Most of the city policemen milling around, their rifles and long sticks carried every which way, wear a kind of baffled expression, as if confused to be dragged away from the daily grind of traffic control and minor extortion. Although there is a siege going on, some concentrate on the media women: the attractive, slightly chunky female newsreaders from Indian TV or the blonde foreign reporters of a certain age in jeans or combat pants.
Suddenly, about a quarter of the press pack pick up their cameras and sprint down the street away from the Taj. There's more shooting at Victoria Terminus station, I'm told. It turns out to be pure rumour. Many of the shops that had been open this morning are shut by 1pm and people don't come back to work. In the Crawford Market area, there is talk not just of shooting but of rioting. Shoppers run into stores to hide from violence that never comes. In response, the government shuts down all TV broadcasts for 45 minutes.
I was living in Manhattan on 9/11 and remember the rumours that ricocheted around then - the most widely-repeated one after the planes hit the towers was that ten more had been hijacked. But they had dissipated by the end of the day. These attacks have already been going on for more than a day and a half, and as they draw on, unresolved, rumour seems to grow more powerful, fed by TV anchors who need to say something even when there is nothing new to report.
It doesn't help that there is no central command post briefing the press. The police, the army, the commandos that flew down from Delhi, the naval commandos and the state government have all been giving briefings both on and off the record. There is apparently a bureaucratic imperative for all of them to seem important or in charge.
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