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Mumbai Musings

[youtube] Zakaria opened his weekly CNN show with a reflection on the terrorist siege that gripped his hometown of Mumbai. (His latest Newsweek column is an extended version of the monologue.) Unlike Zakaria, I didn't grow up in Mumbai. My mother doesn't work at the Taj Hotel. I don't know anyone who lost his or her life. Despite a lack of these direct connections, I feel bound more tightly to last week's attacks than to those of 9/11. (And I live in New York.)Back in 2001 though, I lived a 4-hour drive away from Ground Zero. I'd visited the city a couple of times, but had never been to the World Trade Center, knew no one who perished in the attacks, and (until years later) had met no one who was even near the horrible scene. That is not the case, however, with Mumbai in 2008. Sure, it's a 14-hour plane flight away, but the distance is collapsed by people who connect me to the city and my own experiences in the places that gunmen laid to waste.My mother grew up in Mumbai, a city that combines the frenzy and avarice of New York with the glamour and sprawl of L.A. In late-2007 she temporarily moved back for four months--a practice she plans to continue every year or two. I visited her in February, navigating the city alone for the first time with two friends from Brooklyn in tow. We ate at the backpacker destination Cafe Leopold (where ten people died). We took trains in and out of Chhatrapati Shivaji Station; at least 40 people were killed there. I poked my head into the Taj Hotel (more than 150 murdered). We used the Metro Theater--where assailants took out a Mumbai police commissioner--as a landmark for meeting up with my parents and my mother's best friend for dinner one night.My mother's friend lives in a flat two blocks away from the Jewish Center where five people were gunned down. (She heard the gunshots.) Her husband was working late Wednesday night in the office of his shipping company across the street from Cafe Leopold. He and his staff were stuck there until Indian commandos gave them the all clear Thursday evening. My mom spoke to him on Friday morning. Everyone was fine, he said, and the office would be open for business that day.That "business as usual" mentality--best exemplified by the bold reopening of Cafe Leopold--is the first step in preventing the terrorists from "winning." Hopefully, as Price pointed out this weekend, that spirit of solemnly moving on will trickle up to India's politicians, who control the country's relationship with rival Pakistan--and by extension, the treatment of their nation's Muslim community (of which my mother's friend and her family, as well as Zakaria's family, are a part). The game, sadly, is not over yet.

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