Heartless Dilli [Delhi Riots]

Today Delhi is on fire. And while the country’s capital burns, so does a big part of my innocent childhood.

Delhi to me was the slightly misty mornings where I would go out to the balcony to hang my towel and spot a peacock sneakily dancing around our garden.

Delhi to me was dodging around the countless fallen jamuns to make sure they didn’t stain my shoes.

Delhi to me was giggling while my mother and uncle tease each other about how many ladoos they have eaten, while my nani and her siblings race to complete the daily crossword.

Delhi to me was the fleeting exciting moment of crossing Rajpath Road and being right in the middle of Rashtrapati Bhavan and India Gate. Delhi to me was the mother-daughter trips to Nathus for chaat and then to Humayun’s tomb for sightseeing. Delhi to me was picking out books at the Faqir-Chand bookstore in Khan Market and being in awe of the vibrant colors and intricate designs on sale at Lajpat Nagar.

Delhi to me was falling in love with Urdu through the names of my ancestors, it was the  poetry that I could see in the Mughal architecture surrounding our neighborhood, and it was hearing bhajans and Qawwalis in the same household and gushing over how pure the tabla sounded, rather than questioning the religious contexts.

Delhi to me was going to Jama Masjid just 15 minutes away from our home, to take in the breathtaking beauty amidst the bustling crowds, to eat at Karim’s, and because it was a crucial part of India’s culture. It was knowing that the Masjid (mosque) was just as important a part of our lives as the Hanuman Mandir (Hindu temple) was.

Today, those same simple joys are on fire. To see that other Indians, view this same Muslim community area in Northeast Delhi as a symbol of war and violence, is heartbreaking to say the least.



Religion to me is the celebration of good over evil. Religion to me is the morals by which I join my hands in front of and touch the feet of my Gurus and elders. Religion to me is the mythological stories that I was able to learn and depict through dancing. Religion to me is inclusive, it is community, and it is love and hope.

But somewhere along the line, my religion got mixed with politics. Somewhere along the line they changed it to “us vs. them”. Somewhere along the line they changed it to ruling over what you could and could not eat or where you could and could not go. Somewhere along the line they shifted the focus from holding small candles, to holding arms and starting large fires.


Tomorrow when I visit home, the pollution and poor weather will win over the magical feeling of all my simple joys that would previously counter them.

Tomorrow when I drive through the streets of Delhi, my mind will question each person and wonder whether they too are one of the people that mix politics with religion.

Tomorrow when I pray at the temple, I will ask God why there is pain at His doorstop and why his love has been skewed and his community has been fragmented.


Today Delhi is on fire. And while the country’s capital burns, so does a big part of my innocent childhood.


I write this because my heart hurts thinking about my family’s hometown, perhaps most of all because sitting in Berkeley, I feel angry yet helpless. I noticed that despite two days of brutal violence, my two favorite news sources, The New York Times and The Economist, have not covered the events that are happening on the streets of Delhi. I realize that tomorrow when I wake up and go to class, the high majority of my classmates will have no idea about this, despite the fact that India’s Prime Minister is rolling out a red carpet for the President of the United States to strike deals between nations and ignore the threatened relationships between neighbors.

I hope that reading about my simply joys being taken away encourages you to think about the homes and lives being taken away in this inhuman situation, that it helps you to empathize, and that it makes you angry enough that you choose to stand up during conversations in your family and community that allude to a non-secular India.




  1. Anju Bhasin says:

    Beautiful article ,words straight out from innocence and idealism .
    Yet striking the right cords and right issues
    Nudging the people around us to remember our secular ideals and nipping any non secular discussions around us goes a long way and has been very articulately put up by the young author.
    As long as we have such people who think and act like that ,there is hope .
    The bedrock of Delhi is much stronger and will prevail .


  2. Prabha says:

    We are ashamed to take away such simplicity from the younger generations. Sunena hopefully we will stand united – कबिरा खड़ा बजार में माँगे सबकी ख़ैर , ना काहू से दोस्ती ना काहू से बैर ।


  3. Rashmi kothari says:

    Very well written sunena, it is painful to see such inhuman acts. We will pray that everything will resume back to normal soon, not only damages but anger and hatred in people too.


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