Reflections on Mumbai


On November 26th the city of Mumbai was attacked by terrorists at the heart of its thriving core.
Unlike the attackers Mumbai is known for tolerance -for diversity, for sophistication, for business, for Bollywood. It is the cinematic home of all of Asia.
It is the home of many different religious and ethnic populations- this is where Hindus and Parsis, Christian and Muslims, Jews and Kolis, Sindhis and Buddhists, live shoulder to shoulder , tradition to tradition, language to language, heart to heart. Bombay, has a pulse.
It is tropical, humid, and fragrant, with salty air. It is crowded, bustling, densely populated, with more than twelve million people it is both extravagantly rich and desperately poor.
Its coastal location makes it home to shipping lines and passenger ships, the freight of all of the west coast flows through this harbor, and the fruit of the sea fills the markets and restaurants of the city. The Indian stock Exchange is in Mumbai as is the Headquarters of The Reserve Bank of India. This place hums.
Shopping is abundant in the Chic Colaba district, from high end designer goods to bargain priced trinkets; all levels of consumerism are catered to. Old Colonial buildings house cafes and shops, hotels and offices. Palm trees line Marine Drive, a two mile stretch of city beach. This is a city full of life and pride, beauty and ugliness.
At the postcard center of this city sits the iconic Taj Hotel, and not far away from that the Oberoi Hotel.
These two hotels represent the two great Hotel chains of India. Luxurious, sophisticated, they were the first of the five star hotels in India, before any of the foreign chains arrived, there was the Oberoi or the Taj, to meet for drinks, to have dinner, to do business, to impress a buyer, to host a party or attend charity functions, these two hotels were the pride of the city, setting a standard of sophistication and style that reflected the east/ west style that Mumbai glories in.
I, like many in our trade, have been affected by the unconscionable acts of violence in Bombay. Train Station, Hospital, Jewish Center and two iconic hotels were brutally attacked. From kitchen help to the hotel manager’s wife and children, to people having a simple drink, to entire families alighting at the train station, to a Rabbi and his wife, there was cruelty without mercy. Anger without object. The Heart of many in our business community goes out to the people of Mumbai, to the citizens of India. We share their pain and their shame. Their hurt and their anger. And we want the city of Mumbai to hold onto its diversity to hold fast to its cosmopolitan self, its vibrant heart.
Sitting in my flat in New Delhi on November 26, listening to the television, reading the newspapers, following the minute by minute coverage of this 62 hour siege and slaughter, I remember another night, on Sept 11, 2001, when I sat at the Oberoi Hotel in New Delhi and watched in horror as the twin towers collapsed over and over again in New York. My Indian friends and I held hands and prayed for America. On November 26 2008, I prayed with them for India.
So many of us are involved in imports, in travel and in trade. We are the true ambassadors of democracy and change. More than any of our politicians we know the value of respecting differences and understanding commonalities. We understand we are all more alike than we are different.
Whatever we can do to keep trade and understanding flowing, to stand by our associates and friends, at home and abroad, we must do it.
April Cornell

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