Mumbai Returns to Life After Terrorist Attacks

Though scarred and traumatized by last week's terrorist attacks, this crowded, hyperactive city of 18 million cannot stay shut down for long.

Schools and businesses reopened Monday in Mumbai as residents of India's financial engine struggled to come to terms with the bloodshed.

"Mumbai is always like that. You can't stop Mumbai," said Vijay Raghav, a 25-year-old systems manager. "Had it happened in any other city in India, people would have shut down for two weeks at least. But Mumbai is unstoppable."

PHOTO ESSAY: India Terror Attacks (WARNING: Graphic Images)

The mourning for the 172 people killed in the three days of violence that started Wednesday night was not over, however.

The curb outside Leopold Cafe and Bar, one of the 10 attack sites, dripped with wax from flickering memorial candles. It reopened in the late afternoon and was soon packed.

Dozens of men with flowers and candles held a procession to the landmark Gateway of India arch, just outside the bullet- and grenade-scarred Taj Mahal hotel, where authorities finished the grim work of removing victims' bodies Monday.

Israeli emergency workers sorted through the shattered glass and splintered furniture to gather victims' body parts at a Jewish center besieged by the gunmen for two days. One of the men opened a prayer book amid the rubble and began to pray.

Jewelry stores, clothing shops and food kiosks in a winding side street near the Jewish center opened for the first time since the attack. But the normally bustling street was half empty, and business owners said customers were slow in returning to an area so close to the violence.

"Everybody is in shock still," said travel agent Lalji Gupta. "It will take time."

The city had virtually shut down during the attacks, with many people scared to leave their homes and entranced by the horrific spectacle playing out on their televisions.

By Monday, sidewalk vendors had reopened their stalls, the streets were choked with traffic and workday commuters again filled the mammoth CST train station, where two gunmen had walked from platform to platform Wednesday night coldly cutting down passengers.

Many paused on their rush to their trains to read a blackboard leaning against a lamppost. In neat chalk letters, it told the story of the attack and commemorated the dozens killed. One woman choked back tears as she turned away.

Abhishek Bindal said he had little choice but to reopen Re-Fresh, the fast food restaurant in the station he partially owns, even though its glass wall is scarred with bulletholes, half his staff refused to come back and his brother is on a ventilator in the intensive care unit after being shot in the abdomen.

Rent for the prime restaurant space in the station was heavy, he said, and he needed the money.

"For how long should we keep it shut?" he asked.

Rajesh Sharma, a 30-year-old bank employee, said he didn't hesitate to use the train station.

"Life has to go on, and we need to play our part and go about our normal lives," he said.

Dozens of police patrolled the station, some armed with rifles and wearing helmets and camouflaged bulletproof vests.

"That will last for a week or two," Marathe Swarali, 20, a college student, said of the increased security, echoing many who said that previous attacks on the city have led to little action to improve safety.

Wedding planners across the city said many of their clients postponed their celebrations, while others scaled them back, canceling fireworks displays and orchestras. Some families were forced to sharply cut back as guests canceled, said wedding planner Nikhil Bhide.

"It's left an impact on people and people are scared to go into the Mumbai area," he said.

Rekha Khanduri, headmistress of a Mumbai high school, said the school held an assembly Monday to discuss the attacks and her teachers received training in how to answer student's questions about the violence.

"We are trying to cope with this ourselves and also help the children cope with it. They have a lot of questions. But what answers can we give?" she said.

Many students and teachers wanted to quickly return to their normal school routine in hopes of drowning out the tragedy with work, Khanduri said.

"Getting back to normal life is the only sane and practical way of getting our sanity back," she said. "But, of course, we will never forget."