Home > travel > Bombay Blast Blues – 30th November 2008

Bombay Blast Blues – 30th November 2008


When I took this photograph with a colleague, Steve Foster, in the foreground some weeks back , I had little knowledge and experience on India. DSC00418It was my first full day in the country and three of us hired a driver and car to take us around the city sights. The photograph was of the tourist carriage in the middle ground. However, the Taj Mahal Hotel in the background is now the main point of interest.

With the events that have unfolded this week in India, my memory has been stirred and small conversations that occurred while I was there now make sense.

For me, India is an energetic and ambitious country from the little I have seen of it. In October, they launched a space craft into a moon orbit. They were in talks with the US and other governments to start building their own nuclear power plants to drive their economy. Buildings were going up everywhere in Mumbai and Pune. The people I met are courteous, ambitious and keen to improve themselves. 

What is now making sense, in retrospect, is how much tension there is below the surface. Our driver in Mumbai, Ahsok, kept commenting on the fact that most of the slums were inhabited by Muslims. Judging by the number of mosques dotted amongst the slums, it was clear that the divide between Hindus and Muslims was not limited to their religions. The lack of opportunity for Muslims was patently obvious if the size of the slums is anything to go by.  Ashok’s wife is a Muslim although he is a Hindu.

Friends I made out there have commented about their anger at the ineffectual government letting this happen. It is difficult to protect the innocent against these type of attacks without having good intelligence so that you can reduce the potential for terror attacks like this. Even the Americans got this wrong.

Another British friend I made in Pune has just emailed me to say she went through the train station in Mumbai in the morning before the attacks on her way back to the UK.

Another friend of mine who I met in Pune has had to cancel his trip to Goa over Christmas and Easter because there is now a terrorist threat against the region.

Another aspect of Indian life which struck was how they treat each other. Indian is very regionalised, so much so that people from another state are regarded as different and perhaps suspiciously. For example, my driver in Pune, Yusuf, is a Maharastran. Yet, the security guard outside the buildings in which I was working was from another state.

Coming into the business park each afternoon, Yusuf would ask the security guard to move the tape and bollards on the pavement so that he could drop "Sir" (i.e. me) off right next to the front door. One particular afternoon, a new guard was there who refused to move the bollards and tape. Yusuf quickly showed his anger at the guards’ refusal to carry out his request and beckoned him to approach our four-by-four.

The guard soon found him being grappled by Yusuf through his window in a manner which looked as though Yusuf was trying to break his neck of which a commando would have been proud.

The guard soon complied and Yusuf dropped me off at the main entrance while muttering how stupid the guard was because he was from the Punjab.

In that one incident, I saw just how much tension there is in India let alone between its neighbours.

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