“Where were you when… such and such a thing happened?” is such a cliché.
But you still want to task that question.
Today is October 31, the day Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.
I was a school student when it happened in 1984, and certain things still stick to this very day…
AIR revives Indira: In the ghastly act, her guards pumped 30 bullets into her body at about 9.30 in the morning. She was officially declared dead by the doctors an hour later. But since President Zail Singh was out of the country, the government didn’t declare the news before evening time.
Doordarshan kept saying that she was “serious” all day. One All India Radio broadcast in the afternoon even said something to the effect of: According to unconfirmed sources, she may have regained consciousness!
Such a media blackout is unthinkable in today’s Twitter Age where everything breaks instantaneously and universally. Of course everyone knew the truth in India through word of mouth, but there were still many who thought she would survive till the official confirmation finally came.
The Kid on the Bike: The moment we got the news, one of my school seniors and neighbours screamed “Indira is dead: Now Vajpayee will be Prime Minister!” After that he cycled all day in the neighbourhood shouting “Vajpayee for Prime Minister.”
To me it seemed quite bizarre considering the fact that I had heard Vajpayee’s name for the first time in my life. But his words became prophetic as Atal Bihari Vajpayee did indeed become PM after 12 years.
The Fateful Speech: “Mere khoon ka ek ek katra is desh ke liye kaam aayega,” (Every drop of my blood will serve the nation) is a popular statement she made in a political rally days before she died.
This was the talking point for everyone for months on end after Indira’s death.
But when I entered journalism, some seniors told me that she never made such a statement.
It was a figment of the Congress’ imagination and part of their propaganda!
Seven Years Later: In 1991 Indira’s son, former PM Rajiv Gandhi, was also assassinated. But this time it was after 10 in the night when half of India was either asleep or blissfully unaware of the tragic news.
I fell into the latter category. I took my morning walk and when I returned home I saw (what was to me at least) the most shocking “Breaking News” ever.
“Rajiv Assassinated” was above the Times of India masthead.
My late sister’s journalism teacher had told her that such an event was a rarity and happened very few times in a newspaper’s lifetime.
Of course, now the times have really changed.
Today if you are a rich industrialist with a few crores to spare, then you may be able to announce your son’s birthday above the Times of India masthead, with the way it’s going!
© Sunil Rajguru