TERROR AT THE TAJ
I toured Gateway to India, the Taj hotel & Victoria Terminus in 2006
PLACES OF PEACE & TERROR. During my first visit to India in January 2006, I spent a day with a guide in the southern part of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). We enjoyed the beauty and grandeur of once-serene sites that now are the center of the world's attention due to the terrorist attacks that began on Wednesday. These are 3 of many photos I snapped that afternoon in Mumbai.
ON THE WATERFRONT. News reports tell us that some of the terrorists arrived in boats from the harbor that opens out to the Arabian Sea. They landed at the Gateway to India and ran across the street to the Taj Mahal Hotel. I spent most of an afternoon admiring and touring these Indian landmarks.
GATEWAY TO INDIA. The Gateway to India (pictured above) is a maginficent archway that opens to the Arabian Sea. It was built under British guidance as a welcome to King George of England. One year later, in Feburary 2007, I was privileged to stand under another great Indian archway. Similar in style and size, India Gate is over 700 miles away in New Delhi. We lifted our bikes in victory at the end of our a 2,000-mile bicycle ride through India.
THE TAJ. The Taj Mahal Hotel (at left), known as the Taj, is across the street from Gateway to India. It is a multi-story structure with architectural influence reflecting indigenous Indian grace. The Taj is a point of pride in India particularly because it was built in 1903 with Indian resources, under Indian guidance, by Indian workers at a time when most construction was overseen by and had the imprint of the English. Now it is a 5-star hotel, used by many foreign tourists, including those from England and America. Inside, the Taj features arching ceilings and a massive rotunda in the main lobby area. Note: This is not the Taj Mahal, but the Taj Mahal Hotel. It is named for the arhitectural marvel that is about 700 miles from Mumbai in Agra, India.
VICTORIA TERMINUS. The Victoria Terminus train station (below), now renamed the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, is the epitome of gothic architecture. I took a book on arhitecture by John Ruskin with me to India. As he described gothic style, it was as if Ruskin were looking directly at Victoria Terminus. This is the busiest train station in Mumbai. People are nearly wall to wall. Getting on and off a train here is like getting into or out of a can of sardines. This is the location of most of the killing in the terrorist attacks.
A PRAYER FOR MUMBAI. I grieve the loss of so many lives and the erruption of terror and fear that these days have brought to the people of Mumbai. I pray for them and for the restoration of peace for these gracious, hard-working people.
CAREFUL ASSESSMENT. I don't think it will be easy to identify the terrorists. It will be harder, I think, for the West to grasp the "why" behind the attacks. It is very important that the leaders of Mumbai and India carefully and accurately identify the terrorists and their reasons. With multiple millions of Hindus and Muslims living side by side, carelessness and scapegoating can lead to unimaginable reactions. Careful assessment can ease tensions and garner great support from both mainstream Hindus and Muslims in combating terrorism in the future.
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