The memory of the Mumbai terror attacks still make me shiver. Just the thought of the heinous act by these wayward youth makes me feel sick to my stomach.
I know a lot has been said about the Taj Mahal Palace & Towers being the icon of Mumbai etc. I don't know about the others, my first memory of Bombay was the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. I landed there in 1992 on a train from Pune. I still remember the excitement as it was my first ever trip to this absolutely FAB city. I had gone to meet my mother's younger sister, who lived in Colaba with her family.
Being an Army kid who mostly travelled in trains, I had learn the art of judging the city by just looking at the railway station. The railway station always gave you a good idea about the city you have landed in. This railway station ROCKED...I KNEW Bombay was gonna rock too.
With this trip my romance with South Bombay started. I would often hang at Cafe Mondegar and Leopold Cafe with friends and family. My dad and I would drive down from Pune to Navy Nagar in Colaba. While dad would go to office, I would roam the streets of Colaba Causeway. Then a few years later I moved to Pune to do my MBA. My trips to Bombay increased. But, the excitement of going to Bombay never changed.
My first job with Trikaya Grey in 1997 got me to stay at 4 bungalows for a few months. I remember the trainee gang would make plans to go to Fashion Street and end the evening with a movie at Regal. We would be packed like sardines in the 1st class coach of the local trains. Every week end we would find our way to Town( South Bombay is popularly called that)
For me Bombay always stood for South Bombay.
A few years later my boyfriend moved base to Mumbai. He went on to live there for 3 years. The city was witness to our long distance romance and many mid night trips to Marine drive. It was here that we decided to get married.
From 2004 onwards my trips to Mumbai ( as SADLY the city was no more Bombay) became very frequent. We were launching our flights from Mumbai to London and I was in charge of the launch. The one week launch activities were hosted out of Taj Mahal and Place. 13 years after my first visit to Mumbai, I actually entered the formidable building for the first time and made it my second home for the next 6 months.
My colleague form UK and I had our rooms booked at the heritage part of Taj. All our meetings, recces, plans were hatched near the swimming pools over copious glasses of Mango Lassi. Richard Branson stayed at the Heritage Rajasthan room during the launch. What a glorious launch it was. It was considered one of the best launches within the Network (or so they said!). Although I never really did get comfortable in the very stuffy environment of Taj, a drink at Leopold was far more welcome than a drink at Starboard the bar at Taj.
Not only did we launch our route from South Mumbai, we also took an office right on Marine drive. A few blocks away from the Oberoi's. A few business lunches were had there as well.
To me South Mumbai has been second home for past many a years. I am there every month. I always stay at Gordon House, right behind Taj. Its a small boutique hotel that makes me feel very much at home. Apart from the fact that they treat me like family, it also houses Stir Fry, my super fav Chinese restaurant. Rather the first thing I did after I heard about the attacks in Taj, was to speak with the Manager Neil at Gordon House. He was on leave and had come back to work the night after the attacks, he felt his moral responsibility was with his people and guests of the hotel. He walked right into the whole horror drama as he cared.
Not only do I spend time with my friends and colleagues in Mumbai. I also have my god daughter living a few building away from my office. Very rarely do I feel the need to venture to the suburbs.
How can I not feel the terrible horror of the attacks. It feels like my home was attacked while I was away. All I could do was hopelessly watch from afar and only feel very angry and frustrated. Angry for I think Mumbaikars are a very friendly and easy going bunch. Frustrated with the cowardice of the terrorists for killing unarmed civilians who were just going about their life.
Will my Mumbai ever be the same?!! Should we even forget what happened if we want to make a better tomorrow??! Is this the end of the horror that we all witnessed or a start of a even more ruthless tomorrow? Seed for thought.