Back at work, with caution in step

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By SATISH JOHN in Mumbai
  • Published 26.08.03

Mumbai, Aug. 26: Khordad Saal, birthday of Prophet Zarathustra, is usually celebrated with much gusto and gaiety by Parsis. But there was little of that on display today.

Instead, on the prophet’s birthday, life began anew for Mumbaikars.

There was a holiday today at Bombay House, headquarters of the Tata group, to mark Khordad Saal. But at the five-star Taj Mahal hotel owned by the group, employees were hard at work.

They were not hanging festoons and decorating the hotel to celebrate the birthday, but instead clearing glass shards, metal parts and more importantly, rebuilding confidence.

“Except for the remnant of one car, the rest have been cleared,” said Ravi Dubey, vice-president of Indian Hotels. “The front foyer has been reopened and we are back in business.”

“There have been no cancellations so far. None of the guests have cancelled bookings nor have overseas advance bookings been cancelled”, Dubey said.

At Zaveri Bazaar, it was business as usual. Navin Mehta, president of the Bombay Diamond Merchant Association, said Mumbaikars will be more vigilant. “I have told my members to be more careful,” he said.

At five-star hotels, private security guards frisked visitors, including, at times, women laden with pearls and diamonds. “Excuse me, can I see your handbag,” asked a security official, to the surprise of society ladies.

Frisking will be more laborious and time consuming in the crowded diamond markets. Mehta said: “I have instructed our officials to be strict. I have instructed our security agencies to allow entry into our main trading hall only to those with identity cards. We are also devising ways to get diamond merchants to have I-cards for our couriers and workers.”

“Terrorism is an international phenomena. Our friends in (the global diamond market of) Tel Aviv also suffer like us. In fact, there it is a more frequent occurrence,” Mehta said.

Indian Overseas Bank went ahead with their conference to unveil their second public offer of shares.

But there were a few visible cracks in resilient Mumbai. Trains were less crowded than usual and some news conferences, including that of Infosys and Orient Technology, were cancelled.

The mood was rather different in the stock markets. It was the turn of brokers to roar back. A rash of reports from leading FIIs quelled any fears that foreign investors would harbour on the future of the Indian markets.

Foreign institutional investor J.P. Morgan was more forthcoming. Dissecting the mood in the Indian markets, JP Morgan’s Prabhat Awasthi and Ronie Ganguly in a daily report to clients, said: “Bomb blasts, though reprehensible, causing death to innocent victims, have now become a monthly feature of Mumbai. The resilience of the people of Mumbai in taking such events in their stride is indeed strong as is witnessed by the fact that business and life continues as usual here in Mumbai.”

“The fact that the rightwing Shiv Sena party has not called a general strike is a positive for the market. It is usually these general strikes that inflame communal tension leading to nervousness in the markets,” they added, revealing what they are really afraid off.

“We continue to be buyers in the market, though there could be some minor volatility in the short term,” the report added. Investors would drink to that.