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T

he bombing, for which Mr. and Mrs. Khurana were not present, was a flat, percussive event that

began under the bonnet of a parked white Maruti 800, though of course that detail, that detail about
the car, could only be confirmed later. A good bombing begins everywhere at once.
A crowded market also begins everywhere at once, and Lajpat Nagar exemplified this type of
tumult. A formless swamp of shacks, it bubbled here and there with faces and rolling carts and
sloping beggars. It probably held four seasons at once in its gigantic span, all of them hot. When you
got from one end of the market to the other, the wooden carts with their shiny aluminum wheels
had so rearranged themselves that the market you were in was technically no longer the market
you had entered: a Heisenbergian nightmare of motion and ambiguity. So the truth of the matter is
that no one really saw the parked car till it came apart in a dizzying flock of shards.
Strange sights were reported. A blue fiberglass rooftop came uncorked from a shop and clattered
down on a bus a few meters away; the bus braked, the rooftop slid forward, leaked a gorgeous
stream of sand, and fell to the ground; the bus proceeded to crack it under its tires and keep going,
its passengers dazed, even amused. (In a great city, what happens in one part never perplexes the
other parts.) Back in the market, people collapsed, then got up, their hands pressed to their wounds,
as if they had smashed eggs against their bodies in hypnotic agreement and were unsure about
what to do with the runny, bloody yolk. Most startling of all, for the survivors and rescue workers
both, was the realization that the main dusty square was rooted so firmly by half a dozen massive
trees, trees that had gone all but unnoticed in all those years, their shadows dingy with commerce,
their branches cranked low with hanging wares, their droppings of mulberry collected and sold
until the bomb had loosened the green gums of the trees and sent down a shower of leaves, which
Mr. Khurana kicked up on the ground as he tried to uncover the bodies of his two sons.
But the leaves, turned crisp, shards themselves, offered nothing. His sons were dead at a nearby
hospital and he had come too late.
The two boys were the sum total of the Khuranas children, eleven and thirteen, eager to be sent
out on errands; and on this particular day they had gone with a friend in an auto-rickshaw to pick
up the Khuranas old Onida color TV, consigned to the electrician for perhaps the tenth time. But
when Mr. Khurana was asked by friends what the children were doing there (the boy with them
having escaped with a fracture), he said, Theyd gone to pick up my watch from the watch man.
His wife didnt stop him, and in fact colluded in the lie. All the watches were stopped, she said.
The way they know the time the bomb went off is by taking the average of all the stopped watches
in the watch mans hut.
Why lie, why now? Well, because to admit to their high-flying friends that their children had not
only died among the poor, but had been sent out on an errand that smacked of poverty repairing
an old TV that should have, by now, been replaced by one of those self-financing foreign brands
would have, in those tragic weeks that followed the bombing, undone the tightly laced nerves that
held them together. But of course they were poor, at least compared to their friends, and no amount
of suave English, the sort that issued uncontrollably from their mouths, could change that; no
amount of sobbing in Victorian sentences or chest beating before the Oxonian anchors on The News
Tonight, who interviewed them, who stoked their outrage, could drape them or their dead children

in the glow of foregone success: Mr. and Mrs. Khurana were forty and forty, and they had suffered
the defining tragedy of their lives, and so all other competing tragedies were relegated to mere facts
of existence. For a month afterwards, they made do without the TV, which for all they knew was still
sitting in the basement workshop of the electrician, its hidden berths of microchips heavy with
dust, its screen screwed off and put facedown on the floor, looking into nothing. They only caught
their own mugs on The News Tonight because a neighbor knocked on their door and welcomed
them into his house to watch the news. He was friendly with them ever after.
Now Mr. Khurana, who had been a troubled, twitchy sleeper ever since hed become a documentary
filmmaker years ago, began to suffer from dreams that impressed him deeply, and he never failed to
discuss them with his wife or his collaborators. He didnt mention that he was terrified during their
nightly unspooling; that he slept in the crook of his wifes armpit like a baby, his body greased with
sweat, his leg rotating out like the blade of a misfired fan. But the dreams were truly notable, and in
the first and most frequent one, he became, for a few minutes, the bomb. The best way to describe
what he felt would be to say that first he was blind, then he could see everything. This is what it felt
like to be a bomb. You were coiled up, majestic with blackness, unaware that the universe outside
you existed, and then a wire snapped and ripped open your eyelids all the way around and you had
a vision of the world that was 360 degrees, and everything in your purview was doomed by seeing.