At 9.40 pm last year, the first shots were fired at the Taj.
On Thursday, at that exact moment, a crowd thronged Gateway of India, harbouring an inexplicable sense of security and invincibility.
Candles and slogans soaked the space. The thousands gathered proved once again that this was their preferred means of expressing solidarity and being the change.
“It’s the most symbolic location and one that is most strongly etched in our memories,” said Aqsa Fakih (16), a student of KC College who lit candles outside the hotel with classmates who skipped classes to pay their respects.
Manohar Patil, a former army man from Latur had walked barefoot through Mumbai with a flag and songs of patriotism. “Ek banna hai, nek banna hai (We have to be one, we have to be free of sin),” was his war cry.
Those not privileged to stay in the Taj made certain to at least swing by its lobby.
“We timed our Mumbai sojourn to coincide with this day,” said Iain Ault (30), a tourist from Scotland. “I guess I feel as safe as I would anywhere else in the world.”
Inside, the Taj went about its service with sobriety.
The Golden Dragon reopened. Fresh wontons steamed on a live kitchen counter and laughter trickled from tables.
At Sea Lounge guests sipped coffee to light piped music. Two British guests discussed how the attacks had occurred on a regular day like today. The waiter serving them, S. Mane, admitted to being at the hotel through the ordeal, but said no more.
In the lobby, guests flocked towards a plaque bearing Thursday’s date and a message of hope.
‘There is no handbook for facing tragedy, no school for learning to live with loss…. Today we take a step forward, tomorrow we’ll take many more,’ it read.