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Mumbai's Children Cope With Terror Attacks

  • Raymond Thibodeaux

With schools closed during the terror attacks in Mumbai, many of the city's children stayed indoors during the three-day siege, watching tragedy unfold on television. Now that schools have opened, some children are finding it difficult to focus on their studies, but many are glad to be back to the comfort of routines. Raymond Thibodeaux has this report from Mumbai.

Here at the Bharada New High School, the classrooms are once again alive with the sound of children. There are about 1,500 students at this school. It is across the street from Mumbai's main railway station, where gunmen launched attacks that killed 174 people and wounded more than 230 others in the city's longest-running terror attack.

Pooja Kumar, the school's principal, said, "Even the grownups are not feeling very normal. I also come by the [rail] station and, even as I was putting my foot down on the platform, there was some apprehension. A number of our children come that way. They must have also felt the same way I feel."

"It is like I cannot concentrate on any of my work," said Shweta Singh, a 16-year-old senior at the school. "Now, I am feeling that I want to go home because that is the only safe places for us. God knows what will happen tomorrow."

Fifteen-year-old Maiz Indorewala says he is finding comfort in the familiar routines of school. He says being back in school helps him cope by keeping him from dwelling on the attacks. He also says going back to school sends a message to those who carried out the attack against the city.

"I was very afraid, with all the violence and bloodshed, that make our minds fearful right now. We have to show them that we are not afraid of them. We show them that we are back at work and at schools and offices," he said.

As with many other principals at the more than 400 schools across the city, Kumar says she has been busier than usual, on the school's intercom, trying to maintain calm and to reassure the children that they are safe.

"My message to the children - I'm going to make an announcement to the children and ask them not to be afraid. Nothing is going to happen. Just be brave. Whatever has to happen will happen one day. Life has to go on. Children have to study. We have to earn our bread. Everyone has to go back to work," Kumar said.

On a chalkboard on the entrance hall of the school, some of the day's news headlines are written out in white chalk, in perfect cursive script. One of them reads, "Police question the captured gunman." Another reads, "Mumbai back to life," punctuated by a smiley-face sun.

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