After reflecting last week on the one-year anniversary of the Mumbai attacks that killed 172 people, including the nine who laid siege to the city for three days, I wonder if enough has been said and done.Not quite, say some of my friends. While some have grown more patient with the security procedures that have sprung up in even the smallest towns, others say the measures are merely symbolic and will not prevent another attack.
Some of my friends lost loved ones. Some survived to tell of their harrowing experiences. And then there is us, the friends and family who live far away and were glued to our television sets and laptops during those three days, redialling telephones at a frantic and frustrated pace in order to reach those we knew in Mumbai.I was in Chennai last year when I woke to the scenes of mayhem on television. At first, like the rest of the country, I thought it would end in a few hours. I was supposed to take the evening flight back to Abu Dhabi to celebrate American Thanksgiving with friends. But I was asked to book a flight to New Delhi to help support The National's coverage. In the capital, the bigwigs held impromptu press conferences. Ministers struggled to explain the ongoing madness, while embassies and the Taj hotel franchise were on high alert. And, of course, the army scrambled to send elite forces to Mumbai.
As I drove from the airport to the nearest hotel to drop off my bags, I felt the sense of dread that had filled Delhi. The city was not a stranger to terrorist attacks, but they had mostly been bomb blasts.This was new. Never before had the nation stood at standstill and waited for an attack to be over. It made everyone vulnerable. Even my driver fumbled with his phone as he tried to call friends in Mumbai. It turns out that in a country of a billion people, everyone has some ambitious friend or family member who left a town or village for the bright lights of Mumbai.
By the last day of the attack, text messages and e-mails started pouring in from friends and family who confirmed they were alive, that they had not been anywhere near the targeted sites. One person I know had simply been delayed in heavy traffic on the way to a dinner party but was still shaken, having lost others to the tragedy.In a few weeks, I will travel to Mumbai again to reconnect with friends. We rarely talk about those three days but they will be on our minds.