Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Terror Remembered..One year Later..

My reporting days for television are perhaps over for good... But I can't help revisiting a coverage that left a huge scar behind...the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai last year.. After putting in nearly 60 hours of non-stop vigil outside a burning Hotel- that had many innocent civilians still trapped in there..many of whom were charred or suffocated to death...or brutally gunned down - for no fault of theirs.. I had broken down completely after returning home... Had come completely undone...wept loudly- deep wracking sobs for over an hour, when the truth of what I had witnessed and reported on, sank in....hours after the NSG claimed that the Operation was over...the last terrorist holed up inside the Taj was gunned down... I wonder, how I stuck on, battling waves of fatigue and lack of sleep...as the non-stop coverage of the Taj Seige continued for three days..
At about 4AM on the final day, I remember being asked to sound 'less dead' - slightly more animated over air, about the shellings and the blasts I could hear from the hotel, that was just about a few hundred yards in front of me.. But the truth was that I was so dead on my feet that even the dangers of being this close to actual gunfire and possibility of it being fatal never occured to me...Any one of the reporters could have been sitting ducks for sniper fire, we were well-within range..No reporter shirked. We all sat there, waiting for the war to be won and for the satisfaction of witnessing it ( Photo courtesy: Dinesh Parab, Outlook)
My heart was in my throat literally, emotion choking me as I reported the rescue operations late into the night.....seeing guests in shock escorted out by security forces and bundled into waiting buses, even as covering gunfire raged on in the background... the discomfort at the sight of white bundles being brought out- that they were dead bodies were clear in the way the bundles jutted groundwards....the siren of the ambulances...the smell of gunpowder that wafted with the sea breeze.. What are the images that will stay on with me? Moments after I saw a charred dead body falling out of a window of the Taj Hotel, I can still see the NSG commandos walking out of that ruined shell of a hotel...if their body language was not indication enough as one of them fished their phone out, yards ahead of me to talk to his daughter, I got a confirmation from a very tired soldier, who smiled through his fatigue and braved imminent death - ' hamare liye kuch bhi mushkil nahin hai' - that was what I remember of the Taj ordeal, a year later...The Indian forces won...but at what cost? Taj's General Manager Karambir Kang lost his family in one night even as he battled to save the lives of many others....Children whose parents went out partying that night, found themselves orphaned..Many innocent commuters at the VT station who were just hurrying home to have their dinners with their families never made it off that platform that night...The policemen...and then the little angel Baby Moshe Holtzberg who was saved by his nanny from the Chabad House at Nariman House...Wonder how he is doing, a year later...transplanted to Israel, growing up never knowing his parents...who were tortured to death - in the name of religion?
This sight of the smouldering Taj burning with the fires that raged on for hours,still rankles me....I have it on my desktop, this picture, clicked on my mobile phone.... Will the end of the Kasav trial be closure enough? Has the Indian government guaranteed that we wont be gullible targets for another such audacious attack in the future? Or should we, as Indians often do, believe that till what's pre-destined for us in the lines that run through our hands and heads or drawn into our horoscopes gets extinguished... we shall survive..
Grim prognosis...but in a struggling country like ours, do we have the right to demand that more premium be placed on our safety?? I dont know if I support a Global War on Terror...I don't know if I'm willing to blame Pakistan for every evil thing perpetrated on the Indian soil...I don't know if aggressive posturing through mass media or denouncements of every peace initiative that never succeeded are solutions.. But I do know that the answers I want, that I seek are currently with no one...no one really knows how dangerous the terror game we find ourselves entrapped in, is..... Till then remember we are pawns....blindfolded, clueless... This photolink of by the TIME magazine is worth a click...


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  2. Hey Deeps

    You always had the best choice of words whether in ur TN reports or ur posts.However,both of us know how 26/11 was.How we strongly feel about it.A year ago I heard a journo's view on it,but today I read a journo's personal experience n was moved again.I still have the photographic memory of how a news of gang shootout turned into biggest terror attack,how you,Marukh,Rahul,Bhavtosh took your positions on ground.How Arnab came into the studio around midnite n gave non-stop updates for 12 hrs.
    I spent almost 50 hours watching the whole thing as it happened n saw,heard every gunshot ur cameras captured.
    Wish nothing of such sort ever happens anywhere to anyone.
    Good work...keep writing.

  3. hey .. well expressed... cant say its good writing .. here... though i want to .. guess life and death and terror are places where i try not to let my mind go too often .. otherwise i get too pensive and it takes ages for me to get out of the gloom ... not to say its unjustified or that i cant even give this much of shradhanjali to the victims... but as you said common man is just a clueless pawn and has always been .. be it in india, london, us, indonesia, pakistan, iraq or even afganistan... and when you think about it you know you cant really do much ...is it religion or suffering or brain wash or greed or even search for martyrdom that drives some people to take the path of terror ... again like you i too dont have any answers ...all i can say in response is may god (or bhagwaan or allah of jesus or moses) give peace to everyone both dead and living ... victims, media and other witnesses and also those carrying out and propogating the terror on earth...
    i can only imagine when just watching all this on TV or movies make me so helpless and scared to the core of my being, what it must be like for all of you who actually witnessed it in front of you... guess it must be a life changing and thought changing experience... tk cr god bless and may god be with you :-)....

  4. Dark days for India but I'm not sure that any lessons have been learned, or indeed whether there were lessons to be learned in the first place. What lessons can a committed terrorist teach? The Americans would possibly have launched retaliatory strikes against key Pakistani terror cells, real or imagined, and that would have led goodness knows where.

    As for government, I have little faith that any measures it has put in place (if indeed, it has done so) would prevent another committed terror strike.

  5. How emotive, empathising and agonising. Keep posting deeps.

  6. A tragedy relived. The dead are buried. And so dead that they will not even turn in their graves. The brave survivors including you will keep recounting. Recounting with such emotions that can send that same shiver down the spine all over once again. Again we will recount and fear for innocent lives. Will get into train, wander around the gateway of india, stay in the taj, wade through the CST as if nothing ever happened. Well even if that horrifying thought did run through our minds...all we have to do is take a look at a broken dysfunctional metal detector at the entrance of the staion...and two unarmed constables checking our bags. These sights embolden us. These measures will now prevent anyone entering and holding any of us hostage to naked loaded guns. Our taxes have now found its way to the right place. Our people can go wherever and do whatever. Our reporters will never ever have to bare their back to a window and their fear to the camera. We will LeT no one do it to us anymore. Hail our policy makers and our politicians. And for you Deepus...not to worry, none of your fraternity will ever go through the kind of trauma you endured.

  7. my chief writes the best.. damn good chief...even i was there covering the attacks under ur guidance and but i guess will never be able to put it down the way u do...miss u here..take care..