While people within our innermost circle are safe, we are hearing tragic stories about those very close to our extended family and good friends. Through a dribble of chance conversations we so far know of eight such people killed as well as some harrowing escapes. More connections will almost certainly emerge once we're in Mumbai where we're headed shortly.
For instance two days back I happened to call Anita's cousin Indru whom I've also mentioned in my previous post, about an unrelated matter. She sounded somber, and I learned that two victims whose stories were also carried in The New York Times and other media were a couple who are Indru's and her husband Gul's best friends. They were Ashok Kapur, chairman of Yes Bank and his wife Madhu who hung out with Gul and Indru almost daily and they used to vacation together worldwide. Ashok and Madhu were in an Oberoi Hotel restaurant when they were attacked and pursued by the terrorists. They fled and were separated. Madhu managed to escape after hiding out for several hours, but Ashok was killed - something Madhu and the authorities learned about much later. Now Indru, Gul and other friends and relatives are trying to support the shattered Madhu as much as they can.
Anita's cousin Rita (also mentioned in my last post) had gone from Mumbai to Pune to look up and stay with my in-laws. She left by train from the historic VT train (now called Shivaji Station) just three hours before it was stormed by the terrorists and 54 people killed there. Not wanting to take chances, her husband Dilip sent their car and driver to fetch her back to Mumbai three days later.
Any incidents touching us personally are a microcosm of the general coverage and commentary in the media. A couple of instances I'd like to highlight relate to reactions in Pakistan.
The first is this link to a Pak TV broadcast that my cousin Poppy received and passed on - many similar ones are posted on YouTube. It reflects the state of denial among Pakistanis who refuse to acknowledge or condemn the role played by the terrorists based in Pakistan. The TV show's anchor and two guests talk of how Indians brought this problem upon themselves and are now falsely linking this to some activities in peaceloving Pakistan. This mindset is of course not limited to Pakistanis or Islamists. It's remarkable how people's prejudices and perceptions can distort reality. But I also came across this (hopefully not too rare) clip showing a much more objective assessment on Pak TV by a Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy. He is courageous in contradicting some other participants and acknowledging that some rogue elements within Pakistan are responsible and should be firmly curtailed. If there are enough of such people on both sides then there's hope for our countries coming together.The other item is a (as usual?) beautiful Dec. 2 Op-Ed of Tom Friedman in The New York Times. He calls on Pakistanis to take to the streets and declare, "as a collective, that those who carry out such murders are shameful unbelievers who will not dance with virgins in heaven but burn in hell. And they (should at least) do it with the same vehemence with which they denounce Danish cartoons (of the Prophet Muhammed)."
It is heartening to see no backlash (so far) against India's Muslim community, which would have played right into the hands of the terrorists. We should continue doing more to reassure Indian Muslims, and credit goes to political and community leaders who have involved them in condemning these attacks. There are likely home grown elements that have substantially participated in these attacks, but a crazy fringe should never tarnish the broader community. A fifth of the Mumbai casualties are Muslims, and so is the Mumbai police chief. Whatever comes of it there's symbolism in this reported move by some Indian Muslims to deny the slain terrorists burial in Muslim cemetries.