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Images that Don't Go Away

Radha Nair expresses her grief, anger and helplessness and asks, "When will it all end?"

Every time the Taj is flashed on screen, abandoned, smoke charred, blood stained, it makes me feel so sick at heart. For me, personally, there are so many happy memories twined with that lovely place, so far removed from what I see now of TAJ on my TV screen.

In my final years at school we were staying at Dhanaraj Mahal which was bang next to The Green's hotel, what is now the new Taj. Early dawn would see me wheeling my brand new bike out to the Gateway of India, from where it was one long, lovely empty stretch of smooth asphalt. Except for the pigeons which rose up in a cloud, each time I fell ignominiously onto the road, there was not a soul around. It was so peaceful and lovely then. The great, fishing sail boats would be shimmering on the waves out there in the sea.

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Taj And now in that very square, innocent lives held hostage or snuffed out with incredible ease. It is too terrible to accept.

Memories of a hijacked Indian Airlines plane in 2003, from Kandahar which sat on the tarmac of Dubai airport for days, keep coming back. I was then in the UAE. Those in the safety of their homes, watched in shocked disbelief, as the bizarre drama unfolded right in front of their eyes, as they watched the hour by hour footage on their TV screens. A young bride sat among the passengers in the hijacked plane, totally completely unaware that her husband had already been killed. Women and children were finally released due to the intervention of Sheikh Mohammed. The conditions inside the plane were horrendous. The passengers had been denied toilet facilities. The air inside the plane, was stale beyond human endurance because the air conditioning had been switched off for an interminable length of time to save on fuel. They ran out of food and water. The torture and anguish suffered by those in the plane remain etched in our collective consciousness.

The images of the bomb blasts of 1993 with the gutted remains of so many buildings - the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Air India building, the passport office and 10 other prominent landmarks all re-surface again. And the shattered lives of so many who lost their dear ones, who survived the hell.

And now, yet again, the horror is being relived through this recent incident, where innocent people were taken hostage inside the Taj, the Trident and Nariman House, where they have been mercilessly killed through acts of savage brutality.

The images keep streaming through our TV screens: the deep shock and anguish of a mother who has lost her only son; the wife of a top police official looking wide eyed in disbelief, not a tear in her eye, too dazed to allow herself to cry, under the glare of media coverage. The tragedy of so many shattered lives. The media focuses on the enormity of it all: the helplessness, the anger, the grief. The camera pans to give glimpses into individual lives. We do not want to be voyeurs of their grief - we want to say simply, we are watching because we grieve with you.

Friends, sisters, brothers, keeling over on the kerb, when the truth of their individual losses finally hit them. It could have been anyone of us. Tears and despair everywhere. Candle light vigils by Indians and foreigners, by people who live in Mumbai and people who happened to visit this great megapolis.

And then I look at the picture of the chubby faced 18 year old killer. He brazenly mowed down so many at Victoria Terminus. I study his credentials: he is educated, fluent in English. He strayed from Bangladesh to Pakistan. Was he conditioned to think that he is a martyr to some insane cause?

Anger burns in our hearts. The pictures being flashed on TV are horrific beyond reason, beyond human endurance. How did this doctrine of terrorism become so widespread? Why are we silent victims? When will it end?

Photo Credit for Taj image: Siddhartha Butalia

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.