First of all, I'm okay. Really. I'm one of those people who was in faraway South Delhi when the blasts happened, happily dressing for the Chanel fashion show that night. I put on the television, just mindlessly surfing before I went out and caught bits of "Pahargunj mein" and then I tuned out. Must be one of those terrorist fellows who are always being caught, I thought and resumed dressing.
It was a good day. A great day. A day when general celebration hung in the air. People were leaving early, Diwali hampers kept arriving for one or another of us--we had gorged on apple pie and barfi and ju-jubes. There was a lightness to all our steps, thanks to nearly full page ads, which meant fewer stories. Roshini, my colleague and I, were going for the fashion show--a 'black tie' event, which meant we had the added luxury of going home and showering and changing. And so we left, gigglesome and humming under our breaths. All was good with the world, it was almost Diwali time and people were happy and bustling and perhaps we'd go to the export surplus market at Sarojini Nagar, tomorrow or the next day?
The traffic was enormous, but traffic generally is around six-ish, so we thought nothing of it. And then, like I said, I showered, slipped into a skirt and did my make-up and Roshini called, "There's been a couple of bomb blasts," she said. "Oh fuck," I said, and, "How bad was it?" "I don't have any details, but we should leave soon," she told me. We were still thinking in terms of our evening, whether or not it was totally wrecked, what the traffic situation would be like. "Where were the blasts? I asked her. "Oh, in Okhla, and near the CP area." My heart contracted. Small in Okhla, Priya in CP and my mum on Teen Murti Marg.
I called my mom first. "I'm at home," she said, "Why?" And like terrible deja vu, because I had been the one to tell her about the 9/11 attacks, I told her. And as I was talking to her, her family in Hyderabad called, wanting to know if we were okay. Small was at a friend's place and equally shocked when I called her. And Priya's phone was unreachable. I checked with Roshini. Both our signals were down. The network was probably blocked with people frantically calling each other. I called Priya again. Finally, the call went through. "I'm at the airport," she said, sounding scared, "And they've declared a bomb threat here as well. There are sniffer dogs everywhere and they've cordoned off our area." She said she'd call me back when things got a little less crazy.
We were headed to the Imperial Hotel, on Janpath and we passed several markets, each closing rapidly. At Yusuf Sarai, the cops set up loudspeakers telling everyone to go home. My phone rang or beep-beeped at least five times, all from people who wanted to know if I was safe. "At Diwali time, when everyone's so happy how could someone do something like this?" I asked Roshini, who shook her head, "They're sick." And that's when I guess it hit me. Someone hates us. Someone hates us enough to kill innocent people preparing for the festival of lights with their families. People who probably had plans. People who had saved and saved and SAVED just to shop on Diwali. People who took a half-day from work, to go out with their families. The children probably swinging between their parents hands, butterflies in their stomachs from the excitement. And I'm pissed off.
I love this city. I love all its unpredictabilities. I love Sarojini Nagar and Pahargunj--I just shopped at Pahargunj last Sunday. And I hate the fact that my haunts are ruined. That I will have to live with fear when I enter a crowded place. That most of the hawkers will leave because no one will shop there for a while. And while I, the most unreligious of people can feel a sense of loss for my festival, I can only imagine the pain others are going through. And those messages on TV asking for anything, any goddamn sign that the people they cared for were alive, those broke my heart.
As for the fashion show, predictably, it went off well. It was well-attended, all the p3p showed up dressed to the nines. The Chanel representative offered a brief one line about how "zorry ve all are for ze blasts that 'ave 'appened tonight." But life went on, nonetheless. We managed to stay cocooned in that world for a while. Then I went home and switched on the television. And saw the papers this morning. And it all came home to me.
So yeah, I guess this purpose of this post is to tell y'all we're okay. All three of us. The city as I saw it this evening. People are, well, if not bustling, still shopping for Diwali. Crackers aren't going off every five seconds, but there are distant booms. We're subdued, but we're okay.
Have a safe Diwali.
PS: And from other parts of the world, people who love this city, my city, their city are rallying up around us. Rohini, another of my colleagues, who isn't originally from here, told me how surprised she was at how very much she felt. It grabs you, this city and we will not have any abuse of it. We're Delhiites no matter how far we go and our umblical cords are never cut. This post by Thalassa_Mikra says it all.