I giggled and ran across the soft, plush carpet covering what I could only imagine was rich, old oak flooring and sat at the window booth. I looked out to the blue water and the teeming pavement below. The salty smell of the ocean was separated from me by the glass windows in ornate frames.
And then, a luxury item was placed in front of me.
I was 6 and staring at the best chocolate truffle cake I had ever had.
When I was younger, my Fui (father’s sister) used to take me to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel , Bombay, to a place called The Sea Lounge to have their sinful chocolate truffle. I’m 23 and every time I go back to Bombay, she still takes me there. A tradition now.
The Taj was a part of my growing up years, so on November 26 2008, I sat, along with millions others, staring at my television, shocked, horrified and broken. At the end of the painful carnage across the Taj, the Oberoi and more locations, a city was wounded. A nation attacked.
Is it selfish that I’m thankful that no family or close friends were hurt? Perhaps. My cousin’s classmate’s parents (acquaintances of ours) perished. The same cousin lost a classmate to the senseless killings as well. Pain all around.
The last time I was in the Taj before 26/11 (dubbed “India’s 9/11”) was the same year in August. I sat in the Sea Lounge then, not knowing people would die there a mere 3 months later.
I returned to the Taj two months back. The changes were glaring with a hint of the lurking menace. A staggering number of police cars all around, with high security reminiscent of airports before we could enter the hotel. Inside, the refurbishments ensured the hotel retained its earlier grandeur. But subtle differences were notable to people who had been there many a time.
Alas, the Sea Lounge was closed by the time we got there so we settled for Shamiana, the 24-hour open café in the hotel.
My return to the Taj was nostalgic, with only a hint of what had happened there almost 2 years ago.