Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Brutal Assault II

It will be a long time before Mumbaikars will recover, but their hard questions will not stop.

In my earlier article, I had hinted that I would tell you about how exactly the events unfolded in Mumbai as the terrorists went about destroying the secular fabric of an already fragile metropolitan city with bomb blasts, religious rhetoric and possibly the worst Hindu-Muslim riots to ever occur in free India as a part of its shameful but chequered history.

However, I am quite sure almost all readers already know how the events occurred. It all started with an assault at the C.S.T. railway station on the night of 26th November. Within an hour, it had moved to Cama and Albless Hospital, situated just behind the HQ of the Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika (the Municipal Corporation building); and then, after the three prominent policemen lost their lives – in a small lane just behind the Cama Hospital, the chief of the anti-terrorist squad Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and ACP Ashok Kamte, the terrorists escaped in a stolen police jeep past Metro cinema and towards Chowpatty.

At this point, I have learnt that initially, the Mumbai police force, including the three policemen who laid down their lives (see above), did not realize that they were up against people who had not only the technical knowhow to carry out a sophisticated operation of terror or the arms and the ammunition to fulfill their ambitions of bringing a city – and indeed, a nation, to its knees, but also that they were completely emotionless and cruel to the point of being devoid of any feelings: they went about the act of killing these decorated officers with complete insouciance and no regard for their status or rank. This very fact should have, and probably did, alert the intelligentsia among the police, the strategic forces and others, that they had a big cherry on their hands and it would be some time before they could swallow and digest it.

The terrorists then probably proceeded to their three target buildings, and planted bombs in the taxis that left them at their destinations. These bombs exploded at various locations all over Mumbai, depending on where the cabs went after leaving them; thus, one cab exploded near Dockyard road station, one at distant Vile Parle, and one near Napean Sea Road: all bombs probably activated by remote mobile-phone triggered detonators. These taxi blasts served to terrorise the entire city, and at the same time, threw red herrings about what the terrorists were up to.

The action then shifted to the three buildings – not buildings all, because two of them are five star hotels and more than that – they are landmarks of Mumbai. The Taj Palace Hotel, with over 400 rooms – located at the Gateway of India and the Trident and Oberoi hotels, located at the prestigious Nariman Point. In addition, they also targeted a non-descript building going by the name of Nariman Building – located just inside the main Shahid Bhagatsingh Road and ahead of the Colaba Market. This building is a community center for a certain sect of Jews, and also houses many Jewish families in it.

I want to ask here why they chose only these three structures and none other. I think that they realized that the two hotels would be mostly populated by foreign tourists and the third building already had Jews, traditional enemies of Moslems worldwide. Once they were inside these buildings, the next stage in their act of terror happened.

It is believed by the police that at the Taj, they had two staff from the house-keeping department, who let some of their associates in with the weapons and other things a week or two ahead of their D-day. Thus, the terrorists already had the master keys to the various sections of the hotel, the map of the hotel, and much necessary inside information about the “lie of the land” as it were. They were able to stay inside the hotel as guests, planning every single step of their coming assault. They ate, slept and played out full rehearsals of the entire plan a full week ahead!

I am pretty certain that they staked out the Oberoi in much the same way, and also visited Nariman Building and strategized everything there as well. Thus, when the actual action began, they went in with full knowledge of what they would be doing over the next few days – or more, depending on how everything panned out.

After listening to the news all over on TV and reading articles and news items, my reckoning is that Mumbai actually escaped a lot of damage only because of three reasons:

a) The terrorists lost a raft at mid-sea with hundreds of explosives and ammunition. They reached Mumbai by rafts in a boat from Karachi via Porbunder (although the last point has not yet been substantiated and the first point has been denied strongly by the Pakistani Government).

b) The NSG commandos were there quite early in action, although they still took 4 hours to reach from Delhi to Mumbai

c) The attacks began at night – or else there would have been tremendous damage at CST and in the hospitals.

It seems that the terrorists had planned on eliminating 5000 people; in the event, a loss that is much lesser in numbers is more than “compensated” by the brutal manner in which the killings took place: over 50 dead as they waited in the concourse of the railway station; entire families who were waiting to travel to their home-town were eliminated; men, women and children killed in cold blood as they sat eating in the restaurant in the Trident; employees of the hotel killed in their working places – the kitchens, the restaurants and the service areas of the Taj; and, finally, people killed on the roads of Mumbai, as the terrorists took to them en route to their own destinations.

Above all, the entire operation was carried out by the terrorists with an expertise and proficiency hitherto unseen in terrorist actions in our country and outside. Flying two planes (or four) recklessly through buildings needs average accuracy; planting bombs in busy marketplaces needs planning, but little accuracy; however, commandeering three entire buildings and mocking the hundreds of security forces with explosives while being just 3-4 in number speaks of astonishing planning and deadly accuracy. Thus, it would be fair to say that modern, hi-tech terrorism has finally arrived in India. And to expect our untrained policemen or home-guards to counter these people is sheer stupidity.

In the event, the successful termination of the attack was only thanks to the intervention of the black cat commandos and the factors already discussed above.

Where do we go from here? What does the government need to do to prevent such dastardly acts in future? I will discuss this in the last part of my article.

A Brutal Assault I

Yes, I am a Mumbaikar. I live a normal, non-descript life in a small locality in South Mumbai. I have dreams and aspirations, successes and failures, problems and difficulties just like all you readers out there. However, what I really want as a citizen of the World's most populous democracy is to be allowed to live my small, non-descript and non-lime lighted life SAFELY and in PEACE.

After all, who doesn't? Even the rich and the famous want the same things. I am, in that respect at least, as ambitious or non-ambitious as they are, or the beggar on the street is - which, thankfully, I am not. We all want to live peacefully as we journey through life, don't we? And who is to ensure that we do so? The elected representatives of the country, state, city and locality, of course.

While I am not equipped to understand which aspects of security are "central" matters, which "state" matters and which are within the ambit of the "local municipality", I am certainly sure that all of them failed to stop the three nights and two days of terror that hit Mumbai starting at or around 9:30 p.m. on the 26th of November, 2008.

I must say this at the outset: this is solely my own work, inspired both, by the hours of sitting glued in front of the TV and watching the news channels nearly 12-16 hours a day, and by the reactions of my family and me, as we went about trying to preserve a modicum of "normalcy" in our life.

I was returning from my clinical practice when I saw a few bullet-proof jacketed policemen on the road near J.J. Hospital. Something did not seem right, and when I reached home, I learnt from a family member that there had been firing near C.S.T. railway station. You can then imagine how the next 60-70 hours must have passed. Immediately, I was there before the TV, switching on one of the news channels, and I saw the beginning moments of what became, for me and for millions of others, the worst three nights and two days of my life.

Let me hasten to say that I haven't lost any family member, or property, or had any personal assault upon my physical being, but my mind and heart have been rendered asunder by the devilish actions of the dozen or more individuals who carried out the most fiendish plan almost to perfection. Even their death must have been planned, since they were "fidayeen" who were prepared to die for what they believed was a just cause.

And what did they want? Money? Fame? Perhaps fame, but definitely not money, since they sent an email that asked the government of India to "stop atrocities" and "release all Moslems" from their grasps within jails or incarceration. They wanted the erstwhile Moslem states of India (read Kashmir, Hyderabad etc.) to be released from the sovereignty of India.

And above all, they espoused the cause of jehad.

Is this the right way to conduct jehad? I think no one will disagree with me when we say that terrorists are totally misguided about what they think should be the right form of jehad. Moslem scholars all over the world have denounced terrorism as a form of righteous jehad and condemned those who would choose physical violence as the correct way to influence the world and to change the ways of non-Moslems. I ask you: can a parent forcefully control his/her offspring? Then how can terrorists hope to seek governments to submit to their nefarious suggestions by use of brutal force?

And herein lies the paradox of the tragedy that played out in the past 72 hours in Mumbai. The terrorists came via the marine route with arms, ammunitions and explosives that were so huge in quantity that they could have possibly completely demolished all the three structures that they attacked: Hotel Taj Palace, Hotel Trident and Oberoi (which are actually two separate buildings adjacent to each other at Nariman Point) and the Nariman Building at Colaba. Their avowed plan was to do precisely that: they wanted to injure India so badly that it would never recover economically, politically, psychologically or any other way. They wanted to do all that, and also demoralize every citizen of India. And, additionally, by hitting out at 5-star hotels, they wanted to hurt Americans, Israelis, and citizens from all over the world who had come to India to enjoy its wonderful hospitality.

And, I daresay, they wanted to cock a snoot at the mighty United States of America and show them what they could do – when they wanted, with whomever they wanted.

In my next entry, along with a discussion of how the actual terror played out, I am going to ask several questions to the authorities who have failed utterly. We are alive and the tragedy has passed only because of the valour and bravery of the armed forces, some of whom gave their lives to eliminate the terrorists.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Night of Terror ... and not yet over: Mumbai 11/26

Most readers would be aware of how terrorists have held Mumbai hostage since 9:30 p.m. on the 26th of November ... and right up to now ... as they continue to shoot and terrorise innocent people at more than one location ...I am too shocked to write coherently for now, but suffice to say that this is the worst act of terrorism for India ... ever.

Writing this on the evening of the 27th: the siege at Taj and Oberoi (Trident) hotels and at Nariman House continues. So far, over 100 people have died, including 6 foreigners and 14 policemen (which includes 3 decorated policemen - Chief of ATS Hemant Karkare, DIG of ATS Kamte and Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar). At the time of writing this, I have learnt that these are terrorists who came by boat from Porbunder in Gujarat. They have been hoarding large numbers of AK 47 machine guns and hand grenades for over 2-3 weeks inside the two hotels. When the attacks started, they created many areas of confusion by having bombs explode inside taxis in places as far off as Vile Parle, Dockyard Road, Colaba Market, Napean Sea road etc. This was then followed by attacks at the CST railway station, and then, the three locations that I have listed at the beginning of this paragraph.

I was up, watching TV, till 3.00 a.m. Then, I have cued in again at about 7 a.m. Through the night, shooting, fires and throwing of grenades have continued in and around Taj Palace, Hotel Trident and Nariman Building. There were over 400 people inside the Taj, but they have mostly all been removed to safety by the time I write this (it is 3.00 p.m. GMT at present). At the Trident, there are still over a 100 people trapped inside their rooms. At Nariman Building, there is a family of 7 Israelis - which stay inside. There are 3-4 terrorists inside Taj, 2-3 inside the Trident and over 6-9 of them in the Israeli-occupied building. 5 terrorists have been shot dead since yesterday night and over 11 have been arrested. More later ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Professional chit-chat

If you belong to the medical profession, you are sure to identify with much of what I write in this entry. If not, it may be a little difficult to identify with and empathise with the contents of this entry, but, I assure you, whatever I write here is the truth.

Medical practice is cyclical, and it can sway from the lowest rung of a success ladder to the highest one, sometimes in a matter of days. As climatic changes can cause illness or cause a break-out of "good health", I have had alternate days of a full waiting room and a completely empty one, with just medical representatives (the bag-toting pharma-representatives) awaiting their turn to see me and to promote their company's products. The trend of the practice outside can be easily calculated from the number of reps. who are waiting to see me! On empty days, they finish their "calls" faster, and are therefore promptly at my clinic in droves. On the busy days, they are not to be seen as they cool their heels in the waiting rooms of the other doctors whom they also meet.

Having said that, let me also hasten to add that over an entire month, the things get balanced out and average incomes are reached, so there is no panic or anxiety.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Down with the 'flu

I suppose you can call this a quickie entry, but I am down with flu-like symptoms today ... this, I think is my second attack of the flu in as many months. This time, it started with a slight tickling sensation in the nose, then on to a lot of powerful, earth-shaking sneezing, then the slight irritation in the back of the throat, and by the end of day 1, a slight cough. Over the night, the cough worsened - so much so that I started getting bouts of wracking cough that caused my head to swim with anoxia (lack of oxygen) for a few seconds. Now, it is the end of day 2; the cough looks and feels better ... but let's see what happens next. So far, I have not taken any medicine other than paracetamol and a cough syrup that goes by the name of Zedex. I chose that since it has no sedating anti-histamines. It comes from the house of Wockhardt.

Hoping to have a better Tuesday as compared to my miserable Monday!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Preferred Authorship on Writing.com

Sometime in the first week of November this year ... i.e. just over 7-8 days ago, the staff at Writing.com made me, after 6 years of being on the site, a preferred author. This means a lot to me, as this enables me to go even higher in the future. The higher levels are those of moderator, senior moderator, and finally, staff ... but the last is something I don't intend taking up, and also, I am unlikely to be offered that post as I am not a resident of the U.S.

The immediate announcement came with a mail in my G-Mail inbox; I was, naturally, elated to see that my portfolio had turned from a black one to a sunny yellow! Yippee, I said, and immediately went into the WDC site (that, to my readers, is Writing Dot Com). There was a forum meant for Preferred authors and above, where I duly went and declared to the world of WDC pref authors and mods that I had now become a part of their circle. I received many congratulations and accolades ... for which I thanked them repeatedly!

Now, this is no longer a novelty. If you want to see my writing, please do visit this page on the site or this, much more clean link.

Tell me what you think of my writing once you have read some of the stuff that is displayed. If you find the site overwhelming, click on "Table of Contents" just below the portfolio image and browse through the items at leisure.

Are there any items I would like you to really, really read? Of course! If you want to cut through the clutter and see my best work, just open the first folder called "My Awarded Items" and read whatever you fancy within that folder. My personal recommendations for this: "Endings and Beginnings", "With a Cherry on the Top" and "Gandhi: The Naked Fakir".

That's it for now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hannah's misaaq

To all those readers who are not able to understand that word in the title, a misaaq is an initiation of a person into the fold of adulthood; it is similar to the "janoi"or the thread ceremony of Brahmins; something similar to this exists in some form or the other in almost all faiths. I am reminded of my own misaaq which was performed when I was but 15 years old. A misaaq is performed by a priest upon a teenager who is ready to take on his/her own responsibilities and duties as a Muslim. Before the misaaq, the person is a child, and his/her caretakers are responsible for him/her and his/her deed (s). Once the person has been misaaq-i-fied,the responsibilities are his/her alone. He/she pays for his/her own sins and earns grace for his/her kind acts before the Almighty.

During the ceremony, which takes about 45-60 minutes, the priest goes over the history of Islam, explaining to the candidate the various events that shaped the religion and the various dates that defined it. He talks about the pillars of Islam, explains the meaning of the "kaleima" (There is but One God and His name is Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet). He goes on to tell about how our own sect of the Shias separated from the Sunnis, how Bohraism came to be, and finally informs the candidate about the Syedna - our Head of Religion. He asks the candidate to swear allegiance upon Islam and its rites and responsibilities, upon the Syedna and asks him/her to perform all the religious duties regularly.In a way, this ceremony is quite rigid, because no one who has undergone the misaaq can remain completely pure and only religious. The World has its own way of intruding into the privacy and purity of one's religious obligations and of twisting morals of an individual completely.

This, in fact, is something that the priest himself must surely be aware of, since they charge a not-so-insignificant sum of almost 4000 INR to do the job.

After the misaaq, my daughter Hannah (now renamed Habibah) went to school and attended it for the half day that remained to be completed. I plan to attach some pictures of the event later.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Something nice about me: a poem by me


One fine day I sat down to think -
And a hard day of thought that was;
I went back to my past, and reflected,
Of the time gone by, I suppose.

I grew up restless and eager
To do things never done before,
As time went by, however,
I grew contented to the core.

I read, wrote and studied,
Telling few lies and seldom swearing,
Learning by rote, teaching only some,
Hardly did anything daring.

I tried to emulate heroes,
And jived, danced, sang and ran,
Walked, talked, did things crazy -
As with dad, spoke man to man.

Now, I am older and perhaps wiser,
Living on my own terms, happy but sere,
I hug all my enemies,
And shun all I held dear.

It is as if the wheel of my life,
Has turned a circle tight,
For better or for worse,
This is me, all right

Back to gymming

After a gap of over 5 months, I started my Gym routine again from the first of November 2008. As the gap has been rather long, I did only 40-50 minutes of moderate intensity cardio activity only. On Sunday, I could not go, and on Monday, that is, today, I did over 65 minutes ... 45 on the treadmill and 20 minutes on floor exercises, including abs.

I have just over 2 months to go before my annual membership at Talwalkar's expires, and I hope to lose at least 3-4 kg before that is over. I weigh 81.7 kg at the start of this stint of gymming. My target is 78 kg by the 15th of January 2009.

Wish me luck!