Mumbai: Construction activities at Nariman House, one of the sites which bore the scars of 26/11 Mumbai attack, are in full swing ahead of the memorial service to be held there on the first anniversary of the strike.
“The restoration works started last Saturday after we were awarded the contract on Tuesday. We have been asked to complete the work before 26 November as they are going to hold some candle light vigil,” the construction in-charge said.
The five-storey building, also known as Chabad House in Colaba in south Mumbai, stands as a mute testimony to the two-day terror siege with walls of its rooms and passageways pockmarked by hundreds of bullets and splinters from grenades.
“The temporary construction would be completed before 26 November after which complete restoration work would be taken up,” he said as workers went about the job at a furious pace removing shards and slabs of plaster to ready the place.
However, on the bustling street below, life goes on as usual with fitness buffs pumping iron in a gymnasium and children immersed in a lively gully cricket match, forgetful of the tragedy that will perhaps remain etched on Mumbai’s psyche forever.
Nariman House, a Jewish outreach center run by Chabad-Lubavitch Movement having an educational center and a synagogue, offered drug prevention services and stay to the people of their faith.
It was run by Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivika, who had come to Mumbai in 2003 to serve the local Jewish community.
On November 26 last year, two Pakistani terrorists had seized the building around 9:45 pm and almost 45 hours later, when the deafening rat-a-tat of gunfire and grenade blasts died down, six of its Jewish occupants, including Rabbi Gavriel and five-month pregnant Rivka, were no more. The two terrorists — Babar Imran and Nasir alias Abu Umer — also died in an encounter with NSG personnel.
However, Moshe, the two-year-old son of Holtzbergs, was saved by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel and the family’s handyman-cum-cook Qazi Zakir Hussain alias Jackie, a Muslim.
Moshe now lives in Israel with his grandparents and Sandra moved with him to take care of the orphaned child. The Israeli government honoured her with the title of ‘Righteous Gentile´, the highest award presented to non-Jews, and allowed her an extended stay in the country.
Among those dead was 50-year-old Norma Shvartzblat Rabinovich, who was at Nariman house waiting for her immigration papers to be ready to enable her to board a flight on December one to Tel Aviv to be with her family for her son’s 18th birthday.