Mumbai: Mumbai is two years past the day that deeply scarred its heart. The macabre dance of death by terrorists on Nov 26, 2008, is history. But the pain remains - sometimes hidden, sometimes visible. Mumbai is unstoppable. It has shed the shock of that nightmare.
However, life has changed beyond recognition for many in this maximum city. For them those deathly moments have been etched into their minds and frozen there for ever.
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There are empty spaces in many Mumbai homes - spaces once lived by dear ones. There are silences that were once living sounds of laughter and fun.
The pain of loss rises and ebbs like waves as memories of the bloody day return to haunt, particularly harder as the day nears once again.
Kavita Karkare, wife of slain chief of Maharashtra Police's Anti-Terrorist Squad Hemant Karkare, carries on with her life, but in deafening silence within the family.
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"My children are still shocked. I see it whenever they speak of their father. But I have learned not to discuss anything related to the attacks with them. That keeps them peaceful," Karkare told IANS.
Kavita's two daughters - a software engineer in the US and a peace activist working for the UN in Vienna - seem to have taken the bitter dose in their stride.
But her 19-year-old son, a law student, is looking forward to fighting terror in his own way in the future.
"He doesn't discuss his ideas with me in detail; it is too painful for all of us. But I can clearly see him working hard, wanting to make a mark in his chosen sphere - like his father," Kavita said.
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For 31-year-old Baby Chowdhary, it is an everyday struggle. Baby's husband Shyamsunder used to work in a biscuit factory in suburban Vile Parle until he was gravely injured in a bomb blast that completely destroyed the taxi the Pakistani terrorists used during the 26/11 attack.
"My husband suffered multiple injuries and also developed a brain disability that left him paralysed. He still gets disturbed when he happens to accidentally watch bomb blast- related video clips or movies. He has become too sensitive and overalert," Baby said.
"There are times when he shudders and tears fill his eyes when he remembers the incident. He is flustered all the more because he cannot speak. We try to pacify him as much as we can," she added.
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Thirty-three-year-old Bhisham Mansukhani, who escaped the attack at Taj Hotel, says it is the media that keeps reminding him of the attack. "Not many people in my social circle remind me of the horror of 26/11. But I do get agitated sometimes thinking of what happened then," he said.
Talking about the government's action - or inaction on the issue, as he calls it - Mansukhani feels completely at a loss for words.
"I feel our ministers can be described as sitting ducks whose luck will eventually run out. These talks about security against terrorist attacks being strengthened are merely tall claims," Mansukhani said.
Bharat Gujjar, 34, who used to man the counter at Leopold Cafe, however, feels life must go on.
"It is not easy to forget such an attack. But I feel it is pointless to keep thinking about it and let it affect you," Gujjar said.
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But Gujjar, who was hurt by the grenade blast at the cafe, says he has become more careful after the attack. "I cannot describe the thoughts I had started having when the grenade burst near me. I had to be operated upon and my stomach has 14 stitches," he said.
"I have now learned to survey any crowded place, train or bus before making myself comfortable there. This is the lesson I have learnt," he added.