Update: This was written soon after the Ahmedabad blasts, when the toll hadn’t risen beyond 12.
I haven’t been reading the reports. I can’t bear to. Yes, they were low intensity blasts, yes, fewer than twenty people died. In a country that regularly loses hundreds to floods, train and bus accidents, and spurious liquor, this seems like nothing. A friend in Bangalore called it a “lame attempt at terror”. Indeed. The dead barely ran into double-digits. When did we become so cynical?
But Bangalore is almost home. Madivala is where the KPN office and pick-up point is. I’ve sat on the steps of that complex dozens of times, unwillingly waiting for the 10.30 pm bus back to Madras. Adugodi is where I took many a flirty walk with a suitor, winding our oblivious way through narrow, noisy, dusty streets where every other shack is a two-wheeler garage. Mysore Road is where, years before the maddening traffic arrived, newly bought two-wheelers were driven way above the speed limit, causing me to feign fear and tighten my grip on his shoulder.
And Ahmedabad. The city of my childhood. Raped and pillaged, not by barbarian hordes from central Asia, but its own people. An Ahmedabad I have been terrified to visit in recent times, for in my mind, rivers of blood still flow on the ‘city’ side of Ellis Bridge. But also an Ahmedabad I knew when it was gentle, laid-back, generous and most of all, safe. An Ahmedabad of summers that began right after the riotousness of Holi, where sand storms blew grit through the windows, into your teeth. An Ahmedabad of spectacular processions and never-ending dandiyas, where, yes, Muslims too danced the night away.
I cannot help but wonder – the Bhajpa is in power in both places. Is that why? Is this revenge? Is this the beginning of a counter strike? In which the targets are so random, so unspecific as to be almost democratic? Is this a message – vote killers into power and prepare to die yourself? The murmers have always existed, haven’t they? But one only begins to hear and fear them, when they are uttered so close to home.