When Abdul Khan returned to his bed after cleaning-up, he found Noor Mohammad already asleep. Their other friend, Salim, was snoring. Abdul, smiling to himself, laid down next to his friend. He could not sleep easily; he has been worried about Noor for the past few months. But of late, things have been turning around for Noor and he was happy for him. As a celebration, both of them had finished their work today at around 9PM and gone out for a bit of fun. It was almost end of the month and they had gotten a small advance from their shop owner.
When they met for the first time about an year ago, Abdul and Noor hit it off with each other quickly. Both had come to Mumbai in search of work, like million others before them and perhaps million others after them. They had met at work; although Abdul was 7 years older than Noor, the fact that they were from the same town in UP also helped them to identify common memories and places and hence strike a bond. Both had left their places of birth and had come in search of work that can help them support their families back home. Noor had been married for about 3 years and had trouble with his wife; Abdul, meantime had come to support his wife and 2 kids, with a dream so that his two sons can have a better life than he has. Definitely they will have at least a bed to sleep on and a roof over their head, unlike him right now. However, with Noor it had been a different problem. Noor’s wife had left him and gone back to her parents. Noor, in an attempt to get over it had come to Mumbai; but mentally he could not and brooded over it all the time. But the luck was changing in his favor. Noor had received a letter from his uncle that his wife was repentant and hinted that she wanted to return. For Noor, it was a ray of hope – he believed that he would win his wife back. That was about two weeks ago.
Due to the upcoming festival season, the work was tight and the orders were flowing in; both of them did not have much time to do anything else. Finally, they did get some time off from their boss. Tonight both Abdul and Noor decided to go out for a dinner in one of the nicer restaurants and cap it off with a movie. Noor was a movie fanatic and was die-hard fan of Aman Khan – Noor, if he can, will not miss the first-day first-show of his favorite hero. He had not seen the new movie due to hectic time at work. Noor and Abdul had gone to a local restaurant, had a sumptuous mutton biriyani for dinner and had later gone to the night show. Noor’s child-like fascination for Aman Khan never ceased to amaze the more level-headed Abdul. It seemed that Noor almost lived in Aman’s character and did believe that someone like Aman would save them from their misery or fortune would smile at him like it did, unerringly in every movie for Aman. It was a three-hour escape from reality as far as Abdul was concerned. For Noor, it appeared that was the reality! From Abdul’s point of view, the movie that they went was no different from any other movie they had been to earlier – Aman Khan was a poor man, who woos his woman, marries her in spite of all the hardship, becomes rich and in the process loses her and wins her back. During their walk-back from the movie, Noor could not stop talking about the movie and why it was the best ever movie; and how his hero was the best amongst the lot. Abdul could see that Noor identified himself with Aman due to the fact that Aman wins back his wife in the story. But Abdul was very glad for Noor – it has been really a long time since he found Noor to be this happy and talkative; it was a big change from the past. On the walk-back, Noor had also told Abdul, he had planned to go back to his hometown during the upcoming holidays and see if he could get together back with wife. He seemed quite positive and sure about it.
That was about an hour ago. Abdul had told Noor to go to sleep, where he will join him on the outside. Abdul opened the shutter of the bakery where they worked, cleaned up, set up for the next day work. He downed the shutter, slipped the key into his inside pocket and spread his mat and pillow on the pavement next to his friend. It was a muggy late September and they had decided to sleep outside the bakery they work at. He looked down at his friend – Noor was smiling in his sleep – perhaps he was dreaming about returning to his wife, much like his hero. It was around 2.30AM in the night, when Abdul slipped into sleep.
Around the same time, Aman Khan was in the bar of the five-star hotel, downing his 6th drink of whiskey. He felt good – his latest movie was a roaring success; he had his foolish fans eating out of his hands. He smiled, looked at his watch, exited the bar, got into his expensive, imported and huge SUV and drove off…
Abdul, in the twilight zone between unconscious state and awareness, was slowly waking up - he felt a searing pain in his leg; he found out he was in a hospital and was told that few of his bones were broken. As he was gaining complete, but rather painful, consciousness, he could begin to recollect what happened the previous night. Just before getting run over, for some reason he had come awake – he saw a huge phoren vehicle that had climbed the pavement where they had been sleeping. After he had been hit, in a moment of lucidity before slipping into darkness, he saw Salim writhing in agony, but Noor lying, scarily, still. And seemed dead – very much dead, with that smile that he went to sleep with, still in his face.
In the early hours of September 28, 2002, Salman Khan, the bollywood actor, in his
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