When days poured into night....

When days poured into night....

When days poured into night....

My birth took place years ago, when the blueprints of the Taj were merely ideas drifting about in somebody’s head.

It is and was my only refuge- I know no other home and don’t intend to shift my premises anytime soon.

The Taj is a timeless monument that has withstood the test of time- still standing complacently in its majestic grandeur, overlooking the unfathomable blue waters of the Arabian Sea.

People usually find me within the compound, basking in the scorching, relentless warmth of the Mumbai sun.

For eternity and a day, time seemed to pass indefinitely – seconds gushing into minutes and day pouring into night.

But one night, time seemed to stand still as I witnessed one of the most heinous and brutal attacks of evil forces on our county.

The twenty-sixth of November, 2008, otherwise an ordinary, uneventful day was rendered indelible in the annals of Mumbai’s, nay, in the nation’s history, by the attack of malevolent forces on our our world.

At about nine thirty in the night, two men armed with rifles entered the Taj, India’s most prominent symbol of hospitality and opulence.

The masked men began to fire at the guests with precision, sending scream after scream piercing through the quietness of the night.

A bullet grazed my shoulder, but bullets do not hurt me as much as pickaxes do.

There was blood everywhere, and dead bodies lay together in a mangled mess. The men began to throw baseball-shaped wedges at my home, and its wings caught fire upon impact.

Somewhere, a window shattered, sending shards of sharp-edged glass flying everywhere.

Bright orange flames licked the Presidency Suite merrily, contrasting sharply with the murky blue of the night sky.

More indiscriminate firing, more explosions, more deaths, more screams.

By then the media had arrived, bringing with it swarms of reporters, photographers, and amateur journalists, while the smell of death hung in the air.

Bombs and grenades continued to explode, killing hundreds of men, women and children of all nationalities.

In the morning, a few men in helicopters arrived, and I understood that they constituted the rescue party.

A few flecks of fear and doubt clouded their eyes initially, and their hands shook precariously as they held the guns that could cause cold, searing grief, and also save hundreds.

Then the Taj loomed over them, a furious feral beast burning with the blazing, almost insolent resplendence of the flames that danced around it with callous nonchalance. Their eyes then began to burn with rage; smouldering white-hot rage that burned brighter than the flames consuming the Taj, and the smatterings of terror that had hitherto obscured their eyes disappeared.

Survivors of last night’s attack were rescued.

The media continued to photograph the Taj which was still burning a bright orange.
Inside, more gun shots, more explosions, and more deaths.

After two days, the firing ceased, and I knew that we had won. All the men with rifles, except one, were dead. A year has now passed.

The Taj had reopened recently, and it is more magnificent than ever, like a phoenix emerging from the ashes.

I still bear scars of last years attack. Sometimes it seems almost surreal – a hazy memory lost in the archives of my reminiscences, while at other times, every image, every explosion seems to be etched into my mind; distinct, painful and terrifying.

But a sense of pride washes over me as I recall the fearlessness of the NSG commandoes and the staff who had shed their own blood so that others might live.
Hundreds of people were massacred and they cannot be brought back to life.

Candle light marches and video tributes cannot obliterate the pain .Or the shroud-like fear that hangs bleakly in the air.

The scars will take a long time to heal, but life continues as it did two years ago.
I am a victim and a survivor.

I am the old peepal tree in the Taj parking lot.

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