Book Review: Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, made into a movie of the same name starring Roshan Seth and Naseeruddin Shah
This book was Mistry’s first novel, but reading through it, one does not get that impression, as the novel is amazingly powerful and gripping – with great attention to detail. Mistry develops the story around an ordinary man and his family – and uses his background to paint such a fine picture that the reader would find themselves knowing the characters intimately.
The story revolves around a Parsi named Gustad Noble, who lives with his family in a Parsi dominated building in Bombay. There are supporting characters, who go in and out of Gustad’s life, but the key is that there are several icons in the novel, including Gustad’s obsession with covering his windows with black paper, the lame Tehmul, the outside black wall of their building and the tree in the courtyard. Each of these is given enough attention that they stay sharp in the background while the story is unfolding. The idiosyncrasies of the residents of the building, as well as the description of the world beyond the black wall is gripping.
The climax of the novel is well put together, where all the surviving cast of characters congregate at the black wall, surrounded by destruction and death – and the symbolic cutting down of the tree.
Not a light-hearted novel, but it’ll be hard to put it down once you start.
Raj Bhandari
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Book Review: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

 

A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry

 

Nominated for the Booker Prize. On Oprah’s Book Club.

 

As The Guardian put it, the book is “A masterpiece of illumination and grace. Like all great fiction, it transforms our understanding of life”.

 

After reading the 600+ pages of the book, one may say that this is an understatement. The essence of the book can be summarized in the words of one of the Yeats-spouting characters: “After all, our lives are but a sequence of accidents – a clanking chain of chance events. A string of choices, casual or deliberate, which add up to that one big calamity we call life”.

 

However, the story about four strangers, whose lives intersect in a very strange manner, is spell-binding. You can get completely engrossed in their day-to-day struggles, prodded along by a cast of supporting characters, who are as colorful as they are diverse. Even though each of the supporting characters could be spun off into their own story, Mistry brings them in and out of the lives of the main characters with ease, leaving you wondering about what in their lives caused this behavior.

 

Mistry gives enough attention to detail – describing the surroundings and the daily struggles so well that one wonders how much research was put into the book. Being a Parsi, Mistry’s detailed description of Dina’s life is understandable, but his description of the other two main characters is straight out of a Satyajit Ray movie -at times, it becomes hard to separate fact from fiction.

 

As Shakespeare says in King Lear, the wheel comes a full circle, in the end.

 

The human misery is described well, but maybe Mistry wrote this book in a dark frame of mind – there are brief flashes of kindness and gaiety – but most of the book, including its ending, will make you question your emotions.

 

Definitely not a book to be read on a Spring afternoon, surrounded by vibrant flowers and chirping birds – for that gives a new meaning to life…this is a book to be read when you feeling melancholy – and can empathize with the characters, being a part of their daily struggle for things we take for granted.

 

So get a glass of good vino, and prepare to dive in the lives of Dina, Ishvar, Maneck and Om – and be ready to shed a tear or two…

 

– Raj Bhandari, RajBhandari at gmail dot com

Sugar daddies

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vol. 197, April 16, 2009

reflections from self…

(Unsubscription instructions at the bottom)

I look for themes to cover in this newsletter, which get generated by something I read or is suggested by a reader.

This issue’s theme was spawned on reading an interesting article (attached) in the NY Times on “sugar daddies” and “sugar babies” (sic) – how would something so freely discussed in a national publication be viewed in the desi-American community? In addition, what is the latest on this topic, as well as sexuality, in South Asia? Is it still a taboo subject?

A little research showed that there is quite a bit of awareness both here and in India/Pakistan. As one article from India states, “when popular culture is still in the grips of the virgin/whore binary. Walking this thin line between of sexual decency and immodesty, women are pushing the envelope, blurring the lines of promiscuous behavior. It’s all too overwhelming, says Sarojini Sahoo, a feminist and Oriya writer. “If female sexuality is to be recognised by our patriarchal society, then the fundamental moral social values would obliterate…”

But in other parts of South Asia, as seen from the attached flogging article, the “patriarchal society” is desperately and violently trying to enforce their ideologies…but some signs of hope are emerging, like yesterday’s protest – “But the march continued anyway. About 300 Afghan women, facing an angry throng three times larger than their own, walked the streets of the capital on Wednesday to demand that Parliament repeal a new law that introduces a range of Taliban-like restrictions on women, and permits, among other things, marital rape…”

So read on and send me your thoughts, as well as what themes you would like to see in the future…

feedback/suggest articles

so what’s new?

Sugar Daddy.

But first, a quote which I found hilarious regarding the recent Somali pirate activities – Pirates? Really? Pirates? It’s two thousand flipping nine! Gas up a few Black Hawks and be done with it already…”

Coming to the main topic, what is the historical basis for a Sugar Daddy relationship? As the article details, Heterosexual relationships, including marriage, have long involved economic transactions, but Bailey points out that when men provided financial security, they traditionally did so in exchange for a woman’s sexual virtue (and potential to bear and rear children), not for sexual thrills. For that, they often turned to prostitutes and mistresses, involving a more frank money-for-sex exchange. It’s only in the last century that money has been traded — albeit indirectly — for sexual attention from “respectable” unmarried women…”

Very interesting and well-written article by Ruth Padawer.

And to gauge the trend in South Asia, we turn to Bollywood: Partakers of the phenomenon range from the veterans to the current reigners. Big Bachchan himself had no qualms in romancing Tabu in Cheeni Kum which incidentally depicted the story of a couple in love who had a whopping 30-year age difference… Without doing too much math, clearly the age difference is light years apart, making the Big B, not only king of Hindi cinema but the “Sugar Daddy King!”

And finally, there is hope for all the girls who thought they had lost all the eligible desi-American bachelors – the attached article shows that the sour US economy is playing the anti-cupid…

Till next time…

The DFW Desi


The DFW Desi is a free, independent newsletter published to share current news, views and events pertaining to the South Asian American community – over 18,000 strong and growing!

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in this issue

<– Link fixed

White Rock Lake
April 18, 2009
N Buckner Blvd & E Northwest Hwy, Dallas, TX 752011

1. Ineligible Bachelors: Indian Men Living in U.S. Strike Out

2. Keeping Up With Being Kept

3. Video of girl’s flogging as Taliban hand out justice


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1. Ineligible Bachelors: Indian Men Living in U.S. Strike Out

By Shefali Anand, WSJ

Vikas Marwaha would normally be considered a good catch by Indian parents seeking a husband for their daughter. The 27-year-old software engineer earns $80,000 to $100,000 a year and comes from a family “of doctors and engineers,” according to his profile on a matrimonial Web site.

But Mr. Marwaha works for a start-up Internet phone company in San Francisco. And because the U.S. economy is wobbly, that’s a problem. Many Indian parents now are balking at sending their daughters to the U.S. to marry.

During a two-week wife-hunting trip to India in December, Mr. Marwaha interviewed 20 potential brides in 10 days. He says several parents asked him, “How has the recession impacted your job?” Mr. Marwaha says he assured them he hadn’t been affected at all, but still he returned to the U.S. brideless.

Click here for the complete article.


Silk Threads


2. Keeping Up With Being Kept

By RUTH PADAWER, NY Times

AT FIRST GLANCE, the Web site SeekingArrangement.com seems like any other dating site. Most of the men are looking for fit, sexy women, and most of the women want nice guys who can make them smile and laugh. But if eHarmony or Match.com is a chatty social mixer, Seeking Arrangement is a down-and-dirty marketplace where older moneyed men and cute young women engage in brutally frank transactions. They’re not searching for longtime soul mates; they want no-strings-attached “arrangements” that trade in society’s most valued currencies: wealth, youth and beauty. In the cheesy lexicon of the site, they are “sugar daddies” and “sugar babies.”

There’s the 18-year-old from France asking for $5,000 to $10,000 a month from “a mentor who can provide me with the finer things in life and keep me happy!” And the 49-year-old investor from upstate New York willing to pay $5,000 a month for a “daytime playmate” for “intense connection without commitment.” Critics say the site is at best a convenience store for adulterers and at worst a virtual brothel, but Brandon Wade, Seeking Arrangement’s 38-year-old founder and chief executive, is unperturbed by the criticism. “We stress relationships that are mutually beneficial,” he says. “We ask people to really think about what they want in a relationship and what they have to offer. That kind of upfront honesty is a good basis for any relationship.”

Please click here for the complete article.


3. Video of girl’s flogging as Taliban hand out justice

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Mobile phone movie shows that militant influence is spreading deeper into Pakistan

A video showing a teenage girl being flogged by Taliban fighters has emerged from the Swat Valley in Pakistan, offering a shocking glimpse of militant brutality in the once-peaceful district, and a sign of Taliban influence spreading deeper into the country.

The two-minute video, shot using a mobile phone, shows a burka-clad woman face down on the ground. Two men hold her arms and feet while a third, a black-turbaned fighter with a flowing beard, whips her repeatedly.

“Please stop it,” she begs, alternately whimpering or screaming in pain with each blow to the backside. “Either kill me or stop it now.”

A crowd of men stands by, watching silently. Off camera a voice issues instructions. “Hold her legs tightly,” he says as she squirms and yelps.

After 34 lashes the punishment stops and the wailing woman is led into a stone building, trailed by a Kalashnikov-carrying militant.

Reached by phone, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan claimed responsibility for the flogging. “She came out of her house with another guy who was not her husband, so we must punish her. There are boundaries you cannot cross,” he said. He defended the Taliban’s right to thrash women shoppers who were inappropriately dressed, saying it was permitted under Islamic law.

For the complete article, please click here


Featured Non-Profit

A new section in this newsletter, providing exposure to deserving South Asian Non-Profits. Suggestions welcome

Suggested on FB by Rick Koluri. NetIP Dallas also sponsors a child in India through Baal Dan (details on their Scotch-tasting fundraiser here).

Mission: To help street children, slum children, and orphans in India as directly and efficiently as possible, while investing in ways to provide these children with an education.

Founded by Tanya Pinto of Dallas – see the NBC 5 video coverage on their site.

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The great Indian Bling Connect

Forecast for 2009 is to go the Naomi Campbell, Heidi Klum and Christina

Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera

Aguilera way.

Fashionistas, take note. Indian accessories truly are the next big thing worldwide. And there’s sound reason for this forecast. Indian fashion never had a field day like it did last year. International celebrities including the likes of Pussy Cat Dolls, Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Paris Hilton, Goldie Hawn, Elizabeth Hurley and Naomi Campbell made their most fashionable public appearances wearing Indian accessories. And Indian jewellery designers swear that this trend is here to continue in 2009.

Jewellery designer Rina Shah, who’s beaded flat sandals are a favourite with supermodel Naomi Campbell, says, “Last year, Indian designs made a deep impact internationally. As the trend picked up and more Hollywood celebrities began sporting an Indian bling factor, it put immense responsibility on us to come up with better designs. In 2009, Indian accessories such as blingy sandals will be more silhouette-oriented. Moving away from heavy zardosi and aari work, modern embellishments such as depiction of castles, horses etc will be in. The runway will flaunt models wearing pumps with pearls and Swarovski crystals encrusted on it.”

Supermodel Heidi Klum took her wedding vows with singer husband Seal in Benaras last year, dazzling the Ganga banks in chunky maangteeka, bangles and chabi ka challa, providing a high for Indian accessories in the international circuit. Neena and Shibani Aggarwal give a thumbs up to the maangteeka and the armlet. Says Shibani, “Elizabeth Hurley too stole the show on her wedding day by sporting a maangteeka. Armlets are going to be in this year.” Varuna D Jani is of the opinion that international celebrities often get drawn to designs which not just look different but which also come with good finish. “Bracelets which will make an instant style statement will be in,” she forecasts.

“This will be the year of cuffs and necklaces,” predicts Alpana Gujral who’s bold jewels are an eye-catcher. Hersh Kotecha who is all for faux leather and skin fabrics says the patent look will be in. “The payal or strap-up look till knee-high with gladiator sandals will be hot.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Potpourri/The_great_Indian_bling_connect/articleshow/4057090.cms

I’d like the finest please…

“We send the cheapest of these sarees,” he says, pointing to some that are hanging at his by-appointments-only set up on the ground floor of his Defence Colony home, to places down south like Chennai and “they are unable to sell them”. Then, there’s a friend, he says, who had opened an ambitious outlet in Chandigarh. A stylish Bollywood star had been called in for the launch and the entire city, it seemed, turned up. But the store had to shut just a couple of months down the line. There were, apparently, no buye.

The aim of this meeting has been to talk about Bajaj’s attempts at setting up a wine bar in New Delhi, in conjunction with his existing café in GK that was set up in consultation with restaurateur Ritu Dalmia. The bar aims at selling wines exclusively; maybe a single malt or two but nothing beyond. It will have a big selection of wines by the glass, most of them imported, “just one Indian because, I know, when expats or foreigners come to India, they look for Indian wine,” says Bajaj, who is more a champion of Italian wine than Indian wine…

http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/id-likefinest-please/00/09/347528/

The DFW Desi, Vol. 189: Ponzi Scheme Worldwide | The Shoe Thrower

 

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vol. 189, Dec. 20, 2008

 
reflections from self…

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So you thought corruption only happened in third world countries…You thought con operations only happened to stupid people and suckers…pirates were only in comics, and people did not have guts to throw shoes at the leader of the free world…

Events over the last two weeks have shown that corruption and swindling can happen in a country like America, at the level of billions of dollars, all the way from the Governors and the elite down…pirates exist today, and shoe-throwers can become heroes…

As I always say, we live in interesting times…

feedback

so what’s new?

The Scandals.

Over in Southeast Asia, in a sign that India is moving on, while evaluating its options, the Taj and Trident hotels will reopen on Sunday, less than a month after the terrorist siege: “The hotel will have large baggage scanners. Every piece of hand baggage will be checked, metal detectors will be in place at every entrance and there will be an identity check. However, these surveillance and security measures will be as “unobtrusive as possible”

Sources say that India may conduct “Precision Strikes” against selected targets inside Pakistan – but some analysts feel that India will not provoke a full-scale war. According to the Indian Foreign Minister:The repeated appeals that we have made to our neighbors over the years to ensure that they do not provide any support to terrorist activities and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure have been ignored, despite assurances given by them. If a country cannot keep the assurances that it has given, then it obliges us to consider the entire range of options that exist, to protect our interests and our people from this menace,” he said, adding that the internal security situation in Pakistan continued to deteriorate”.

On the literary front, debates have been raging among the intellectuals around the attacks, with names like Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie providing fodder for the mill. Terms like “self-loathing” and “cynical duplicity” are being thrown around, and a e-petition to arrest Ms. Roy is making the rounds.

And on the sports front, the Indian Cricket tour of Pakistan in January has been cancelled.

Closer to home, Hillary returns, Caroline Kennedy is being launched, and the largest worldwide Ponzi scheme run by Bernard Madoff is unearthed. “As news that Madoff’s high-flying money management business apparently was nothing more than a Ponzi scheme made its way around the Street, the near-universal reaction was utter disbelief. Not disbelief that someone could brazenly rip off innocent investors; nobody in the financial community is capable of being shocked by that anymore. And not even disbelief at the scope of the crime, though at an estimated $50 billion, Madoff’s definitely would be a scam for the record books.

No, the reason so many Wall Street players couldn’t believe their ears was they couldn’t accept that Bernie Madoff, of all people, would have pulled something like this. “Not Bernie!” was a typical refrain.

Madoff was always one of the “good guys” in the dicey financial world, someone who championed the interests of the small investor. His career on Wall Street famously began with $5,000 he saved from his job as a lifeguard in Brooklyn…”

Till next time…

The DFW Desi


The DFW Desi is a free, independent newsletter published to share current news, views and events pertaining to the South Asian American community – over 17,000 strong and growing!

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends. You may not be on our mailing list – to continue receiving this newsletter, please visit www.DfwDesi.com . To unsubscribe, please see below.

in this issue

1. History, dissent cloud Pakistan’s Mumbai reaction

2. Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders

3. In Iraqi’s Shoe-Hurling Protest, Arabs Find a Hero. (It’s Not Bush.)


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1. History, dissent cloud Pakistan’s Mumbai reaction

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — The black-and-white flag of Jamaat-ud-Dawa still flutters over a relief camp for survivors of an earthquake that hit a remote corner of Pakistan in October.

But bearded medics who work with the group had vanished from the huddle of tents and mud huts when a half-dozen police showed up to close the operation following allegations the charity was linked to militants blamed for the deadly Mumbai attacks in India.

How Pakistan deals with the Islamic group — popular among many for its aid to the needy — is a key test of its pledge to help investigate the Mumbai tragedy and, more broadly, to prevent militants from using its soil to attack both India and Afghanistan.

The U.S. and the U.N. say Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group India says trained and sent the gunmen who attacked India’s commercial capital last month, killing 164 people and straining what had been improved relations between the countries.

Lashkar-e-Taiba has been an unofficial ally of the Pakistan army in Kashmir, a disputed territory claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Some believe the moment has come for Pakistan, which also backed the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, to make clear it has abandoned a shadowy policy of using militant proxies as a foreign policy tool.

The country stands before a “moment of change in people’s attitudes and thinking” toward militants, Sen. John Kerry said Tuesday in Islamabad.

Pakistan must see that Lashkar-e-Taiba has “morphed into a more al-Qaida-esque and radicalized entity” that is damaging the country’s interests, said Kerry, incoming chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Click here for the complete article.

     


Silk Threads


2. Madoff Scheme Kept Rippling Outward, Across Borders

 By DIANA B. HENRIQUES, NY Times

By the end, the world itself was too small to support the vast Ponzi scheme constructed by Bernard L. Madoff.

Initially, he tapped local money pulled in from country clubs and charity dinners, where investors sought him out to casually plead with him to manage their savings so they could start reaping the steady, solid returns their envied friends were getting.

Then, he and his promoters set sights on Europe, again framing the investments as memberships in a select club. A Swiss hedge fund manager, Michel Dominicé, still remembers the pitch he got a few years ago from a salesman in Geneva. “He told me the fund was closed, that it was something I couldn’t buy,” Mr. Dominicé said. “But he told me he might have a way to get me in. It was weird.”

Mr. Madoff’s agents next cut a cash-gathering swath through the Persian Gulf, then Southeast Asia. Finally, they were hurtling with undignified speed toward China, with invitations to invest that were more desperate, less exclusive. One Beijing businessman who was approached said it seemed the Madoff funds were being pitched “to anyone who would listen.”

The juggernaut began to sputter this fall as investors, rattled by the financial crisis and reaching for cash, started taking money out faster than Mr. Madoff could bring fresh cash in the door. He was arrested on Dec. 11 at his Manhattan apartment and charged with securities fraud, turned in the night before by his sons after he told them his entire business was “a giant Ponzi scheme.”

Please click here for the complete article.


3. In Iraqi’s Shoe-Hurling Protest, Arabs Find a Hero. (It’s Not Bush.)

 
 

BAGHDAD — Calling someone the “son of a shoe” is one of the worst insults in Iraq. But the lowly shoe and the Iraqi who threw both of his at President Bush, with widely admired aim, were embraced around the Arab world on Monday as symbols of rage at a still unpopular war.

In Saudi Arabia, a newspaper reported that a man had offered $10 million to buy just one of what has almost certainly become the world’s most famous pair of black dress shoes.

A daughter of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the Libyan leader, reportedly awarded the shoe thrower, Muntader al-Zaidi, a 29-year-old journalist, a medal of courage.

In the Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City, people calling for an immediate American withdrawal removed their footwear and placed the shoes and sandals at the end of long poles, waving them high in the air. And in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf, people threw their shoes at a passing American convoy.

In street-corner conversations, on television and in Internet chat rooms, the subject of shoes was inescapable throughout much of the Middle East on Monday, as was the defiant act that inspired the interest: a huge and spontaneous eruption of anger at President Bush on Sunday in his final visit here. Some deplored Mr. Zaidi’s act as a breach of respect or of traditional Arab hospitality toward guests, even if they shared the sentiment. (Mr. Bush, having demonstrated his quick reflexes, then brushed it off as an expression of democracy.)

“Although that action was not expressed in a civilized manner, it showed the Iraqi feelings, which is to object to the American occupation,” said Qutaiba Rajaa, a 58-year-old physician in Samarra, a Sunni stronghold north of Baghdad.

For the complete article, please click here

 

 


Featured Non-Profit

A new section in this newsletter, providing exposure to deserving South Asian Non-Profits. Suggestions welcome

During the unprecedented attack on Mumbai between November 26 to 29, 2008, many people from the security forces, the police, fire service, hotel employees, guests of the Taj and general public were killed or wounded. In the aftermath of this terror attack, the Taj group has witnessed an outpouring of emotional support from well-wishers in India and across the globe, both for the restoration of the hotel and to offer relief for those affected by the attack. In response to this, the Taj group has set up a public service welfare trust fund named Taj Public Service Welfare Trust (TPS Welfare Trust).”

Phone: +91-22-6639 5515
Fax: +91-22-2202 7442
Emailtpswtrust@tajhotels.com

       

 

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A first hand account ofthe carnage at The Oberoi

Posted by: “sugrutha” sugrutha@yahoo.com

Mon Dec 1, 2008 4:53 pm (PST)

Rohan’s written account of his father’s ordeal, Apoorv Parikh who was
dining with lawyer Anand Bhatt and Pankaj Shah, both of whom died.

From: PARIKH Rohan
Sent: Saturday, November 29, 2008 6:36 PM
To: MOTWANI Dheeraj
Subject: FW: The Mumbai Attacks

Dear friends,

First, I wanted to thank you all for the incredible concern and
support that you’ll have given me over the past few days which have
been among the most emotionally and psychologically draining of my
life.

By the grace of God my father was rescued from the Oberoi on Friday
with two (minor) bullet wounds and is now speedily recovering. He did
however lose the two best friends he was dining with that fateful
night (who are like godfathers to me). We also lost a lot of other
friends and colleagues and have watched our beloved city reduced to a
war zone and brought to its knees.

On Wednesday night, my father and his two friends arrived at the
Indian restaurant on the first floor of the Oberoi Hotel for dinner
at about 10pm. They had barely sat down when they heard gun shots in
the lobby of the hotel. The terrorists, armed with AK-47s, grenades
and plastic explosives, had entered the hotel and were executing
everybody sitting in the ground floor restaurant. Realizing the
situation, the staff of the restaurant my father was in asked them to
quickly exit through the kitchen. As the guests tried to rush into
the kitchen, one terrorist burst into the restaurant and began to
shoot anyone that remained in the restaurant. At this point my father
was in the kitchen and along with his two friends rushed to the fire
exit. They had barely descended a few steps when they were trapped
from both ends by terrorists.

The terrorists then rounded up anyone alive (about 20 people) and
made them climb the service staircase to the 18th floor. On reaching
the 18th floor landing they made the people line up against a wall.
One terrorist then positioned himself on the staircase going up from
the landing and the other on the staircase going down from the
landing. Then, in a scene right out of the Holocaust, they
simultaneously opened fire on the people. My father was towards the
center of the line with his two friends on either side. Out of
reflex, or presence of mind, he ducked as soon as the firing began.
One bullet grazed his neck, and he fell to the floor as his two
friends and several other bodies piled on top of him. The terrorists
then pumped another series of bullets into the heap of bodies to
finish the job. This time a bullet hit my father in the back hip.
Bent almost in double, crushed by the weight of the bodies above him,
and suffocating in the torrent of blood rushing down on him from the
various bodies my father held on for ten minutes while the terrorists
left the area. When he finally had the courage to wiggle his arms he
found that there were four other survivors in the room. They
communicated to each other by touch as they were too afraid to make a
sound. My father moved just enough to allow himself room to breathe
and then lay still. The survivors passed over twelve hours lying
still in the heap of bodies too afraid to move. They constantly heard
gunfire and hand grenades going off in the other parts of the hotel.
They feared that any noise would bring the terrorists back. After
approximately twelve hours, the terrorists returned with a camera and
flashlight and joked and laughed as they filmed what they thought was
a pile of dead bodies. They then moved to the landing below where
they set up explosives. On their departing, my father decided that it
was too risky to remain where they were due to the explosives. Along
with the other three survivors he climbed the rest of the stairwell,
where they discovered a large HVAC plant room in which they decided
to take shelter. They passed the rest of the siege hiding in this
room trying to get the attention of the outside world by waving a
makeshift flag out of the window. They drank sips of dirty water from
the Air Conditioning unit to survive. Finally on Friday morning they
were spotted by a commando rescue team that was storming the building
and were evacuated to safety and taken to the hospital.

This is just one of the countless horror stories that unfolded in
those two days. There are many stories of entire families being wiped
out while eating their dinner, or young kids losing both parents, or
pregnant women being shot while pleading for their lives, or hostages
being beaten to death with the butt of a rifle so that their faces
were unrecognizable. The terrorists attacked on every level. They
killed middle class workers when they shot up the railway station,
they killed the elite in the hotels, they killed tourists and kids as
they ate in a café, and they killed the sick and dying when they
stormed three hospitals. They shot people in the roads, in stations,
in hotels, and even entered an apartment building. They killed
Indians, Americans, Britons, Israelis, and several other
nationalities. They killed men, women, children, policemen, firemen,
doctors, patients. This was systematic, cold-blooded, slaughter.

We have lost a lot of friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Every
person who lives in South Mumbai has a story about how either they or
someone they love either died or had a narrow escape. The true extent
of the horror will only make itself clear over the next few days.

Mumbai is a proud city and we pride ourselves on bouncing back from
any adversity. We survive and prosper despite all the difficulties
placed on us. We are no strangers to terror and have had to pick up
the pieces and move on after several attacks. This time however, the
sheer scale and audacity brought the city to its knees. The openness
of our society, the bustling hoards in our train stations, the
vibrancy of our news media, and the thousands of tourists, diplomats,
and business leaders packing our hotels was used against us to
devastating effect.

In the end one tries to make sense of all this. Barack Obama said
about the killers of 9/11: “My powers of empathy, my ability to reach
into another’s heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those who
would murder innocents with such serene satisfaction.”

Unfortunately, this is becoming an all familiar scene in today’s
world. While I cannot understand, I recognize again and again the
hatred, anger, and desperation of the terrorists and the cold
blooded, targeted, ruthlessness of those that dispatch them. They
respect nothing but their own twisted beliefs and to achieve them
have declared war on an entire way of life. India now finds itself as
a major front of this global war.

How do we fight such hate? How do we inject humanity into such
monstrosity? How do we convince those who think they kill in god’s
name that no God would condone such barbarity? How do we maintain our
own values and humanity when faced with such hate and provocation?

Over the next week as we say goodbye to those we lost and help those
that survive, Mumbai and India will ask themselves these questions. I
hope the rest of the world does too.

I will remain in Mumbai for at least a week to help out with various
things, after which I will probably return to complete P2 at INSEAD.
Right now, though I miss all everyone at INSEAD, I cannot fathom
sitting in a classroom.

Thanks again for all your thoughts and prayers.

Rohan