29 July, 2021

And The Alarm Would Go, One, Two, Cha-Cha-Cha

Refugees from the streets, killers from next door, the terrible violence inside us

And The Alarm Would Go, One, Two, Cha-Cha-Cha

On October 31, 1984, I was 27 years old and I had been teaching history at Jamia Millia Islamia for just over a year. I was living with my parents at the time and within an hour of knowing that Mrs Gandhi had died of her bullet wounds, I set off on my daily five mile ride to Malcha Marg, a street in Delhi’s diplomatic quarter, Chanakyapuri, where my girl friend lived. I usually took a bus to the Central Secretariat and then another to Sardar Patel Marg, but that evening, I waved an autorickshaw down. I should have stayed home but our prime ministers till that day had all died of natural causes or were still alive—we didn’t know, by default, the sensible thing to do.

The auto stopped moving near Kamal Cinema because of the traffic. The road that led to the Safdarjung Club was jammed and there was shouting. I looked out in time to see a driver being pulled out of a stranded DTC bus, pulled down, actually, from the high door by the driver’s seat. Then the autowallah found a path down the wrong side of the road and we...

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