Friday, June 5, 2009

For Whom the bell tolls

HipHop Grandma's post stirred my mind. Like all of us, I have experienced fear after taking a wrong turn on the road or waiting for someone too long. However, many of these fears got diminished with time, maturity and understanding of the situations.

One of my worst nightmares was what I experienced on Nov 1 1984 in New Delhi. The day before, Oct 31 1984 had started out just as any other normal day. At that time and even now my parents live in West Delhi, which has huge Punjabi and Sikh population. I was studying in Grade 4 in school run by a retired Sikh military officer. A year before, my brother had left the school to join a middle school. All of us - my parents, my brother and I used to leave and come home in four different times. We all had spare home keys with us but usually it was me or my mom who would come home first. Few months back our house had got burgled and I developed a fear of entering the house alone. I was able to overcome that fear with time. Hence, many times I would sit in my neighbor’s house waiting for my mom to return and then enter my home.

In the afternoon of On Oct 31, which was a Wednesday, I was sitting in a bamboo chair outside my neighbor’s verandah and doing my homework. I remembered I forgot to get my Moral Science work book from the school after the teacher had corrected it. Just then my mom arrived in an autorickshaw and her face was tensed. She greeted my neighbor and asked her if she knew the news. My neighbor nodded and my mom hurried me home. I understood that the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was assassinated. My mom had heard of some disturbing violence in few places in Delhi. My brother and dad arrived at their usual time home that evening. But the atmosphere in the neighborhood was apprehensive. Nobody could comprehend what an assassination of a Prime Minister would mean. I told my mom about my work book but she mentioned that I would not be going to school for couple of days as they had declared national mourning.

On Nov 1 1984, the newspapers were filled with news about Indira Gandhi and the future of India. After brunch, I was sitting with my parents in their bedroom. My brother was in the next room. My dad was reading the newspaper. I don't remember what my mom was doing exactly but I was reading a book and actually enjoying a sudden vacation in the middle of the week. I had not fully understood how grim the situation was. Suddenly we heard a faint shouting. The cry seemed to become stronger every second. Then my brother came into the room we were all in and all of us went to the front door, opening the door slightly. Our neighbors were also outside. We did not understand what was happening till we saw a huge mob emerging from the nearby streets. This huge crowd surrendered the last house in our street. That house belonged to a Sikh family. Thankfully, the family had escaped the previous evening. The mob broke into the house and took away every thing they found and finally burnt the house.

I was terrified and nobody had any answer. My parents were speechless by such human atrocity. The policemen were standing and staring and did not do anything to curtail the mob's actions. In the evening, we heard that my school was also burnt down. I believe my workbook must have also been reduced to ashes. The next few days were horrific. We heard and saw so much human hatred that I thought the world would come to an end. The sky was dark and gloomy with smoke. I never went back to that school. I joined my brother in his school in the middle of the year.

With years, things slowly returned back to normalcy. In our colony, they built a temple, Gurudwara and Church next to each other to promote communal brotherhood. I have never got answers to such horrific act but they get repeated often in some form in every part of the world. I don’t know how all these would end. But it made me realize to respect the only religion that should prevail the world - humanity.

9 comments:

Ugich Konitari said...

That must have been a terrible thing to witness as a young schoolgoing kid. I often think we grew up thinking such things happened only in history books. Today's kids see things happening in real time on TV. You would think that we humans would learn something..... But year after year it repeats itself, somewhere....

But surely, that some folks can get together, plan something to unify the locality, and see it through is an encouraging sign...

P. S. Seeing you posting after a long time..

Hip Grandma said...

we only read abut this but you actually experienced it.scary even for a fourth grader i must say.

Suma said...

that must have been scary to a young mind!

you must pen it down somewhere in more detail, what you felt, your thoughts, your fears...(a day of your life which is now mentioned in history books -your daughter and others may want to read it someday)

Meira said...

I was too young then and don't remember the riots too well. But we were in delhi too and my parents have similar terrible memories. Listening to such incidents is itself so painful.
Hugs

Joy said...

Ugich Ji: Yes, it was terrible. The mobs had also rioted my school. Later I could see girls from "not so well off" families wearing socks and also carrying notebooks with my school name printed. That was heart breaking. I guess we are slowly learning.. Communal tolerance is developing.

HHG: Your post kindled my mind. I For a month I have been trying to write a post and reading yours helped me. And yes it was scary. That was when Delhi came under terror attack.

Suma: Thanks for the suggestion. I should. There are more things that I remember. I should pen them down.

Meira: Everybody in Delhi at that time had similar experiences. Yes it was bad and thankfully everyone became more tolerant to each other....

Archana Bahuguna said...

Incidentally, although we lived in Rajasthan at that time, we were in Delhi on that day. I remember that day and night very well too! Very weird and scary.

ceedy said...

Wow...memories like these haunt you forever. Good that you wrote them down...hopefully it helped.

Joy said...

Arc: Yes. Very scary indeed.

Ceedy: Writing this has reminded me so many other things that happened. Maybe another post.

Cosmic Joy said...

The senseless killings of the sikh community back in 1984 is something each one of us "Indians" should be ashamed of. The Jalianwala massacre sounds pale in comparison to the 1984 rioting.

I clearly remember that time, as we were visiting Haridwar and we had to stay there for a week until things calmed down. I too was a school-boy back then, and the one incident that I cannot ever forget is to see blood and cut-hair in the bathrooms of the train on our way back from Delhi to Bombay. I could only imagine the carnage that must have occured in those narrow compartments.

They say time heals all wounds. I really dont believe that is true, especially for those that are wounded. Some wounds never heal.