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Mumbai on the tube

November 28, 2008

Front page of the Times, originally uploaded by Thoroughly Good.

The most striking newspaper image I’ve seen in a long time adorned the copy of The Times I scrounged from the lady sat opposite me on the tube this morning.

In fairness she had finished browsing the paper when I carefully removed my headphones, leant forward and asked, “Excuse me, could I possibly borrow the newspaper if you’ve finished with it?” She seemed happy to oblige and blissfully unaware of the news from India.

I didn’t want to read about the shootings in Mumbai. I didn’t know very much about what had happened. I’d stumbled on the breaking news by watching the news live on the internet the night before. I’d seen looped shots of a burning hotel in Mumbai. I’d heard about 80 or so people having died, seen a clip where someone had said “they seemed to be asking for people with American or British passports.”  I’d scrambled to find what facts were available on the internet and quickly followed up with a handful of texts to friends whose friends and associates were based in Mumbai.

All were safe. That was the extent of my research.

This morning, however, trundling to work on the tube my gaze landed on the front cover of The Times. Something about the front page drew my eye. I looked more closely and soon found myself looking at the lady holding the paper, a large and the extremely approachable looking black woman complete with impeccably applied make-up and an adorable hat. I watched as she passed over every page.

I found it almost impossible to stop looking at the front page of the newspaper. Was it a policeman or a soldier leading an elderly looking woman across a blood splattered floor? I couldn’t tell. Where was that? Why were the bags left that way? Did someone really get shot there? Is that really how much blood can come out of a human body when a bullet rips through it?

It all looks so quiet. It all looks so final. India looks so damaged.

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