But the Karachi-Gujarat-Mumbai route makes sense. A Gujarati friend explains to me that there is an enormous amount of illegal commerce between Pakistan and India in the north of his state. Fisherman from each country routinely go back and forth to quiet beaches across the border. This is the prime smuggling route for heroin and cocaine on its way from Afghanistan to consumers in Mumbai. The trade is said to be controlled by Dawood Ibrahim, the Mumbai mafia boss who fled to the Gulf in the early 1970s and became a major backer of Islamist terrorism. He was said to have arranged the 1993 bomb attacks on Mumbai in revenge for anti-Muslim riots the year before. To Indian fury, he now operates out of Karachi.
Martin, a European banker who has lived here for three years, one of them in a suite at the Taj, takes me to a late dinner in an apartment on exclusive Malabar Hill. The apartment, on the top floor of a newly-built high-rise, is owned by the ex-wife of a prominent businessman. She looks like a Bollywood star, in jeans and a tight T-shirt. Everybody in the room has been watching TV almost continuously since Wednesday night. Our hostess says that it's making her depressed. We are all relieved that the Oberoi has now been cleared, though there are said to be dozens of bodies in its restaurants and the operation was delayed by the loss of the master key.
The terrorist captured on Wednesday night is now allegedly talking to the authorities. He is the same young man whose clean-shaven face appeared on the front pages of all the papers this morning, snapped while gunning down people at VT station and before taking part in an ambush that killed three top police officers in a single devastating blow.
The overall mood is feverish. Everyone at the dinner knows several people who were at one of the attacked restaurants. All of them know J, a young woman who is now in a coma in hospital. She had been at the Taj for her brother's birthday party. He was killed along with their parents and sister. It's important to understand the five-star hotels' place in Indian society. They are social and business hubs in a way that is hard for outsiders to appreciate. The Indian elite comes to them for luxury, comfort, calm and space. There is no equivalent in the UK or US. Attacking them is like simultaneously attacking every event of the English social season, every gentleman's club and the top ten restaurants in London, starting with The Ivy. India's best restaurants are still to be found in them and just about all the people I speak to here and in New Delhi know someone who was in one of the restaurants at the Taj or the Oberoi. All have eaten in them many times themselves.
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