Sunday, March 12, 2006

Eye for an Eye for an Eye...

[This story was published on the Deccan Herald - the link is here:]

Rajendra Patel was nearing his destination; the train would reach where he wanted to go in about another twenty minutes. Rajendra felt strangely at peace; there was some stillness in his mind and his heart. He believed that he is actually coming to a logical conclusion and felt there was a closure in his life. He had been carrying a big cross for long and in tomorrow’s news paper he would see what he had lived for since that fateful 24th day of September 2002.

As Rajendra was looking out of his window seat, he saw the town sceneries go past; He saw a family in a scooter: man, his wife and their child. In his mind, it might as well be his wife of 6 years, Sonali, his 4year old child-son, Ankit and his would-have-been daughter, Ankita. Yes, it was, until that fateful day.

The distant past:

Rajendra was moderately successful businessman; he owned and ran a small chemicals factory, that supplied finished materials to various factories around Ahmedabad and Surat – his business was growing and he had found new customers in Mumbai. He had everything that he wanted; and when his son Ankit was born, he was over the moon and he doted over him. He had recently bought a nice house in a decent neighborhood and he had made friends across all faith. His joy was complete, when his wife announced to him that he would become a father all over again. His business was doing well and his family life was content and happy. He knew he has been blessed and his cup was full; until that fateful day.

It was Sonali’s wish that they pay a religious trip to the temple; thanking the lord for all the good things in their life. Rajendra had no heart to say no to her and he himself did not want to anger the Gods, whoever they were.

So on that day he had left his factory early, had asked Sonali’s brother, Suresh, to take care of things. The temple complex had some play-area and Sonali had wanted to go early so that Ankit can enjoy a bit more than just the prayers. It was around 4.30PM, had driven down to the temple with his family; and Ankit headed straight to the Tora-Tora area, with Sonali trying hard to keep up with Ankit. Rajendra left them there and sauntered off to the exhibition hall.

As he entered the hall, he glanced at his watch and it was around 4.45PM; he had wanted to quickly finish up and then go out for dinner. Then the hell broke loose; there was big commotion and he heard blasts outside and sound of what he had assumed to sound of crackers; then he saw two people running into the hall; it appeared completely incongruous to him and his keen mind immediately realized some thing was wrong and he wanted to rush back to where he left his family; but he just did not have time; he saw one of the men take out a gun and start shooting indiscriminately; a late middle aged woman ahead of him get shot and fall down bleeding; as she fell next to him, she grabbed his hand and pulled him along with her; perhaps that’s what saved him; Then he saw the two men run out of the exhibition hall towards the play-area; he desperately wanted to run ahead of them and ensure that no harm come to Sonali and Ankit; but the lady who had grabbed him was over him and had held to him tightly and there was no way he could have done it; in what appeared a short-time, he saw uniformed men come in and quickly and forcibly evacuate people who were alive and carry out the injured.

The next few hours and then days were a blur. He learned that both Sonali and Ankit never stood a chance when the grenade that lobbed went off just near them. He was thankful that they would have gone quickly. Once he heard about them, he had fervently wished that he was in the lady’s place and taken that bullet. He spent the few days in agony; and thought through several permutations on how he could have avoided the whole thing; he cried and anguished about various what ifs scenarios; what if Suresh had not turned up to relieve him that day ? What if he had not constantly reminded Suresh that he needed to be on time? What if he had stuck to the original plan of visiting the temple on the earlier Sunday, instead of choosing to snooze?

Over the next year or so, slowly, his anguish turned to anger and then to rage. He was also deeply disturbed on how the government and others went about; he being a sane man could see right through some of the designs of such guardians of public. He also saw similar events across the country and only found that they were being used for the politics of vote; having been one who has gone through, he felt felled by hopelessness. His sense of futility and from being someone who felt helpless, he metamorphized, inexorably, into a cold man; he had acquired something that was deep; both his parents, and in-laws just could not get through to him. Rajendra had become a complete recluse, not physically, but mentally. Rajendra’s conviction on what he needs to do strengthened, when he heard rumors around the terrorists and what they had done and who had protected them and helped them in their preparation – the preparation for the murder of his family – it added fire to his fury, that people who provided refuge and logistics to the terrorists were people who could have been part of his neighbourhood – and in his mind he blamed them for his irreparable loss; Rajendra was plotting revenge; he had sworn silently that his connections with God broke that day and he’d enter the temple of his favourite God – Bajrang Bali - only when the revenge was complete.

The recent Past:

It was nearly 3 years since he had lost his family – the first year was spent on grieving and being an automaton and going about his business; as his mental transformation happened, Rajendra had Suresh run the day-to-day business; and then the overall business itself. Suresh seemed very able and was growing his business steadily. Suresh was worried about Rajendra and had first refused to take care of the factory, so that it would force Rajendra come to work. He also had asked Rajendra to get married again – but every time, he was silently and very politely rebuffed in a way that Suresh did not feel any offence. Rajendra had told Suresh that he completely trusted Suresh to run the factory and he is going away on pilgrimages since he wanted some peace of mind. Rajendra used to disappear often from Ahmedabad and everyone would assume his visiting various temples. Reality was different; Rajendra was executing his plan: he had found dark corners in Mumbai, Lucknow and Bangalore where he could source raw materials for his plan. His chemical background was helpful and he was skilful in putting things together; he voraciously learned more about weapons of destruction – mass destruction in soft targets. Finally, he believed he found the perfect place where he can wreak maximum damage. He was also nearing in constructing his bomb. It costed him quite a bit, but he had so very well woven an intricate and well thought out story, Suresh had no idea that Rajendra was spending the money on it.

It was nearly six month since Rajendra had started execution of the project and it was now very close to fruition. He had found a mosque in a very crowded neighbourhood, which was just right – it was just right, since it had a very decrepit and a run-down, and barely surviving garage. The garage had a empty ground that was adjacent to the mosque; and nearer to the wall that separated the two property was a shell of an old car, with rust on it; the car shell was kind of planted into the ground; the years of decay through various seasons had rooted the shell and there was mound around it; in short it was a perfect place for Rajendra. His plan was almost done; he just needs to brush up some of his acting skills from his college days – a week later, he would have avenged the death of his family; its been more than 3 tortuous years; but it was worth waiting, in his mind. The fact that his plan would be executed in Bangalore, he was sure, would get it high attention and send out a message to everyone – ‘you mess in my neighbourhood, I mess in yours”

The Current Day:

It was two days ago, disguised as a drunken beggar, with scruffy and dirty clothes, with a garbage bag over his shoulders, Rajendra ambled into the garage compound and took refuge in the shell – presumably as a cover from rains – Rajendra assumed that Gods were in his favor: the unseasonal March showers in Bangalore came to his aid. The people around did not doubt his presence; it was common sight for them, perhaps. Over the night, he had expertly assembled the bomb, timed it to go in two days time; he then had ambled out of the place; later he was taking a train out of Bangalore.

Rajendra was jolted to the present; his train had stopped in the station. He checked his watch; it was close to 4PM. His revenge would be complete – the bomb would go off around 8.00PM today, the time when the crowd would be most dense; and the notice had also said the local community leader was to address a gathering in the ground of mosque. He was thousand miles away and he would read it in papers tomorrow

Rajendra was making good of his promise now; since his revenge would be complete, he was on his way to pay his thanks to the Gods – the one he had spurned over the past three years, but now its time for thanksgiving. Rajendra alighted the train, headed straight to one of the lodges that dotted the railway station area; he freshened himself up – asked the lodge help, Rehman, to get him some food and coffee. Having eaten, Rajendra headed straight to the temple.

At the temple he prayed fervently and thanked the God; he chose a silent spot and sat down to think – he strangely felt no elation and felt extremely empty. He felt cathartic inside the temple and tears started streaming down. For the first time, he seemed to doubt if his chosen path was the right one. He grieved again for his wife, his son and their unborn child. Along with them, he grieved for the lady who saved his life without her knowledge; and for her family, who lost a mother, wife and a daughter; and for hundred other such senseless losses. Amidst the stream of tears, he saw the face of the vagabond child in Bangalore who was around the mosque in Bangalore – he saw that face morph into the face of his son – that jolted him; he just wanted to get away from the temple now.

Rajendra Patel, completely confused of what he should be doing, stumbled out of the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple in Varanasi at 6.15PM on 7th March 2006. 30 minutes later he heard about the bomb-blasts in the temple and railway station, killing the innocent people at both places. As he got out of his room, he found Rahman rushing off towards the station, taking some blankets, whatever supplies he could lay hand on, to help the injured.

Rajendra Patel knew he was given a second life by the Gods; he just needed to decide how he needs to use; after a brief thought, Rajendra left the lodge looking for a specific place, so that he can heed his calling.

Epilogue - Timeline:

24th day of September 2002: This was the day when two terrorist attacked Akshardam Complex near Ahmedabad and killed more than 50 people

7th March 2006 6.30PM: Two serial blasts rocks Varanasi killing more than 20 people

7th March 2006 7.50PM: Bomb disposal squad in Bangalore defuse a bomb in a garage in Bangalore adjacent to a mosque, based on anonymous tip received via a long distance phone call an hour earlier. It was believed that if the bombs had gone off, it would done considerable damage; and created widespread conflagrations across the country.


Anonymous said...

Story is very nice. It shows to the extent even a good man when pushed by vengence triggered by anger takes hold of hum. But in this story the guardian angels sieze the matter and render justice to the innocent people at large who might otherwise be dead. This is the essence of Hinduism in the land of Gandhi. Long live Gandhi and India.

Anonymous said...

Good one.. The semi-documentary nature makes it worth for a Sunday newspaper. There is a message, I feel a larger crowd to get.

Anonymous said...

Good and absorbing. Nicely written.

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Appa: Thanks; i'm glad the ending appeals to you - i had thought of it differently first, but changed it on whim...

4Suresh: Thanks man.

4Anon: Will take the compliment. but, wru ?

Ankit said...

Got this story during a binge of "ego-surfing", if you may call that. And I was surprised to have my home town also mentioned as a theater of the climax events.

Good work! And for me, a good surprise returned by Google :)

EnGeetham aka "My Song!" said...

4Ankit: Thanks for the drop-by... I assume your home-town is Varanasi ? Glad you liked it.
Keep coming.