Kids Corner

Images: details from photos by Sanjay Austa of the survivors of the 1984 pogroms in Tilak Vihar, New Delhi.


Hazoorie's Silence

A Short Story by DALVEER KAUR




Her daughter would have been married with children by now, she thinks.

She has been pacing the little pale blue room for an hour now. The paint is peeling, it smells like damp. The noises from outside fill the room. The rickshawala, the hindi movie songs, the food-cart-wala, the children in the street. 

The noise, so many noises, muffled into one overwhelming sound. They make her feel nauseated. She looks to the corner of the room and her large unkempt daughter sits in her usual corner of their tiny home. Lost in a world of her own. Oblivious to the twenty eight years that have passed.

Caught up in her own frustration, she opens her mouth. Wanting to shout, to scream. However, in defeat she just lets out a sigh and purses her lips again. Her eyes close. And the tears stream down her haggared face that has seen the wrath of the 1984 pogroms in which her husband and son were killed.  In which her daughter was raped at the tender age of eight.

“You know I loved your father. We moved to Delhi because we loved big cities. We wanted you and your brother Kurban to have real opportunities. Our village is so small, there are no good schools and your bebe ji. She was such a bitch!”

She relives her tale with her daughter, who hasn’t responded to sound, light, word, touch, since the fateful days of November 1984. 

“Your father, you know he was a good man but a stubborn man. He didn’t listen! He never listened. I called him, I said, come home! They have killed Indira. Come home, work isn’t that important! Did he listen to me? NO! I pleaded again and again. But he was determined to work until his shift finished.

"I had to take care of you and your brother. Kurban, he was not like your father, he was always so ready to fight. So hot tempered. It’s hard to control a sixteen year old boy, you know! When you started crying because we could hear the mob, he was ready to go out and fight the mob. Bahaut samjhaana payaa si!  He is like my dad, your nanaji, he was always ready to fight. Pataa nahi kee souchde ney!

 "Are you even listening to me? Hazoorie! Listen to me, my heart is full of so much woe, I have cared for you for twenty eight years, please listen to me … This is what daughters are suppose to do!”

She collapses on the bed next to her daughter. On the shelf next to her is the picture of her and her husband on their wedding day. It no longer has a frame. He is a slim man, with a patiala-style dastaar and a heavy beard. His dark eyes show mischief and his smile welcoming. She, on the other hand, is a plump lady, with a round face, nervous smile and innocent eyes. 

She turns to look at the picture and picks it up. Strokes her husbands’ face, as the last memory she has of him. The ache in her heart grows. Almost accusing him of leaving her all alone. In her mind she talks to her husband, “What will I do with her?  I cannot marry her off. She does not speak, she does not register anything or anyone. I am not well either, you know, ji. What will happen to our Hazoorie? You always said we will make her a doctor and send her abroad, she will have a big wedding! Ji, now what shall I do with your laadlee?” 

She puts down the picture back in its original spot. 

She looks at the clock. It’s midday. She will have to cook lunch for herself and Hazoorie soon. She is not even hungry, but get’s up anyway. She walks to the little stove on top of a brick platform. She chops a onion, garlic and chilly, adds lentils and water to a small rusty pot. Her scarf slips off her head, revealing gray hair and a thin, crinkled face. Tired eyes and dry lips. 

November 2 will always be the hardest day of the year for her. Each year, the pain is fresh and the wound tender anew.  

“You know, your father arrived home past midnight. He was covered in blood, with cuts and gashes all over his body.” She continues to talk to Hazoorie, reliving the horror. She begins to weep.

“Kurban saw him and just ran out of the door declaring his own justice for what the mob had done to your father. You cried even more when you saw your father. I ran after him. Bas! This is all it took for our lives to fall apart and be inflicted with so much misery. Bas …The mob saw Kurban right away and ran towards him, and he towards it.”

Her tears have soaked the front of her kameez. She gets the end of her scarf and wipes her eyes and face. The white scarf perpetually rests on her head as a sign to the world that she is indeed a widow.

“In front of my eyes, my very own eyes. No mother should ever see what I saw. In front of my eyes …”

 She is distraught once again. She cries loudly. Hazoorie, still and sitting and unmoved. She gasps for air and starts again.

“In front of my eyes, they beat my Kurban. I went to help him. They dragged me by my hair and kicked me in the stomach. I was in so much pain. I could see them taking Kurban’s puggh off, kicking him, hitting him with lathis. He couldn’t even defend himself, he was one; they were many!  I was screaming for help, pleading them to stop. More came and kicked me in my stomach. 

“You kuttiya, you think your son will live?” this is what they said to me. Saaleeh! They poured kerosene over him and set him on fire.  Alive!”

She buries her head in her hands. The tears fill her palms and wet her hot face. 

“Oh, I can still hear my son screaming. My poor baccha. Mera Kurban. My first born.” 

She looks at Hazoorie with tear filled eyes. She wants to slap her, hit her, scream at her. Evoke some reaction from her. She wants Hazoorie to take care of her and wipe her tears. If only she had died too, she thinks, if only we had all died that day.

She remembers staggering to the house slowly in pain. She recalls vomiting several times on the way. She had defiled herself when she saw her son murdered. She hid between alleys and carts as she staggered through the street. She tripped a few times and only barely mustered the strength to get up again. She thought she wasn’t going to make it. The thought of not making it made her anxious and nauseated with grief. She hurried home as fast as she could.

She reached the door to their home.  It was open. She vomited.

Her husband had been stabbed to death.  His dastaar was unraveled and on the floor. There was fresh blood on his body.  Alongside the dead body was her tiny eight year old daughter being raped by a man, a big fat man. Her screams and cries fill the room. His weight pounds Hazoorie’s small body.

She passed out and falls thumping to the ground. 

She doesn’t know what happened next. Two days later, she gained consciousness in a refugee camp with her daughter by her side.

A violent need to vomit makes her rush to the make-shift sink and her mind returns to the room. She was staring aimlessly into the city she once called home and today fills her with overbearing sadness. She sits down again, close to Hazoorie and hugs her. Hazoorie, almost like a dummy, falls into the hug, but doesn’t respond. She strokes Hazoorie’s hair. 

“I’m so so sorry, my love. I’m so sorry I could not save you.” 

Fresh tears rush down the side of her face. “I’m so sorry, my child”


Dalveer Kaur is an activist and writer from the UK.  She is a policy analyst with a United Nations NGO. Her concentration has been on human and civil rights. She is in the process of compiling her first book of short stories.  

November 3, 2012


Conversation about this article

1: Baljit Singh Pelia (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), November 03, 2012, 1:41 PM.

The silence of the world is deafening! Please read and speak up with your conscience ... if you have a conscience! ... regardless of your religious or national affiliation. No human being, not even an animal, should be treated as such. Letting perpetrators of such crimes get away is a crime in itself.

2: Harpreet Singh (Delhi, India), November 03, 2012, 4:19 PM.

Put some more gold and marble in gurdwaras, spend millions on marriages, put hundreds of unnecessary lavish food stalls on gurpurabs, regularly purchase new big cars and properties ... but do not take even basic humanitarian care of our Hazoories and their mothers, though they are our daughters, sisters. Do not think of something solid ... we do not have even basic care/ minimum consideration for them. No media announcements about wrong done to us or projecting the truth. No hope from established leaders, management committees, etc. Respected men and women can only guide us, but they must be given all respect, resources, manpower and money. Recently watched Japanese TV channel, NHK. Saw how impressively they are helping such type of victims of the big Tsunami last year, especially, by relocating victims and by employing sympathetic psychological counselors, etc. To give solace to family members of the deceased, especially the children. My ardaas to Waheguru, if possible take all or most of my assets, health, wealth, comforts, etc. (which I have or which are due to me/are in my luck) and give to such Hazoories and their mothers ...

3: Harmeet Singh (USA), November 03, 2012, 10:53 PM.

The victims of 1984 need to document their tragedies on sworn affidavits so that it is a historical record. Unfortunately, this is not what people are doing.

4: Ravinder Singh Khalsa (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), November 04, 2012, 11:51 AM.

This is an extremely sad story. I want to help the victims of 1984. I agree with Harmeet Singh that all 1984 victims' statements should be recorded both by video and in affidavits. I am appalled that to this day the Sikhs haven't received justice nor have the Sikhs themselves provided meaningful support and guidance to those impacted in 1984 and in the genocide in Punjab in the 80's and 90's. And Indians wonder why Sikhs are still demanding justice? Such stories should be shared with the world!

5: Sarjit Kaur (Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.), November 04, 2012, 7:00 PM.

Seems like healing is urgently needed and long delayed for beloved victim and daughter ... besides justice. Wealthy Sikhs really need to lead such survivors to solace in gurbani, and to know there is no death in Sikhi, and the evil will face their doom much worse than what they have sowed!

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