I heard loud bangs on my door. I had just fallen asleep and I was pissed when I heard the son of my landlord shouting from the stairs, asking us to come out and take our positions.
“I thought it was over..” I told another flat mate, as we made our way to the terrace, half asleep. It was 2 am and we had been awake till 1 am, listening to the cries and shouts and rants coming from the next block. We had heard the sounds of stones being pelted, windows being broken. We had heard sirens and saw police jeeps rushing towards the area, with their red and blue lights flashing like crazy.
We knew what to do once we reached the terrace. Each of us had a designated area of the terrace that we needed to cover. We all had bricks and flower pots which we were supposed to throw on the Muslims if they came into our block. One of the flower pots that I had in my corner had a nice rose blooming on it. I made a point in my head to throw it last, after I had thrown off all the bricks and ugly flowerless pots.
Just so you know, I have no problems with the Muslims. But during the communal riots I think all pleasantries that we feel for each other goes out the window. That is just the way it goes. If I don’t throw these flower pots, they will beat us up. Maybe even kill us.
The landlord’s son, who is a certified idiot by the way, came and made sure everyone and everything was in place. He was our commander in this battle, apparently. He was carrying his shiny sword, which though outdated in an age of automatic weapons, looked lethal. On any other day, I would have asked him if I could hold it and play with it for a while. But at 2 am, I was not in mood.
He made his way downstairs and joined his two friends who were waiting with their swords, and made their way to the next block shouting “Har Har Mahadev”. I could hear his mother’s curses asking him not to go, but as I said before, he is an idiot. There were people on the terraces of the the neighbouring houses, waiting with their set of flower pots and rocks. The street outside was lit only by a couple of dim street lights. I was not sure how to differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim, while throwing the bricks. I decided to throw it on people who tried to come into our house, irrespective of their religions.
Every now and then, people from the next block shouted “Har Har Mahadev” or “Allah Hu Akbar” which will invariable be followed up by a couple of gun shots.
“I am flying off to Kolkata tomorrow” declared the upstairs tenant, who happens to be a Bengali. “Jaan hai toh jahan hai” He said in his thick Bengali accent, which was followed by giggles from every corner of the terrace.
We started seeing jeeps and army trucks speeding down the main road, which we could see from a distance. We heard the slogans, gun shots and everything went quiet for a while. Few seconds later, people cheered, like happy cheers, and shouted “Kaat Daalo Saalo Ko.” This was followed by a series of gun shots. Then there was silence again.We waited for a few minutes, straining our ears to hear even the slightest sound, but nothing. We must have been silent for 10 minutes, but we could hear nothing but sirens of the police trucks.
One of the tenants went downstairs and brought a bottle of whiskey and a few plastic glasses. He served us each a strong peg (He literally crawled to each of us. Overly dramatic, I thought). Soon we had left our positions, and were sitting in the middle of the terrace, chatting silently. I never knew I had so many awesome flat mates. I barely even saw their faces during normal happy days. But here we were, at the dead of night, in the middle of communal riots with police sirens buzzing in the air, having a great time getting to know each other. We talked about politics, riots and everything violent. We decided to have these regular rooftop booze sessions from now.
“Only if we survive tonight.” Said someone. He had a point.
I will end this post with a preachy little story that I recently read somewhere.
There was a small city in Afghanistan, which only had blind inhabitants. One day, they heard that an elephant procession would be passing by the city limits. They decided to send three people outside the city walls to find out what an elephant is like. The next day, these three people came across the elephant and each of them touched and felt a different body part of the elephant. They came back and shared their findings with the rest of the city people. Obviously their descriptions did not match and they started fighting. They called each other liars and decided never to talk to each other ever again. If they listened to each other and combined all of the findings, the city would have had a better picture as to what an elephant is like.
Signing off for now with the hope of being alive enough to write another post in Good Old Boots soon.