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Scars refuse to fade

Revisiting targets - There is anger and relief among 26/11 victims — for most, the nightmare is fresh. The verdict has given hope for justice as the six attack sites go about their business. HT reports. Special

mumbai Updated: May 04, 2010 03:38 IST

Taj Mahal Palace and Tower: ‘No use wasting money on Kasab’

For Dr Tilu Mangeshikar, “there is closure now” after the lone surviving terrorist of Mumbai’s 26/11 attacks, Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, was pronounced guilty on Monday.

The anesthesiologist, now based in Singapore, was among the survivors along with her ex-husband and daughter, at the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower.

Although she reads Indian papers, she says she didn’t follow the case proceedings carefully as she felt that after a while, “Kasab’s trial became yet another circus”.

At about the same time as the verdict was announced, it was business and leisure as usual within the heritage precincts of the 105-year-old Taj. Designer suits cut armchair deals in the lobby, tanned tourists walked around in shorts, and expats held muted discussions in various accents.

The Taj’s employees, 10 of whom were killed and 11 injured in the attacks, refused to comment on the verdict. The hotel also withheld an official statement calling the attacks “a closed chapter”.

Survivor Ritik Bhasin said he has “forgotten about the incident and moved on in life.” He didn’t’ follow Kasab’s trial. “As he is guilty he should be hanged as soon as possible. There’s no use wasting any more money on him.”

Dr Mangeshikar calls herself a staunch “Taj loyalist” and has stayed there on her visits to Mumbai. She says, “The Taj epitomises the concept of “service”.

As the doors to the Taj continued to revolve, Kasab’s verdict saw life coming a full circle for Mumbai’s grand hotel.

— Tasneem Nashrulla


The Trident: ‘No mercy needs to be shown’

For Kalpana Shah, owner of Tao Art Gallery in Worli, who lost her husband Pankaj Shah in the attacks at The Oberoi, the forgetting hasn’t been clinical. “The law will do as is necessary. It’s quite obvious that no mercy needs to be shown. I have faith in the system,” said Shah on Kasab’s verdict.

Her son Sarjan who is studying international relations at the London School of Economics voiced a deeper concern. “We need to realise that how well we have functioned with regard to this one individual is not of as much consequence as is tackling cross-border security, which remains neglected. He is a lone gunman who didn’t even mastermind the attack. When will the country get to the grass roots issues to eliminate chances of many such attacks?” the 20-year-old said.

At The Oberoi, it’s been 10 days since it reopened for service, 17 months after it was besieged and left in ruins by armed terrorists. At lunch hour, the vast lobby fitted with a stunning white Greek marble was bathed in sunlight from the atrium and alternately in shadows.

Beyond this theatre of shadows one heard the gentle tinkling of china, lunch service was at its peak at Fenix, which was at its full capacity (a little under 70 patrons). The all day diner, formerly known as Tiffin, was where the terrorists opened fire. The physical scars inflicted on the Trident and The Oberoi, have been erased through restoration. Those that run deeper are undetectable in the solid smiles and the firmly folded hands of the staff employed across the two properties that endured the three-days of terror.

— Purva Mehra


Nariman House: ‘What happened to Moshe cannot change’

In northern Israel’s Afula district, Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg on Monday heard the news of Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab being held guilty of the 26/11 terror attack over the radio.

“I am not happy at all,” he said in his slow, charmingly accented English over the telephone. “My daughter and her husband are dead. What the law says cannot bring them back.”

Rosenberg’s daughter Rivka and her husband, Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg were taken hostage and killed by two armed gunmen at the Jewish Chabad House in Colaba’s Nariman House. The couple’s son, Moshe (3), was rescued by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel (45), and both live in Israel. “The world must know that people who did this came from Pakistan,” Rosenberg said.

Moshe now goes to kindergarten and spends his day running around his grandparents and Samuel. “He enjoys reading books and stories,” said Samuel. Hesitant to comment on the court verdict, she said, “What happened to the baby (Moshe) cannot change. His parents won’t come back.”

The Chabad House has moved out of Nariman House to an unidentified location. Light filtering through the blue plastic sheets draped over the building’s broken windows spreads an eerie glow. Moshe’s toys still lay scattered in his room, where one of the walls has a hand-painted height chart that has 13-month-old Moshe’s height marked at 75 cms.

— Anshika Misra


Cama hospital: ‘I start shivering every time I see terrorists’ photographs’

Chandrakant Tikhe, a lift operator at Cama Hospital, was feeling extremely restless as he watched television news on Monday afternoon.

“Why is it taking so long? If the court does not hang Ajmal Kasab, we will,” he said.

The 50-year-old had come face to face with Kasab and Abu Ismail when they stormed into the hospital on the fateful night. Despite being held on gunpoint, Tikhe told the terrorists that there was no one on the hospital’s terrace and saved 25 staffers who were hiding there. Scars of the injuries caused by grenade splinters during the cross firing between the police and terrorists are still visible on Tikhe’s neck.

Hirabai Jadhav, who works as a helper in the surgical ward, can feel stiffness near the thumb of her right hand, where a portion of bullet had got stuck. She was shielding two pregnant women when the bullet grazed her hand and hit the wall.

Jadhav (48) did not watch news of the court’s verdict on Monday.

“We don’t watch television. My son had pulled out the cable a few days after the terror attack because I would start shivering every time I saw the terrorists’ photographs,” she said.

“I think the government should not waste any more money on Kasab. They should hang him soon,” she added.

Jadhav and other staffers went about their work as usual at the government-run maternity hospital on Monday. “People associate Cama Hospital with the terror attack so they are scared to come here. We hope they will overcome their fears and avail of the facilities the government has provided here,” said superintendent Dr Shobha Tehra.

— Neha Bhayana


Leopold Cafe:‘Punishment will tell it all’

Nilesh Gandhi was out of town on a business trip when he heard that Kasab was pronounced guilty. Six bullets had pierced the 44-year-old on the night of 26/11 when he was out for a drink with friends at Leopold Café on Colaba Causeway.

“This should have happened long ago, but still hearing it makes me feel happy that finally justice will be done,” said the entrepreneur. “More than a year on, I am back to life but I lost a dear friend that night to these terrorists.” He sustained bullets in his hips and legs.

Back at Leopold Café, at 2.15 pm, when the judgment was pronounced, the staff was relieved. “The judgment has come, but the punishment will tell it all,” said Leopold owner Farang Gehani. “It is all so fresh in my mind. The firing, the silence that followed, the police vans coming in and us piling injured in them not knowing who is alive and who is not.”

The occupants on the tables also felt the weight of the moment. Akshay Punjabi (12) had come from Andheri with his mother and aunt to see the bullet holes on the walls.

— Kiran Wadhwa


Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus: At CST, an impatient demand for justice

The judgement, after the 190-day trial, brought Mumbaiites relief and a sense of vindication.

Throbbing with commuters as usual, the mood Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus almost seemed upbeat and defiant, tempered with an angry, impatient demand for justice, as the news of terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasab’s verdict spread on Monday.

That he was guilty was almost like a foregone conclusion among people. All they wanted to know about the punishment meted out to the 22-year-old gunman, who sprayed bullets around the station on November 26, 2008, killing 58 people.

“I am happy he has been found guilty. He must hang. As it is, so much money has been spent just to keep him alive and protected in jail,” said 58-year-old commuter Suhasini Sawant, a homemaker.

Her friend, Charusheela Shirke (57), added, “Even Kasab’s death will not bring back all those people he killed. My heart goes out to the wives of those policemen.”

Some felt the trial had gone on for too long. But the unanimous feeling was that the punishment should be severe to act as a deterrent. “A death penalty should be given to Kasab without wasting any time,” said marketing professional Amar Sinha (54), who was outside the station that night when Kasab and his partner, Abu Ismail, struck.

Twenty-two-year-old student Mukesh Amra, who is studying for his civil service exams, expressed fear that the legal process will take more time. “The matter will probably go to the Supreme Court and drag on there,” he said.

Akshay Gite, a 19-year-old management student, said Kasab had been misguided in the name of religion. “Religion is meant to organise and sanctify human relations, not to perpetuate crime and murder.”

— Mithila Phadke and Radhika Dhuru