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Mumbai shock waves hit Artesia

Expatriates of Indian city react with grief and dismay to news of terrorism back home.

November 27, 2008|Raja Abdulrahim | Abdulrahim is a Times staff writer.

Bharat Shetty sat in the Kabob Corner restaurant in Artesia on Wednesday and watched the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai burn.

"This place is so beautiful," he said, as he watched CNN footage of the terrorist attacks that killed at least 78 people and injured more than 200 others. "When we were in college we used to go hang out there. There was a disco on top."

Shetty, who left Mumbai for the United States in 1989, said he was in the city last November and stopped by for a beer at the massive Victorian-style hotel. He said he recognized many of the locations that were targeted by the gunmen as the images flashed on the television screen: Cafe Leopold, the Oberoi Hilton, the railway terminal and the Taj Mahal hotel.

His daughter in Boston called to check on him: "Dad, how do you feel?" she asked.

"I feel sad," he said.

Shetty, 49, was one of several patrons and merchants in Artesia's Little India on Wednesday who expressed grief and dismay about attacks directed at U.S. and British tourists.

Shetty said he had spoken to his mother, who lives in northern Mumbai far from the attacks, about an hour before the violence erupted. He said none of his family lived near the commercial district where the attacks occurred.

Next to Shetty was Vankatesh Koka, 39, manager of the Little Indian Village shopping center. After hearing of the attacks, Koka tried calling his friends in Mumbai a few times before he finally got through.

"It's crazy," he said. "I guess India is growing and they're trying to stop it from happening. By doing something like this, foreigners won't go to the country."

Smita Salgaonkar, who owns the adjacent Saffron Spot, an ice cream and snack shop, said she got a call about 8:30 a.m. from her daughter in Mumbai who is finishing her senior year of high school. Salgaonkar hadn't yet heard about the attacks and her daughter wanted to let her mother know she was safe.


Times staff writer Ruben Vives contributed to this report.

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