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Mumbai stops in its tracks to remember

Mumbai Bureau

People stood quietly on roads and pavements as 270 sirens across the city went off a minute before 6.25 p.m.

PHOTO: VIVEK BENDRE

A WEEK AFTER: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Tuesday led the nation in paying homage to the July 11 Mumbai train blast victims by observing a two-minute silence and placing a wreath at 6.25 p.m., the time the first explosion occurred at the Mahim station. The entire city came to a standstill as 270 sirens wailed for a minute to signal the homage.

MUMBAI: At rush hour on Tuesday evening, Mumbai stood still for two minutes — in memory of the 181 persons who died on July 11 when powerful serial bombs ripped apart compartments on seven trains on Mumbai's Western Railway suburban line.

People stood quietly on roads and pavements, cars and buses stopped, trains in transit came to a halt and cable operators switched off telecasts as 270 sirens across the city went off a minute before 6.25 p.m., the precise time of the first blast that took place between Khar and Santacruz stations exactly a week ago.

The Western Railways erected memorials at all seven stations. The President placed a wreath at Mahim, while hundreds of people lined up silently at the other stations to place flowers on the memorials and bow their heads as they remembered that day of terror.

— Photo: PTI

A SILENT TRIBUTE: People observe a two-minute silence on the D. N. Road in Mumbai on Tuesday to pay homage to the victims of the serial train blasts.

Mahim station was spruced up for the President's visit. The street outside was cleared of all traffic despite it being peak hour. However, at the other railway stations, no such effort was made. Thousands of daily commuters waited as usual to catch their regular trains — slow or fast.

"I am waiting for the train. A week ago also I was waiting for the same train when I saw the blast happening right in front of us. First we thought it was some short circuit but as we leaned and saw all the bodies, we realised it was an explosion," said R.K. Bhat waiting at Matunga Road station located next to Mahim.

He normally catches the Virar fast at 6.30 p.m. On Tuesday, like several others, he chose to miss it as silence descended on the station. Barring one train that entered the station, no other train passed for the next two minutes.

A hush fell over the normally chaotic rush hour crowd at Churchgate Station, where last Tuesday's trains originated. People stood quietly, some with their eyes closed, others with their hands joined in prayer. Students from a local college held signs that read: "Mumbai Tujhe Salaam," and "Our Vigil is Our Safety."

"I hope God gives the families of the dead some peace and courage to fight back. People should help ease each other's pain," said Ramakant Dayama, 50.

Earlier, commuters leaving from Churchgate Station said they still felt afraid.

"People are scared, but they have to come to work," said Milind Kavathkar, 38, who got off a Virar-bound train right before a bomb exploded in one of its first-class carriages.

He said he was more careful now. He looked around for suspicious packages and questioned passengers he did not recognise.

"There could always be more attacks," said Lokesh Suvarna, 46, who lost colleagues in last Tuesday's attacks and was travelling on the same train as Mr. Kavathkar.

"But to change to second class or not to take the train would tell the terrorists they defeated us." Mr. Suvarna said he left early last Tuesday or he would have been in the first class compartment that exploded. Although his mother told him to take the next day off, he refused. "We should never let the terrorists think we fear them."

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