When you think of people living in war torn countries where people live amidst terrorism and suicide bombings, you often wonder how they can lead a normal life in such abnormal situations. Hard as it is to believe, when abnormal is the norm, we learn to adapt. Resilience and survival are innate human instincts – we never know just how resilient until we are faced with a life changing event. We recently lived through a situation in which we ‘sensed’ and ‘saw’ death.
After an exhausting tour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, we arrived at Mumbai on 25 November 2008. The intention was to spend two days in Mumbai visiting family and friends before travelling to Goa for much needed R & R. On 26th evening we went to visit a cousin in Colaba and stopped outside Leopolds Café to pick up my cousin’s wife. We picked her up at 6.30pm and came back to our friend’s home on Marine Drive.
We ate dinner while watching the one day cricket match between India and England. India won the match and we heard some noise outside. We assumed it was people celebrating the victory. We realised we were wrong when we got a phone call asking if we were safe and asking us to stay indoors because there were terrorist attacks in the area. Terrorists had stormed into the Leopold’s Café and shot at people randomly. That was enough to shock us – we’d been there less than an hour ago. As we turned the TV on to find out what was happening we heard a loud explosion. The terrorists had opened fire at the Trident Oberoi Hotel which was right next door to us. We heard and felt the impact of these explosions. There were 3 families in the house – my friend and her two children aged 8 and 4, my cousin, his wife and son aged 12 and my family – my husband and my kids aged 18 and 14. We were all shaken. The kids were petrified and disconsolate.
Within half an hour the whole area was under siege. Army, Police and NPS forces came to the spot to counter the terrorists. Explosions rocked the area continuously and we were trapped indoors. We were warned not even to look out of our windows for fear of being shot at. It was a very trying time for all of us. We’d forgetten about R&R at Goa, all we wanted to do was get out of there but we couldn’t even walk out of the flat. Our only source of entertainment was the television and there was nothing on TV except updates on the terrorist attacks. These updates upset the kids so much that we had to stop watching TV. This went on for 3 days. We ran out of food but couldn’t go out to restock supplies. It was anything but normal circumstances and would have been enough to depress anyone. However, as we discovered, we were tough and resilient – much more so than we gave ourselves credit for. The first night, we are all scared and shaken, but after day one, we looked for ways in which to restore normalcy. We did normal things, got on the computer and started giving regular updates to the rest of the world, played cards and board games, watched DVD’s and generally learnt to block out what was happening outside. If the terrorists had decided to shoot into our window, we would have been dead but it as almost as if we were blasé and matter of fact about it. We just learnt to live by the minute without worrying too much about what would happen to us. Each of us dealt with this situation in our own way but we all coped remarkably.
After four days of being under house arrest, when we could eventually get out of our building and walk on the road we learnt to appreciate the value of freedom. We take so many things for granted! We don’t realise how privileged we are to walk, speak and live freely. It takes an event like this to show how lucky we really are!! I am glad that we lived through this experience. It’s not one that many can claim to have lived through and I am truly thankful that I am alive and well enough to recount this tale.