Quill

VERSIONS

So, how did it happen?

From where do I start? The part where I ran into the street as they came after me, with stones and sticks? Or the time when they doused kerosene on my house and I watched as it caught fire? Or should I stick to the story of the police, calling it a sudden, spontaneous event? Would my sister’s tale be more authentic, she is an amazing orator, she will tell it better, the manner in which the money for her wedding was burnt, Rs 10 lakh, our entire savings and as acid was poured on her as she came out of the mosque? Wait, the mosque has an even intriguing account, it was that silent spectator, watching the city he had been in for decades, engulfed by flames. It tried to stand its ground but the smoke in the air was too suffocating, it crumbled under the frenzy, heated passions, mindless chanting and chest-beating. It was buried under the love for its country, too big a price to pay.

Come, let me take you through these narrow alleys where I played as a child. This shop has, sorry, had, the best paani puri in entire Seemapuri, this store, the best cotton candy. But I think you won’t be able to make out their differences. After all, they are painted in the same colour of hatred.

The colour of hatred, ashen and charred, displayed in every nook and cranny, on hoardings and podiums.

But the riots were because of Anti-CAA protests, Shaheen Bagh precisely, they blocked the roads, should have seen it coming, these traitors.

We were there, doing our duty, we called in additional forces, but the crowd overpowered us. We were stranded.

In the backdrop of sooty scooters, black houses, homes destroyed, lives lost, fingers pointed and tears that refuse to come out.

Versions that numb.

Versions that sting.

Brevity, Quill

MASSACRE

I often wonder how my father coped with a mischievous devil like me. I would often trouble him and he would frivolously rebuke my antics. My childhood was a smooth sailing only if that incident is marked off my life. The second of November, 1984.  With the gentle breeze of the still night, they came, in hundreds. With blazing fires of hatred and glowing embers of anger, they robbed a community of its pride. The vivid images are ever painted in my mind.  How my father tried to calm them down and how my mother’s pleas were silenced, unheard and unregistered. They took him outside and beat him black and blue. His white turban fell off, the crown of his head. They took some kerosene and tossed it on him, chanting the name of their gods. He looked at me with terror stricken eyes and mouthed, ‘Run Away.’ But I stood still, paralyzed, as they burnt my father alive, brazen and charred, the smell of flesh singing my nose. His blood curdling scream shakes me to the bone even today. I, can never forget, how my father was massacred.