Saturday, December 11, 2004

It must have started as a small fire but it was spreading rapidly. When T & I reached the spot it was already licking the sky. We watched from a distance as the fire engulfed the houses in the slum hungrily, one by one. The cool ocean breeze and the rising flames writhed together in a mesmerising dance of frenzy. As the fire grew, fed by the wind, it became greedier, now swallowing two huts at a time. I watched, my skin burning in the heat of the flames that I could feel two hundred metres away. I could not hear anybody screaming or crying. In fact I could not hear any sound at all. Just a deafening silence and the sound of burning wood. I wondered whether anybody was hurt. I worried about the unknown people who lived in the huts that were burning down. And yet, I stood rooted in my safe spot, next to the car two hundred metres away. Perhaps the fire was not an accident, I thought. Perhaps it was not someone’s bidi stub that had caused the fire. Perhaps it was the work of some builder who wanted that area evacuated. Bastard! I abused him vehemently, uncaring whether such a person existed or if he was at all responsible. T nudged me then and said that it was time to leave. We got into the car and drove away. The wind from the rolled down window felt cold on my scorching skin. Maybe I should have done something to help, I thought, suddenly ashamed.

The next day the incident became just a tiny article hidden in a page that went unnoticed by most.


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