Thanksgiving Day In Mumbai
“Thanksgiving Day, 2008, Vicki and I have returned to Thailand from India,” writes friend and far-roving Correspondent Paul Terhorst. He sent his from-the-scene dispatch last Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, but I received it only last night.
“We’re safe and sound in Chiang Mai,” Paul continues. “We learned yesterday, along with the rest of the world, that the Bangkok airport has been closed by anti-government ‘PAD’ demonstrators. PAD is demanding that the government quit, that the prime minister resign. The army, too, has asked the prime minister to resign and has refused to intervene at the airport.
“The prime minister refuses to quit. He was elected fair and square, he says, and he wants to stay on and do his job.
“Bottom line, the airport could be closed for some time, unless PAD decides to give up the fight.
“Then, today, Thanksgiving Day, we woke up to hear about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai (Bombay). The attacks centered on south Mumbai’s Colaba neighborhood, where Vicki and I stayed just three weeks ago. Tiny Colaba, only about four blocks long and one block wide, hosts most of south Mumbai’s tourists, from European backpackers to high-end Asians. Vicki and I stayed at a guesthouse just a half-block from the luxury Taj Hotel, which was set on fire by the attackers.
“Virtually everyone who stays in Colaba has a beer at the Leopold Cafe, a second target in the area, about two blocks from where Vicki and I stayed. Tourists were killed by attacks at the Taj, the Leopold, and at Mumbai’s famous Victoria Station a few blocks north. Trains from Kerala and Goa, where I traveled in southwest India, terminate at Mumbai’s Victoria Station, now called CST station.
“In an e-mail this morning, our niece wondered how we can continue to travel to India, Thailand, and other countries in the region. Her uneasiness scares her away, even though she’d love to come.
“Since I’ve been reporting on Vicki and my adventures in India, Live and Invest Overseas readers have written to ask me about anti-Christian terrorism in this country. How can we tolerate it?
“Perhaps the most insightful comment we heard came from a young Indian man Vicki and I met in Colaba. Today Colaba is on fire, but three weeks ago, Vicki and I were having lunch together at the Bagdahi Restaurant in that city when a waiter seated the young Indian at our table. Colaba restaurants can get crowded, and customers share tables.
“Like so many others, this young man had come from another part of India, in his case West Bengal, near Kolkata (Calcutta). The week before our lunch together terrorists had exploded bombs in Assam, also in Bengal but farther east. I was unsure as to the nature of the Assam bombing, and I asked whether he suspected separatists or jihadis.
“He replied, ‘Bangladeshis. They manipulate the people in Assam.’
“‘But why?’ I asked.
“This young man continued eating, case closed, nothing more to say. But I think he had a point. We never hear from suicide bombers or their managers. We never hear what they want or what we can do to stop the carnage. ‘No reason’ seems the best way to look at it.
“That was three weeks ago. Today bombs went off just a block from where that young man had lunch with us. Why? No reason. We travelers have to go on living, enjoying our lives and what the world has to offer. We’re careful about where we travel, we stay away from the hot spots, but we refuse to make decisions based on fear. If terrorists–not to mention PAD demonstrators–choose to make our lives more difficult, or even to kill us, we have to live with it.”