A South African’s night of fear in Jaipur during Mumbai terror

November 29th, 2008 - 5:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg, Nov 29 (IANS) Though Jaipur was far from Mumbai, a city that was held to ransom Wednesday night, a South African journalist kept the lights turned off and slept very scared even in the Rajasthan capital. Cecile Nel, a business reporter for Afrikaans daily Beeld, was visiting the SABMiller breweries in India at the time of the attack and has since returned home.

“I brushed my teeth and bathed in the dark in the Jaipur Hotel (part of the same group as the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Mumbai which was under attack) on Wednesday night,” Nel said here Saturday. “The only source of light was the red flicker of the TV, tuned to CNN.”

“I did this in the hope that if terrorists were to attack my hotel, they would believe that my room was unoccupied and move on, especially since this was the advice that had been given to hotel residents in Mumbai hotels.”

Nel said that even though Jaipur was far from Mumbai in a state with different regulations and border protection mechanisms, she did not feel at all immune against the attacks.

“When I arrived in New Delhi, I did not feel unsafe at all. I got the first news of the attacks while on the bus back to the hotel Wednesday even as my partner and colleagues from South Africa began sending SMSs to check if I was safe. Only when I saw the images on TV in my room, did I get a knot in my stomach.

“I remembered how the xenophobic attacks in South Africa had spread countrywide as people reacted to it, and slept very scared Wednesday evening, wondering if (similar attacks) would take place in the other major cities of India,” Nel said.

Nel said a flight to New Delhi that she then took with group of tourists was “tension-filled”.

“But I felt somewhat safer as we entered a shopping centre there where every person entering was thoroughly searched.

“Besides my own insecurity, fear and longing for home, I felt very sorry for the Indians. Our Indian tour organiser told us she felt a combination of heartache about the loss of life; trauma due to the shock of the sudden attacks; and disappointment that India’s security measures could not prevent it and could not immediately successfully counter it.”

Nel said although rest of India looked “normal”, they passed extensive security checks on their way to the airport to catch a flight to Dubai.

“It’s been a long time since I felt so relieved,” Nel said.

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