26/11: lest we forget

Every 26/11, I offer a silent prayer for the victims of the Mumbai terror attack. Like so many south Mumbaikars, I felt directly connected to the act of terror. A school friend Sunil Parekh died in the attack while dining with his wife at the Oberoi; a college friend Ashok Kamte was one of the senior police officers who was killed; Sabina Sehgal Saikia had been a colleague at the Times of India and Ashok Kapur, a member of our club, Bombay Gymkhana, was also shot dead.  And I had just had a long conversation with Hemant Karkare the evening before and we had promised to meet soon.

When terror hits a bus stand in a distant suburb or in some border town, you don't really get shaken. When it hits close to home, it traumatises you. That's what 26/11 did. My mother lives a stones throw away from Nariman House in Colaba. It could have been her building, it could have been anyone in the neighbourhood. 26/11 forced South Mumbai out of its seeming reverie, a certain island-like isolationism that marks the mindset of the city's genteel elite. By striking at the heart of the city's iconic South Mumbai landmarks, it forced the city to wake up. As college kids, we went to the Shamiana at the Taj  for a coffee with our pocket money or drank our first beer at Leopolds. Now, teenage nostalgia had been replaced by the chilling reality of an AK 47. Suddenly, no place seemed safe any more.

And yet, I wonder what happened to the feverish rage of six years ago which saw south Mumbaikars hit the streets, screaming 'enough is enough'. When I hear that coastal security is still not tight enough, when there are reports of corruption in the procurement of bullet proof jackets, when there are still delays in setting up anti terror mechanisms, you can't avoid asking if the memories of 26/11 are fading all too quickly. We shouldn't forgive the culprits, but we must never forget either. Candlelight vigils make for a nice picture; they won't make us a safer society.

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