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Bombay attacks have changed Delhi.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
New Delhi’s India Gate is one night’s train journey from Bombay’s Gateway of India, and now even that distance has been bridged in people’s minds after the 26/11 terror attacks in Bombay.
On Sunday, a day after the siege at the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower ended, ex-hotelier Mrs Anupama Jaiswal, 31, took her husband and daughter for an outing to Dilli Haat. But Mumbai never left her mind. “I knew Taj hotel’s GM very well,” she says. While having samosas at the Delhi Tourism stall, she suddenly thought what if someone opened fire in the crowd. “People would die in the stampede, if not gunfire.”
Mrs Jaiswal has spent almost all her life in Delhi, a city with a terror history older than Mumbai’s. This time, however, the extraordinary execution of the Mumbai attacks has changed all her conventional notions about terrorism. “Sarojini Nagar regulars used to be targeted, but now you have the super-rich, too, in the list,” she says. “No place is safe.” Including Vasant Kunj where Mrs Jaiswal lives. “We have two entrances in Sector B-5 here but terrorists can easily break in and take us hostage in our own homes. We can do nothing.”
The magnitude of the Mumbai attacks has made Mr Fida Nizami, a student in Dayal Singh College, almost fatalistic. “You’ll die when your time comes,” he says. In the thick of the Mumbai battle, he went shopping to Lajpat Nagar Central Market, a bazaar that has seen its share of bomb blasts. “Anyone can shoot us there,” says Mr Nizami, “but you need to be brave.”
It is perhaps this mix of courage and fatalism that makes people carry on with life in these difficult times. It helps if you are from an already troubled region. “Being a Kashmiri Pandit, terror is not new to me,” says communications expert Mr Siddhartha Gigoo, a Dwarka resident. “I witnessed terror in Kashmir in the 90s.” Mr Gigoo usually spends weekends shopping in Gurgaon malls or having a lazy meal in Connaught Place restaurants. He won’t change the way he navigates in the city. “We need to be more vigilant,” he says. “But we must live as we live.”
Maybe that’s why Mr Sumantha Roy, an IT professional, did not defer his Sunday morning schedule. “I had my sex as usual,” he says. “But I also had NDTV switched on to keep myself updated.”
Mr Roy, whose friend’s employee was badly hurt in the shootout at Leopold Café, feels strongly about his way of life. On the second day of Mumbai attacks, he went for a Chinese meal at Lee’s Garden at GK-I M block Market. However, on Saturday night, he also lit a candle on his flat window to express solidarity with those whose loved ones died in Mumbai.
“If we are terrorised, we shouldn’t hide ourselves,” Mr Roy says. “We shouldn’t show them we are scared, or they will think they are supreme and will then bomb us more.”
That fear is keeping Mrs Jaiswal in continued anxiety. “I love going with my husband to The Imperial hotel in Janpath,” she says. “Next time we’re there, it could be our last meal.”
Life goes on, yet...