For Travelers, the World is Home...
News reports out of Mumbai, India in the past few days have been grim. Coordinated terrorist attacks have taken over 150 lives (mostly Indians, though British and Americans were targeted) and injured over 700. Mumbai is a huge city, the population is somewhere over 18 million people, and the sprawl--while not as far-reaching as Bangkok, or even Los Angeles--ensures that while chaos may erupt in one part of town, in the majority of the city life goes on as normal. That is how I would minimize the dangers of traveling to our family and to myself whenever there were worries about our safety in "dangerous" places.
But as soon as I heard that the Taj Mahal Hotel was one of the targets--well, that gave reason to pause. Standing across from the most famous landmark of Mumbai--if not all of colonial India--the Gateway of India, the Taj Mahal Hotel beckoned us with the promise of an air-conditioned respite from the dirt, crowds and heat outside. We didn't need to have a reservation to nod our heads to the regal doorman decked out in full turbaned regalia, or gawk at the splendor of the impressive lobby. We walked leisurely through hallways where silver artifacts from pre-colonial India were framed, and even discussed the merits of buying a drink at the bar. Perhaps it was the high prices, or our limited time with our driver, but we opted to keep moving and go to the outside market instead. For us the Taj Mahal Hotel will always be an island of calm in a sea of humanity. But sadly for many it will a vortex of tragedy.
Maybe Mumbai is not that big. Granted, it's usually the major tourist sites that get targeted in terrorist attracts, or currently, places where westerners congregate--but moments like these only make me realize that not only Mumbai, but the world seems smaller.