Shots From Mumbai Ring Out in Andover

Although Mumbai, India is 7,600 miles away from Andover, its recent terrorist attacks hit home for many members of the Phillips Academy community. Last Wednesday, terrorists attacked Mumbai in a siege that lasted for three days and killed over 188 people. Gunmen opened fire and set off bombs at different points across Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. Zainab Doctor ’10, whose parents grew up in Mumbai, was shocked by the events. “I always saw Mumbai as this safe place where everything was under control, but that image is kind of shaken now,” said Doctor. Rajesh Mundra, Instructor in Biology, is the faculty advisor to the Indian-Pakistani Society (Indo-Pak) and the director of the annual summer Niswarth trip, a community service learning project in Mumbai. Mundra lived and taught for a year in Mumbai, his wife’s hometown. He has many relatives currently living there. Mundra stressed the importance of not being afraid of other parts of the world when an attack like this happens. “A knee-jerk reaction would be: ‘These are terrorists. They attacked us and so we have to wage war on terror.’ I don’t really understand that. It’s terror against terror,” said Mundra. He continued, “We should spend time understanding the complicated issues, and we do. I’m very proud of our community. We need to continue now and not let these events interfere; we need to stay committed.” Mundra plans to follow through with this summer’s Niswarth trip to Mumbai. “If there is a travel warning issued on Mumbai, we won’t go. Right now there is only a travel alert. We will monitor the situation closely but are moving ahead,” said Mundra. Mundra is also planning a forum to discuss why terrorist attacks have occurred around the world, to be held after winter break with students, teachers and invited guest speakers. Rohini Swamy ’08, currently a freshman at Emory University in Atlanta, is from Mumbai. It took days for Swamy to discover that all her family was safe. Her family did, however, lose friends to the attacks. “One of my parents’ friends died but his wife escaped the Taj Mahal [Hotel], and whatever she could remember of the situation she told us. She was at the restaurant and [the gunmen] stood 12 men and 12 women and shot them in the head,” said Swamy. Swamy has since attended a candlelight vigil and worn white as a symbol of mourning. “We can only hope that the Indian government and people can address the situation, just adjust to it. That’s all we need,” said Swamy. Rishi Jalan ’09 said, “I was stressing for a few days, but being here in America, all I can do is hope.” Jalan, who lives in New Delhi, India, has a large extended family and many friends in Mumbai. Jalan’s family is safe, but several of his friends have not been so fortunate. “A lot of my Indian friends at college, their families have just been ripped [apart]. I got a call from my coach and a lot of my squash friends have been greatly affected.” Lalit Kalani ’03 currently lives in Mumbai and was in the city during the attacks. Kalani wrote in an email, “I hope we can take the most out of this experience to unite us to create a safer, stronger, and better future. A new India, so to speak. I am very happy to know that people all over the world are with us.” Michael Scognamiglio ’10, a participant of this summer’s Niswarth program, spent last June in Mumbai. Scognamiglio said, “Our friends [in Mumbai] made us feel safe since they knew what they were doing. It was easy to tell we were not always looked kindly upon as American tourists, though.” He continued, “Everyone who went on the [Niswarth] trip was glued to the television and horrified, not only because we were tourists there, but because we have a lot of connections with the kids and people who work there.” “[A New York Times editorial] said that ‘in most places if there’s an explosion, people run away. In India when there’s an explosion, people run towards it to try and help’…Mumbai is a pretty resilient city that has come under attack before. I think things will be pretty normal soon,” Mundra said Indo-Pak is now searching for a charity in Mumbai for its annual charity dinner.