PERSPECTIVE
REVISITING 1984 – RIOT AROUND A POLE
The Comfort of Objects - Walking the streets of Trilokpuri
- SP SINGH
The Comfort of Objects - Walking the streets of Trilokpuri



Senior journalist S P Singh, who anchors the television debate program, "Daleel with SP Singh," wrote a very poignant column in the Punjabi Tribune of Monday, October 29, 2018. It tells the story of 1984, and of the 'Mela Gadri Babiyan Da.' This mela, which coincides every year with the anniversary of the massacre of Sikhs in 1984, is a gathering of many progressive forces but the author has underlined the gulf between even this progressive fonthead and some other marginalised voices striving to be heard. 

You can read SP Singh's column by clicking here 

Punjab Today reached out to SP Singh and requested him to narrate in detail his own experience to which his article alluded to in passing. He was kind enough to consent. We bring you this saga of the inanimate objects in the streets of Trilokpuri in Delhi and of the people who lived there, and some who stopped living in 1984 all of a sudden.
Editor, Punjab Today
 
IN HIS SCINTILLATING BOOK, "The Comfort of Things," Daniel Miller explains how objects are constitutive of identity. Objects create subjects more than the other way round. He even suggests that the closer our relationships with objects, the closer are our relationships with people.

Well, if you some day visit Nazar Singh Fauji in his tenement in Block 36 of Trilokpuri, and are nice enough to listen to how his mother died in 1992 after years of not just crying silently deep within, but also of complete silence, you wouldn't know how to deal with your own predicament. 

Should you seek more details? Are you making them re-live their pain? Are you reminding them of something they have spent decades to forget?

And what will you do after that? Go and write a piece in some newspaper?

Nazar Singh Fauji's daughter Kirandeep spent her growing up years listening to the gory tale, stone-faced. There is one member of the family you really, really want to speak to. But it does not speak. It does not extend a hand, does not blink. And you had just passed it by. You cannot recognise it if you had not been properly introduced to it.
----------
Meet the Electricity Pole outside Nazar Singh Fauji's house. If there are any questions that Nazar Singh Fauji feels reluctant to answer, please ask this pole.
----------
It is one family member who stood by the family through much of what you cannot even imagine. For years, it remained a rock solid witness to what happened in Delhi when the Indian establishment refused to stop the marauding hordes from burning Sikhs alive in their tens of hundreds.

Meet the Electricity Pole outside Nazar Singh Fauji's house. If Daniel Miller's arguments could not convince you, Nazar Singh Fauji's simple wisdom will. If there are any questions that Nazar Singh Fauji feels reluctant to answer, please ask this pole. Nazar Singh was often reluctant to even tell his growing up daughter what the pole knew. 

Gradually, the tale started to trickle in. A few neighbours told her bits and pieces of it over the years. It was with the pole that her grandfather was tied, killed and burnt. Death came upon the family as the pole watched. When, years later, Nazar Singh was to finally tell her daughter what had happened, he let it slip in little snippets, but first insisted that they all sit near the pole.

In her most poignant moments, the daughter would often stare at the pole, sometimes almost silently talking to it. She knew one fact for sure — that the pole knew much more than even her father Nazar Singh Fauji does. 

In the alley next to the gurdwara, a number of Sikhs were killed by the marauders. A reporter of an English national daily had visited the family and written a very poignant piece about it. I had visited the family after reading that piece. As I stood near that pole, I wondered if it will some day break out of its inanimate identity. 

Nazar Singh was away at his workshop in Mehrauli when an angry mob had pulled his father out, stabbed him and burned him. Since then, he said he had often stood near the pole and wondered why it happened.

At 22, Nazar Singh Fauji lost his mother. He refused to leave the house next to the pole and move to Tilak Vihar's resettlement colony. He told me he could not have left behind a family member. 

I could understand.

It wasn't a safe area to leave a witness, that, too, a family member, to the horrors of an apathetic state all alone at the mercy of blood thirsty hounds.

The pole was there. It held you. It had a story. It was the story. It was a story that arrested the family. Moving away would have meant shattering the memories. Truth be told -- it was a pole who knew other poles. And other poles knew other stories. 

They were never summoned by any court to stand witness. When investigators pulled out the scientific innovation of Touch DNA to examine if the golf club belonging to Dr Rajesh Talwar had any evidence to settle the Aarushi Talwar murder case, I wondered why no one ever took samples from these witnesses.

When I met Nazar Singh in 2009, he was 46 and was a sevadar at the Trilokpuri gurdwara, getting about Rs 3,000 per month. He seemed a tired man. He had chased the government's promises of jobs and compensation but felt frustrated with the hopelessness of it all. 

They lived on, not sure about their relationship with the pole. Initially, for a few years, they tried not to look at it. But in denial too, the memories did not leave the family alone. Gradually, he mustered up the courage to touch it. Soon he found himself pressing his head next to the pole and crying. I am not sure how the pole responded to his overtures but I know that a stage came when they became buddies. He spoke to the pole, silently. I believed the pole, too, reciprocated. 

In the streets of Trilokpuri, houses have grown taller over the years, and sun's slanting rays reach sporadically in the forenoon. The shadows of poles chase you wherever the rays find an opening and a concrete witness to 1984. 

Trilokpuri used to be on the edge of a jungle in those days. Residents used to walk about 50 metres and enter the forest to defecate. Water supply was scarce. The young ones of the families used to fetch water from the Yamuna, more than 3 kilometres away, even as toddlers went to a school in the colony where they learnt about Jack and Jill going up the hill to fetch a pail of water.

These residents had seen the apathetic face of the state earlier. In fact, that's why they were there. A young man called Sanjay Gandhi had a brainwave that the capital of India must present a better picture of the country, so he had the slums razed and people evicted. As a result, this resettlement colony came up in 1976. Muslims from Turkman Gate, Valmikis from the area near Birla Mandir, and later, some working class Lubana Sikhs came to reside there. These Sikhs had come from Rajasthan where they had originally moved from Sindh in the wake of Partition. It was a cluster of a thousand families of poor, hardworking people living in single storey houses with no schools, no toilets, no hospitals and no water.
----------
In her most poignant moments, the daughter would often stare at the pole, sometimes almost silently talking to it. She knew one fact for sure — that the pole knew much more than even her father Nazar Singh Fauji does.
----------
All they had was togetherness. The festivals were always celebrated together, till the riots came visiting. By then, the electricity poles had come up, but these were used for purposes other than intended.

I had met Gurcharan Kaur also. She was around 60 at that time and knew an electricity pole intimately. Outside the gurdwara stands this pole, next to which they killed her husband, Naik Teja Singh. For years, Gurcharan Kaur ran a tea stall next to this pole, earning a measly income, and had six or seven children. (I'm so, so sorry for not clearly remembering some of the details.) When I met her in 2009, it was the 25th anniversary of the anti-Sikh massacres.  I do remember that one of her sons was studying in Australia and another was working in a private firm. 

I had tried talking to her about her relationship with the electricity pole, and she had cried so much that I was afraid the pole will burst out. Made of concrete, electricity poles of Trilokpuri have a heart slightly less stony than of the Indian justice dispensing system.

I wanted to touch Naik Teja Singh's medals and his uniform in her quarters, and remember how she reminded me if my hands were clean. I knew these weren't as clean as are required before you touch someone's memories.

I have spent many evenings in the streets of Trilokpuri, often a camera bag slung over my shoulder, a notebook in hand. But if you do that in the last week of October, or the first week of November, you will hear people walking behind you, murmuring: "Reporters!" 

There was a "Happy Tailors" in Trilokpuri. Somehow, I ventured into that shop and asked the Sardar ji inside why had he named his shop "Happy Tailors." Harminder Singh told me how his shop sign used to announce: "Sardar Tailors." Then, 1984 happened. 
 
Memories are found in bits and pieces in the streets of Trilokpuri, as I am sure they do in Muzaffarnagar and any other place where the state acts in ways that its citizens start othering their neighbours. 

In a distant country from which flows much of the capital, weapons, knowledge and culture, there is a critical mass of people stepping forward to defend the actions of a man who sent bombs by mail to people he saw opposing his political point of view. In such times, it is a wonder whether you can even convince an electricity pole to continue standing rock solid as a witness.

If you ever find yourself in those streets of Trilokpuri, look for 'him'. Say hi. Be nice. It may not be the same pole, but it will have stories to tell you, may be tears to cry.
 

Disclaimer : PunjabToday.in and other platforms of the Punjab Today group strive to include views and opinions from across the entire spectrum, but by no means do we agree with everything we publish. Our efforts and editorial choices consistently underscore our authors' right to the freedom of speech. However, it should be clear to all readers that individual authors are responsible for the information, ideas or opinions in their articles, and very often, these do not reflect the views of PunjabToday.in or other platforms of the group. Punjab Today does not assume any responsibility or liability for the views of authors whose work appears here.

_______________________________________________________________

Most shared Punjab Today articles: 

Amarinder Singh, the coup in the CBI & the ED case: Headline is missing, so please read it between the lines

COP Vs. COP IN PUNJAB: Saiyan Bhaye Kotwal Ab Dar Kahe Ka

SURGICAL STRIKE DAY & WE THE PEOPLE The story of the gate is not the story of the house

Akali Dal's attempt to brand Navjot Sidhu as anti-national & ISI agent is ridiculous

UNHOLY HASTE To save the faith

Hua Panthik-Panthik Punjab - How do we reclaim real politics?

The Yuba City Attack on Manjit Singh GK & General Sambit Patra

Pakistan, Navjot Sidhu & the hug: Amarinder Singh 2018 is opposing Amarinder Singh 2004

Amarinder, Badals, AAP — Every party in Punjab is now an Akali Dal

Paragraphs that went missing from PM’s Red Fort speech could have pre-empted Opposition attack

Welcome to 1947. Happy Independence Day. Would you like to step out?

Mr SY Quraishi, can you please help to save this pet dog locked inside this sealed building?

In Pakistan, a donkey pays for democracy – bleeding, its nostrils ripped apart

Punjab is Silent as India Wakes Up to Talk of Refugees

AAP-CONG ALLIANCE: ARREY BHAI, YEH KYA LIKH DALA?

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS PLANNING HONEYMOON? 

WOOING THE PANTH: Amarinder a little less Congressy, Akali Dal a little more saffron

DEATH EMBRACING LOGIC: Drugs in Punjab

PANJAB'S EMERGENCY: FORMAL AND INFORMAL

THE KASHMIR GOVERNOR, THE TRIBUNE TRUST & ETHICS - How Journalism Fails Readers?

"Congress Sikhan Di Dushman Jamaat Hai?” —Akalis need to dump broken record, shift gears

"Captain Amarinder Singh ji” and "Rahul”: Reading Sign Language In A Relationship

SARKAR IN MANALI: From Shahkot to Mohali Court, Sara Alam Bigrra Jaye

If it could happen to Arun Shourie, imagine what could they do to you?

SIKHS & FEMINISTS – We hailed Harjit Sajjan; they didn’t hail Gina Haspel

AFTER BEING RAPED, I WAS WOUNDED; MY HONOUR WAS NOT

The Comrade In Punjab - Lost, Irrelevant, Asleep, Even Bored!

WE MISSED A REVOLUTION, BUT CAN IT STILL BE A GAME CHANGER?

A POLITICIAN SPEAKS – YOU SHOULD HEAR

ENCOUNTER, JULOOS & SELFIES

SOWING ANGER - NO QUICK FIX - Democracy is an Empty Ritual in Punjab

OUT-OF-BOX SOLUTION TO STOP FARMERS' SUICIDES

WATERS ROYALTY - The Loot that Rajasthan Committed

'THORRI BAHUTI EHNA NU SHARAM AUNI CHAHEEDI HAI'

ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON SUICIDE-HIT BATS FOR AARHTIYAS

RANGROOT OFFERS A PEEK INTO PUNJAB'S TRAGEDY

WHAT MAKE NEWS IN INDIA, AND WHAT DOES NOT?

HITLER, MODI & GANDHI: ON THE SAME PAGE?

PUNJAB IS STILL VERY FAR FROM INDIA

APOLOGY – AKALIS BIG LOSER, CONG TOO 

AMARINDER GOVT's LOVE FOR FARMERS, AND MY DAD's FOR HIS SCOOTER

SUPER EFFICIENCY ONBOARD CM’S CHOPPER

OF SUNNY KID & HORSE SENSE: The Punjab-Punjab Ties: The Coordinated Silence of Amarinder Singh & Badals

PM MODI VINDICATES PUNJAB TODAY REPORTAGE

NEW DELHI V/S OTTAWA — WILL QUEBEC DEFEAT INDIA?        

A SAFFRON JOURNEY VIA CANADA - Trudeau came to Punjab, pushed Amarinder closer to BJP, then called him a liar

JASPAL ATWAL CONTROVERSY: Mr. Ujjal, will you throw some light on this too?   

TRUDEAU VISIT AND RIGHT-WING MEDIA MACHINE

J&K – RAM MADHAV LEAVES SPACE FOR MEHBOOBA’S POLITICS

SHEKHAR GUPTA'S HALF-BAKED TRUTHS 

OF NIRMAL SINGH'S EYES - Karze Ne Layee Ikk Hor Kisan Di Jaan...

PNB Scam: Who is Nirav Choksi and what he is doing In the name of God?

Congress upset due to Priyanka’s cleavage on calendar 

RENUKA'S LAUGHTER: Thank you for your guffaws. We needed this non-violent weapon.

MR CLEAN to PAKKE DHEETH: How Punjab’s Congress hurt Brand Rahul Gandhi? 

MANJIT SINGH CALCUTTA– THE DISSENTER

PUNJAB FARMERS AND IPL CRICKETERS - Finally, they can stand like equals

Mr. CHIEF MINISTER, PLEASE CALL OFF JANUARY 7 FUNCTION. My teacher is not alive, but you please call it off!

SUKHBIR IS RIGHT – On 97th anniversary  Panth Khatre Vich Hai. Where does this threat come from?

THE FINAL HONESTY CERTIFICATE: ISSUED BY THE TRIBUNE

NO TIME TO READ THIS STORY? – That’s OK - Please do not feel guilty 

BAD, BAD WOMAN! – Punjab’s top playwright slams woman complainant against Langah

MR PRESIDENT, PLEASE TAKE BACK HIS GALLANTRY MEDAL – On Amod Kanth’s badge of shame

RELAX! ALL 30 WERE DERA PREMIS – Panchkula says something stinking about its conscience

PUNJAB: AN IDEA IN SEARCH OF WORDS: Punjab, more than a poster boy of progress or a renegade from modernity

_______________________________________________________________


Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.

— Team PT


 










Comment

your name*

email address*

comments*
You may use these HTML tags:<p> <u> <i> <b> <strong> <del> <code> <hr> <em> <ul> <li> <ol> <span> <div>

verification code*
 







MOST VISITED
YOU MAY LIKE

TOPIC CLOUD

TAGS CLOUD

ARCHIVE



Copyright © 2016-2017







NEWS LETTER