The Terrorist

This is an incident that happened a long time back. My cousin, S and I had gone to my grandparent’s place to spend our summer vacation. This was a routine. Every summer vacation we made our two-month long trip to Pilani. It was one of those things that were a given. My cousin and I are two years apart. We must have been about 8 and 6 when this incident happened. If you have visited Pilani, you would know that it’s a tiny town. In fact, it so tiny that I don’t even think it can be called a town. It’s basically the Institute and the surrounding campus and residential colony. If you were to walk, you would reach from one end of the campus to the other in an hour and a half. Being such a small place, everyone knows everyone.  The afternoons are a dull time in Pilani, especially in the summers. The heat is oppressive and all adults ensure that children are kept indoors, even if it is against their will, till five in the evening when the sun goes down a bit and the chances of getting a sun stroke go down too. My granddad would come home for lunch at dot 1.00 pm everyday- have his lunch, watch TV, rest a while, drink tea and then go back to the Institute. This routine of his remained unchanged for the 50 odd years that he spent in Pilani. Being kids we were fed lunch along with dada, allowed to watch TV for a short while and then coerced into taking a nap.  One such afternoon, we were all sitting in the drawing room and watching the afternoon news, (we had no say in what to watch when my granddad was home for his lunch break. He loved the news and would watch it at least twice a day. We grudgingly watch it with him, periodically reminding him how boring it was for us!) when the doorbell rang. My cousin bounced up (she tended to be a bit hyper when she was a kid, therefore the use of the word) and ran to open the door. But instead of opening the door, she yelled “terrorist aaya” and ran to the first floor of the house. I went to the door to see who it was. I took a quick peek at the person standing on the other side of the door, shouted “Dada! Terrorist! Terrorist!” loudly and following her behaviour ran up the stairs. (We were both so loud that the neighbours would have certainly heard us and would have thought that we had lost our minds.) I had seen a Sikh man in a white dress with a long, flowing white beard. In retrospect, he looked nothing like the Sikh terrorists they showed on TV but my sister’s wild and out of control reaction fuelled my equally irrational reaction. (If you can recall in the 80’s terrorism in Punjab was at its peak.). We were sure that the man we had seen was a terrorist who had travelled all the way from Punjab to unleash violence and bloodshed in peaceful Pilani.(Don’t blame us. Children have a wild imagination).To our utter shock, we heard our granddad open the door to the “terrorist” and invite him in the house. We descended a few steps in order to see what was happening. We saw the “terrorist” being hugged and greeted like a long lost friend. Within five minutes of the man’s entering our house, my sister and I were ordered down. My grandfather introduced the “terrorist” as Mr.Butta, an ex-neighbour and colleague. We were asked to say “namaste” and politely answer the usual battery of questions (How old are you? Where do you study? What class are you in? and the like). I was embarrassed beyond words. Here we were pronouncing the man a terrorist to the whole wide world (judging by the volume of our voices at least half of Pilani would have heard us), only to discover a few minutes later that the man was a good friend of our grandparents. I was sure he had heard us from across the door. I had turned as red as a tomato but my cousin was surprisingly cool. May be it was because she was younger or may be she just didn’t care. Either way I wanted her to share some of the embarrassment. Mr.Butta turned out to be a rather nice man. He spent a full hour with us but never once mentioned the strange yelling he had heard. I was only too relieved.

6 thoughts on “The Terrorist

  1. i love memories 🙂

    i used to be damn scared of all turbaned men for quite some time – somehow i seemed to equate turbans with dacoity!!!

    ps: please do remove snap auto preview – if you happen to find it mildly annoying.

  2. Well those were the days when kids’ psyche was totally shadowed by the stereotype of a Sikh as a terrorist.

    Did Mr Bhutta meet u later and remind you of the ‘fun’ you had at his cost?

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