Nov 30 2008
I apologize for the long delay in updating this blog, I’ve just been suffering from writers block while dealing with my frustration at the current Indian government. I told myself I would stay away from comparing 9/11 to the Mumbai Massacre but it’s just not possible. This massacre was a combination of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina all rolled into one. Granted this attack was on a scale never seen before but the government’s inaction is like a page from the Hurricane Katrina playbook – do nothing. And yes, we’ve already had our “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” moment, RR Patil the Maharashtra Home Minister has been quoted as saying “such small incidents happen.”
The attacks on South Bombay have hit home for me. Friends would visit Bombay and see the lack of infrastructure, the poverty and the overall craziness of Bombay and would ask why I love Bombay and my answer was simple “I live like a king.” Well, in an instant I’m starting to rethink if it’s worth it. I can’t even count how many times I have visited the Taj Palace this year, it’s like a 2nd home for many of my friends and family. During the attacks I was receiving emails from people that had visited Bombay and they all said the same basic thing – “I heard about the attacks, hope you are safe. Oh my god I stayed at the Taj Palace, I can’t believe it.”
I’ve put together a timeline of the events as they occurred from a personal point of view, which includes a story of a very, very close friend – SJ. Her story is nothing short of heart-breaking.
Nov 16 – Met up with my cousin for coffee at the Taj Palace, where he was staying.
Nov 20 – Celebrated my birthday by having dinner at Wasabi located in the Taj Palace.
Nov 23 – Had lunch with family at Golden Dragon which is located in the Taj Palace.
Nov 24 – Dropped off my brother-in-law at the CST train station.
Morning – My cousin checks out of the Taj Palace.
9:15pm – Picked up my sister and nieces from the Airport, they were in India for a wedding. We were driving to the JW Marriot in Juhu to check-in.
9:40pm – Get a call from my wife’s business partner – SJ, she was at Golden Dragon celebrating her husband’s birthday with family. She told us to be safe because there was gunfire at the Taj Palace and the rumor was they were targeting other 5 star hotels – JW Marriott included.
10pm – We rollup to the JW Marriott, the plan was for my sister to check-in and then we would leave. However, we end up ordering food and start to watch the news…it becomes apparent the situation was spiraling out of control and decide to stay at the hotel with my sister.
Midnight – On TV they report gun fire outside the JW Marriott, I call my driver who was outside and ask him what’s the situation. He said it was quiet and the cops were patrolling the streets.
1:30am – Get a call from SJ saying they are in the Taj Chambers and locked in by the staff. She was afraid but everyone felt comfortable with the Taj staff.
7:30am – We call SJ and she explains how she had escaped with her parents around 3:30am, but still waiting for her husband and father/mother/sister-in-law.
3:30pm – SJ’s mother-in-law’s body was identified, still no word about the other family members.
4:30pm - SJ get’s a call that they have also identifed her husband and father-in-law.
5pm – Local TV is saying the seige at the Taj is over and all hostages have been freed (inaccurate).
7:30pm – I leave the JW Marriott with my wife to be with SJ for several hours, we head to Pedder Road. Leaving the JW where my sister and nieces were was one of the toughest decisions I had to make, however seeing the security detail I felt relieved and assured. We get stuck at Worli for about 30 minutes as the Prime Minister’s 42 car entourage passes through (they had AK-47′s).
8:30pm – We reach SJ’s in-law’s house and it’s just a scene you don’t ever want to witness. We get word that SJ’s sister-in-law is alive but in critical condition.
11pm – We head back to the JW Marriott so I can be with my sister and nieces. It was eerie that there were no cops on the road as we head back, the only place we saw cops was back at the JW Marriott. I was thinking back to 9/11 where the 405 highway in Los Angeles had cops everywhere for weeks and that was 2800 miles from ground zero.
7am – the National Security Guard (NSG) commando’s got dropped onto Nariman House in Colaba.
10am – We check out of the hotel and drop my sister and nieces off at the airport so they can fly to Goa for a wedding, I was relieved at this point. Then we proceed to Pedder Road.
2pm – We head for the last rites that were given to SJ’s husband, father-in-law and mother-in-law. Rumors of gunshots at CST and Napeansea Road make the rounds. For 2 hours the local cable system was cut to fight the rumors and inaccurate reporting.
3:30p – The Oberoi is finally in control of the NSG.
5pm – The TV’s are all talking about the final stages of the operation taking place (inaccurate).
7pm – Nariman House is finally in control of the NSG.
9am – The Taj Palace is finally in control of the NSG, it took almost 60 hours to secure a single hotel.
10:30a – Ratan Tata, CEO of Tata Sons and owner of Taj Palace is on the grounds to survey the damage.
During this massacre there were players that showed leadership and others that should be taken behind a tool shed and violated with a rusted knife (don’t ask).
- NSG personnel – the elite force that brought the massacre to an end at 3 locations – Taj, Oberoi/Trident and Nariman House.
- Media - unprecedented coverage of the unfolding events.
- Rajdeep Sardesai, CNN IBN reporter. He has hammered every government official on their laziness.
- Shobha De, socialite turned activist – very outspoken against the government’s inaction and calling for resignations.
- Taj and Oberoi/Trident staff – I’ve heard nothing but praise from people within the Taj Palace during the massacre.
- Ratan Tata – He was on the grounds of the Taj Palace within 90 minutes of the NSG taking control. The Prime Minister and other government officials were nowhere to be found.
- The Indian government.
- Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh – his speech within hours of the massacre was unintelligible and uninspiring, he makes George Bush look like a Rhodes Scholar.
- President of India, Pratibha Patil – No comment from her, of course this post is more of a ceremonial post which is all the more reason for her to speak since her calender is free
- Indian Home Minister, Shivraj Patil – speechless, I meant him not me (he just announced his resignation).
- National Security Adviser, M.K. Narayanan – didn’t even know he existed.
- Maharashtra Chief Minister, V. Deshmukh – complained he didn’t get specific information on the attack, was he expecting a call from them?
- Maharashtra Home Minister, RR Patil said the incident was small, he heard the terrorists wanted to kill 5,000 people, so anything under that number shows how effective the government was.
- Mayor of Bombay, Dr. Shubha Raul – Yet another ceremonial post. The one big benefit of this position is you get to live in a massive mayoral compound, not bad for doing nothing.
- Bombay police management team – not much can be expected from them since most carry nothing more then a lathi - yes only a wood stick.
- We the people – in the end we lost many friends and family.
But the award for the biggest loser goes to Raj Thakery and his MNS supporters. For the past 8 months we’ve had to listen to his nonsense about how Bombay is for his people (Maharashtrians) and his retarded slogan “Amchi Mumbai” which means Our Bombay. According to him only Maharashtrians should live here and everyone should speak the local language – Marathi. Yet, when the city was attacked the MNS must have been at home drinking tea and eating vada pav’s.
- Lighting a candle seemed like a good idea till I read my friend Deepak’s blog entry who argues it’s a waste of time
- Since Obama doesn’t technically start his term till January 20th, I wish India could hire him till then
- Speaking of Obama, I also want to steal his slogan when it comes to political reform – “Yes We Can”
- I did my bit of defiance today when running on Marine Drive near the Oberoi, I flipped off a government entourage of 15 vehicles.
My next blog entry is about what I intend to do and hope to make change.