Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai under siege

I am watching television since close to 3 hours... Flipping from channel to channel to 'get the latest'. A terrorist attack is unfolding on screen - live. Just like that movie 'Wednesday'.

Except no one knows who is scripting this or when it will end.

But the reason I am especially drawn to the drama is that I was at not one, but two of the venues where firing took place. Just an hour before it started.

In fact I was at the Oberoi hotel - all day. This was for an event that IIM Ahmedabad Alumni had hosted - an interactive session with Prof Eric Von Hippel of MIT.

After a long day we wound up at the Oberoi and took Prof Hippel to another location nearby for an interview... Before finally saying our goodbyes at 840 pm.

Then, I headed to CST station. The fastest and most comfortable way to get to Vashi. There was a train standing there, and I considered making a run for it.

But I stopped to buy a bottle of water. Then a couple of magazines. I caught a train at 9.07 I think. Uneventful journey. Was home at 10.15.

Suddenly I get calls from a couple of people about whether I am 'ok'. That's when I switched on the TV and realised how lucky I am!

Unfortunately Prof Von Hippel is staying at the Oberoi and we have been unable to reach him. He does not have a local mobile.

I notice that the building which is ablaze on TV is the Trident section of the Oberoi (the tall building) while he is checked in at the Oberoi (the short building). But they are inter-connected. And he is an American national... So it IS cause for concern! We can only PRAY.

UPDATE @8 am, Nov 27: Prof Von Hippel has been located and is safe.

As I stroke my sleeping daughter's head, I think anyone, anywhere can be caught in this crossfire. Yes, today, it could have been my turn... Had the event stretched on. Had I hung around for dinner. What's one hour this way or that, in a city like Mumbai?

But as they say, God had other plans.

I must add that for some reason, when I walked into the Trident today, I had a passing thought about the security. There was none. Not even the frisking you see at shopping malls.

Yes, they have something you walk through but it was all very casual. And as I stood in that beautiful lobby with its giant glass windows with that breathtaking view of the Arabian sea, I thought,"This is what I love about Mumbai."

Yes there is real poverty outside. And the rich may be feeling poorer as well. But there are some places which are immune to it all. Like this one.

But no more...

As I type this there is news that that Hemant Karkare, chief of ATS (Anti Terrorist Squad) has been KILLED.

The world is not making sense! Going to sleep now but looks like this nightmare will continue...


  1. Donate Blood Mumbaikars-

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  2. there is a undying feeling of "what I can do to stop the rage", and in all likelihood, someone will have an answer soon.

    i just hope the answer is less bloody.

  3. Thank God you are safe Rashmi

  4. Glad you are doing good!!! I have been following news reports the whole day and there is this uneasy feeling gripping me the entire day. I just hope there is an end to all this. Take care!!!

  5. Why do terrorists keep doing this?
    Do they need to prove something?
    I don't think so, there has been enough attacks to make us realize that they are not mere attackers or looters, they are with some purpose in their devilish mind.
    I just wish they announce a big war or battle kind of thing against the entire world and finish of this business for once and all.....
    I'm really upset with their approach......either do or die!!

  6. Thank god you are safe. This is the worst terror attack i have witnessed in the country. Can't still believe it is happening in Mumbai.

  7. Good to know you are safe, and cliched as it may sound, the rest of India is glued to the news too.. worrying and praying and wondering why.

  8. Thank God you are safe Rashmi. God bless you.

  9. Good to know you are safe!
    All this is crazy....wgere is it going to end? whats next?

  10. Good luck yaar. There are many families whose life has changed today. Even those who have not been effected.

  11. We Indians have this attitude...Hey its not me or family who got hit or I don't care, I need to get along my life.

    I remember when you had your book launch, Stay Hungry Stay Foolish, during serial blasts, I felt you were missing couple of words from your title, Stay safe.

    How can we think entrepreneurship or our any other initiatives in life in India are possible when our lives are under constant terrorist threat? I would rather prefer to die in a terrorist incident in Israel (which by the way has come down drastically after building the wall) than in a coward of a country. As long my country kills five among the dark side, my death will have a meaning.

  12. Prof. Eric is back with us and he looks so relieved and happy.

    Glad you are safe too.

    Take care.

  13. 100+ lives; dozens of terrorists; the financial capital; death by a thousand cuts; irresponsible media; inept polity; indifferent bureaucracy; unaware masses..

    1 fight; lots of realism; some pragmatism; some emotions; several brave men; few opportunities; heart of the nation; 1 country India

    Will this be the obituary of inaction or another tribute to selfish gains? Is there anything we can do, can we change history and perhaps Geography, forever?

    And once we are done with these illegitimate children of fanatic thinking, can we answer these questions?

  14. Well, Dear Friends - I made it, although it was a bit exciting at times.
    Thank you SO much for being so concerned!

    I am sure I will embroider and lengthen the story over time (and try to convince
    you to listen) - but the VERY short form is that I am now safe in Amedabad.

    The slightly longer tale is that quite a few explosions and gunshots and
    confusion started about 10:30PM last night and woke me up in my Mumbai hotel
    room. Smoke started coming in under the door and my room fire alarm went off.
    The hotel room windows were the sealed-shut type and I began to hear people in
    other rooms trying to smash the glass with heavy blows. By the crashes, I
    could also hear that some succeeded - I guess by using furniture.

    All of this began to suggest to me that something was slightly amiss :) But I
    had no idea that people were taking hostages in the lobby restaurants and so
    on. No news came from the hotel staff, who probably had their hands full
    because they were in the lobby where the gunmen entered.

    I opened my room door and found that outside the room the smoke was REALLY thick
    and maybe the lighting was off too - in any case, you could not see your hand in
    front of you. Probably the smoke spread everywhere so completely because the
    lobby level, where the explosions were going on, was the base of an open atrium
    extending up 20 stories.

    So I closed the door again and thought things over. I was on the 16th floor.
    The air outside my room felt hot but not very hot. Still, I didn't know
    whether there was a fire below me - not a good thing - or what floor it might
    be on. But I decided I would try to get out of there rather than smash windows
    and try to stay. I found my passport and a couple of other things, got a wet
    towel over my nose and mouth and left the room. The towel worked really well,
    and things were pretty straight-forward after that. I felt along the wall to a
    fire stair exit - the exit sign was lit - opened the door and started down. The
    smoke was very thick there too, but I could move along pretty quickly because,
    amazingly, there seemed to be no one else in the stairwell.

    Got outside and saw groups of police standing around and not doing much despite
    all the yelling and window-smashing going on. I could hear occasional
    explosions from inside our hotel lobby and also from other nearby sites. With
    all that going on, they probably did not know what to do. I decided to get
    away from the hotel and try to get to the airport, but the police had other
    ideas - they wanted us to stay in a protected area away from the shooting.
    After a bit I met a reporter in the crowd, who took my photo, interviewed me,
    and asked about what I wanted to do. I told her I wanted to try to get to the
    airport, and she said no problem: as a reporter she could get us through the
    police line. I followed her - and, as she predicted, no one stopped us as we
    passed through the police. After a half-mile or so of walking, we found a cab, and we started for the airport. We
    went though 3 roadblocks successfully and that was that! I arrived at the
    airport, emailed to Jessie that I was safe, and all's well that ends well.

    Thanks again a LOT for your kind concern for me - I am staying at Amedabad to
    give a final talk tomorrow at a meeting, and then will head back home to my
    dear family and friends!

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Whoa, That is quite an adventure from the Professor. Am really glad that you could make it safe. I was checking your blog for updates on the prof, and in fact erased the previous comment that I had written asking about the welfare of the Prof. I hadn't seen his comment. Thank goodness!!!!

  17. @Prof.Eric

    Glad your safe and you were indeed bold enough to think and move out of the place. Thanks for sharing your experience . I'm sorry you had to go through such ordeals.

  18. Anonymous8:44 PM

    Terrible !

  19. Prof. Eric,
    We are all glad to know that you are fine. :)


    "As a reporter she could get us through the police line. I followed her - and, as she predicted, no one stopped us as we passed through the police."

    -- That just shows the level of security even after an attack of such huge magnitude.

  20. The city is burning as the terror striked like never before. I am just happy to be alive, though it will take a long time to erase those bad memories

  21. it's such a dreadful thing....but it also shos our failure in terms of intelligence bureau and mumbai police....much need to be done to root out this evil..

  22. A grim event in the history of the country, i am glad that we r getting foreign investigation expertise on this one...
    Read my take on the attacks,

  23. The government should now understand that it was their duty to ensure the safety of the waters around Mumbai.
    Every now and then a terror strike happens. These politicians are behaving no less than a bunch of MONKEYS. They are doing nothing to stop the terror but are fighting among themselves. Even in this hour of crisis politicians are just criticizing each other.
    These politicians should learn from Israel where the militants think twice before striking.
    It is high time and the politicians should take a tough stand and should strike in the same way on the hide outs of these militants as they have attacked our COUNTRY.

  24. thank god you are safe...!

  25. Hi,
    I am a student from NMIMS mumbai. We have started a group, to connect and more importantly motivate the future business leaders of tomorrow to do all they can against Terrorism. As JAM connects with audiences in b-schools/colleges, would it be posible to use it as a medium to spread awareness about the group and how they can setup chapters in their institutions. In case you are interested, send me a mail at, and I can explain the philosophy in detail.

    Kartik Menon

  26. Mumbai Terror Attack is a attack on every Indian

    WHO IS TO BLAME? Government for lack of concern for the security of the citizens, Local government for the inaction to the intelligence input (even some fishermen association wrote to them apprehending the import of RDX), local citizens for turning blind eye to the suspicious activities (they were staying for more than a month in the Niraman House, their suspected heart quarters where they hatched the plan) or the Hotel Management for poor security checks & implementation (how on this earth they got the entire map of the hotel, look how they behaved like they know this place as it was their home)

  27. Where the f*** is the savior of the city, Raj Thackare when his city was burning? The rat needs to be pulled out of this hole and squashed as soon as possible...

    See how many people have sacrificed their lives to save this megapolis... Or is he keeping quite because they are not Marathis?

  28. Important and interesting information in the interest of our Country.

    Did you know that there is a system in our constitution, as per the 1969
    act, in section " 49-O" that a person can go to the polling booth, confirm
    his identity, get his finger marked and convey the presiding election
    officer that he/she doesn't want to vote anyone! Yes such a feature is
    available, but obviously past + present leaders have never disclosed it.

    This is called "49-O".

    Why should You go and say " I VOTE NOBODY". Because, in a ward, if a
    candidate wins, say by 123 votes, and that particular ward has received
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    This would bring fear into parties and hence look for genuine candidates for
    their parties for election. This would change the way; of our whole
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    Please spread this news to as many as You know.

    Seems to be a wonderful weapon against corrupt parties in India. Show Your
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    SAY ALOUD: My Heart Beats for India and Indian Armed Forces...

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