Friday, November 28, 2008

Mumbai on the fly

Taj Palace Hotel and Gateway to India

I don't know what the protocols are here but i thought you all might like to eavesdrop on this Indian conversation about the tragic and yet to be concluded events in Mumbai. Nikhil is the son of an old friend and schoolmate. He's a designer and I have a rich relationship with him via Facebook from where i clipped this conversation. At the end of this thread is an excerpt from and link to one of my favourite bloggers anywhere, Domain Maximus. Named Sidin Vadukut when not in the blogosphere he lives in Mumbai and has an amazing post on the last normal hours at the Taj because he was there interviewing an Israeli CEO approximately two hours before it all began. And personally i think the main targets of these attacks were the Israelis who were in Mumbai for trade read on.

From Facebook at 8.15 am Jamaican time:

N. ..It is high time India stops sending missions to the moon and starts focusing on national security.4 hours ago

VR at 3:32am November 28
inappropriate man.

N at 4:19am November 28
this is inapproproate and your counter strike CS: mumbai comment was appropriate. What da?

SS at 4:24am November 28
science has its place and so does defense. They're unrelated..stop comparing the two.

N at 4:35am November 28
It's important to get priorities right in the life of a nation. Cool, kudos to the science. Where is the defence? It's like a half baked pie.

N at 4:36am November 28
And for that matter. I would rather have my taxes cut for defense and the militaryand their families than the moon. So there.

A at 4:38am November 28
your taxes will be cut nonetheless......even if they are sending shit to the moon...or giving the terrorists a safe passage....u are paying

VR at 4:47am November 28
I dunno how to explain to you how wrong you are in so many ways.

N at 4:48am November 28
Let's just say you're suffering from NOT IN MY BACKYARD syndrome.

N at 4:49am November 28
it's called NIMBY by the way. Sounds cool doesn't it? Just like CS: Mumbai.

S at 4:51am November 28
Agree with you N...not with what your friends have to say :(

SS at 5:02am November 28
nikhil...why don't you name one country where terrorist attacks have been prevented by cutting costs on other things? You call me a maaru but you're acting like one right'll have to pay taxed regardless..!! I honestly don't think its that easy to prevent such attacks, however strong the defense, on the contrary I think the army and the hotel staff have tried their level best to get the hostages out. its really not the time to blame..

VR at 5:17am November 28
i was just trying to be funny, you are just being crass. That's all i have to say.

at 5:29am November 28
I was just hoping to be serious, you are just misunderstanding it and being venkat. That's all i have to say. Come on man.

VR at 8:48am November 28
I'm in Mumbai. You're in Delhi. Go figure. I have had enough.

and from Domain Maximus:

The lobby is not as busy as usual. As I wait, a suitably socialite looking woman speeds down the lobby followed by an older woman who reassures her that “It is okay to wear shorts here baby!”

I recognize no one except for a Mr. Wickmann. (My memory may not be precise on this.) I know his name because of the quaint and subtle way in which the Taj summons people waiting in the lobby. Someone walks around with a little whiteboard, with a name on it, stuck on top of a stick There are two small bells on the stick which jangle as it is carried about. Around 6:20 or so someone comes looking for a Wickmann. Wickmann is a tall, white-haired man with spectacles. The staff member escorts him away somewhere.

The publicist picks me up around 6:35 PM from the lobby and we walk down the corridor that connects the new Taj to the old one. To me that walk is the shiniest part of the Taj. The windows and floors and lights all combine to make it this shimmering tube of light. I noticed little of the walk, though, as the publicist made small talk about the global economy and recession and what our paper thought and so on. In fact the only thing I did notice was a show window. It was empty except for a bottle of Dom Perignon on a little stand in the corner. At the time I thought it was a very poor display for Dom Perignon.

We went up the lift to the sixth floor of the heritage building and then took a left, over a flight of stairs to the CEO’s suite in the corner. I was too strung up for the interview to notice the wooden barristers and ornamentation of the corridors of the old Taj.

Our interview started late but lasted for just over an hour. She spoke about her life in the industry, her weekend pastimes, the Indian market and how she once served in the Israeli army. Then it turns out that she has dual citizenzhip: Israeli-British. I quietly admire the cosmopolitanism of it all and then sip on a black coffee. She offers a few hotel chocolates and biscuits but I refuse.

We get up after I switch off the audio recorder and exchange business cards. We shake hands and then she tells me that she’s off to meet a few local business associates for dinner. We share some small-talk and then I finally leave after a short but interesting interview.

For the rest of this post click here

Taj Palace at Mumbai by aratib.
Photo of Taj by night by Aratib.


FSJL said...

I think the science v. security debate is misplaced. There is no reason why India can't have both. Indeed, there is much reason why it should have both.

I've been following the crisis in Mumbai on the BBC website, with alarm as the number of dead rise, and wondering who the 'militants' are and what the raas they want. They've certainly captured the attention of the world (though I suspect that many of my students, when I ask them on Monday, will have paid no attention at all).

gul said...

keep your thoughts flowing. it is the time of the bloggers.

i am not watcing all of cnn but
it looks they have had gag orders
on them, with the justifiaction that the other side is getting also the same info.


Anonymous said...

Really heart wrenching story of Mumbai!