31 Oct, 1984
"Sardarji, what are you doing?"
"Talking a walk?"
"Don't you know what has happened?"
"What has happened?"
"Indira Gandhi has been assassinated and they are killing all the Sikhs in Delhi."
The tall turbaned Sikh gentleman looked at the passer-by with disbelief as if to say "What kind of a prank is this!" But the man did not look like a prankster from the manner in which he was dressed. He appeared genuinely concerned.
"Sardarji, get in my car, I will leave you home", he persisted looking up and down the relatively quiet road converging into Panchsheel Park. "You will be an easy target because of your turban."
The Sikh's hand gripped his ten year old daughter's even fiercely.
She looked at him and asked ,"Do I look like a Sikh? I mean I do have these plaits. Will they kill me too."
"Nobody is killing anyone," the girl's father said and thanked the man who had stopped by them. He started to walk away, but the man insisted they get in the car, at least for the child's sake. Somehow that struck the Sikh gentleman. A little wary, perhaps even uncertain, he clutched his daughter and reluctantly sat in the car. The man continued rambling and his words somehow felt like he was talking of some other world.
As he dropped them outside the house where they were staying with relatives, he said with a smile, "I am Roshan Dyal. Stay safe Sardar sahab, these are not good times."
Of course what followed in the course of 72 hours is now history, best forgiven and forgotten. Thousands of innocent Sikhs including army sepoys were mindlessly butchered in an orderly pogrom that followed Indira Gandhi's Killing. All that the newly appointed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi could say was that "once a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it shakes". The ethnic cleansing raged like a wild fire and in the same place where politically motivated Hindus were taking innocent lives, a good Hindu had decided to stop by to save a Sikh's life.
As people mark the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi, and the 30th anniversary of mindless killing of innocent Sikhs, I mark the death anniversary of my dad and the good Roshan Dyal. People like Roshan Dyal have kept my faith alive. I also mark my fragile association with New Delhi and every time I pass by the same street a memory numbs my mind as things probably stay forgiven, but definitely not forgotten.