I watched the black smoke billowing from the topmost dome of the Old Taj Hotel in Mumbai beseiged by terrorists armed with AK47s and grenades, filled with heaven knows how many terrified people. And while watching that image on TV, I was assailed by memories of laughter and color, of wedding receptions attended in the ballrooms, a Rotaract dance where I fluttered my hands like a Hawaiian, Wimbledon soirees. The Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant, the destination of so many birthday celebrations and special events, sometimes a restaurant taken to as a special treat after much coaxing. My brother and I would order our food, then slip out, a 100-rupee note clutching our hands, to the Nalanda bookstore, where we would buy a book each after much browsing.
Now the restaurant was the temporary home of a family friend, hiding underneath the table, the lights off, the doors barricaded. He was one of the lucky ones to slip away through the kitchen.
Next the TV images moved to the Oberoi hotel surrounded by commandos, the hotel where I, a college-goer with too much time on my hands, would hang out with my friends at the shopping arcade, looking at shoes, eyebrows shooting up at the prices. The Oberoi, home to a restaurant where I celebrated my 21st birthday with my parents dressed in my first chiffon saree, a bright shade of red. I ate caviar for the first time and drank champagne and got utterly toasted to the amusement of my family. My dad tells me that a lawyer he knew was lined up against that restaurant wall and shot.
The Leopold Cafe, only next to Mondegar's in my affection, with its good food, beer and upstairs dance floor, was where at one time my college friends and I saw the model Ranjeev Mulchandani and giggled endlessly. The walls are riddled with bullets I hear, but Leopold's actually opened its doors again today.
And throughout the 24-hour CNN coverage, I hear the TV host say again and again, "Mumbai has been brought to its knees." And I shake my head angrily and think no. He doesn't know my Mumbai.