Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October 31, 1984

We were in school when Indira Gandhi was killed on October 31, 1984.

It was just before school closing time and suddenly there seemed to be great panic everywhere and everyone was asked to go home except the few Sikh boys who required to be picked up by parents. We lived in West Delhi in a place called Paschim Vihar near Punjabi Bagh. That was the affluent Punjabi heartland of the City.

I remember feeling terrible that 2 Sikh bodyguards had killed her - she was quite a hero for me till that day. I came home quite oblivious to what was going to follow. My 2 younger brothers studied in a prominent Sikh school in west Delhi. They were home before me and were crying. A mob had set the school to fire. My father worked with RITES in Cannaught Place and my mother wept bitterly till he arrived home safely before it was dark. We lived on the ground floor on rent while the Sindhi Landlords lived on the first floor with their 2 little children. We locked the gate and shut the doors and windows and quietly sat inside wondering what was going on. There was news trickling in of Sikh families being killed, the local Gurudwara had already been attacked and burnt. In the evening my mom and I ventured out to get some milk and groceries from the local market. Everything was shut and there were a few cars fuming on the road. Must have been set to fire earlier that day. I was confused, neurotic and bitter. What the hell was going on.

That night the landlord requested us to vacate the house as soon as possible since they were scared that their building could be damaged. Today I can understand the fear but that day I thought he was insensitive and cruel. We moved to my father's elder brother's house, they lived close by. The next day onwards, neighbours and friends would come and stand on vigil outside the house. But the maids and the milkman and others stopped coming. The schools were closed indefinitely. One of my closest school friend called to ask about us and then made a seemingly innocent comment about Sikhs deserving what they got. I got furious and slammed the phone on him. My young brothers would not stop talking with hatred and anger of wanting to do the same to the 'Hindus' one day. They had to be kept hidden inside the house for days - their 'patkas' made them easy targets. All of us children grew up overnight.

23 years down the line I still shudder at the dim thoughts of that day. Memories of that large house on the main road keep flashing as do those burning cars on the main road. That house was one of the largest on that road. The owners had fled and the house was burnt down. They never got the house repaired for many years and they never came back. My father would say that the burnt house served a reminder to all Sikhs about what had happened and should always be left like that. Thank God that was not to be and a fabulous building came up in its place a few years down the line. But each time I went past that building for those years that it stood in ruins, an eerie chill would go down my spine.

I still hear stories from my current household help about how they got their TV and Fridge for free in the November of 1984. My stomach churns as I write this.

10 comments:

roop said...

wow

Mai said...

And I am a survivor, as well. Just saying hello.
But at our house, 8 of 11 ended up dead.
Nonetheless we are sisters.
Nice to meet you!

Anjuli said...

I was there during the riots. In our enclave- the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs rallied around each other- but just outside the enclave there was no such alliances! Although it has been 23 and a half years- I still sometimes wake up to the memory of the blood curdling screams. It was a sad time for India!

Ritu said...

I think every one in Delhi-NCR has a story about that day. I was at YWCA, when the news came. Classes were stopped abruptly at 11 a.m. and I had to travel back to Faridabad alone. The stuff I saw .... the horror. Animals have a sense of dignity, humans have none - we are bestial, that is all I can say. I reached home by 10 p.m. and have not been able to forget it since.

Sorry for the long post ....

Avanti Sané said...

I can't even imagine the trauma you must have gone through....
http://avantisane.blogspot.com/2008/12/so-much-hate-around.html

Pinku said...

so much sadness...so much fear and feelings of retribution all because someone somewhere wants to rule and confuses the common man.

I was living in Faridabad that year. Our neighbours were a sikh family, they hid in our house for three days and army patrolled the streets.

I was not a victim in the conventional sense of the word but then again I was...for the situation impacted us all.

Anonymous said...

i was born on this day.wow.i hope she nw rests in heaven

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