Worst luck ever: couple vacation in New York, London and Mumbai just as terrorists attack

The Sydney Times Herald is reporting the uncanny story of Mr. and Mrs. James and Jenny Cairns-Lawrence, a young couple from Dudley, United Kingdom, who seem to have a knack for choosing vacation spots where terrorists are about to strike: they have found themselves in New York, London and Mumbai during the exact times that each of the three cities were viciously attacked by terrorists.

Says Mrs. Cairns-Lawrence, “It’s a strange coincidence. The terror attacks just happened when we were in the cities. I shouldn’t be laughing about it, but it is a strange coincidence.”

Dude, remind me to check where these two are the next time I plan an international trip. And as one of my Gadling colleagues said, aren’t people like these usually called “persons of interest”?

When political gets personal. Reactions to Mumbai

Ever since the news came out about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, I’ve been reading about people’s personal experiences and reactions. They remind me of one reason why the World Trade Center made such an impact when the towers came crashing down, as well as why travel to distant places makes the world, and what happens in it, seem so much more relevant.

When the towers were attacked and the world reacted, it reminded me slightly of the reactions when Princess Diana died. The reactions weren’t the same, or for the same reason, but Diana’s death was one that had significance to people everywhere. There was an emotional connection. The towers and Princess Diana were symbolic in a way that that most recognize their importance. There are few events that hold the entire world’s attention.

When Princess Diana was killed in that awful car crash there was a riveting affect. People tuned in for days. The World Trade Center will never quite fade away. Can’t you still see it’s shadow whenever you see the skyline of Manhattan and recognize where they should be? Then there are the people who were lost who will remain forever as a part of a shared history that we haven’t been able to set aside because how can we?

In other circumstances, when images aren’t so iconic, but other dreadful events occur in the world outside the boundaries of our day to day existence, we might say, “How dreadful,” when we look at the TV screen, but then go about pouring ourselves a cup of coffee, or wonder if we have enough clothes to last a few more days–or do we need to do a load of laundry after all?

When I heard about the troubles with terrorism in Mumbai, I felt connected somewhat because of my own experiences in India and because I have friends who are living there. They could very well be in Mumbai right now. The places that have been targeted are the very places they might have gone. But, I am still a bit distracted from Mumbai from my Thanksgiving feast and the fact that I am in Cleveland and heading to Denmark in a few days.

Others, though, have had a much more dramatic reaction because they were just in Mumbai–or they are there now. For them, there isn’t a distraction. One account is by Carl Hoffman, a contributing editor of Intelligent Travel. Hoffman was recently in Mumbai at the Leopold Cafe and Bar, one of the establishments where patrons were attacked. At the time of the attack, Hoffman was safely in New Delhi, but the news has carried personal meaning. I’m sure he can picture each table, the ambiance and where he sat. Perhaps he can still taste his drink or what he ate.

Another account that caught my attention is Steve Simms’ story. His story was told by someone else in this New Zealand Herald article. Simms is staying in a hotel across the street from the Taj Palace and was watching it burn. Normally, Simms stays in the Taj Palace, but there weren’t rooms when he arrived so he stayed across the street. From his hotel room at the time the article was written, he could see the window of the room where he normally stayed in the Taj Palace.

Both of these men’s accounts is an indication of what happens when you travel. You have a personal response to a place that does not fade easily.

When we travel, places no longer remain abstract. It becomes harder to just do our laundry or have that cup of coffee. When we hear the news in the world, every place has aspects of the Twin Towers or Princess Diana. As the world becomes smaller, disasters in the far away corners of the world feel as if they are in our own backyard.

Reading their accounts is one way that we can find out that we do care after all, and whether the laundry gets done or not is not particularly important. Right now there are places in Mumbai that may or may not be the same–ever.

Of course, there are the other people who have never been to India, but who are forever connected, even though they may never set foot in Mumbai. They are the people like those in Brooklyn who are anxiously waiting to see if their beloved Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka are safe. This rabbi and his wife are among the hostages. Their two year-old son and his nanny escaped. [see New York Times article.] For them, the connection to Mumbai is personal, although they may have no idea about the significance of the Taj Palace.

Mayhem in Mumbai and why not living in India seems safer

This time six years ago, I was pregnant and living in New Delhi, India. On one of my journeys to a sonogram appointment, the taxi passed by one of the Indian government buildings where terrorists had attempted an attack that day. The camera crews and reporters were just leaving.

Later at the doctor’s office, as I saw a clear image of my son thanks to 3-D technology, the curve of his nose and the way his hand rested against his cheek showed the contrast between his life on the inside and what life felt like on the outside. There was a sharp division.

Generally, I see the world as a safe place. Even when we continued to live in India, the various incidents of unrest did not startle us much. We went about our lives like most people do. We worked, visited with friends and took interesting trips to various places where I never felt unease.

Since we left India, two places we used to go regularly in New Delhi have been bombed. Orissa, a state we visited before we moved to India has been fraught with religious unrest.

Now, with the latest hostage situation and killings in Mumbai–a place we did not get a chance to visit but planned to if we had not moved back to the U.S, the division between safety and danger seems all that more acute.

I’m certain that if we were still living in India, we’d be going about our business as usual and we would probably be on a Thanksgiving weekend away somewhere at this moment. Perhaps, we’d be staying at one of our favorite raj palaces turned into a hotel surrounded by countryside with nothing but tiny villages for miles.

Still, the news coming out of India gives me the feeling that sometimes, as mundane as home may seem, home feels like a blessing.

Then again, it’s always good to travel to remind oneself, that in most cases, the world is safe despite the news.

[This article posted 2 hours ago in the Business Standard says that the hostage situation is under control. The photo is of the Taj Palace burning.]

Gadling Take FIVE: Week of Nov. 15—Nov. 21

Where I’m sitting winter has arrived. Snow flurries and windchill. Brrrr. Now that winter looks like it’s settling in, let’s see if anyone has come up with places to that are warmer.

  • Brenda’s post on the drop in tourism in Hawaii. and what there is to do in this tropical paradise this time of year, ought to be reason enough for a person to rethink the budget and see if Hawaii is doable after all.
  • Meg suggests sitting in the scariest swimming pool ever–Devil’s Pool at the top of Victoria Falls
  • Jeffery pointed out that Cuba knows how to treat its 2 millionth tourist--with an ice-cold mojito and a salsa band
  • Along with the warning that snacks in India could cost more than you counted on, Josh sounded a warning to be careful of the party scene in Mumbai–you could find yourself drug tested.
  • And, although New Mexico is not THAT warm, the great thing about traveling here to ski is that it feels warm during the day when the sun is out–kind of. The best part is that the sun almost always shines in New Mexico. Every day. All day.

Mumbai’s Party Scene Takes a Hit

Mumbai’s rave scene has grown exponentially over the past few years. The influx of new money and the city’s urban flare make it a ripe place for a party. But don’t be confused, it ain’t Goa. The plentiful drugs and thumping bass of the former Portuguese colony and hippy hangout will never be duplicated in India’s largest city. That is, as long as the authorities have something to say about it.

Police in Mumbai raided a party in a restaurant outside the city called Bombay 72 Degree East. Not only was everyone in possession of narcotics arrested, but everyone was tested for drugs. Over 100 people, almost half the attendees, tested positive. Among the arrests: the son of Bollywood star Shakti Kapoor. Ecstasy and amphetamines were among the narcotics seized.

The punishment for getting high? Those whose tests came back positive can volunteer to undergo some sort of rehab program or face up to one year in jail. Would-be Mumbai partiers, consider yourselves warned. There is a chance (probably a very small chance) your night of dancing and drugging in Mumbai could end up like this: you peeing in a cup and wondering if your friends can find an ATM and withdrawal enough for bail.

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