A city recovers from terror: Naman Pugalia '09 shares his Mumbai diary

Naman Pugalia '09

Over the semester break, Naman Pugalia '09 returned home to Mumbai, India with a mission—he wanted to his help his native city recover from last November's terror attacks. Before the break, Puglia joined with other members of the Brandeis community to form "Revive Mumbai," a group that aims to promote social harmony, support the families of those adversely affected by the attacks, assist in the reconstruction of targeted buildings such as Mumbai’s Chabad house, and establish a scholarship for underprivileged scholars from south Asia. In the diary entry below, Pugalia writes about how the city has responded in the wake of tragedy—and how residents responded when he told them that the Brandeis community wanted to help.

I landed in Mumbai on Dec. 19. Unsurprisingly, the city was as warm and exciting as ever. The scars of Nov. 26 were almost invisible and anxiety—if at all present—was hardly palpable. Much has been said about Mumbai’s resilience, which takes centre stage in the aftermath of every such attack. The bitter truth is that this resilience is nothing more than euphemism for apathy.

I met several officials of the Mumbai Police in order to gauge their sentiment and to offer monetary assistance to the families of their deceased colleagues on behalf of Brandeis. While they were baffled to learn about Brandeis’ response, they politely declined the offer as the central and state governments and the local business community has offered adequate support. Their bewilderment was a strange combination of joy and irony. They were delighted to learn that a community a few thousand miles away from where they are had responded in the manner that we have. A sense of incongruity prevails as they wonder why they are cared for only post-martyrdom.

I also met Rabbi Goldberg of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. Rabbi Goldberg has replaced Rabbi Holtzberg and is leading the reconstruction efforts. He and his colleagues were delighted to learn about Brandeis’ initiative and requested me to convey their gratitude to the community. They were given a banner, which contained messages of peace inscribed by members of the Brandeis community. Revive will be contacting the Chabad headquarters in New York, via Rabbi Chein, in order to design a program which will allow Brandeis students to travel to India this summer in order to assist with the reconstruction efforts.

Finally, I met with officials of the American Center, a subsidiary of the Department of State. They were excited to hear about our efforts and offered to assist us as when we might need their help. They echoed the sentiments of Rabbi Goldberg and his colleagues in appreciating Brandeis’ magnanimity.

Back on campus, charged by the encouragement we have received from various quarters, Revive: is working hard to realize its goals. We are committed to raising the $50,000 needed to establish the proposed scholarship and are looking forward to establishing an opportunity for those interested in participating in the Chabad house reconstruction efforts. Of course, none of our missions can be accomplished without your support.

For more information about "Revive Mumbai," check out the group's blog.

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