Anxious Mumbai

Naresh Fernandes writing in The New Republic:

Everything that evening had been surreal. At 10:15pm, shortly before the attack, I’d been handed a visiting card that read, “George W Bush, Former President, The United States of America (currently seeking employment).” Sipping my glass of merlot, I shook hands with the man who had given it to me. He wore a dark suit and a giant rubber Dubya mask. I was at the premiere of “The President Is Coming”, a mockumentary about six young Indians taking part in a competition that offered the winner an unforgettable prize: the opportunity to shake Bush’s hand on his imminent visit to the subcontinent.

Less than two hours later, Mumbai didn’t have very much to laugh about. After a flurry of text messages alerted me to rumours of a bloody gang war downtown (Nigerians or Somalis were suggested as the likely culprits), I found myself 22 kilometres away from the movie theater, outside the Taj. The hotel has been the rendezvous of choice for the city’s rich and powerful every since it opened in 1903, and, because it has been featured in dozens of Bollywood films as the ultimate symbol of privilege, it is familiar to Indians everywhere. The scene that greeted me, though, didn’t remind me of any of those celluloid fantasies. Instead, it took me back to a bright summer’s day in 2001 when I stood at the window past my desk at the Wall Street Journal‘s offices at the World Financial Center in downtown New York and watched bodies drop lightly into the street below.



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