Feb 14, 1998
Thank God, it was a Saturday. That meant my mom had to work only half-a-day and therefore left office before 3pm on that fateful day. It was 12 years back – 1998. It was when people came to know Coimbatore as the ‘Bomb Blast’ city than as an industrial city. At first, when we heard the news of a bomb blast within the city, I was scared – Amma hadn’t returned home after office and there she did not carry a cell phone in those days and she was practically not reachable. After what seemed an eternity, she reached home. After that, we were kept updated by friends and colleagues (of my parents’) about the various bomb blasts and the riots. It all sounded so unreal – there was no way so many people could have died, there was no way anyone could have planted bombs in the Govt. Hospital (no one was THAT insensitive), there was no way people could set fire to shops in Town Hall and loot stuff from burning shops, and there was absolutely no way there was a 3kg RDX bomb right in Amma’s office building (that was diffused later). I was 12 years old. I thought the world was full of nice people. And villains who murdered people existed only in movies (this was when I was ‘innocent’ as I claimed in my previous post). All the same, I was excited too, because schools declared holiday until a car bomb was diffused and that took around 4days.
The fact was that over a hundred people died (although the official figures claim that it was only one-third of it), and so many were injured and the incident changed the image of the city in a flash – suddenly, people were more unwilling to come and work in Coimbatore (even though it is a beautiful city with a great climate and awesome water), Real Estate prices hit rock bottom (of course, I didn’t realize it then), and business slumped and it took half a decade for it to come back to normal. And for the first time in my life, I felt unsafe. I felt afraid to go out; little did I know that such attacks would become a way of life in the years to come!
I think that is enough and more reason why, as a Coimbatorean, I won’t celebrate Valentines’ day – the day that made my city weep and bleed. To me it is a day of mourning. Celebrating is the last thing that I would do on February 14th.