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Steadfast, Mumbai begins picking up the pieces

Witnesses return defiantly to a favored haunt, amid dismay at massive security failures.

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Leopold's Café, the first target of Wednesday's terrorist attacks, crawled back to life Sunday.

The bullet pockmarks on the wall were crudely patched, and the regular customers were waiting as Leopold's shutters were rolled up, amid a cheering crowd, for the first time since terrorists opened fire here last week, killing 10 people.

"We need to prove to terrorists that we've won and they've lost," says Ferhan Farzad Jehani, the defiant owner of Leopold's – a favorite among locals and foreign backpackers alike, especially after it got several mentions in "Shantaram," a popular novel loosely based on the life of author Gregory Roberts.

Leopold's, located in a teeming market in the heart of Mumbai (Bombay), has been a daily stop for a middle-aged man named Lawrence, who is not comfortable giving out his last name. He arrived at the cafe just minutes after the shootout Wednesday.

"Backpackers come here with dog-eared copies of 'Shantaram,' " says Lawrence. "The attack was meant to shoo them away. But I hope and pray that won't happen."

On Sunday, Lawrence returned to Leopold's, where he ordered a steaming hot chelo kabab, a Persian delicacy made of mutton fillets, served with rice.

Although more were killed in the 1993 serial bombings that hit India, the terror attack last week is being touted as "India's 9/11."

The style and magnitude of the attack is unprecedented, many say. Mumbai has earlier endured bombings on commuter trains and public places, but this is perhaps the first time that gun-wielding men have stormed streets and posh hotels, indiscriminately opening fire on innocent civilians.

"This is the worst terror attack in India," says Ram Puniyani, the secretary of the All India Secular Forum, a nongovernmental organization. "There's widespread shock, but the city is known to bounce back."


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