Monday, October 31, 2005


I heard of the bomb blasts the day before yesterday, an hour after they had happened. MS, TK and I were sitting in a CCD outlet about two minutes from my house, catching up on a year and a half's worth of gossip, when the TV suddenly showed images of bomb blasts and BREAKING NEWS started flashing on it. At first, only the Paharganj and Govindpuri blasts were reported. And then I saw that Sarojini Nagar had been hit as well. My parents called in quick succession, asking me where I was. It was only when they realized that I was within walking distance of home that they calmed down.

The TV presenter said that Delhi had been put on Red Alert. I looked around me, at the people calmly sipping coffee and chatting, at TK telling MS about the grand reunions our class has had recently, at the cyclists and pedestrians strolling by in the darkness outside and wondered what the hell Red Alert meant.

Sarojini Nagar market is sort of our neighbourhood market. It's the nearest of the major markets, and it's the place we go vegetable shopping every Saturday night. "Let's go to SN" is what my friends and I say when we're at a loss on where to spend a lazy afternoon. In fact, that had been my suggestion to MS earlier in the afternoon, when we were debating where to go.

Later, I thanked God for a lot of things. Thank God my parents didn't go to Sarojini that particular Saturday night, because they felt that the market would be crowded because of Diwali. Thank God MS didn't want to go shopping and we ended up going for a stroll. Thank God nobody I know is in that death list published in the HT today morning.

But still, my blood boils every time I think of what happened.

Sarojini Nagar is a wonderful market. It has none of the pretensions of upscale markets like South Ex or GK. It's the common man's market. Stores with branded stuff are rare; most of the goods are within most people's reach. What makes Sarojini the market it is are the hawkers and the encroachers. In fact, earlier this year, when the police evicted the encroachers, the market wore an uncharacteristically deserted look - what was the point of shopping when the only people you could buy from were the non-bargaining shopkeepers?

During Diwali - in fact, any major Hindu festival - the market is so crowded, you can hardly find space to move. All the shops put up pavilions outside, displaying their wares and adding to the chaos by taking up walking space. No doubt, this was ideal for the terrorists - high people density, lots of combustible goods, what else do you need for a good bomb blast?

But what makes me really angry is where the bomb was placed - near Babu Market, a part of SN that well-off people rarely go to. Did those terrorists know that this section would contain the happiest of the people, the people who were finally allowing themselves to spend the money that they must have saved for months so that they could celebrate this festival well? Is that why they picked it - to create as much shock as they possibly could?

I know that my theory is improbable - that poorer people can't have been deliberately chosen for death. But then why weren't the bombs placed in South Ex or GK or even Lajpat Nagar? Those places, surely, would be as crowded as SN.


Aapke seat ke neeche dekhiye. Lawaris vastu bam ho sakti hai. Turant shor machayiye. Inaam payiye.

(Look under your seat. Ownerless bags could be bombs. Raise alarm Earn reward.)

This is what is written on the backs of all the seats of DTC buses. I've made fun of this message at least a couple of times. In the light of what happened in that DTC bus near Okhla, what I did seems so ignorant and so insensitive. I swear I'll never ignore warnings ever again.
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Monday, October 10, 2005

Random Thoughts on Reading

Has anyone ever heard of a phenomenon known as Reader's Block?

Yes, I know, lots of people suffer from Writer's Block. In fact, I suffer from it myself at times, though with me, it's more laziness than Writer's Block.

What I'm referring to is the inability to read. I haven't read a book in ages. All books look equally unappealing, and whenever I do steel myself up to start a book, I fall asleep before the end of the first page. It's very very scary.

On the other hand, I have started reading newspapers, which is a good thing, though I think that will stop once my vacations end. Also, I only read the editorials and the articles that come under the 'opinion' section. Not a good thing, because I ought to know the facts before reading the opinions that other, more learned people have formed from those facts.

I've tried everything to counter my Reader's Block, from trying books that have "Absolutely Unputdownable!" printed in bold on their front covers to actually sitting up when reading books. Which I really hate. I like lying down and reading. Years of being scolded by parents and hearing dire warnings that the power of my eyes would go down even further have not changed me one bit. Which is probably why my lenses and my specs have such unmentionably high powers. Actually, I like mentioning the power of my lenses, because I like to watch the astonishment on people's faces on hearing it.

I've digressed.

I've finally figured out, on recognizing the fact that I could read articles, but not novels, that I was suffering from a short attention span. Obviously, the solution was to read short stories. Which is why I'm reading Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe. My copy has a rather beautiful cover. It's bound in dark brown, with raised golden letters. However, that's as far as it goes. I've already spotted a couple of spelling errors.

Hopefully, my Short Attention Span Syndrome is short term. Because I've got my hands on a copy of Captain Corelli's Mandolin. It seems to be a very readable book, from the couple of pages I managed to read before I falling asleep. It starts off with an ear surgery - a doctor removing a pea that has lain in the ear of a man for many decades - and what could be more promising and more - satisfactory - than an ear surgery? I haven't watched the movie, chiefly because I was under the impression that it was a purely romantic thing. The book seems to be quite funny, though.

Suggestions on antidote to Short Term Short Attention Span Syndrome are welcome.
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