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Homage at attack sites

Citizens visit attack sites, light candles, pay homage to victims as city observes the second anniversary of the 2008 attacks.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON NOV 27, 2010 01:35 AM IST

At Taj Mahal Palace
‘We came here to pray for their souls’

Kanika Saxena and her two friends managed to convince the police to let them inside the cordoned off area around the Taj Mahal Palace on Friday afternoon to pray for those killed in the luxury hotel during the terror attacks.

On the second anniversary of the 26/11 attacks, the trio stood on the pavement at the hotel’s back entrance with folded hands and closed eyes, and said a silent prayer. But before they could light candles to pay their tribute, the police asked them to vacate the area.

“Though we lost no one we knew in the attacks, the trauma is still fresh in our minds. We came here to pray for their souls,” said a teary-eyed Saxena.

The hotel, where 36 people were killed during the attack, held a private memorial service.

Wearing an unusually deserted look, the area around Taj hotel and the Gateway of India resembled a fortress with security barricades around the 1.5-km radius. Only those booked in the hotel and local residents were allowed entry.

“The security arrangements inside the hotel are satisfactory. It’s business as usual inside,” said a US national, who refused to divulge his name.

The area was cordoned off in the afternoon, but Nikhil Sunka, 16, an art student, was among those lucky to get into the hotel. He sat in a corner for three hours, and in a tribute to the victims recreated the hotel’s old wing, which was under siege, on a rectangular wooden panel using terracotta. “I will display it at the upcoming Kala Ghoda festival,” the Tardeo resident said excitedly.

At Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
‘We need to move on and we have’

When Jayanti Jitiya, with his two daughters in tow, walked through Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), waving the tricolour, at 9.46pm there was no chant of Jai Hind, nor did anyone even join him.

Jitiya walked through the suburban and outstation arenas of the terminus, and he got no reaction.

The pace was frenetic; the mood seemed to be unmoved.

When the clock struck 9.46pm, two years after the bloodbath began at the terminus, the heritage structure of the CST showed that life, as it always does, had moved on. That for the countless faces who came here, 9.46pm symbolises nothing more than a possible train timing.

Maybe that’s why, when the clock did strike 9.46pm, the only thing that struck Mrugaraj Rao, a Thane resident, was to rush to catch a 9.46 slow local for Ambarnath.

“We need to move on and we have,” he said, between running to get his train.

Jitiya said, “This was my way of paying a tribute to the countless and the faceless who died that day. I have no more a connection to 26/11 as any other Mumbaikar does-nor did my close ones experience the event. I just wanted to show that I care.”

The strongest irony, then, lay in the fact that even though a large crowd did gather at the station when the clock went a minute past 9.45pm, one later realized that the crowd, however, was for the incoming fast train to Khopoli.

At Leopold cafe
‘The nostalgia is obvious’

Mihir Ganatra firmly held his beer mug and tapped his foot in resilience to a live band playing at the Leopold Café in Colaba on Friday night.

Thirteen years ago, the 29-year-old event manager had his first drink at the restrobar.

On Friday, he was back at the café to pay homage to the 11 people who died in the café on November 26, 2008.

“The nostalgia is obvious,” Ganatra said. His latest post on Facebook read, “Mr. Terrorist, if you visit Leopold Café

today, the beer bong will hit you harder.”

Around 7.30 pm, the café staff barely had any space to move between the tables as young people of different nationalities thronged the venue that has become an iconic post of the city’s bloodiest terror strike.

The graffiti boards placed at the entrance had very little white space left.

Visitors as well as passersby took some time off to scribble a few lines for those who failed to go back to their families on that day.

“I feel lucky to be here on such a historic day,” said Evan Betti, an Argentinean tourist who was passing by the café and knew little about the terror attacks. Betti and other visitors also lit candles at the entrance.

Several others stood outside the café straining to hear the live bands that played tributes to those who died and to the city that stood resiliently in the aftermath of the attacks.

“I have seen Friday night crowds. But this is something else,” said a steward at Leopolds.

Visitors stood up and observed a minute’s silence for the victims earlier in the evening.

The staff also distributed 26/11 themed t-shirts and candles among the guests.

At Trident hotel
‘Could remember the laughs, not terror’

by Apeksha Vora

Art teacher Linda Ragsdale, 51, who was shot at in the Tiffin restaurant in Trident hotel during the 26/11 terror attacks gifted a canvas filled with peace messages from 2,000 children from India and the US to the hotel on Friday.

“After the attack, it became clear that we need to bring about a change, and the best place to start is with children,” said Ragsdale at a memorial service organised at Trident by One Life Alliance. Ragsdale has devised a peace curriculum that she teaches in the US and will now teach students in Mumbai.

For Ragsdale, coming back to India two years after the ordeal was like returning home. “The first thing we did was go back to the restaurant, though it is redone now, I could remember all the laughs and the great food, but no terror,” she said.

Twelve foreign victims are back in Mumbai, echoed Ragsdale’s sentiments. “I had to come back to Mumbai, to meet all the people that helped,”said Helen Connoly, 51, who was injured at the restaurant.

“We have so many people, who helped us in different ways, to thank,” said Line Kristin Woldbeck from Norway who was at Leopold Café during the attack.

“The people deserve to know what happened and the authorities aren’t telling them the truth,” said Woldbeck, who said that the firing at Leopold was far worse than it was made out to be by the authorities.

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