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O Delhi, my Delhi.
[Text by Mayank Austen Soofi; pictures by AFP]
Two days after 9/11, at around half past six, I was browsing at Khan Market's Bahri Booksellers when Mr M Singh, the bookshop assistant, cried out that Delhi has been hit by serial bomb blasts.
Kahan? Where? Kitne mare? How many dead?
Five blasts in three places.
In Central Park. Just opposite Gate No. 1 of Palika Bazar. Another, next to the metro station at Barakhamba. One more at Ghaffar Market in Karol Bagh. Ek aur at M-Block Market in GK-I. And…a breaking news on TV by Delhi Mayor Ms Arti Mehra – “A very recent blast inside Palika Bazar.”
People have died. Many have been injured. More will die.
TV channels are beaming images out of Central Park - injured bodies of young people being carried by cops and by-standers to ambulances. These are couples who come here to have good time.
An unexploded bomb has also been discovered in Children's Park, near India Gate. Another bomb has been defused outside Regal cinema (I saw Om Shanti Om there).
According to Delhi Police, the blasts seem to be coordinated. CNN-IBN news channel has claimed to receive an e-mail from an organization that says, "In the name of Allah, Indian Mujahedeen strikes back once more. ... Do whatever you can. Stop us if you can."
NDTV news channel has described the bomb site of M-Block Market as a place “which is a shopping destination, not for the middle class or lower middle class, but for the Capital’s upper crust folks.” Very Delhi.
Actually, there is nothing shocking about 9/13. Indian cities keep rattling with blasts and Delhi had it coming, sooner or later.
A gentleman, next to me, shook his head and said, “Arre, tch, tch.” One white shopper looked down mournfully on the floor. A boy who was carrying William Dalrymple's The Last Mughal swiftly took out his mobile phone and hurriedly dialed a number. But soon after he blurted that the phone lines were busy and he was unable to reach his brother. Addressing us as if we were his close friends, he said that his brother works in Connaught Place and commutes in the Metro. He was panicky. One gentleman consoled by saying that there were 13 million people in Delhi.
Meanwhile a hysterical woman exclaimed that more than 50 people have been killed in the attacks. (This was wrong information; at the time of writing this piece, the total number of dead stands at 18.)
It was time to board the bus back home.
The bus was stopped for security checks at two police barricades. Most commuters were discussing the blasts. The man sitting in front said, “India should bomb every Muslim country and wipe off the problem for once and for all.” There were different interpretations and different statistics as to the number of dead and wounded people. A debate started.
After reaching home safely, I have decided to donate blood tomorrow at Ram Manohar Lohiya Hospital.
However, tonight, like many Delhi wallas, I have a gut feeling that one evening it would be my turn too.
O Delhi, my Delhi