Samachar Apartments: Much More Than a Murder
Samachar was safe. For children, for elders, for working couples. Until Wednesday.
(Sixty-four-year-old Vijaykumar PB, father of Rajya Sabha TV journalist Ambily Vijaykumar, was murdered at his residence in Samachar Apartments in East Delhi’s Mayur Vihar area on Wednesday.)
We came to live in Samachar. A colony of journalists. I was seven years old. This was one of the first apartments to come up in the area. We were among the first families to move in.
A makeshift bridge connected us to the main road. The school bus stop was far away. My mother had to take a rickshaw to buy bread.
My father joked about his colleagues back then at United News of India (UNI) calling him JUMNAPAARI (living across the river Yamuna).
Why had we come here, I often wondered, if all that my mother had to do was complain about the closest grocery shop being 5 kms away?
Why had we chosen this house in the middle of a veritable jungle? For a child these were perfunctory thoughts. Over time they receded as I sensed we weren’t alone.
There were 250 of us. 250 families – together.
Samachar became a big family.
On Wednesday, it came under attack. I use the term attack conscious of all that it loosely entails. The events have shaken me to the core. And like me, everyone who has ever lived here.
I remember running away from my house once. (For a brief period.) Three aunties told on me. I was unceremoniously brought back. As a teenager, I used to hate them for spying. Today I count on them for keeping my children safe.
I remember jumping the boundary wall once because I was too lazy to go to the main gate. The guard scolded me publicly. Worse still, my mother joined in. This place felt like a jail. Today I see the safety net that it has been.
Maids were a terror. They reported every little detail to everyone. Every person spoke to every other person. Aunties, uncles, their friends. Their friends’ friends. Everyone wanted to know everything about everyone. They probed, gossiped, enquired. To me and my friends, it was perpetual prying. Today, I call it community policing.
They were our safety mechanism. Our biggest strength. Security, by association. Much before CCTVs came into the picture.
Ambily Vijaykumar, a former colleague and friend, came to live in Samachar with her husband and two sons. As parents we shared notes on how safe this place was. They had come as tenants. Soon they pooled in their life’s savings to buy a house here. Later they asked their parents to do the same. Samachar was safe. For children, for elders, for working couples.
A few months back her parents moved into their new house right above mine. They were excited. It was Mr Vijaykumar’s first house. His own. Close to his daughter and grandchildren. The kids returned from school and spent the day with him. Ambily had lunch with him after work.
It was an ideal life for a retired old man. Until Wednesday.
She found him in a pool of blood. It was shocking, traumatic. Not just for her but for all of us. It is not one family’s tragedy.
This too is collective. Our home has been breached.
Police teams have been coming in since yesterday. Knocking on doors, asking questions, showing CCTV images. Press vans and cameras are parked around my house.
I’m a journalist. I know the drill to cover a story. But I’m still coming to terms with being a part of it.
As I walk up to my house, a yellow tape flutters on a flower pot on the stair case. Delhi police, it says.
It makes my heart sink.
I used to curse the neighbours who kept their doors perpetually open, blocking the narrow landing. Today they are bolted. I never imagined it would make such a sorry picture.
We kept our doors ajar, most of us. They were locked only at night. It was a gesture of confidence in the neighbors and the ancillary staff. We were living in a fool’s paradise.
These doors shall now remain shut at all times.
(Sanket Upadhyay is a TV news journalist.)
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