Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ratan Tata on Terror

CAPE TOWN, South Africa - I came to this city of 3.5 million people to attend the opening of the new 5-star Taj Hotel Cape Town, a splendid, business-minded property that blends two renovated heritage buildings with a glassy new tower.

In the process, I heard unexpected words on terror and travel from a global business leader who knows about both. He is Ratan Tata, the chairman of Tata & Sons, the huge Indian conglomerate that builds cars, makes steel and does a number of other things. Tata is a very big family business that started at the turn of the 20th century in what was then Bombay (today's Mumbai) with a single hotel: the Taj Mahal Palace.

That Taj was one of the Mumbai targets attacked by terrorists in November 2008 and partly destroyed. I stayed there a year later, while repairs and renovation were still going on and the original 1903 building was still closed to guests. It reopened last month.

In Cape Town for the opening of the new Taj, Tata had a rare meeting with reporters and spoke about the attack - and the determined response to it.

"We saw lives being taken,'' he said. "We saw the hotel burning. We decided to rebuild it brick by brick. It was an emotional time. We lost 31 people. We were able to overcome, and rebuild even better. It came out beautiful.

"It was a statement of defiance,'' Tata said. "You couldn't knock Bombay down.''

Amen to that. Continuing on in the face of menace - and taking precautions while doing so - is the only appropriate response to terrorists. Simply put, you don't let them win.

They couldn't knock Bombay down.

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