Debojit Dutta is a writer based in Delhi, from where he runs Antiserious, a literary magazine. His writings have appeared in the Missing Slate, Northeast Review, Motherland magazine and Himal Southasian among other places.
In 2011 when India won the cricket World Cup after a gap of 28 years, Banchal, a small town in northeast India, celebrated in a more or less traditional way—going out and burning firecrackers that we save every Diwali in anticipation of such events. There was a minor scuffle in the Muslim neighbourhood where a bunch of hoodlums assuming that it was Pakistan that India were playing in the final had burned down a poster of Wasim Akram. When arrested most of these teenagers confessed they did not know much about this particular World Cup. As they had not been watching cricket since Indo-Pak matches became a rarity, they had no clue that Wasim Akram had hung up his boots long ago.
But that scuffle, even though it grabbed a few local newspaper headlines wasn’t unusual. Some newspapers had gone as far as claiming it to be a communal riot, but newspapers are prone to such exaggerations. It was a trivial matter. Something of that kind would happen every now and then. There was nothing strange about it. It did not affect me in a way tragedies do. After all, nothing had happened. It wasn’t a story about a building being brought down by aeroplanes in a major country of the world. Not even a monkey man roaming the streets of the nation’s capital. Not even a personal tragedy of a nail refusing to come off when one tries to pull it out, unconsciously. Heck, not even like a child not getting to complete a full over of bowling on a cricket field because he is too young for that! Perhaps it was just too mundane to strike me. What struck me was the death of Pulokit Purkayastha/ PP, hanging by a noose to the peepal tree outside his house.
PP was a boy of 13 when the local news agencies took notice of him. He had just won a poetry competition and as part of the deal was invited to Delhi for a workshop. He was in seventh standard then and his mother was a little sceptical about allowing him to go to the land that rumours had made inhospitable in her head.