New Delhi, Aug. 18 -- Ghulam Mir was a stout man. He had a booming voice and a flowing beard. For the pintsized me, he was a towering figure who was also many things: my grandfather's friend; the neighbourhood shopkeeper; and my mother's spy, reporting to her my every transgression.

His family called on us with offerings every Eid, and we visited them with walnuts dunked in sweetened water on Shivratris. There was nothing remarkable about our interactions; except instances such as him twisting the ears of errant neighbourhood boys who pelted stones on our

house when the conch and bells rang during Shivratri Pooja, or when India defeated Pakistan in cricket matches.

One such Shivratri, the stones kept raining. But we did not hear his boom...