Thirty One


By Natasha Badhwar

An Indian Muslim man stranded on the first floor of his house and surrounded by Hindu rioters begs to nearby police to rescue him in Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat, on March 1, 2002. REUTERS/Arko Datta

I was single at 31.
I was married at 31.
I was Sahar’s new-born mother at 31.

I had nightmares at 31, I had dreams at 31.
That year I went to Trinidad and Tobago, Kazakhstan, Spiti, Adilabad and Port Blair.
That year I went to Gujarat.
We went to the Registrar’s office together, we took my parents with us later.

I was beautiful at 31.
I had a lot of ice-cream that year.
I saw a lot of fish.
I waddled.
We packed and moved home.
Chris visited from London, first in Delhi and then in Port Blair.

I was very ill.
We heard a lot of music together.

It was 2002.
People burnt alive in a train, Muslims chased and massacred in Gujarat.

I walked over freshly burnt floors with my camera in Baroda.
A charred refrigerator, a swing, still in the lawn.
I listened to people, I focused on them.
I was in Ahmedabad.
A baby scooped out live from her mother’s womb and dangled at the edge of the warrior’s sword.
My fingers trembled, my spirit choked, I rolled camera.
We returned to our hotel rooms.

Afzal went to Ahmedabad later as a volunteer, working at a Hindu refugee camp.
He did not tell them his name.
He did not tell me he was there.

We got married. Just like that.

Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and Columnist for Mint Lounge.

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