My wife, son were at the Oberoi 26/11: Om Puri

By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Dec 6 (IANS) Actor Om Puri considers himself extremely lucky as his wife and young son had left Mumbai's Oberoi Trident Hotel just 10 minutes before the Nov 26 terror attacks began.

"My wife and son missed the terror attack at the Oberoi by 10 minutes. If they had stayed on for even a few minutes more they'd have been caught in the crossfire," shudders Om Puri, currently shooting the US.

"They're safe for now. But who knows about tomorrow? Fortunately my wife told me about how close they came to the terror attack after it was over. Otherwise I don't know how I'd have reacted and what I'd have done from so far away."

Om admits it's an immensely grim situation. He has been constantly watching the images of violence, horror and aggression from Mumbai on television in the US.

And he's disturbed. "Why are people in Mumbai blaming the Pakistanis? Those were 10 madmen with no religion or nationality. It's wrong at this time when tempers are running high to play the blame game. Haven't the Pakistanis faced a similar attack on one of their posh hotels in Pakistan just a month ago?

"We should avoid all provocative and inflammatory suggestions. Look at that innocent little Israeli boy who lost both his parents. Suppose he grows up to become a terrorist avenging his parent's brutal death? It's very important for us to understand why they're doing what they're doing. Otherwise these attacks will never stop."

Om Puri has nothing but contempt for politicians who under-reacted at the time of Mumbai's worst crisis. "And I don't only mean Maharashtra's politicians like R.R. Patil who made that stupid remark about the 26/11 attack being a small matter. I also think it's naive for central ministers including the prime minister to visit Mumbai at a time like this. Please, we don't need them to come and hold victims' hands in the hospital and touch the cheek of the casualties' children.

"Central ministers coming to Mumbai when the city is on red alert means the entire administrative and security bandobast is diverted to the VVIP from Delhi. We don't need this kind of diversion. We need to stay focused and sane. And safe. And we must avoid this blame game. Ussne kiya, issne kiya..."

Om is also disgusted by Ram Gopal Varma's visit to the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel. "Why did he go? Did he go there to collect material for a film he wants to make? If so why didn't he use his imagination? So many contemporary filmmakers have made films on the Nazi Holocaust. They didn't have to visit concentration camps, did they?"

The actor who has played a Pakistani in the acclaimed international films "My Son The Fanatic" and "East Is East", feels it's premature to rejoice about Obama's presidential triumph in the fight against global terrorism.

"Let's see what he does," Om has his fingers crossed, and not only until Dec 14 when he returns to Mumbai to be with his wife and son.

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