Ramen was astounded to see the entire media hullabaloo while he was walking back to his room with his roommate-cum-colleague Saranga. They were returning to their rented room in the Tarun Nagar area of Guwahati after their office cap dropped them at Sundarpur at 5:55 in the morning.
The date was October 30, 2010. Two years have passed since the series of bomb blasts rocked Assam, killing 81 (official figures) people and injuring 471 (official figures again) others.
Ramen and Saranga worked in the BPO of a popular cellular company whose office was located in the Hatigaon area of the city near the Masjid. The duo generally took the office bus to their room, but that day they decided to walk from Sundarpur as they were attracted by the crowd that had gathered in front of the NEEPCO (North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited) office.
They stopped to witness the people dressed in various colourful clothes, laughing and smiling, and waiting for someone from the higher authorities. Some of them looked agitated as well.
Ramen ordered two cups of tea and two tekeli pithas from a tea seller selling tea near the NEEPCO office.
"What's this chaos and gathering for," Ramen asked Saranga taking the first sip of his cup of tea.
"Peace run," replied Saranga.
"Peace run…err…What is that?"
"Well…it…is…aaa…peace run dude."
"Ok, I understand; but… why? Why is this peace run for?"
"Oh! Don’t you know about the gruesome killing by the terrorists two years back, where hundreds of people died in the worst terrorist attack of the state? This run is a remembrance for those departed souls so that they may rest in peace in that abode above."
"Oh, I see!"
"And you know what, the winner would be handsomely cash rewarded"
"This is fun. Wish I could have joined too... Hey didn’t you notice the hoardings and the advertisements about the run today? Those were out long back!"
"Well, I did see but I thought it is some another media fuss and never expected such chaos on the streets today."
"You sound a little sarcastic!"
"Do I? Well, I am sorry if I did. I have immense respect for those departed souls and their families who are suffering due to the inhuman acts of the terrorists. But such an idea of peace run doesn’t attract me, not at all."
"Why? This day, two years ago great mayhem almost paralysed the state and we have shown great character to stand on our feet again and start moving."
"Is it so?"
"You are again sarcastic."
"Well, tell me do you know about a sleepy village of Nalbari district, where a dozen peace-loving villagers were gunned down by some unidentified gunmen on the festive night of uruka? That village does not celebrate uruka or burn meji even today. The memoirs of that horrifying night still haunt their sleep."
"So how do you relate this peace run and that particular incident?"
"You used the term worst terrorist attack, why? Is it just because the blasts were in this city and the media covered it extensively? Can peace ever prevail in the lives of those who lost their dear ones? Will the horror and pain be ever erased?"
"Well,... maybe. Or... maybe not! "
"Tell me, what was media doing the remaining 364 days?"
"Oh come on man, media is simply a channel of expression. They cannot possibly organise rallies and run every single day. We do not celebrate our birthday every day, or do we? Similarly, we simply do not remember our dead beloved ones every day, but remember them only on the prescribed day of their death."
"Err…we remember our dead beloved ones 24*7, it is just that we organise their shradh on the day they expired. My father is dead and any amount of words of solace can’t lessen my grief. It is good that media has taken a step to voice strongly against terrorism. If they create awareness due to one incident, then the other similar incidents should also be given due importance. The victims of other incidents should also be remembered. And they should not term one incident as the worst hit and simply ignore the others. The city’s serial blasts have a high MNC value than the incident that occurred in the remote Nalbari village, so is this peace rally organised? Why should we scratch a gradually healing wound and let it bleed again?"
"Chill dude. Cool down. You are getting sentimental."
"Yes, I am. Is it wrong to get sentimental? Or for you, peace running is the only way to show one's sentiments. "
"Aaa…no. It’s not wrong to get sentimental, but it is also not right to criticise a noble deed. At least the media and some organisations have taken a step of their own to pay their tributes to the dead ones. They have a vision, and hence have taken an initiative."
"Today is indeed a sad day. On this day, two years ago we lost many lives. If the day is grief-stricken then how can be the morning be good? How can we wish someone with a good morning wish? How can we smile? How can entertainment zones like movie theatres, shopping malls be open? Why are the runners smiling and enjoying the run and simply taking it to be a fun run? Why is it that the majority of runners don’t have moist eyes?"
"Where are you going dude? Is it wrong to smile when you are sad? Cooldown Ramen."
"Will the money generated from this run be distributed to the victims’ families? Will the winner who will be cash rewarded even think for the victims once? Why is it so that someone’s death has brought good fortune to someone else?"
"Ramen, cool down brother. Forget it, brother. Today is a sad day, and we should mourn it. We shouldn’t criticise a noble gesture."
"Saranga, can you tell me one thing. How many media personnel have lost their families in orchestrated terrorist attacks? Do they truly understand the pain of the ones who have lost their families, and loved and dear ones?"
"Err…I…don’t have an answer to it. Maybe some has lost, some have not. Well, you are speaking in such a way as if you have lost someone and you understand the pain?"
Ramen paused and was silent for a while. He looked up to the sky and with a half-smile stared at Sarnga.
"Saranga…on the fateful uruka night, my father and sister were gunned down mercilessly. Two years ago, in this very city, my mother, brother and his three-month pregnant wife turned to ashes in split seconds. The blast at the busy market square here took them away, far away from me."
Silence ruled between them. Tears rolled down Saranga’s cheek. Ramen’s smiling wet eyes narrated more of his never to be forgotten catastrophe.
"Hey Pran, come here man. Look at her! Awh man! She is so hot! Look at her body contours. This race, this race is fun man, real fun man. Got to see some real hot bombshells…wish could have enjoyed her for a night!" shouted someone from the crowd breaking the eerie silence and bringing both Ramen and Saranga to the present.
Ramen kept looking at Sarnaga's eyes constantly. He threw the empty glass into the dustbin nearby, paid the money, took out a cigarette from his pocket and offered one to Saranga.
Saranga took one and threw the empty cup in the dustbin nearby. Then he lit the cigarette and began walking towards his room, avoiding eye contact with Ramen.
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Partha Prawal (Goswami) is a Guwahati-based journalist who loves to write about entertainment, sports, and social and civic issues among others. He is also a published author.