of the overall damage to the hotel, the bookshop is probably burnt out. We had lunch at the Oberoi another day, in its chic minimalist Italian restaurant, and I shopped myself silly at the shops there too - all the scene of another bloody rampage. At the Taj Mahal we stayed in the modern tower, as there'd been a mix up with our bookings and all the antique rooms were full, however, we nevertheless got a peek at one and they were as sumptuous as they looked on the hotel website. Having stayed and eaten at the hotels and explored the city streets where this week's horrific attacks took place has made it all the more real to me. Sure I'd been to the World Trade Centre before 9/11, but that was an attack on the USA's financial heart, a symbol of Western capitalism, of greed, of excess. It came as no surprise. That's not to downgrade that tragic event in any way, but there's something more potent about an attack on a hotel (as swish as these two were), a place where tourists and locals are relaxed, at ease, enjoying their leisure time - it's the last place they'd expect to be massaacred. The Taj Mahal Palace was indeed a grand old hotel. I hope it can be saved. But what I hope can be salvaged even more are the lives of the families and friends who lost their loved ones in Mumbai this week. (Read some of the moving first hand accounts of those who survived here.) I leave these Australian native flowers, a rare wattle from the East MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs, on the footpath outside the Taj, where Mumbai's destitute used to sleep. I hope they too can find a new home.


Fly Girl said...

It's a chilling reality to think about this from your own experience Lara. I have been told by Indian bloggers that the attack had the same reasoning as 9/11. For America, money and the financial district is at the heart of everything, in India, it's culture and history. What more significant a symbol than the Taj Mahal hotel? It makes cruel sense.

AngelaCorrias said...

None of the attacks against living beings, be it human or animal, can be accepted by any society. 9/11 as well as the attacks in Mumbai, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are some of the most telling examples of the degrade of today's civilization. Greed and thirst of power make financial and political elites turn men against each other towards an inevitable self-destruction. Citizens from all over the world have the possibility and the moral duty to demand that these massacres will stop. 9/11 has been used and abused as a dire excuse to continuous mass murders and endless invasions from Western powers of Middle East countries. International communities must demand that the minds and organizers of 9/11 are found, convicted and put in prison for the rest of their lives.

Lara Dunston said...

Fly Girl - you are so right. But I guess as popular as those hotels and restaurants are with tourists, they are also favoured by Indian elites and foreign businessmen doing business in India also, so they're as much an attack on the economy as they are the tourism sector and foreign individuals.

Angela - very well, said! Yes, I totally agree with you.

Thanks for commenting, you two!

Fly Brother said...

These events are always much more visceral when you've been there, experienced the place, seen the faces of the types of people who would have been affected. I remember being seriously impacted when an AA jet crashed on the way from NYC to the Dominican Republic, specifically because I always remember, on every flight to the place, an inordinate number of children going to and from the island to see relatives, etc. It's this familiarity that turns abstract death tolls into faces and lives.

SeanONeill said...

Great post! I hope the Taj reopens, too, but it's not looking too promising...
--Sean with's blog

Anonymous said...

Terrorism is savage, this people engaged in this kind of act don't have real idealism, they only want to wage terror, they are coward. My condolences to all those people who lost love one's in this senseless action.
online hotel reservation

Anonymous said...

That was the worst incident of year 2008 in India, for Indian hotels, for tourism