November 26, 2008. A dozen youth trained in Pakistan held the city hostage for what seemed like weeks. Bombay is no stranger to violence. I grew up reading about the anti-Muslim riots, and remember being shaken up for days after the synchronous bomb attacks that targeted many of the prominent landmarks of the city. After we moved to the city in the late 1990s, we’d lived through countless bomb blasts, many of which happened somewhere close to where me, my husband, or one of our friends, had been or was going to be.
But 26/11 was something quite different. Pavement dwellers were victims, as were business honchos and Page Three personalities. For three days, terrorists were holed up on two iconic 5-star hotels. It was only fast thinking on the part of bystanders that prevented the same fate befalling one of the busiest railway stations in the country.
The city came together in an outpouring of grief and solidarity. People took out candle light marches and demanded answers. The political head of the state was replaced, and token assurances made.
One year down, nothing has changed. The city still doesn’t have a rapid action force that can deal with similar calamities. The police force continues to wield outdated weapons and wear protection gear that offers limited protection. People are more vigilant than they were earlier, but there is only so much that individuals can do without political will.
Today, the City Remembers, the Nation Remembers. People have dressed in white in memory of the slain martyrs, and in black in protest against terror. A prominent wall in the city is going to be painted in white, black and red – the city standing up against terror.We remember today. Is that enough? Can it ever be?
This picture I took today on the way to work, sums it up- slogans on the walls, but life as usual.