Once Upon a 26/11

Posted in India - Mumbai at 4:04 pm by Jackson Lee

I hate you Bollywood, but all will be forgiven after breakfast.

At times, India can seem like one continuous breakfast bar. Chai – India’s version of tea – eggs and toast are available almost everywhere. In this, India is a gratifying culinary stop on the west to east breakfast journey of the Eurasian landmass – a journey that ends in the dreadfully uninspired, yet amazingly common, rice-porridge breakfasts of Southern China (pickles are added for taste – what kind of mental taste buds enjoy pickles in the morning).

I don’t really care for eating in comfortable environments unless, of course, comfort makes the food better. With its neat tables, neat chairs and thoughtfully placed decorations, Leopolds inspired me like the thought of curry for breakfast. In a country of unequal’s, the cynical travellers avoids Cafe’s like Leopolds, instead finding refuge amongst the innumerable mom and pops diners the country’s middle class nourish on. Imrans rejection, however, was fresh and our karma was in need of soothing – hanging out with follow travellers seemed like the best way to remind us that this trip was not just an adventure, but the best possible excuse to avoid grown-up lives.

Entering, we sat and soon found ourselves squinting at the small menu which was neatly plastered on the inside of the tables cover. What kind of people think menu’s are to valuable to hand our freely?

“Its the bullet holes that make this place”, Locky offered as a conversation starter.

“Huh?”, I looked around, vainly trying to notice something other than neatness.

Bullet holes don’t commonly decorate cafe walls but violence and its cheerleader, religious intolerance, spent a night here not long ago, making a ugly statement for fanaticism. The event commonly referred to as 26/11 is a part of the subcontinents post colonial terrorist history. Interestingly, the bullet holes have been covered by glass – allowing patrons to see the buildings ‘wounds’ – this being either a reminder of the tragic events from November 26th 2008 or a marketing stunt by the owners.

Two men walked into Leopolds that night, lifted their AK47’s and opened fire on the crowd sitting amongst the neatly arranged tables. Soon 10 people lay dead, scores injured and blood coloured shoe prints dotted the once neat floors. The two gunmen departed, firing into the street as the headed to the next target. The group of terrorists, which had split into groups upon arriving, went on to kill over 150 people and injured hundreds others before the Indian special forces (who initially had to travel 1000 kms to reach Mumbai) finally contained the situation 50+ hours later.

Perhaps the most disturbing evidence to come out of the attacks were recordings of cell phone calls made between the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan. Orders such as leave the phone on so we can hear you kill everyone and “explode grenades every 15 minutes” to create maximum terror litter the recordings.

Terrorism seems extra meaningless in a place of such poverty. Finding the days next meal would probably concern most Mumbains more than fearing a chance encounter with a heavily armed, over-rip religious fanatic. Our hostel looked over one of the service entrances to the Taj Mahal Hotel – which witnessed some of the worst violence – it was hard not to think that once upon a time, it was view to such terror.

To be continued (22nd November 2011)

1 Comment »

  1. Willian said,

    December 21, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Yes, Shilpa. You are right. According to a recent ad that feteruad Sachin Tendulkar, he asks people to bathe using a bucket of water. That’s the BMC recommendation I guess. Shravani: Thank You.

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