Delhi Bombings

As you've likely heard, Delhi was hit with serial bombs on Saturday around 6pm local time. I decided not to post about it right away, as I wasn't exactly sure how I felt - or even whether I had an appropriate reaction. As I think back to the events of 9/11, I recall being in much the same scenario (on a much larger scale) - Was it right to attend class just hours after the buildings fell?

In any case, this post should help explain to those of you not familiar with Delhi where / how this took place - and explain from my perspective how the city has responded.

At about 6pm, I left Chokola in Priya / Basant Lok market in Vasant Vihar. This is roughly above the L in Delhi on the image above. My driver, misunderstanding where I was heading, took the long way home & so I arrived at my house about 7 pm. After being alerted by my landlady to check the news, I came to know of the bomb blasts.

Of all the blasts, one hit closer to home (literally and figuratively). Two blasts went off in M Block market - GK1, an area of town that several of my friends live in. The blasts here were essentially pipe bombs placed in opposite corners of the market in trashcans.

M Block is a decidedly Middle - Upper Middle class market with Swaroski & other upmarket brands in it. As a result, it is a market I've been to on a handful of occasions, and should my office not be located in Gurgaon, one I might have chosen to live near. Instead, I've settled in the south west corner of Delhi and frequent Basant Lok - a slightly more posh market - but very similar demographic. After 30 minutes of news, and my sense of security bruised a bit (I had after all been in a market about the time of the blast), I was able to piece together some high level information on the blast before heading out.
The other bombs went off in very different areas.
1) Connaught Place: CP is the central shopping district in Delhi. Designed by the Brits, it is two large circular streets of shops surrounding a central park. The bombs that went off here were in trash cans near the entrance to Delhi's Largest metro stop. CP is a very popular shopping destination - with a smattering of western brands & local shops. It has a younger crowd, and usually a healthy dose of tourists staying at the local hotels.

2) Karol Bagh: This area is a crowded market area - it would be bustling and congested at the time of the bombings, and for this reason- most of the loss of life is centered here. The market is home to some apparel, jewellery & is also the home to the gray economy w/ regards to electronics. This is more of a working class neighborhood, far from the posh south Delhi suburbs. The blast here appears to have been on an auto rickshaw - all of which are powered by CNG (compressed natural gas), a highly explosive fuel - this further added to the loss of life.

3) Gopaldas Bhavan: The office crowd was a target here - with many traditional Indian companies still working 6 days a week, 6 pm would be a busy time in this area. Although the damage seems less here - the attack was clearly targeting office workers in this area.

With the news of the attack still pouring in, I headed to pick up my friends for a pre-planned get together. On the way, I drove through several market areas. I was shocked to see that just two hours after the bombings, the markets were still buzzing. In fact, I have this image of two mid-twenty year old girls browsing a clothing boutique burned into my head. In a weird way - everything appeared normal. With the exception of a crowd in an electronics store that had televisions tuned to local news, everyone seemed calm & cool.

Then it struck me - here I too was on my way to a get together, to hang out with friends and play cards... I too had watched for 30 minutes - surprised to hear of blasts in my own city - saddened by the loss of life (30 dead), and then continued on my way. Was this inappropriate? Should I have stayed in, skipped out on a fun evening with friends? I had this sudden pang of guilt as friends began calling my mobile from the states making sure I was OK. Here thousands of miles away, friends are worried & I was off to play cards...

I woke up Sunday, grabbed my paper & reviewed the news. I was surprised to see no more than 3 pages of coverage dedicated to the bombings. However, the more I read and thought about the disaster, the more I began to understand the context of these bombings.

On Saturday 5 bombs went off and 30 died. Just 4 months back, 65 died in Jaipur. In Mumbai 2006 - 180 killed in train bombings. Just last month bombs exploded in Bangalore & Ahemabad. This is not to say these Delhi bombings have less significance than the others, but in the greater context - it is understandable how folks have moved forward processed this so quickly.

I don't want those of you reading from afar to confuse this recent history of bombings w/ India being an unsafe place. Quite the contrary. By and large India is a phenomenally safe place - sure there are issues - but on the whole, it is warm, welcoming and safe. I could write an entire blog post on this topic alone - but for now, I'm afraid I've babbled for too long and without enough structure - so I'm going to cut it here.

From Delhi - Scott

7 comments:

kaushik said...

This was what happened to me ...

A sms " dude , 3 blasts in delhi "
My reaction : Oh no not again ( not one of dismay , but one of boredom)

Second reaction, check the news ... switch on , a minute of viewing ,maybe lesser, switch off...

Then switch to ESPN , to watch a rerun of some cricket somewhere...

About half an hour of that, a smoke , a drink of coffee logged into the net and random surfing ...

Then decide to check out gora desi ,to see what he'd blogged about this whole thing .... You know get the "foreign perspective"

Unfortunately Gora desi hadnt blogged....Concern!, "Maan i hope this guy didnt get popped" ... Visualising CNN picking this up and creating a hullaballoo...

Couple of days later , read your post... Simple & Straight ...

But what did this mean " but in the greater context - it is understandable how folks have moved forward so easily". ...

Also is it that Indians have just forgotten to feel ... and its all to do with the great economic push ....

World at large for that matter has its cause turned into strive for luxury and forget everything else...

Are these bombers then the only sane people left fighting for a cause, good or bad whatever it may be ...

Sigh!!! cynicism cynicism ... worse than cancer...

shelmes said...

RE: But what did this mean " but in the greater context - it is understandable how folks have moved forward so easily". ...

Yeah - that out of context reads pretty harsh - especially the moved forward so easilly.

It isn't easy to move forward - but maybe you react & process the event more quickly. Saturday, we dodged a bullet so to speak. Compared to some of the other bombings that have happened - thankfully this one was a bit smaller.

So, given the greater context (this is the fourth such bombing in 4 months) - you process quickly that this is not a doomsday event like Mumbai - and so you process it more quickly.

As an aside - thanks for your concern? (CNN wouldn't have covered my demise - not with a hurricane in the gulf!)

Kaushik said...

So what are we saying ,

Less than 10, no need to show concern ..
Less than 50 , worth a few minutes of our time...
Less than 100, contemplation required
Less than 500, sit up and take notice...
Less than 1000... probable that you have lost someone...

C'mon , this does not make sense!!

On the concern bit ... i was thrown off by the disturbance of my usual routine, that usually generates concern for anyone i suppose :-)

kaushik said...

And another point ...

The bombay blasts V3.0, was also greeted by the public in the exact same way....

Infact the media was all joy & gay , that Mumbai was up & running the very next day ...

I think us Indians have "lost that lovin' feelin'"

shelmes said...

I wasn't around for the Mumbai blasts - Although I'm not sure it is really an Indian issue as you suggest. I've seen the same sort of "and now to the sunny / cheery weather girl" in the states. Media is a fickle thing.

kmuscat said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I hadn't heard of the blasts till I read your blog. We can blame it on the US media & myself focusing on either Hurricane Ike, the presidential battle-ground, Tina Fey returning to SNL as Sarah Palin, football, or the tornado that blew through my hometown at 10pm Sat night with no warning, no sirens, nothing. Lost a few roofs and a lot of trees about 1/4 mile from my house, but I don't think anyone was seriously injured. The group of friends I had over never noticied it happened till we got phone calls from people who saw it on the news. There will always be unexpected dangers, whether natural or human created, and sometimes all you can do is give thanks for personal blessings and move on.

Anonymous said...

surprised this didn't make any u.s. news channel!