Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bombay under attack: hauled up at Sterling cinema

The on-going terrorist attack and hostage crisis that is still unravelling as I write this blog (9.00 am, 27-Nov-08) and began as early as about 20.30 hours on 26 Nov 08, are most unfortunate. From the targets that these terrorists have chosen, and the way they have sifted, sorted and picked out their hostage victims, it clearly seems that they were largely after foreign tourists. At any point in time, Coloba causeway (the area where Cafe Leopold is there and where the firing began) is full of foreign tourists, and so do hotels such as Taj and Oberoi. I had also heard that the Marriott was also attacked but I have no confirmed information. 

What baffles me is that how the terrorists managed to get inside Taj Hotel despite all the security there. Of late, the Taj had even stopped vehicles from entering its portico. Gun-trotting and imposing security guards and also sniffer dogs were deployed for round-the-clock security, in addition to screening passages and tools. Yet, the terrorists managed to get in and - as I am told - started to fire indiscriminately. Details would come in a day or two, but I guess our security and the country's intelligence ought to be much more tighter. Attacks after attacks are carried out by the terrorists throughout our country at their will and we have failed to prevent them. It's 9.15 am right now and more gun shots ("thud", as Times Now news channel says) are reported. 

Yesterday I was at the Sterling cinema alongwith three of my friends watching a movie that got over at about 22.00 hrs. Just as we were planing to leave the theatre and go home, news started trickling in about the firing incidents. Soon after confirmed news reports came about the firing episode at Victoria Terminus railway station - a stone's throw from the cinema complex - the management shut down shutters - they claim the Bombay police got in touch with them and ordered them to shut everything - cancelled all the remaining shows of the day and strongly urged and requested us to stay put. Some people who had come by their own cars still insisted to leave. So they took a chance and left through their other, more discreet, entrance. My friends and I stayed put. 

I was impressed by the staff and management of Sterling cinema. Senior people of the management came out, took rounds and answered and addressed our queries/concerns. They reassured us of safety whilst inside the facility and reassured us that they can stay back for as long as we wanted. We squatted around their staircase and their food court and waited patiently and very anxiously, as also worried, for more news. They gave us pillows and also tea early today morning. There is no public television there, so most of our news was conveyed to us by our friends, family and loved ones over our mobile phones. Then, much later, one of the TFT monitors got connected to the internet from where we got to see Live TV. That was our first exposure to TV news on these incidents and the images were horrifying. 

Finally, we left at 6.30 am early morning after spending the night at the theatre, went to Churchgate to catch a train back home. Fortunately, the western railway is working and trains are running. 

I pray that the souls of the departed rest in peace and their loved ones get God's blessings to get through this tragic moment. And I pray for those injured that they get well soon. 

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