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Page last updated at 17:28 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

'Invasion of Mumbai'

Indian-Australian author Aravind Adiga, whose debut novel The White Tiger won the 2008 Man Booker Prize, spoke to BBC Radio 4's PM programme about the symbolic significance of the buildings targeted in the Mumbai attacks.

Smoke billows above the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai

Even if you live far away from downtown Mumbai, the city is defined by this part - by the old heart of Mumbai and institutions like the Victoria Terminus train station, VT, the Taj Mahal Hotel, the Gateway of India - which is next to the Taj Mahal - and the Oberoi hotel.

These are the central civic institutions that define the city for everyone who lives everywhere. One of the differences between India and other countries is that a lot of our civic space is contained within the five-star hotels.


They have a different function here for us, they are places where marriages happen, where people of all economic backgrounds go for a coffee. For the Taj Mahal to be attacked is somewhat like the town hall being attacked in some other place, it is really something that is quite extraordinary.

These are profoundly disturbing images for an Indian, especially seeing the army out on an Indian street.

Soldiers in Mumbai
Soldiers are a rare sight on the streets of Mumbai
We never see that here, it's a matter of pride to all Indians that, even if we aren't the richest country, we are a liberal democracy.

I'm very rattled and very disturbed by the images - not just by what has happened, but by the symbolic significance of what has happened. It's profoundly disturbing.

These places they picked are rich with symbolic significance.
But part of what life in Mumbai has taught me - and I've seen previous terror attacks here - is that the city is extremely resilient and bounces back very, very quickly.

On the morning after the attacks I was driving past the very heart of Mumbai, an open space, a playground that we call the Oval. I saw a group of boys - they looked like homeless kids - who had set up a cricket pitch, they hammered a twig down in the ground and that was the wicket.

That really struck me as symbolising the Mumbai spirit - they didn't care about what was happening, they wanted to play cricket in the morning.

The city is used to terror attacks and it bounces back... There is something unusual about what has happened today. We've had bomb blasts but we haven't had people with guns and AK-47s coming into the city - an invasion of Mumbai. It wasn't impersonal and abstract - these were people with guns marching through a city and shooting.

But I really think the city will be back to normal in a couple of days, it's an amazing city.



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