The terror machine did achieve its task of tearing the heart of Mumbai and sending shockwaves around the world, but what it could not achieve was break the bond between people residing on either side of the border.
As the world remained glued to television watching the horrifying attack, two Indian sports contingents --- a 44-member shooting team for the South Asian shooting championship and a dozen odd women tennis players for the ITF tournament --- shocked as ever, prayed and consoled each other, not knowing what fate held out for them the next day.
But that true spirit, which still binds the two nations after countless senseless killings and attacks, came to the fore and they were reassured about their well-being, not once but over and over again.
“After the blasts we were in a state of shock….we started getting anxious calls from our folks back home, but the Pakistan shooting officials made us feel at home. They soothed our frayed nerves and didn’t overtly mention about the blasts in Mumbai although the next day all the newspapers were full of photographs of the ghastly attacks,” said rifle shooter Tejaswini Sawant from Mumbai.
“All along, I sensed that the people there were feeling very bad about it. All along they kept talking about improving bilateral relations through sports and here they were watching the ugly face of terror,” said Sawant.
“They provided us with foolproof security during the entire tour from November 20 to 28. A pilot vehicle with commandos onboard was always present to take us to the venue and back,” said Sawant from Pune.
“I could see the hatred for terrorists in their eyes as they spoke about the spate of bomb blasts in their own country.”
Coach Deep Bhatia, who accompanied the team, said all well-educated people condemned the act. “In fact one of the officials took me to see the Marriott Hotel destroyed in a terror attack some months back and said ‘we ourselves are victims of this savagery,’” he said.
“One of them said that people kept accusing us of terror but it is completely out of our control,” said Bhatia and added that, “At times we feel humbled at the kind of hospitality they render to us Indians.
“We didn’t have a connecting flight from Lahore to Islamabad, so they arranged a chartered flight. No one was allowed to enter the team hotel without the my or coach D.K. Shukla’s permission,” he said and added that two days after the blast they took us to Panja Sahib Gurudwara on the outskirts of Islamabad under heavy security bandobast.
“Wherever my eyes meandered, I saw commandoes…more than 500 of them guarding every building surrounding the gurudwara.”
For tennis coach, Sunil Yajaman, who is touring Pakistan with a bunch of women players for the ITF tournament, he is yet to get any hostility from the man on the street. “What has happened in Mumbai is terrible and unforgettable. I have been here for 10 days and to tell you frankly, my whole perception of Pakistan has changed after coming here. I feel at home. The people here are so nice and warm especially to Indians.”
“This country shares all the sufferings that we Indians go through as a result of terrorist attacks… both our problems are similar. They share the same concerns and are equally pained at what has happened in Mumbai,” said Yajaman.