On the evening of November 26, 2008, Devika Rotawan was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, when she was shot in the leg by Ajmal Kasab; the barely 10-year-old girl became the youngest and one of the first witnesses to testify against the Pakistani terrorist. On Tuesday, Rotawan took the stage at the fourth edition of the 26/11 Stories of Strength event, hosted by The Indian Express to mark the 11th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks.
“Eleven years have passed, but I can never forget that terrible night,” she said, before observing a minute’s silence for the victims of the attacks. The audience rose to their feet, many bowing their heads in remembrance.
Earlier, playback singer Divya Kumar joined the Indian Navy Band for a performance of A R Rahman’s “Bharat humko jaan se pyaara hai” from Roja; they paused for a dazzling two-helicopter flypast by the Navy.
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They first unfurled the Indian flag, while commandos dangled from the second rotorcraft, holding coloured torches that made a Tricolour over the monument.
Kumar was one of several musical acts that took place during the course of the evening. The Maharashtra Police Pipe Band kicked off the memorial event with a spirited performance, followed by the Indian Navy Band.
Harshdeep Kaur was joined by a group of young and talented singers as she performed “Luka chhupi”, Rahman’s emotional hit from Rang De Basanti. It set the tone for Shilpa Rao’s beautiful and moving rendition of “Ek lau” from the film, Aamir, before her band gently segued into “Yeh honsla” from Dor.
These songs of bravery and endurance were flanked by videos of survivors, their families, and harked at a larger message of love and tolerance.
The musical acts continued with classical vocalist Mahesh Kale’s stunning performance; Rekha Bharadwaj’s Sufi-inspired ode to peace and love; and a full-family performance by violin virtuoso, Dr L Subramaniam and his wife, Kavita Krishnamurthy, with their children Bindu and Ambi Subramaniam.
The most rousing applause of the evening, unsurprisingly, was reserved for Amitabh Bachchan. Combining poetry and choreography, the actor joined dancers from the Shiamak Davar Dance Academy in a performance that explored the reasons why India is “saare jahaan se acchha”, with verses that spoke of religious tolerance and communal harmony, of India’s remarkable history, and most importantly, of a people who are one, in all the ways that matter.