It looked like any other bustling street in north India. Hand rickshaws strewn across the sides. A music shop selling tablas and sitars. Three shops that sold pictures of gods mounted in bright golden frames. Sack cloth and scaffolding covering an old building. Lost tourists fighting a one sided battle as they haggled and fought with guides and rickshaw pullers.
And then I saw the sign. A weather-beaten arch, the type face beginning to fade. It said Jallianwala Bagh.
Under the sign was a courtyard. Three doors, two cycles leaning against them. Some men on make shift chairs supervising the scaffolding, listening to their radios. And a narrow wooden door behind them.
The doors were open. I felt nothing.
I slowly walked past the door, into a narrow lane. Surrounded by high walls. I looked up to see the sky, a narrow blue strip. A green creeper had pushed its way through the cracks in the wall.
I kept walking down that narrow hemmed in path. Till i reached a sign. It said:
General Dyer conducted soldiers for firing on an innocent crowd of Indians through this passage.
Loud boots. The incessant march. Clattering over the stone surface. Left right. Left right. Filing in. One after the other. The passage is filled. The clattering is louder. The entrance is blocked.
Silent. Goose bumps. Suddenly.
I remember the lines Sarfaroshi ki tamana aaj humare dil mein hain. Bhagat singh. Udham singh. Simon go back. The rowlatt act. Everything jumbled as it all tumbles out.
The thing with history is you can bury it. In textbooks. Under scaffolding. Behind an innocuous facade.
But once it’s in the mud, the ground, the sky; it’ll always be in your blood.