Mumbai, a City Known for Its Vitality, Is Staggered by Shock and Grief
Thursday, November 27, 2008
MUMBAI, Nov. 27 -- With her slain husband's body covered in marigolds and draped with the Indian flag, Mansi Shinde pushed away the pallbearers, refusing to let him go.
"My baby, my baby," she shrieked, as the wives of other police officers tried to comfort her, gently pulling her away from what she couldn't believe was true.
Her husband, Shashank Shinde, 46, was killed during coordinated attacks Wednesday on several Mumbai landmarks. Witnesses said he was patrolling the city's main railway station when he spotted a group of young gunmen wearing backpacks and hoisting assault weapons into the air. They charged onto a train platform, and Shinde tried to tackle them, according to eyewitness reports. He was shot to death at the scene.
"I am feeling what I can't express," said a hollow-eyed Sanjeev Phiwandkar, 41, a longtime friend, after helping transport Shinde's body from a nearby hospital.
Just like the 300 mourners at Shinde's funeral, the city of Mumbai itself seemed stunned by shock and grief.
Long known as India's New York, Mumbai -- better known as Bombay -- has always pulsated with energy from its crowded streets. On Thursday, this city of 14 million people was virtually shut down. The streets were relatively quiet, in a city known for its chaotic hodgepodge of thick traffic, sidewalks boiling with people, snack carts, and book and T-shirt merchants.
At just past 2 p.m. in the courtyard of his middle-class apartment complex, Shinde's body was hoisted shoulder-high. Nearby, another funeral procession was in progress for one of Shinde's neighbors, also killed in the attacks.
"Damn," mumbled one of his two daughters, an engineering college student who stared at the ground as her father's shrouded body was carried to a nearby crematorium, according to Hindu custom. Hindus typically hold funerals soon after death.
In a national address, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauded "the exceptional courage shown by Mumbai police and the city's anti-terrorist squad."
Shinde was one of at least 15 police officers who lost their lives in the attacks. Among the dead was one of Mumbai's most respected officers and one of the country's top anti-terrorism officials, Chief Hemant Karkare, who was killed in the first moments of the firefights. Singh personally thanked him.
Karkare was also leading the investigation into the controversial Malegaon blasts in September during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which led to the arrests of 10 Hindus here in Mumbai's Maharashtra state, drawing the country's attention to rising Hindu militancy.
A.S. Khandeparkar, a neighbor of Shinde's, said he was a fan of Karkare's "sincere efforts to stop any kind of terror."
"Men in uniform can be very arrogant; neither of these men were," Khandeparkar said. "They were like the city: brave and alive with spirit."
Khandeparkar often took his morning walks with Shinde. Their children played under the compound's coconut trees.
"I can't believe he is no more," he said, as he watched several police officers weep over Shinde's body.
They placed a banner that read: "Shinde has attained martyrdom in his encounter with terrorists. May his soul rest in peace."