A Close Encounter ...

By | 12:06 1 comment
Last night, Wed 26th Nov was like any other day ... I went to work as usual, left work slightly early for a change and actually made it home by 8 p.m .. Instead of staying home, my adhoc plans took me back towards work and to my cousin's place as she was flying out and I was gonna give her a lift to the airport .. Normal right ?

No such luck ... sometimes I really feel that only I manage to end up in some very unusual situations ! My mother rang me around 21:50 and told me to take my time coming home as there appeared to be some sort of commotion near my house and that if I wanted I should stay at my grandparents place .. I didn't take this too seriously - as you can imagine generally how paranoid moms can get ..

I ended up at Hard Rock cafe for dinner and noticed the news ... CHAOS .. the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel in South Mumbai were under attack by terrorists ! People were being held hostage and the police were rounding up the properties ... I was in shock .. my apartment is about 200 feet from the Taj Mahal Hotel .. my whole neighbourhood was under-seige and I had no way of getting near my own home !

Having spent the night at my cousins' place - I have been receiving messages all night just checking if I was okay ! I've been watching the news almost shell shocked (1) how did such an attack happen ? (2) weren't the intelligence officers intimated about the attack as would be typical of most terrorist attacks ? (3) how is it possible that sufficient ambulances, fire brigades and cops weren't at the scene of attacks earlier than they were ?

There are dozens of questions running through my mind ... My cousin and I watched the news unfold before us for about 5 hours and as members of the public - I'm sure other viewers were just as confused about what was going on ! The news channels have been updating the viewers about what is going on - however there isn't much information on the 'progress' reported or about 'how' the attacks actually took place ... I watched the magnificent structure of the Taj Mahal catch fire on the top floor after a series of small blasts and it took over 2 hours for the fire brigade to get there and control the fire ... What I fail to understand is why weren't the fire brigades called on-site when terrorist activites were discovered ? It's only common sense that the basics such as ambulances and fire engines be on-hand shoud they be necessary. How often do you hear of a terrorist attacks and 'no casulaties' ? Shobha De, a reknowed columist made a public statement on TV about how it took over 2-3 hours for fire brigades to reach the scene of attacks.

The Indian Army was called in to rope off the two prominent hotels that were under attack - with over a dozen hostages held at each hotel. Without disrespecting the news crew and media present on-site - shouldn't they be updating us more on what is going on at the scene instead of actually disclosing what the police, army and navy personnel are planning to do .. there were numerous times that a news anchor actually stopped reporters mid-sentence and asked them not to publicly announce what the plans were to control the situation at hand ... I'm surprised that the reporters hadn't thought of that - especially since we, the viewers were already informed that guests trapped in the hotel were communicating with those outside the hotel, were trying to get out, had been eye-witness to some of the shootings -but had no access to TV in their rooms - and the reporters weren't sure if the attackers had access to TV.

Frustrating as it sounds - even more so is the fact that the news channels are not giving any further updates on the 'email' that was sent to the media or to the police (not quite sure who it was sent to!). There were also unconfirmed statements made about how the Pune Police Department knew about the attacks 2 days prior to the actual attacks ! It's sad to know and hear about how unprepared the police officials and government is with regards to potential attacks that could take place. Whilst waching CNN now, there are statements made about how the Deccan Mujahideen (the group that has claimed to take responsibility for the attacks) made a public announcement to release all the mujahideens in order to release the hostages ... where the hell was this news last night ????

Despite security measures being taken over the last year that I have been in Mumbai - those measures are really a 'formality' and don't actually enforce anything. Seriously - how effeciently and effectively can 2 security guards at any entry gate of a hotel perform checks with the number of vehicles and people entering hotels and public spaces ? e.g. at most of the 5* hotels I visit, at the gate, there are 2 security guards - one who checks the front hood of the car and one who checks the underside of the car with those floor mirrors and the they check the boot of the car. NOT ONCE have I ever had any of these guys check the inside of my vehicle nor check the boot properly - what if I was carrying something on my person or in my hand bag ?

How does it make you feel knowing that you are entering a public property and there are half-hearted security measures in place especially after seeing what happened last night ?? It could have been you or me at the Taj or Oberoi hotel last night on a normal evening out. It appears that Mumbai is unable to react quickl enough to the attacks that have taken place over the years - there is no emergency or contingency plan in place ! Throughout the course of the night - there was not one reassuring voice or statement made on TV to calm the public down. Where were the people of authority to tell the people of Mumbai on how to proceed and to tell them what to do ? It was the common man and the quick thinking of the people at the hotels informing people on what to do and how to proceed.

The scary thing about the whole incident is that my younger brother was about 300 meters from my house and was walking back home when he heard or saw the first blast of gunfire and ended up taking shelter at my dads' brothers' place which also happens to be about two streets away from the Taj Hotel. My sister luckily was at my grandparents home - close by to where I have been all night. During the course of the night - it got worse for me as I kept discovering that some of my friends were in the vicinity - and had been trapped at the local bars and restaurants as they had been out ... I've been hearing from them but it's actually scary to know that your friends and people you know are caught dead center at the scene of the attacks ...

The news states that this is 9/11 taking place in Mumbai and it does appear to be that way. The locations of the attacks have been in prime areas - targeting a large number of tourists, HNI's, and corporate individuals. There have been about 200 fatalities and over 300 injured - the fatalities include some senior ranking members of the police force which indicates a targeted attack.

I just hope that the communication between the police and the media increases and we, the public are better informed about the situation at hand. My heartfelt wishes go out to all who have been involved in the attacks of last night and to those who may have lost a loved one.


Maya said...

sincere suggestion: keep the posting short.

most people first look at the size of the posting then they begin to read..