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Three days that shook India

A decade ago Mumbai was seized by a gang of terrorists. These books capture that nightmare the city was plunged in and how it overcame it

Firefighters trying to douse the fire at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai on 27 November 2008. Photo: Hindustan Times
Firefighters trying to douse the fire at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai on 27 November 2008. Photo: Hindustan Times

Ten years ago this week, prime locations across the city of Mumbai were besieged with a series of coordinated terrorist attacks. From the elite Taj Mahal Palace Hotel to the crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the buzzing Leopold’s Cafe, a trail of death and destruction was left behind at the end of those three harrowing days, when the entire country held its breath. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. In the last one decade, one of the terrorists was awarded the death penalty, the historic Taj Hotel was refurbished and the survivors have done their best to move on with their lives. The memories of that period, especially the stories of resilience of ordinary Indians, and the valour of the Armed Forces, should not be forgotten and remain vividly etched in these books.

THE SIEGE—THE ATTACK ON THE TAJ By Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark (Penguin, 499)

The well-known investigative journalist duo take the reader inside the famous Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, the epicentre of the attacks that began on 26 November 2008 in Mumbai. Levy and Scott-Clark have an uncanny gift for recreating scenes from the past using a multiplicity of voices and viewpoints. Intensely reported, this gripping book brings alive the stories of a range of stakeholders. From the staff and guests at the hotel to the political and intelligence authorities, every character leaves you deeply affected.

BLACK TORNADO—THE THREE SIEGES OF MUMBAI By Sandip Unnithan (HarperCollins India, 450)

The name of this book refers to the code given by the National Security Guard to the operation to stall the terror attacks on Mumbai. Unprecedented in scale, 26/11 brought all three wings of the Indian Armed Forces together to fight the city-wide siege by 10 terrorists, who sailed into Mumbai armed with grenades, guns and bombs. Unnithan gives us a ringside view of the attacks as well as the measures taken to contain them.

MUMBAI AVENGERS By S. Hussain Zaidi with Gabriel Khan (HarperCollins India, 199)

Fiction often steps in where reality seems unbearable. Seasoned journalist and best-selling writer Hussain Zaidi tries to address the delay in delivering justice for the Mumbai attacks by imagining a daredevil hero who takes charge of dispensing it. Retired Lt Gen. Sayed Ali Waris of the Indian Army hatches a master plan in this racy page-turner to bring the killers to book. Aided in his mission by a crack team, comprising a policeman, tech expert, army men and scientists, he undertakes a journey across the globe to execute his idea, pursued by the Pakistani army and ISI agents.

KASAB—THE FACE OF 26/11 By Rommel Rodrigues (Penguin, 350)

The most prominent face of the terrorists who invaded Mumbai in 2008 was 21-year-old Ajmal Kasab’s. Caught alive, incarcerated, tried and eventually executed, he became the symbol of the movement that launched the attacks. In this deeply researched book, Rodrigues traces the young man’s journey back to his village in Pakistan and his eventual indoctrination by a wing of the Lashkar-e-Toiba. He juxtaposes the human story of a young man led astray against the plan to destroy Mumbai with dramatic effect.

26/11—THE ATTACK ON MUMBAI By Hindustan Times (Penguin, 299

The most riveting stories about the 26/11 attacks were undoubtedly told by journalists in the Indian media, which played a pivotal role in the coverage of the event. Compiled on the first anniversary of the tragedy, this volume highlights the relentless efforts of the reporting team of the Hindustan Times to cover every aspect of the unfolding horror in different parts of the city—Taj Mahal and Trident hotels, Nariman House, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and Cama Hospital.

26/11—STORIES OF STRENGTH By The Indian Express (Penguin, 299)

Published to mark 10 years of 26/11, this is possibly the most recent book about the tragedy. It compiles stories of loss, courage, fortitude and resilience, recorded over a decade by the reporters of The Indian Express newspaper. As the survivors speak about coping with tragedy, starting afresh, and carrying on with the business of life, questions of justice, retribution and amnesty come up, making us rethink the role of memory and forgiveness.

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