The waiter tried to take an order of potato wedges and beer but was interrupted, not for the first time, by two excited girls. They wanted their picture taken. They had a caption ready to put up on their Picasa web album, ‘At Leopold a year later, not afraid and having fun’
This is what the staff at Leo’s did all Thursday, click pictures of visitors pointing at the bullet holes, raising beer mugs or signing on the board put up outside.
“We are not afraid to come here. Our coming here shows that we respect the people who sacrificed their life for security. We’re here because we feel secure in Mumbai,” said Sahil Mehta, a resident of Andheri.
At Taj, a year on from 26/11 not much seems to have changed. The Gateway of India stands tall and tourists throng. But taking a picture of Taj is almost a must now. “It’s the most symbolic location and one that is most strongly etched in our memories,” said Aqsa Fakih (16), a college student who offered candles outside the hotel with a group of classmates who skipped classes to pay their respects.
Manohar Anandrao Patil, a former army man from Latur, who had walked barefoot through Mumbai for several days bearing a large flag and singing songs of patriotism, said, “Ek banna hai, nek banna hai (we’ve to be one, we’ve to be free of sin)”.
At Cama and Albless Hospital, bouquets were being handed out and hugs exchanged as the staff celebrated their “re-birth.
Recounting last year’s horror, Hirabai Jhadav (48), who was hit by a bullet said, “I regained consciousness after three hours and realised that a portion of the bullet was stuck in my hand while the rest had hit the wall,” she said. “If it had hit my head instead, my sons would have been orphaned.”
At Nariman House, the Jewish Chabad house, portrait of Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka, greeted the pensive stream of visitors. Both were killed in the terror attack. Their son Moshe, however, survived.
Hundreds of Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians lined up to light candles in the memory of those killed during siege.
Earlier in the day, the Mumbai police held a three-km parade to pay homage to their martyrs. The parade showcased its latest acquirements. The Force One commandos also displayed their skills.