While ‘India’ was busy cheering its cricketers to win the world cup for the nation, some couple of hundred people, who had probably laboured through the day, hauling stuff in a under-construction swank high-rise, were sleeping in their shanties in sector 61 in Gurgaon. It was close to mid-night, when India won the epic battle. Urban Gurgaon broke into a rapturous celebration with full-fledged fireworks and these people slept through it
Local fire and police officials believe that a stray rocket celebrating India’s historic win landed in the shanties and caused a fire. Three people were burnt alive, nine were grievously injured, of which five were battling for their life in the hospital, and at least forty homes were gutted.
The government was too busy giving away taxpayer’s money to the already rich cricket players to worry about the life in shanty towns, nicely hidden behind the billboards of swank new apartments that these people are building. Most newspapers were too busy covering the event (for about four or five days, all major newspapers dedicated all or most of their front pages to it) than to worry about some poor ‘bastards’ who were sleeping when the match was on.
Some might speculate that these Bangla speaking construction workers may have been Bangladeshi immigrants, that is why they were not up and watching the match. Had they been cheering for India, they may have coped with the fire better. Some might go to the extent of saying that any fool who sleeps through such a historic moment probably deserved it…
A friend who works in an NGO offered to help – those who did not loose family, lost everything they owned. After much searching this morning I finally found the place where the event took place. Not only did I want to point the NGO in that direction, I also I wanted to talk to the next-of-kin of the people who made the ultimate ‘patriotic’ sacrifice for their country and their cricket team. Turns out they were all gone. Vanished without a trace. All that is left at the place is cinders and barbed wire. People in another shanty close by either did not know or did not want to tell where I could find the survivors.
First published on April 6, 2011