Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mumbai – random thoughts

Is it just me, or are we all starting to accept the American point of view that took shape in the aftermath of 9/11? George W Bush is a bastard. That shouldn’t change. What he did to Afghanistan and Iraq is unacceptable, unpardonable. That opinion shouldn’t change. But after the 60-hour terror war in Mumbai, a lot of people seem to be agreeing with Bush and America.

I caught myself saying a couple of times over the past 30-odd hours that our government is completely impotent, and we should remember how America ensured there was nothing in the US after 9/11. I heard a celebrated Mumbaikar on TV celebrating the Homeland Security appointment immediately after 9/11. I heard people – ordinarily acceptably intelligent – saying that the way to go about stamping out terror is the way America played their hand. I once even heard myself saying that a non-Congress government would have come down much harder on terrorism than this government has.

That’s true. The country, at the moment, doesn’t have a Prime Minister. What we have is a caricature. The sort that we use in C-grade satires. In fact, I would go far as to wager that Dr Manmohan Singh doesn't really exist anymore. What we see of him on our TV screens is actually a speech that the Congress party recorded at some stage - listen to him after every single terror incident. The words are identical.

We have a Home Minister who is at once an idiot and a bastard.

We have put no systems in place in the 15-odd years that we have had to deal with terror. The government evidently doesn’t care. Or, in their politically-educated minds, they know that we won’t hold it against them till the next incident takes place. Not the incidents in Guwahati or Imphal – those don’t matter to us talkers and protestors; specifically the ones in Delhi or Bombay, because those are the only ones that are real terrorist attacks.

Anyway, gone a bit off-topic there…the point I want to make is that nothing in the world should make us go the American way. Yes, they secured their borders and so must we. But we should find an Indian way of doing it. Placing Narendra Modi in the hot seat is not the way to go about it. There must be another way. A simpler way. A more acceptable way.


At some level, nothing affected me more than the visuals of the Taj Mahal hotel in flames. Of course, the builders of the hotel deserve a 21-gun salute for putting together what appears to be a fortress in many ways. 50-odd grenades, firing, fire…the façade remains absolutely unaffected – of course, the priceless paintings, photographs, carpets, etc inside must all be gone by now.

I remember staying there – only once – when the Indian cricket team was staying there prior to their departure for the 2007 cricket World Cup. Okay, yeah, I stayed in the new wing, but I took a tour of the entire Heritage Wing of the hotel, and I think I have mentioned all the Taj stories to Ajitha a hundred times, practically reliving every moment of it each time. [When friends from, say abroad, ask me about the Taj Mahal in Agra, it usually takes me 40 seconds to say all that I want to say.]

Maybe Ratan Tata will be able to take it back somewhere. I’m not pseudo-sentimental enough to say I will never go back to the Taj Mahal hotel. Of course I will. But I’ll wait for them to take it back at least halfway to what it was.

That picture of John Lennon, I’m sure, won’t be there anymore…


Leopold - heck, where am I going to have that Chilli Beef now?


I’m a TV journalist – scum of the earth. Over the past couple of days, we have received numerous emails and calls from viewers lambasting us for beaming live visuals of the security operations, which many commentators – some of them fairly educated – have called irresponsible journalism. Yes, channels possibly beamed them because they made for riveting TV. Channels also beamed them, simply, because these visuals formed part of the overall coverage. But can anyone tell me why the cable and mobile phone connections to the three major battlefronts were not cut off?

And can anyone convince me that the 20-odd terrorists who laid siege on Mumbai with such meticulous planning actually had LIVE TV COVERAGE listed as one of the things that would help them carry out their plans? They didn’t. MARCOS told us that the terrorists had inch-by-inch knowledge about the layout of the Taj Mahal hotel. TV didn’t tell them that. They knew where they were. They knew where the security forces were. They knew what they were doing. They didn’t need live TV to tell them any of that.