An uneasy calm lay over the popular Sarojini Nagar and Paharganj markets on Sunday, as authorities got on with clearing the debris from the site of the explosions under heavy police deployment, the morning after serial blasts ripped through Delhi, killing 61 people.
Coming to grips with the damage done by Saturday evening's explosion, the shopkeepers decided to keep their shops open so that the forces behind the attack did not get the wrong message.
Shocked shopkeepers looked on haplessly as workers of the New Delhi Municipal Council cleared the debris strewn around, while the police kept the area out of bounds for people. Refusing to be cowed down by acts of terrorism, Ashok Randhawa, President of the Sarojini Nagar Market Traders Association said, "We are opening our shops. We don't want the terrorists to think that they have succeeded in scaring us."
A huge heap of charred clothes lay outside Arjun Kumar's shop, located just next to the site of the blast. Recalling the horrific blast, the most severe among the three last evening, he said, "As you can see, nothing is left. It was a terrible, terrible fire. Once it was doused, we saw bodies all around us.
My whole shop was destroyed in the fire, but I am not even thinking about my losses. My heart goes out to the people who have lost their near and dear ones in the explosion."
Pointing at the charred remains of the `chaat shop', where the explosion took place, Ramesh, another shopkeeper, said he had known its owner, who died in the blast, well. "After the explosion, there was no sign of him. It feels weird that someone who you have known for so long perished in just a matter of seconds," he said.
According to eyewitnesses, the explosive had been kept in a black bag, which was noticed by one of the boys who worked in the shop and he had even raised an alarm.
A large number of people from nearby areas had gathered in the market, giving the police a tough time in keeping them off the location of the blast, while workers of the New Delhi Municipal Council cleared the place of the debris.
On Diwali eve, when the market would normally have been the scene of festival-time shopping, the shopkeepers were anything but keen on doing business. "Although our shops will remain open, we are not thinking in terms of doing business at the moment. But, no doubt, we are going to make heavy losses," Randhawa said.
He also appealed to the Delhi government to give compensation to shop-owners whose goods have been damaged in the blast. In Paharganj, where the first blast took place, many shops were open but people were still shocked as they discussed the incident.
A large number of foreign tourists are staying on in the area, braving the blasts. "No. We are not scared. We love India and will go ahead with plans to see the country. We are not going back," Moy, an Israeli tourist, said.
"It is back to business for us. But of course, our business will be affected due to the blasts. And I pray to God that such an incident should not happen again," said Ramesh, who runs a grocery shop.