My brother was less than a year old and I was eight, in June 1984.
During the summer break at school, my mother, brother and I had gone to visit my maternal grandparents at Chandigarh, while my father staid back at Hardwar in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where he worked for a public sector unit. One fine day, curfew was imposed on the city with shoot-at-sight orders, for which no one really knew the reasons. People could not even procure essential supplies, since they risked being shot at if they ventured outside their houses. Fortunately, we had a relative in the local police force, who was able to help us during the few days that there was no relaxation in curfew.
Then, we heard on All India Radio that Sri Harmandir Saahib (Golden Temple) at Amritsar had been stormed by the Indian Army. A day or two later, the curfew was lifted and life went on, though not the same as before, as I was going to find out subsequently. When my father came to fetch us home towards the end of my holidays, a neighbour of my grandfather's, whose son was an army officer, offered to have a batman sent along with us, but my father refused. On the way, ours appeared to be the only car that was stopped and searched at several army and police check-points. They not only searched our luggage, but also made my mother open her hand-bag and the bag containing my brother's diapers, even as vehicles with non-Sikh occupants sped by, unchecked. Out of the handbag's contents, one of the policemen found a pen that could also be worn as a bracelet to be highly suspicious. He made my mother use it to write on a piece of paper, while he and his colleagues at that particular check-post stood at a safe distance, just in case there was to be an explosion.
From all that happened between then and the carnage that took place in the month of November, a couple of incidents stand out in my mind. In the first instance, I was walking alone along a street near where we lived, to run an errand for my mother, the details of which I do not recall now, when a man on a bicycle rode past and then turned around to shout, "Oye aatank-waadi!" (Terrorist!). The same epithet was hurled at me in the second one as well, by a boy a little older than myself, while he and I played with toy guns in a park in the neighbourhood.