Saturday, November 29, 2008

An Attack on A Grand Dame

If you had not heard of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Mumbai, you would have, by now.

The 105-year old hotel, said to be the finest in the East was built in 1903 at a quarter of a million pounds. On 26 Nov, the 565-room hotel was attacked by a group of gunmen.

On that fateful day, a large group of men arrived at Mumbai from the sea at 2100 local time. Once ashore, they split into groups and attacked pre-selected targets and one of them was the city's luxury hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace.

Their senseless acts stormed the famous hotel as well as the world. This morning, I was relieved when the media declared the end of the 60-hour assault on Mumbai's city landmark.

At least 144 people were killed in this mad attack at the hotel and I was saddened to learn that one of them was a fellow Singaporean. There has been some finger-pointing on who should be responsible but the verdict is still out there.

Whoever has done this wanted to send the world a message, whatever that message may be and whatever it is for. In the past 3 days, the media did exactly what was desired, screaming headlines after headlines, reporting what was going on in the tense Mumbai city with 18 million people.

As the stories unfolded over the days, I could not help but noticed that the staff of the hotel have played a vital role in saving many lives. At times like that when most people were preoccupied with fleeing, the hotel staff showed their most admirable bravery. They readily shielded and hid their guests in the midst of gunfire. They also helped to evacuate the guests based on their intimate knowledge on the nooks and corners of the huge hotel, via shortcuts and emergency exits.

Some of the staff lost their lives or wounded in this much condemned terrorist attack and many guests who survived the ordeal felt that they owed their lives to their act of bravery. The owner of the Taj Hotel chain told the media that "Our staff have been very courageous. They have done all they can to help the guests." I think that is somewhat an understatement.

The grand dame was wounded too.

The owners of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel said they were "fully co-operating with the police and the government authorities" and "will rebuild every inch that has been damaged in this attack and bring back the Taj to its full glory."

I went to the official website and took a virtual tour of the Taj and I was totally awed by her beautiful architecture and luxurious lining. Indeed, the grand dame should be nursed to her previous glory.

I tried to do an online booking for a room for the 2009 New Year's day and it seemed that I was allowed to do so. I hope it is a good sign that she would return to her glory in the new year and the years to come and that there will be no more irrational acts of terrorism in India as well as the rest of the world.

The world needs peace.


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