Growing up in small town Nagpur in the 90s was mostly peaceful for me except for that time someone gave the kids in my society a dirty bomb. Small story circa early 2000s. Was reported but no action taken. I can't help but keep thinking back to it these days.
I used to live in a medium-sized housing society where Muslim families used to live on one side of the complex (which I realised much later). Some of the kids including those from Muslim families used to play cricket with me on that side.
One fateful day when I wasn't playing with them, a stranger passed by and gave them a plastic ball to play with. Kids being kids obviously didn't think much of it and started playing catch with it. But when they threw it against a wall, it exploded.
Shrapnel embedded into a girl's stomach who was sitting close by. Thankfully it was a poorly made bomb which didn't cause any fatal damage. But it easily could have, and I could've been there as well.
I went to visit the girl and her family with my dad, but there weren't many words exchanged. There was a silent horror and shock on everyone's face, the kind you see when life as usual turns out to be not so usual. Police never found the guy, but no one expected them to either.
When Modi came to power years later, and the hatred for Muslims erupted again after ages, I remembered this story and realised what had been brewing all these years in small town Nagpur. Kids in my school trashing Gandhi and Nehru after history lessons suddenly made sense.
I was too young and naive to see hatred brewing around me back then, but it's clear as day now. Which is why I oppose it whenever and however I can to make up for lost time. #ArnabGate is ground reality in many more WhatsApp chats than you would think.