To mark the eighth anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, The Indian Express partnered with Facebook and Instagram to showcase Stories of Strength that highlight the resilience of this great city. Here is the full text of the opening address delivered by Anant Goenka, Executive Director of the Express Group, at a video exhibition organised to mark the occasion at Kalaghoda in Mumbai.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome, and thank you for being with us.
Let me first welcome our chief guest – the honorable Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis. Devendraji, thank you for being here; I know you have a very tight schedule and it’s election season. But I must say, 26/11 is a day so close to all our hearts, that when I went to invite Devendraji, he didn’t hesitate even the slightest before committing to being here. So thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, eight years ago, an American resident Kia Scherr lost her husband and daughter at the Oberoi in Mumbai. Three years later, on a visit to Mumbai, she called a few journalists to the Fenix restaurant at the Oberoi (what was known earlier as Tiffin) and said “I forgive”.
That interview haunted me the entire day then, and continues to haunt me even today. You know at the time of the interview Kasab was still very much alive. And what I could just never understand was how did she forgive a group of people who caused her such insurmountable pain? How did she forgive someone who never apologised, someone who wasn’t convicted yet and someone who showed absolutely no signs of remorse or regret?
Every year, on this day, we as a city mourn those we lost, we mourn what we went through. But what we haven’t done yet, collectively as a city, is recognise some of the inspiring stories of those who have lost an irreplaceable part of their daily lives on this day, eight years ago.
The strength of someone who lost her family to say we must love like an extremist. The strength of the youngest eyewitness to Kasab who was shot in the leg at CST – the now 16-year-old-Devika Rotawan who says she wants to grow to be an IPS officer to arrest terrorists. The strength of Sharan Arasa who says if you cower in fear, you’re giving them a moral victory.
I’d like to thank Facebook and Instagram for sharing the passion to bring some of these inspiring voices out to the mainstream. Our series of interviews with 26 people has been extremely well received and widely shared on Facebook and Instagram. I’d like to thank Pravin Pardeshi from the Chief Minister’s office, Kiran Dighawkar from the BMC and Deven Bharti from Mumbai Police for making this exquisite venue possible on such short notice. And a big thank you to my most reliable guide and friend Maneck Davar – proprietor of Spenta Multimedia and Chairman of the Kala Ghoda Association for helping make this very important event happen.
But most of all, thank you to our most special guests, thank you for taking the time to pick up the pieces that shattered eight years ago, and for letting us into the deepest most honest corners of your hearts. I can only imagine how difficult that might have been.
But it’s important we do this because it’s your courage that defines ours, it’s your sense of hope that renews ours.
The truth is that we still live in an age of terrorism. And even if we – just for a second — indulge the cowardly ideology of a few misguided youth who are foolish enough to believe that they can decide how we should die, they must know that they can never tell us how we should live.
We will continue to speak. We will continue to share. We will opine, we will disagree, we will inspire and we will be inspired. Because no matter what, we will keep learning and will keep growing. That’s the strength of our civil society. That’s the strength we get from you, all of you who have been kind enough to share (with us) your incredible stories of strength.
Thank you very much.