Friday, October 30, 2009

My Memories Of 31st October 1984

(I am not a political person. Hence these following lines are an expression of my anguish and my observation of the situation, at present and what it was 25 years ago, as a human being. I am not making any scholarly statements. Also I strongly condemn the anti-Sikh violence that followed Mrs.Indira Gandhi's assassination.)

As 31st October draws near the treasure chest of my memories opens its heavy-hinged cover to bring out a recollection of the fateful 31st October 1984. A day that numbed India. A day that apparently changed India's destiny. A day, the memory of which will never cease to create tremors in the Indian political and social circles.

31st October 1984, was a usual morning, pleasant as the winter was slowly setting in. My husband Javed, had left very early that morning on a business trip to Lucknow and would return late in the evening. Mother-in-law had gone for a month visiting
her younger son then posted in Nagpur.

I had been married for almost ten months. Was taking my time adjusting to the new environment of the East Uttar Pradesh town of Allahabad. I was born in a small West Uttar Pradesh town, and lived most of my life before marriage in the Western Ghats
of Maharashtra. So it is not difficult for one to imagine the toning and adjustment my body and brain had to undergo to settle down in Allahabad. The Indian diversity is really beautiful but at times can be taxing too!

That morning I had my day's schedule chalked out. As the sun rose to fill the backyard with warmth and brightness I took out my woolens kept in huge wooden boxes hardly opened and largely untouched through the year. They had to be spread in the open as the first step to getting them ready for wearing. I was going to be tied up with this work in the day.

While the cook got busy in the kitchen, my father-in-law went to the garden after breakfast. He would read the newspaper or just relax in his easy chair near the flower beds close to the lawn. He loved the chrysanthemum blossoms and would invariably have some tips for the Mali in planning the layout of the garden for the winter. He was joined there by his younger brother, who lived next-door.

The morning went by smoothly. The cook had finished her work and wanted to go home. Fine.
My father-in-law had come in, it was lunch time already. We ate quietly, which was also usual. He retired to his room for the afternoon. I had just about cleared the lunch table and was putting the leftovers in the fridge, when the telephone rang.

The caller spoke in a shaky voice, that kind when one is not sure of what he is saying. I took some time to recognize the speaker. He was Javed's uncle. His words hit me like a bolt from the blue as he said:
"I just heard Mrs.Gandhi has been shot dead!"
He was giving some other details, but I was not listening.
My mind went blank with shock.

It took some time for us to come to terms with reality.
BY late evening the aftermath had started unfolding and the backlash against Sikhs had begun. Frightened and insecure masses, and here I mean the common man irrespective of his religion and
region, discussed the situation, very apprehensive of the future, which suddenly seemed extremely unpredictable.

Indira Gandhi: the woman with a charming smile, a serene exterior, an apparent feminine vulnerability, yet an interior made of solid iron that had endured personal and professional downturns with amazing fortitude.
None of those deep painful scars could make a dent on the contented and dignified face that she presented to the world. Whatever her political philosophy and ambition be, she was a comforting sight.
In a way the slogan "India is Indira,and Indira is India" was symbolic of her importance, and dominance which can hardly be denied.
Such a powerful and intelligent woman had fallen to the bullets of her own bodyguards. Could there be a bigger paradox?

What would India be after her?
More so after her dreadfully sudden assassination for which none except the perpetrators were prepared.

That debate continued. The fears of well-wishers of the Indian democracy twenty five years back were not unfounded. Today whatever be one's political leanings, we all know that the untimely loss of Mrs.Indira Gandhi has been devastating for the masses who form the bulk of the Indian nation.

As I join the Nation in paying my respects to the Woman who stood tall in her service and loyalty to our Motherland, I am awed by her sense of responsibility and dedication. She had no parallel. Even after twenty five years of her death, India awaits a leader as dynamic, as sophisticated and as charismatic as Indira Gandhi.

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