Today, 3 June, is the 30th anniversary of Operation Blue Star. I was a teenager when it happened, housebound because of perennial curfews, battling adolescent hormones, arguing, arguing, arguing, with my parents, siblings, the neighbours, friends, anybody who had a point of view on what was occurring. Cradling the radio, fiddling with its knob for clarity, I listened to BBC Radio, distrusting the official media, finding nothing to glean from the redacted newspapers. It was an obscure, anxious time, time in which I wished to cohere what was happening into the black and white of textbooks that I grew up with and found so comforting.
But sense and sensibility had forsaken my world. A storm, worse than any Punjabi haneri, tossed us about in the manner of King’s horror-stricken protagonists, even as it drew up partition lines afresh. My world changed.
Thirty years later, I sit at a remove from my old town but the reel in my mind is fresh. I have wrestled with the demons in a book, specifically, and in others, at a tangent. I have been to readings where the post-Blue Star generation has looked at me with mild curiosity and enquired, why don’t you write a, -umm, lighter novel? As if a novel was a thing of silk, to be advertised in the manner of Thai airways as smooth.
We write in order to memorialize. The day I come across silk I shall write light, la haul vila kuvvat. Meanwhile, it’s three decades later but don’t you think, for a moment, that the demons have gone away. They acquire power via the abysmal memory of those who choose to look the other way. Or the unsullied young minds in search of light-reading. Pabulum, rightly, is meant for the toothless. For the rest of us, there is a bloody battle and its unattenuated aftermath.