The morning after Indira Gandhi's assassination, I was at home, probably because school was closed on account of the state of mourning declared by the government. As I sat near a window in the quarter (one of four dwelling units in a 'block') which had been allotted to my father by his employer, like thousands of others who worked for the public sector unit, I could hear the wives of his colleague who lived next-door and the one who occupied the flat above ours converse among themselves. I do not recall the details, but do remember that there were a lot of unkind words said about the Sikh community, in general.
That evening, I stepped out on the front porch, upon hearing my mother's loud expression of anger, to see huge flames rising into the sky from the spot where the colony's Gurdwara had been. She ordered me inside and went off to ring up the fire brigade. We did not have a telephone connection at home and my father had gone to fetch the family's daily supply of milk.
The Sikh gentleman whose place my mother had gone to for making the telephone call told her that he had already contacted the fire-fighters and that she should go home, give my brother (who was a few days short of his first birth-day at that point of time) a teaspoon of Phenergan, so that he would sleep peacefully through the night, and turn out the lights after having locked all doors and drawn the curtains. She took his advice. Later, when my father returned, he told us about all that he had seen and heard during the day, as we sat in the kitchen, which was lit dimly by a small lamp that he installed there. The rest of the night passed uneventfully.
Early the next morning, my chacha (father's younger brother), who worked in the same manufacturing plant as my father and lived a few minutes of driving distance away, came to see us. He had seen the fire that engulfed the Gurdwara, the previous evening, and had been worried about our safety. As the day wore on, news came in that the home of another Sikh family, at about 10-15 minutes of walking distance from ours, had been attacked by the mob that burnt the Gurdwara and some members injured grievously. The police had been almost completely inactive throughout, so the threat to our lives seemed very real.
The non-Sikh tenants in the quarter diagonally opposite the one we had, offered to let my mother keep her jewellery and some other valuables with them until the violence subsided, for safety, which she accepted. Another such family in the adjacent block offered to let my father park his car in their garage, which he did. The next-door neighbours stored water in drums, whether to help us in case of a calamity or to safeguard themselves, I am not sure.
Since we did not have any weapons for self-defence, except kitchen knives, my mother (since she was not as easily recognisable as a Sikh as my father and I) brought in paving stones, one by one, from a nearby road-construction site, which were then stacked on the inside of the front door. My parents instructed me to pick up my brother and slip out through the back door to hide in the thick foliage behind the residence, with one hand cupped tightly over his mouth, while they would try to stop the hoodlums for as long as they could, in case of an attack.
No such eventuality arose, however, and the army staged a flag-march in the town on the following day, after which no violent incidents were reported. Like us, my chacha and his family, comprised of his wife and young son, also survived unscathed, even as thousands of other Sikhs perished in various parts of India.