This is a speech which I delivered at Wipro Toastmasters Club. (www.toastmasters.org). I had lost this speech, but a good friend forwarded it to me today...thanks to her for reviving some memories..
>From: "Ambrish Bajaj" <>
>To: "Akshu (E-mail)" <>
>Subject: a speech i delivered at toastmasters
>Date: Tue, 20 May 2003 18:38:07 +0530
>Memories blurred, but indelible
> It was sometime in the first week of October 1984. Her personal
>bodyguards had just assassinated Indira Gandhi, the PM. There was rage
>amongst certain sections of the society against another section. The houses
>were blazing around me; they looked as if paper houses were being put on
>fire, just for fun!
> Good Morning Toastmasters and distinguished guests.
> I was about 5 years old then. One would aptly call an age when all you do
>is play, break neighbors' windows, eat all rubbish from street hawkers, and
>spoil clothes by playing in mud. All your parents do is clean up the act.
>That is, buy you toys to play, apologize to the neighbors, take you to the
>doctor for the belly pain you've got by eating all rubbish on the street
>and wash your clothes hard to remove those almost indelible stains. So I
>was also that kind of a kid. But I used to muse and think a lot. Very often
>I used to be alone and indulge in deep thinking, mostly directionless.
> Getting back to October 1984. I knew something awful had happened in the
>country. I also used to get confused about the concept of a country. Please
>do not expect anything more out of a kid of 5. TVs were running day in and
>day out loud and clear. Just when the news of the PM's assassination
>started spreading like forest fire, a similar conflagration began at many
>ill-fated homes; the inhabitants of which had committed just one mistake
>that they were born with religion of the PM's assassins.
> Anyway, we had wonderful neighbors. Typical of how neighbors are in a
>street in small towns. One of the loveliest neighbors was the next-door
>family of four- Sardar Uncle, Sardar Auntie, Badi didi and Choti didi. I
>must tell you that were an amazingly affectionate family. Often Auntie used
>to take me to her kitchen and offer me tasty stuff. Both the didis used to
>pull my red fat cheeks. I hated them for this, but probably it was their
>way of expressing love for me.
> As the fire raged across the city, I didn't feel intimidated. Why should
>I be frightened, I could hardly understand the graveness, which now I would
>call insanity of the matter? But then one night fear struck me. My family
>and me were standing out in the porch of our house. There was a curfew
>situation on the road. The yellow glare was emerging from all four
>directions around me.
> A bunch of unruly guys was approaching our house. I think I would have
>got a bit scared. They were in "dire need". In dire need of some
>inflammable thing, probably they had consumed all their stock on earlier
>homes. "Sir please, petrol, kerosene or even LPG, kuch bhi chalega". My
>father and landlord straightforwardly refused them.
> The refusal didn't deter the mob's animalistic spirits. They forcibly
>stopped a scooter on the road near Sardar Uncle's shop. Obviously the shop
>was closed at that point of time. They took all petrol from the scooter.
>They approached our street, which unfortunately for that day housed many of
>the ill-fated families other than our beloved neighbors. But I think God
>Almighty was not asleep, he felt moved and alarmed. A nearby milk-dairy
>owner, a 6 feet, rustic and healthy man came in the way of the mob. In
>authoritative Haryanvi, he commanded the bunch of "boys" to just get lost,
>as there weren't any "prey" for them in that street which they were
>frantically looking for. I think that it wasn't that the mob got fooled and
>pushed off; they actually got scared by the words of the man, the man who
>was determined to save some lives on that night.
> The night went off calmly, at least in my street. Next morning the houses
>in my street were intact, their inhabitants unhurt.
> A few months later our "beloved" Sardar family moved to Punjab for
>probably safer if not better prospects. Mom was in touch with Sardar Auntie
>when the two didis got married. The two moms exchanged good wishes. A few
>years later we lost touch with them.
> My memories about all of this are a bit blurred. But I cannot ever
>forget- the love of our neighbors, fear in their eyes during that turmoil,
>not to forget the cheek pulling by the two didis.