Where were you when…

… Rajiv Gandhi was assasinated?

I remember the morning of May 22 1991. I was getting ready for school, it was around 7 AM.  We used to subscribe to the Indian Express, which we got one day late, as it used to be published in Calcutta and would be be available in Guwahati only the next day. Obviously, the newspaper was not our source of the news. Our landlord used to subscribe to an Assamese daily, and our landlord’s bhabhi, who we called Aita (“Grandmother” in Assamese), came across the bamboo partition and called out to my mother, loudly – “Ruby! Rajiv gol!” (Ruby! Rajiv has gone!”)

My mother, the daughter of the district Congress president, was really fond of Rajiv Gandhi, and was unable to comprehend what she meant. Especially since Aita was smiling a sad smile.

“Gol. Bomb blast. Suicide attack.” Aita replied.

I remember understanding that he had died, and then wondering what what Ma had packed in my tiffin.


… the day my paternal grandmother had died?

I understood that I would never see my favourite Aita again, or that there would be no more bed time stories from her ever, but there was no pain.

I do remember spending the whole night at Kolkata airport, waiting for the 5:30AM flight (taxis were extremely unreliable in the early hours during those times) which my father had booked us on, after having borrowed money from a neighbour (it was not like we did not have money. He just did not have a debit card or a credit card then, and all banks had closed by then.)

I also remember that we had been cheated by the taxi driver who took us from Jorhat airport, to my father’s  home village.


… the World Trade Center towers collapsed (11 Sept 2001)?

I had lost my wallet that day. Whether it had been picked, or I had dropped it somewhere, I could not confidently tell.

Obviously, I had gotten a dressing down at home from my mother. I had about Rs. 500 in my wallet, but more importantly, my debit card and college ID card were also there.

I had looked around my campus, and asked all the security guards, but to no avail. It was nowhere to be seen.

It was at this point that I had come back home, and seen my mother glued to the television. Even as I entered the house, I saw the 2nd plane fly into the 2nd tower.

I watched for maybe 5 minutes, before taking my bicycle keys and heading back out, to trace the route to the Lower Parel station, hoping against hope to at least find my debit card.


… the Mumbai train blasts happened (11 July 2006)?

With my girlfriend, having sev puri, outside college.

I didn’t know about it then, but her love for chaat probably put us out of the danger zone. It takes around 15 minutes from our college to the Bandra station, and we missed the blast there by roughly the same amount of time.

We had gotten stuck in a huge traffic jam near Lucky’s restaurant on Hill Road. Since it didn’t look like the jam would clear soon, we decided to walk to the station. But that was when someone told us of the 10 blasts all over the city. (Initially, there were a lot of rumours. We later found out that there were only 7. I don’t know if “only” is the right word though.)

My first thought was for the safety of my family, and my girlfriend. I had no reason to worry about my father much, as almost never traveled by trains to work (it was a workday), and my brother had stayed at home that day.

She wanted to get to her home immediately and wanted to take the bus there, but I straightaway ruled it out. I remember thinking “This is a coordinated terrorist attack. The next potential target for maximizing the terrorists’ impact would be the buses. At least, that is what I would do.”

So on my insistence, we decided to walk the 4 or 5 kilometres to a friend’s place in Bandra-Kurla Complex. A evening walk made even more memorable by my first kiss in the rain.


… the German Bakery blast happened in Pune (13 Feb 2010)?

I was home. On my sofa, reading a book.

The German bakery is roughly a kilometre from my home. I had met and hung out with a friend of mine near GB, roughly 24 hours before the blast.

I was a little concerned for the welfare  of the people I knew, many of whom would regularly go to GB.

I remember finishing reading “Shantaram” that day. Again.


… the day my maternal grandfather died?

I was at home again, on 2nd January 2011, around 10 AM.

It was my mother who had taken the call from my Mama, who told her that Deuta (“father” in Assamese) was not waking up. They had fetched for a doctor from the Government hospital, because apparently private practitioners are not allowed to call the time of death. I remember being astonished at this, more than at the news.

I had been expecting it for some time. When I had gone to see him a couple of months ago, he had hardly been a shadow of his formerly regal self.

But my mother had broken down at this news, and all my thoughts were focussed around comforting her. What does one say to a daughter who would never see her father again? I did not know. The only thing I could say was that it was good that he had passed away in his sleep, peacefully.


I wonder why the common theme throughout all of these instances seem to be one of “non-feeling”. Maybe being surrounded by violence has inured me to death.

Or maybe I have just accepted death as being even more inevitable than life.

This train of thought was started off by this post.