I was 15 at the time of the 26/11 terror attacks.
I wasn’t in school because Chennai was having another cyclonic depression so it was a series of cold rainy days. I remember feeling horrified as I watched on. 24/7 news channels were having a field day with news coverage as almost any movement at the sites of the terror attacks warranted extended explanations.
Stories of bravery and human resilience surfaced soon after, causing me to marvel at the nature of how some people reacted in such intense situations. My stomach churned unpleasantly as I learned that the terrorists had entered the country via the sea.
I thought back to the beach and tried to imagine the calm waves washing ashore, a boat filled with gun toting monsters.
But the one thing I remember feeling the most strongly, was a sense of disconnect. I had never been to the city. I had never seen these monuments. I had never encountered these people. I wanted to learn how they were feeling. I wanted to see how they were coping. I wanted to understand what they were thinking.
After all, there’s only so much coverage a news channel can offer you.
7 years and 3 days after the horrific incident took place, I offered my bag to the security guard as they rummaged through it. I stood next to Miss BB and our friend as they repeated the procedure. My breath caught in my throat as I stepped in to the crowded café.
Established in 1871, Leopold Café needs no further introduction. It was also one of the first sites of attack where the terrorists barged in and attacked its patrons with guns and grenades.
Being a Saturday evening, the café was buzzing with activity. As I seated myself, my eyes fell on a sight that took my words away.
An irregularly shaped hole, on one of the pillars. Unmistakably, a bullet hole from the 26/11 terror attack. I tried to maintain a calm face as I suddenly felt insecure. All around me, everyone was busy with their beverages and their food and I looked down at the menu, trying to make sense of it all. Sitting there, the gravity of the attacks finally hit me, hard. The reality of the situation that was the terror attack on Mumbai on 26th November 2008… I finally began to understand the depth of the situation.
For more pictures of the cafe after the attacks in 2008, check out this article from Mashable.com
I imagined sitting there, dictating my order to a waiter as a gunman suddenly burst in and began firing. My throat was robbed of its voice as I caught sight of more bullet holes in different parts of the café.
What struck me, however, was how it had an air of stubbornness to it. The wait staff were slightly less than polite to us, though their service was impeccable. It was almost as if they were trying to send out a message- about how well they had recovered and how they were happy to go on.
Which sort of made sense, given the circumstances.
My heart goes out to those who did not survive the terror attack that day, and to those who have to live with the scars in their mind.
To all the soldiers, civillians and citizens who didn’t back down even when brute force tried to strike fear into our hearts.
We will stand tall… And we will never forget.