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The aroma of hotly brewed tea, the punctuatory ‘aahs’ from my father and the background music of a news channel was the perfect introduction to a classic Sunday in our household.

My mother was busy reading out the grocery items to be brought and my father was busy not giving any heed to it. I was but five years old, trying to tie my shoelaces with a scrunched up face and utmost concentration. As I finished my difficult task, I looked up at my father with a grin so big, my face was lost behind it.

“I did it myself!!!”

His grin matched mine “ Very good beta! Chalo let’s go then”

It was daddy’s day out with me. We were going to go shopping and I was going to pick out the vegetables !!!

As the bike jerked forward, both me and my father clutched the handles. The engine roared and off we went on our little trip to the sabzi mandi. I pretended to drive the bike as he actually rode it.

It was around eight when we reached the mandi. My father picked me up and we pushed our way through the mass of skin, cloth and sweat. Unfinished conversations lay hung in the air, “taazi taazi sabzi ” and “ aloo tamatar baingain lelo” was loudly emanated from different corners. The crowd buzzed along as we reached near our old sabzi wala.

The ‘sabzi wala uncle’ as I could not seem to remember his name, was nothing but white and draped with wrinkles. He allowed us all the time in the world to pick out vegetables, something scarcely found in the mandi and let loose a barrage of incidents from his early life. Entertainment for both sides alike.

Old customers had a special place in the mandi and we were amongst those.

He handed me a different basket to put my choice of vegetables in and striked up a conversation with my father.

I began a critical inspection of the ‘sabzis’ with all seriousness, slowly picking out different colours, one vegetable from each.

Other customers came and went, I was too consumed in my task to pay attention to them but suddenly, the crowd went silent.

“ Who allowed these people to come here today?!!”

A man pointed his finger towards us.

He was tall and huge. His saffron scarf fluttered in the air, and a long red streak donned his forehead.Contempt reeked from the man’s voice as he shouted these words.

But what scared me was his stare. All I could see was unfound, unwanted burning hatred. It seemed I had personally hurt the man, for why would someone hold such amounts of despise?

The air was thick with tension, I clutched onto my father’s kurta as fear clutched onto me.

The next few minutes were a blur of movements.

I was hiding behind my father, the next moment I was yanked away from him, carried away behind a broken pillar. Someone had pulled me to safety, tried to protect me

But he couldn’t save me from the screams or the blood, the sight I saw was burned into my soul forever. My father was engulfed into a crowd of men shouting slurs and cries of ‘Jai Shri Ram!!’ ‘Gou Mata ki Jai!!’

Other men and women stood around and gawked at the scene, not a single muscle moved for help, not one person tried to stop it. Soon the clothes of the mob started turning red and I could hear my father screaming, pleading with all his might

His voice quivered with the blows he received but he kept shouting

“ Chod d- chod do mujhe..AAHH!!!! ha-hath jodta ho-AAAHHHH AH MAT MARO!!! k- kya- kya galti hai…. Meri, bacchi de-dekh dekh rahi h-AAH!! AAH AH!! chod do…”


The “sabzi wala” covered my mouth, stopping me from shouting, he was scared I would invite the mob on me.

But my tears… they never stopped, I kept trying to strangle away from him. My abbu was hurt, he was crying. Those men were killing him could he not see!!!

I kept bawling my eyes out, I screamed for so long I could no longer hear them, minutes went by and fatigue enveloped me. My body was too weak to handle my emotions.

I fainted.

I woke up, in a room, sweaty and breathing like a maniac.


I had lost him.

I had lost him to that crowd, to that red flowing all over his body, all my wailing and crying and pleading had convinced no one.

But …if I had lost him why could I hear his voice?

I dashed towards the voice to find him half sitting on his bed, my mother feeding him while her eyes sprouted tear after tear.

I jumped onto the bed, crawled to his side and latched onto his forearm. My mother wiped away her tears and he started smiling a little, not saying a single word.

I looked at our clock, it was five in the evening.

Slowly I realized there were other people in our room. Mahesh uncle from the kinara shop, Sarla aunty and her daughter, Rahim chacha and a few of my father’s colleagues.

Some were comforting my mother, some were engaged in a heated discussion, Sarla aunty’s daughter sat in the drawing room. I could only see one side of her from our room, but the loud voices emanating convinced me a news channel was switched on.

This sudden crowd scared me a little and I crawled further into my father’s arm.

Abbu took a sharp intake of breathe as he pleadingly said “ Aaramse Beta”.

It took me a few seconds to realize my father had become fragile.

My stomach made little knots as I drank in his state, a bandaged forehead with huge red spots on the side, bruises all over his body and the right hand in a sling.

As I moved away from him to not hurt him unknowingly, he gave me a sad smile and held my hand.

“Abbu, why did they beat you? Why were those men beating you? Did they not understand they were hurting you?

I couldn’t stop my tears as I barged him with questions.

The room fell silent, faces turned away from each other.

I could see the pain and hurt on his face. How do you explain to a five year old the Laws of Hatred? How do you tell her that the orange and green of our flag don’t go hand in hand?

How will a child understand that human beings fight each other in the name of unknown, imaginary powers only to praise those powers as being benevolent the next day?

He never gave an answer, but his eyes warned me.

I understood I couldn’t get an answer to a question that was asked everyday only to be reciprocated with blows.

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