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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 16:10 GMT
Delhi's sombre Diwali after bombs
By Rajan Chakravarty
BBC News, Delhi

Diwali decorations
Diwali had none of the normal boisterousness
Delhi awoke to a sombre Diwali on Tuesday, amid prayers in different temples for victims of Saturday's serial bomb blasts.

Celebrations for the festival of lights were visibly low-key throughout the day, with many people simply in no mood for festivities.

Others were quietly determined to send a message that they would not let terror dictate their lives.

In one of the city's biggest temples, the Birla Mandir, special prayers were held for the 62 people killed in the blasts.

Metal detectors

While most shops in Sarojini Nagar and Paharganj, sites of two of Saturday's three blasts, were open, there were few shoppers around.

First the earthquake and then these bomb blasts - the images that I have seen on TV still haunt me
Student Shefali Mehta

Connaught Place, one of Delhi's busiest markets, wore a deserted look in the afternoon.

Resident welfare associations in several areas of the capital told the BBC that this year's Diwali fairs had been scaled down substantially.

Meanwhile, there was a high security presence on streets across Delhi.

Gun-toting policemen kept vigil around market places, some of which now have metal detectors installed at their entrance points.

Shopkeeper Ram Prakash Gupta
It is a doomsday for us. I have lost my younger brother
Shopkeeper Ram Prakash Sikka

In most markets, police warned people over public address systems not to crowd at any one place and to keep on the look-out for anything suspicious.

"First the earthquake and then these bomb blasts. Thankfully my friends and family have not been affected by either, but I just cannot bring myself to go out and enjoy," said Shefali Mehta, a college student.

"The images [of the blasts] that I have seen on TV still haunt me."

She said she and a few of her friends had visited a temple in the morning to pray specially for victims of Saturday's bomb blasts.

Sales 'dismal'

Ram Prakash Sikka, a shopkeeper in Paharganj, site of the first blast, wanted the government to take a tough stand against those behind the violence.

"I cannot tell you how dark this festival of lights is for me and my family. It is a doomsday for us. I have lost my younger brother," he said.

"The government talks of peace and terrorists explode bombs. Only tough action, and not mere words, can curb terrorism."

Just a few metres away from Mr Sikka's store is the shop of Naresh Kumar Gupta, who had a miraculous escape on Saturday.

"Lots of people were hit by shrapnel and shards of glass. I was very lucky." But he said he had goods worth thousands of rupees still unsold.

"On the busiest shopping days of the year, there have been hardly any shoppers here.

"On Diwali and the week preceding it this market is crowded with shoppers. The last few days business has been dismal."

Defiance

Along with the mood of despondency and grief, there was a quiet determination among Delhi residents to go about their life as usual and send a message that they were not going to be cowed by acts of terror.

Alex Night
Bomb blasts don't scare me - I didn't think of changing my travel plans
Tourist Alex Knight

"I am in no mood to celebrate, yet I am determined to. If their actions change your life, then the terrorists have won. You can't let terror win," said Sanjeev Davar, a businessman in west Delhi.

That determination was reflected in different parts of the city as people went about their day in a normal, albeit subdued, manner.

"I am visiting my family, calling up friends to wish them all the best on this auspicious day - it's just that I am not celebrating.

"I haven't bought any new clothes for me or my family members, and children in my family are not bursting any crackers this year," said Arun Anand.

Equally determined not to allow terror to win was Alex Knight, a New Zealander who is travelling through India.

"Bomb blasts don't scare me. I didn't think of changing my travel plans when I heard about the blasts.

"Besides, you can't run away from terror - then it tends to follow you all the more," he said, as he walked out of a shop in Sarojini Nagar.




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