If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Friday, 5 December 2008

Yeh hai Bombay meri jaan

A redeeming feature about the terror attack in Mumbai, if there can be one, was the professional competence of the NSG commandos. Not everything is lost. And what was heartwarming was how some ordinary people responded to the crisis with selfless courage, even putting their own lives at risk. I am sure you have read many of these stories, but let me have the honour of mentioning some of these heroes on my blog.

On 30th November, the Times of India reported the story of Vishnu Datta Ram Zende. On 2nd of December, New York Times / International Herald Tribune reported about him and a few others.

Thirty-seven year old Vishnu Datta Ram Zende, a Central Railway employee at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminal, announces arrivals and departures of trains. On 26th November, he heard a loud explosion just before 10 P.M. and saw people running in panic. He gripped a microphone and calmly directed the panicked crowd toward the safest exit. He announced which way they should go, alternately in Marathi and Hindi, “barely stopping to take a breath until the platform was cleared.” The gunmen soon located his announcement booth and fired, but fortunately, Zende was not hurt.

At the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel, a chef, Nitin Minocha “was on duty at the Golden Dragon restaurant when gunmen stormed the hotel lobby. He cracked open the door, saw the commotion and promptly closed it. He and his fellow workers escorted diners” into less accessible private club rooms. They hid more than 200 diners there.

“Well before dawn, security officers instructed that guests leave in groups of four. The hotel staff lined up, as though in a chain. Some people got out. Others did not. Bullets suddenly came in a burst. That is when Mr. Minocha was hit twice in the forearm.” During the attack, six employees were killed and another was critically injured.

“At another hotel, the Oberoi, staff members ushered restaurant diners into the kitchen and out the door; at that hotel, 10 employees were among the dead.”

Do you remember the old Mohammed Rafi-Geeta Dutt song, a line from which I have used as the heading of this post? At some point, the song goes like this:
Milta hai yanh sab kuch,
Ek milta nahi dil.
Clearly, the lyricist, S. H. Bihari went overboard there. There is no shortage of empathy in the city of Mumbai.

You can read the entire NYT/IHT report "For heroes in Mumbai, Terror was a call to action" if you click on this link.

And here is the story on Vishnu Datta Ram Zende in the Times of India.

Trumbull, Connecticut / 4 December 2008


  1. Dear Kaku,

    I am sure that some people showed tremendous courage and presence in mind. Some of them are being written about and many of them have died too.

    Yes, I feel the need of the hour is to get organised. As long as people continue the debate and up there consciousness,we seriously have hope to emerge as a proper civil society.

    Many countries lost to terrorism and corrupt Government because civil society did not exist or rather did not have considerable might. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq are some example.

    I hope it does not happen in India though I fear there is tremendous chance of that happening because we allow our democracy to exploit us.

    I hope even in a small way, our collective writings make some difference.

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  3. Sorry for the delayed response.

    Yes, Suvro, our administration didn't cover themselves in glory by the way they reacted to the Mumbai attacks.

    It is also true that our government will forget all about heroes like Vishnu Dutta Ram Zende. But still, we are fortunate that people like him are still with us. They represent the strengths that sustain us, despite all the terrible problems.

    Tanmoy, you are right, countries that don't have a civil society have little hope. I find it encouraging that so many young people have written so passionately about the Mumbai terror attack in their blogs. I am sure we will all come together, somehow, some day.

    The civil society acted with tangible force after the death of Rizwanur, after Nandigram, in the Jessica Lal murder case, and so on ...

    I am an incorrigible optimist. I believe the force can only get stronger.


I will be happy to read your views, approving or otherwise. Please feel free to speak your mind. Let me add that it might take a day or two for your comments to get published.