Mumbai attack sites draw tourists, inspire comics
MUMBAI (Reuters) - Fancy a painting depicting the horror of last November's attacks in Mumbai? How about a comic book with superheroes taking on the Islamist militants, or a coffee mug or music album as a tribute to the victims?
On the first anniversary of the attacks that killed 166 people, alongside the prayer meetings and candlelight vigils, are art shows, music launches, book deals and movies in the making, even tours of the sites by enterprising cab drivers and guides.
"Something changed, something was lost in those three days, and we wanted to capture that," said Jasmine Shah Varma, who curated an art exhibition titled "Nothing Will Ever Be The Same Again".
Works at the gallery, near the Taj Mahal Hotel that was attacked, included an oil on canvas of a gun-toting silhouette in red, and photographs of sinister masks on a beach, a reference to the 10 militants who came in a dinghy.
"After November 2008, the romanticised notion of Mumbai's seafront has changed. Now it reminds us of the terror that came via the sea," said Varma.
There are other reminders that one can wear, carry or drink from: "Forever Bombay" necklaces, with shiny threads and beads twisted to resemble the dome of the Taj Mahal Hotel that was attacked, as well as Mumbai handbags, with tassels and prints.
Mumbai is no stranger to bomb blasts, but the emotional and commercial outpouring since last November is unprecedented.
Enterprising cab drivers and guides, who once offered "Shantaram" and "Slumdog Millionaire" tours when the book and movie were hugely popular with tourists, now hawk 26/11 tours, with commentary of the police officer who fought a gunman with just his baton, and the nanny who saved the child of a rabbi.
Starting from the fisherman's colony where the 10 militants landed, the tour takes in the Jewish Centre, the main train station where gunmen killed the most number of victims, the Trident and Taj Mahal hotels, Cama Hospital and Leopold Cafe.
"All foreign tourists and even locals from remote towns come here. They want to pay homage," said Eric Anthony, manager at the cafe, where holes made by bullets still dot walls and windows.
At Leo's, as it is popularly known, visitors can buy a T-shirt or a book on the attacks. Mugs made for the anniversary were taken off the shelf after a regional Hindu fundamentalist group protested what it called commercialisation of the attacks.
The line between commercialisation and commemoration is one that Raj Comics has tried to walk carefully; it plans a series of titles featuring two of its superheroes taking on militants still holed up in Mumbai and saving the city's residents.
The first of these, launched in May, sold more than 100,000 copies, and the second launches later on Thursday.
"The challenge is to create a piece of work that wraps some of the issues in an enjoyable, fun reading experience," said Sanjay Gupta, Raj Comics' studio head.