Aimee Ginsburg in Open:
No one but me notices the petite, self-assured woman entering Leopold Café and making her way towards my table, two plastic carrybags in hand, her youthful wavy hair tied determinedly off a face that has grown lovelier since I last saw her. If they knew that she was Sandra Samuel, the Heroic Nanny of 26/11 Who Saved the Baby at Nariman House, everyone would crowd around, but, unrecognised, she negotiates her way smoothly past the round tables. When the waiter hands her a menu and pours her a glass of cool water, I can’t help but wonder: was he here at this Mumbai café when it happened? Does he relive those moments in an endless loop as well? Although I have prepared myself for the rush of memories and decided to staunchly ward them off until later in our meeting, I feel my vision split into two distinct fields, ‘now’ and ‘then’, the ‘then’ so real it would overtake the ‘now’ if not for the vibrant presence of this woman sitting by my side.
“Look what I have brought for you to see!” she announces merrily, pulling out two large framed pictures from her bag. One, a photo she has taken of ‘Moishe Baby’, in which he is tumbling on some greener than green grass, with squinty eyes, a delighted grin. The second is a drawing Moishe has made for her, of a house, grass, flowers and a sun, with ‘from Moishe to Sandra’ scrawled in childish Hebrew letters.
Sandra smiles in loving pride, but, simultaneously, I see her face as it was that day—gaunt, stark, her eyes so dry they threaten to crack open, sitting on the floor of our safe house in Mumbai, in the same clothes she’d been wearing in the three days since it happened; endless days of caring for Baby and praying, hoping, dreading the final news that I have now delivered. Moishe, crying by her side for ima (mommy). She, pressing her cheeks hard, exclaiming in disbelief, “Both?” “How can it be both? No, no, it is not possible, it cannot be both.” Then, she collects herself, looks out the window, and says: “We must not scare the baby, we must stay calm.” More: