I stay in the Northern Suburbs of Mumbai, about an hour from downtown where the terrorist attacks of the last few days occurred and left over 150 people dead and many more injured.  The last few days I’ve stayed holed up in my apartment and the office (3 blocks away), and aside from ruining my thanksgiving dinner plans, I’ve been largely unaffected.  It will take some time to put together all the pieces and figure out how and why this happened.  I’m not one of political commentary but here are some observations:

  • I haven’t been downtown since, but everyone’s saying the streets are empty.  This is inconceivable in a city of over 15 million people.  Even up here the roads are not car to car with traffic, for the first time since I’ve been here.
  • People are complaining about the slow response time of the Indian government. I’m not sure why this ordeal took over 3 days, maybe it had to do with fear for the hostages or the inexperience of the local police rushing in.  What I’m wondering though is how is it that the anti-terrorism squad chief and commissioner of police were killed within the first few hours of the operation?  While I don’t know anything about them, and I’m sure they are hero’s and extremely brave, if you are in a position of command, isn’t it your job to lead your forces and not rush into battle?  Could the poor response have something to do with confusion over who was giving orders?  This is total speculation.
  • This is a really great article describing the importance of the Taj to Mumbai and it’s people.
  • It’s awesome to hear about the bravery of the hotel staff.
  • With India’s general elections coming up in May, the recent attacks throughout India have set off speculation that national security will be the campaign focus and shift the political landscape.  I don’t know anything about local politics, but I just hope that people here do not elect hawkish leaders, who are jumping at the opportunity to go to war with Pakistan.
  • My brothers in Israel tried to convince me to come to there for a few days till things blow over.  I never thought that I would consider going to Israel to escape terrorism.
  • Lastly, it’s amazing the power the new media outlets (Twitter, Wikipedia, Blogs) have at disseminating information.  I was following the Mumbai Twitter channel before any of the major news outlets caught wind of the situation.  There is something hypnotic about reading first hand accounts mixed in with people’s reactions of the traditional media news accounts.  While this is definitely great and a step in the right direction towards empowering the masses, it is also extremely dangerous.  People were tweeting information that blatantly wasn’t true and had potential to cause panic (not that this is any different from the incorrect accounts reported by the sensationalist, traditional news outlets).  I was also shocked at how quickly the wikipedia page for the event was put it up and how well researched and referenced it was (sourced from over 130 accounts).

My friend Mary is currently living abroad in Thailand (and experiencing a coup first-hand).  In a recent post, she asks, “What is going on in the world? Or am I just seeing it with wider-open eyes by virtue of my location outside of my home country? Tragedies are occurring around the world with alarming frequency, but perhaps we don’t pay attention unless our loved ones are affected? Is this part of what we seek when we travel and live abroad – an expanded perspective that can only be obtained as an eyewitness to such occurrences?”  While I’ve only been in Mumbai a month, consider my perspective expanded.  Over the last few days family, friends, colleagues in India around the world have all shown extreme concern and support.  Often overcoming difficult situations leads to a renewed appreciation of what you have.  Thank you all for your kind words over the last few days, please continue to stay in touch.

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