Certain incidents so impress us that they leave an indelible mark on our memory. I was once involved in an incident of which I shall always have vivid recollections.
The incident occurred when I visited a village in India together with my parents, sometime during my holidays last year.
Early in the morning on the day the incident occurred, I was talking with a few of my new friends in that village. All of a sudden, a boy of my age came rushing towards us to break the news that violence had broken out in the neighborhood. Alarmed at this news, we began to protect ourselves, and before long the violence spread like wild fire throughout our area.
I was a little confused at first for I had no idea about the cause of the outbreak of violence there. One of my friends told me that the area had been notorious for such occurrence owing to rivalry between two parties. Each party tried to destroy the influence of the other in that area, and the bad blood that existed between them had caused several deaths and great misery to innocent people for a long time. Official influence could not be exercised effectively in this area owing to its remoteness from the centers of authority. The members of the rival parties therefore enjoyed almost complete freedom of action. The police arrived only when there was news of violence, and often long after the damage has been done.
While I was listening to this account of facts and events, the situation suddenly took an ugly turn. A man who had been standing a short distance away from us ran into his house most unexpectedly, and within minutes his house was ablaze. My friends and I then ran towards his house to put out the fire; but we were stopped by a few burly men who were holding lethal weapons in their hands. They threatened to kill if we offered any help to anyone. One of them had even struck me on my head with a stick. We realized instantly that we were no match for them and that discretion was the better part of valor. We therefore decided to proceed no further.
Soon the fire from that house began to spread and several houses were burning. There were frantic cries for help. Men, women, and children were running in all directions in their desperate attempts to save whatever they could from the fire, in spite of the interference of the gangsters. A few of the unfortunate ones were burned to death, including the man who had set fire to his own house. We then concluded that the man must have been so disgusted with what we had seen for so long that he had no more desire to live, and this was his way of putting an end to himself. It was indeed a pathetic sight.
Then, after several hours, the police arrived when more than a quarter of the village had already been burned to ashes. They asked us several questions to find out if we had ourselves participated in the violence. As I was foreigner who would be leaving that village the following day, I had the courage to answer all their questions and to point out the men who had threatened to kill us. Those men were then arrested together with other suspects.
Early next morning, my parents and I left the village with no more desire to re-visit this place; but my memory of this incident will remain fresh forever.