In Her Words
Memories of Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel
I stayed at the Taj last year … now I watch it go up in flames
Like many other past visitors to India, I watched with horror as flames leaped from the top floors of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. It was set afire during the terrorist attack on the hotel and its guests. I stayed at the Taj last year. I was heading a delegation of White House Fellows, a group of outstanding young Americans, who spend a year working in the executive branch of the government.
The Taj is a historic hotel, with more than a thousand rooms, which opened in 1903 in the days of the British Raj. It stands opposite the famous Gateway of India, Mumbai’s most famous monument News reports say that the terrorist bands that attacked several hotels and a Jewish center landed at the jetty at the Gateway. Altogether ten sites were hit. Latest news reports say that at least 125 have died and more than three hundred have been wounded in the attack. The gunmen are still holding hostages at the Taj which is making fire fighting treacherous.
Anyone who ever stayed at this beautiful hotel, rich with the complex history of India, is especially touched by this tragedy. In India our group met with many leaders from social workers, who were trying to help girls from low caste learn a trade, to heads of call centers who were proud of India’s new technological skills. After a dinner in an elaborate hotel one night our group visited the Gateway of India. We sat looking out over this city of eighteen million, filled with dramatic contrasts. It is India’s financial center and home of Bollywood but it also has the largest slum in Asia. India is a country where millions are deeply spiritual yet still believe in the transforming power of modern education to give themselves and their children better lives. How tragic those terrorists filled with hate have tried to harm India and inevitably scare away the international tourists the country needs.