Heaven rains down tears on Mumbai
The Heavens rained down tears of sorrow on Mumbai on Saturday morning as the death toll from the attacks on the proud city climbed steadily.
I have spent the past three days covering the story day-and-night and sitting here in the rain on Saturday morning watching the flames pour from the 105-year old Heritage Building and listening to gunshots, I have to wonder why this has gone on for so long.
I’m sitting well back from the lobby area by the famous Gateway of India and even here occasional bullets are hitting TV trucks and whistling overhead.
When I arrived here on foot at around 1030 on Wednesday evening I certainly did not imagine I would still be here nearly 60 hours later.
During the long vigil the gunfire and grenade explosions have been intermittent with fierce gun-battles for a few minutes then long periods of silence.
As far as I have been able to tell the battles have been widely spread around the Heritage section of the hotel and the outbreak of fire have been similarly widespread.
I made my way round to the back of the hotel in the early hours of Saturday where the crack Sikh regiment was stationed.
The language barrier meant it was hard to communicate with these fierce warriors but it was clear they had been on duty for many hours and at least as long as I had been.
I had been able to enjoy at least some breaks for naps but I do not think they had.
It was very quiet at the back of the building but I could still hear a lot of gunfire from the front of the building, again, it seemed to be ranging widely along the length of the corridors at the front and not around the pool area which is situated at the back.
The Taj is U-shaped with the pool forming the gap and I could clearly see the palm trees in the gardens surrounding the cool waters I had swum in on occasionally when visiting friends had found enough money to stay at the swanky hotel.
Sitting with the other journalists on Wednesday night we all thought the siege would be over by the morning.
Dawn broke with no change in the situation. Moving back and forth between the three attack sites during Thursday and everyone thought “This will be over by nightfall” was the perceived wisdom.
How wrong that prediction turned out to be as the Trident/Oberoi and Nariman House sieges continued.
It is only a five story building after all, surely it would not take long for crack troops to resolve the situation?
But the siege dragged on as the militants managed to evade both the bullets, grenades and capture.
In the rabbit warren that is the Taj and the Oberoi the running battle also dragged on and on with resolutions coming only slowly.
It will certainly be interesting to find out, if indeed we ever do, the fine details of the assaults and exactly how the battles were fought.
Compared with similar situations around the world in the past these sieges do seem to have taken a long time to resolve.
As I sit by the Gateway of India writing this, the siege at the Taj seems to finally be over.
The famous NSG ‘Black Cat’ Commandos who were ranged around the perimeter have moved it towards the building and fire trucks are arriving to attend the various fires which are still burning.
The body language of the troops would certainly seem to indicate that at long last the nightmare of India’s 9/11 is finally over.