Sunday, December 21, 2008

Healing and hope at Trident Hotel/Post terror, some people experiment with Gandhi

Healing and hope at Trident Hotel

Times of India - India

By Pronoti Datta, Hemali Chhapia & Bella Jaisinghani

MUMBAI: On November 26, the terrorists entered the Trident hotel from the main entrance and crossed the Verandah, a lobby which also serves as a 24-hour coffee shop, into The Oberoi. On Sunday, the Verandah was where a solemn prayer ceremony was held marking the re-opening of the Trident. The doorway that leads to The Oberoi had been cleverly concealed with a door of the same shade as the rest of the wall, with no trace of the scars of that day. Priests from eight faiths chanted prayers and read passages from religious texts to a quiet gathering of people, mostly in white, some even teary-eyed.

Representatives from the Sikh, Parsi, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Jain and Buddhist communities prayed for the departed and wished for a speedy recovery of the injured and, above all, for peace in the world.

Father Caesar D'Mello of Holy Name Cathedral, who read Psalm 90 from the Bible at the prayer meet, said: "Holy Name Cathedral is not far from Leopold Cafe, which witnessed a bloodbath on November 26. We were shaken after that night for we could hardly have imagined that the terrorists would attack the heart of the city in this brazen manner. That is why I have chosen to become a part of the healing process by participating in this inauguration today.''

Usha Gokani, grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, who helped put together the prayer meet organised by Gandhi Smarak Nidhi (GSN), a trust that conducts Gandhian activities, herself was at the Oberoi on November 26 and missed getting caught in the attack by just a few minutes. The daughter of Ramdas, the third son of Gandhi, she recounted the ordeal: "I was at India Jones when the terrorists struck that night. We had paid the bill and were waiting for the change to arrive when we heard the sound of gunshots, which we mistook for firecrackers. Suddenly afterwards, the staff led us by a service exit to the Regal Room and then outside to the multiplex nearby. There were moments I felt I would not make it alive but I prayed to Santoshi Ma and was saved.''

"The ceremony started with shubh mangal bhajan to purify the hotel and to let happiness flow in,'' Varsha Vidya Vilas of GSN said.

Oberoi group chairman PRS Oberoi was present as were family members of staff killed in the attacks, and the entire staff of both the Trident and The Oberoi who occupied nearly half the Verandah. Among the select guests were state chief minister Ashok Chavan, deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal and actors like Rahul Bose.

It was a quiet affair with cameras barred from the hotel and TV crews made to stand across the road. And when Vidya Vilas wrapped up the half-hour-long ceremony by reciting the `sarva dharma prarthana', a prayer for peace in Hindi that quotes various religious texts, everyone was asked to close their eyes and fold their hands in prayer.

Emelie Debloas-Mulrea, a Canadian teacher whose parents work in the Canadian consulate in Mumbai, was at the prayer meet after having breakfast at Frangipani, a restaurant at the Trident. She admitted people were unlikely to forget the terror attacks, "But just because of that, one doesn't stop coming back to a place.''

Her sentiments seem to be shared by those who checked into the Trident while the prayer meet was being held. Bellboys quietly ushered new guests along with their luggage and the hotel had slowly begun picking up from where it had left.




Post terror, some people experiment with Gandhi

Times of India - India


MUMBAI: Film editor Niraj Voralia was in Pune when he heard of the Mumbai attacks. After hours of television time, he began to feel traumatised by the gory images flashing on the screen on repeat. It was then that his eyes fell on his bookshelf, and he knew that comfort of sorts was at hand.

"I instantly picked up Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography. That seemed like the most calming option. Reading a few pages did calm me and I realised how important he is in the current scenario,'' said 42-year-old Voralia.

As a broken Mumbai is trying hard to limp back to life and living, people are looking for a crutch to lean on. Some have taken to angry sloganeering, while others are pinning their hopes on the words and ideals of the Mahatma. The most obvious proof of this is the steady sales of books on Gandhism.

In fact, Gandhi watchers says that book sales have been on the rise ever since the Jaipur blasts in May marked the beginning of a chain of blasts in cities across thr country. "After every terror attack, the ripple effect is that Gandhi becomes popular. He is read even otherwise, but his words take on a whole new meaning in the wake of terror,'' said TRK Somaiya, programme coordinator of Sarvodaya Mandal, where sales of books on and by Gandhi have more than doubled in the last six months.

While November 2007 saw a sale of 6000 books, more than 11,000 were sold in the same period this year. In September and October together, a total of nearly 50,000 books were sold, and in July and August, 22,000 books flew off the shelves. The buyers were individuals, schools, multinational companies and psychiatrists.

According a psychiatrist at Dadar who has ordered a hundred copies of My Experiments With Truth, the current mood is that of vengeance and deep-rooted anger. "But that is not going to take us far. Changing behaviour is possible when there is utmost emotional arousal. And who else would make a more constructive change than Gandhi himself?'' he asked. "As and when violence increases, anxiety and stress increase. Consequently, people turn towards Gandhi's ideologies as the sole hope to cling to.''

The popularity of Gandhi's books is boosted by the numerous and skilled translations available. His autobiography (The Story of My Experiments with Truth) is the most widely read. Other popular books in the genre include the writings of his secretary Mahadeo Desai, and compilations of Gandhi's articles, letters and speeches, whose copyright is held by the Navajivan Trust in Gujarat.

This weekend, the Gujarat government organised a blood donation camp at which the book Gandhi Vaani was distributed. "Even though people here were not directly affected, merely watching television has made them fearful and anxious. Now is the time to awaken the Gandhi in each of us,'' said Surendra Kathwadia, general secretary of the Gujarat government's employees union.

Similar sentiments were echoed in the premises of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) at Chennai. "We found out that the new generation has not grown up on Gandhi. At a time when the human race is threatened by terror, the father of the nation needs to come alive. We are using his books to train young employees,'' said Sitaram, training manger of IOC.

Meanwhile at Mani Bhavan, the Gandhi centre on Laburnum Road, the traffic of foreign visitors has dwindled. "This is peak season but the number of visitors has dropped by 95 per cent. Foreigners have been badly affected,'' said Meghshyam Ajgaonkar, executive secretary of Mani Bhavan.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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