I have been watching live reports from NDTV about the terrorist attacks in southern Bombay, and it is surreal, to say the least. As Barkha Datt finished her report in front of the Taj, we heard multiple rounds of gunshots in the background. Up to 200 people are still trapped in the Oberoi building, and as the news cameras watched, people in the hotel rooms waved to outsiders, pleading for help. As the sun set, the military entered the Oberoi, and began shooting at terrorists on the eighth floor of the building. Bombs just went off at the hotel, and fires are raging from some of the floors. There is still no clarity on so many things – on how many terrorists there are, on how many hostages, on what they want, on which organization they belong to.
Fire trucks without ladders have been straining to put out fires on the higher stories of the hotels. Policemen carrying shotguns and wearing shoddy uniforms are facing off against militants armed with hand grenades and AK-47s. As policemen stood with guns outside of places rumored to contain armed terrorists, curious passers-by peered over their shoulders into the buildings, and assembled in crowds in front of the hotels. This was absurd to watch.
Reports from people who have escaped from the Taj describe a nightmare – corpses lying around the hotel lobby and restaurants, terrorists indiscriminately firing machine guns at guests and staff. Guests escaped from rooms by climbing down on curtains and sheets tied together.
While India has faced repeated incidents of violence, I have naively always thought of violence as something that happens to others — to people in Kashmir or the Northeast, to people who didn’t have access to the support networks that I have here. My illusion of safety has been definitively shattered.
Meanwhile, severe rains continue for the third continuous day in Chennai. The streets are waterlogged, and homes are flooded. It is a replay of the last November I spent in Chennai.