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.