Thursday, April 14, 2011

Game of Choice

The temple bells were ringing somewhere not very far away and the sweet pungent smell of fodder filled the air. A young goat was bleating. There was some residue chill in the air from last night although daylight permeated the small, damp, barn. There were footsteps approaching – soft and gentle. He smiled, it was Fatima’s. Soon his sister would wake him up with a bowl of fresh, warm milk and jaggerine. The sweet smell reached his nostrils as he turned over in his bed of hay. He saw the face of his sister, a young girl of ten, bathed in the pure, nascent rays of the early morning sun when suddenly there was an earth shattering explosion.
The man woke up with a start. His whole body was tingling. His soul was on fire. The temple bells nearby were ringing with full vigour. He drowned half a bottle of water and looked at his watch. It was 6.05 in the morning. Still 10 minutes to go for his alarm to ring and one more hour to kill before the first phase of the plan. Strange, that he saw the same dream again. It had been ten years and the dreams have not stopped. He could still feel the smell of the cows she carried as she brought him his bowl of fresh milk straight from the cowshed, each morning.
The first call came. It was as expected, brief, coded, and precise. He had a breakfast of fruits, managed a cold water bath from the tube well and offered his practiced prayers. Why did he see her face today? Was it a sign? He removed the contents of his duffel bag and laid it out on the floor. His sharp mind scrutinised every object to the last detail. He had gone through the same routine last night and the night before but today, a new object was going to be delivered. He looked at his watch. Time seemed to be moving in slow motion. Once again he resisted the urge to dial a number far away, in a small village at the foot of the hills, just a heart beat apart. He had trained for ten years to forget the number, and the village, and the hills.
His watch showed him ten past nine. The visitor would arrive soon. He tried to mumble the prayers he was taught once more when he heard the sound of a motorcycle. He peered out from the half drawn wooden shutters and saw the vehicle approaching. Everything was as expected.
The man who knocked was tall, and walked with a limp. He handed over the parcel. Not a single cordial word was exchanged. The man asked for some water, was offered a bottle which he gulped down, then he said a prayer for wishing success. It was again a prayer that had been taught so well; a prayer that brought out all the passions from an unfathomable depth of human psyche, a prayer designed to erode everything save the single point of an all-consuming obsession.

It was a beautiful evening in the city of Mumbai. The sea breeze was caressing the soul of the city, pleading the people to slow down, to take in the beauty of life, to breathe. Men and women were rushing to catch the locals at their usual times, not a minute later. They had to reach home, take their wives out for shopping, meet their girlfriends at the same place, help their kids tackle the maths homework, cook for their husbands and children. There were a thousand reasons to go home. Work was over and Mumbai rushed in its hurry to catch a foothold in the evening locals. No-one had time to understand the sea breeze. Life was hard, and the pulse of the city ran over the railway lines.
The date was 11 July 2006. It was peak hour rush as Mumbai was returning home from work. Within a period of eleven minutes between 18.24 and 18.35 Indian Standard Time, seven serial blasts rocked the suburban railways, the lifeline of Mumbai. 209 people lost their lives and over 700 were injured. Of the 11 terrorists involved in the operation, one lost his life in the blasts.

The flames scorched his skin and the odour of burning flesh permeated his nostrils, and just as the pain reached the maximum threshold of human bearing, he saw a radiant face filled with life and the sweet scent of fresh milk drenched his last whiffs of consciousness. As the world slipped away to oblivion he said one last prayer, the only prayer that was not taught, nor conditioned by years of fostering obsessive hatred towards the killers of his sister. And with those prayers he asked for forgiveness from mankind. Those killers of a decade ago were in his blood, and now he was one of them. This was no game of religion; it was just a game of choice.

 ( Please watch the video in the link above. The above story is a complete fiction based on a real event which rocked Mumbai 5 years ago)


  1. Excellent post JM! I knew you are a truly powerful writer.
    I remember this blast over the news. The series of terrorists attacks in Asia was prevalent during those times. Innocent lives wasted for a "cause", survivors live on with deep wounds in their spirits that will never heal in this lifetime. Tragic.

  2. You say that the above story is complete fiction, but I have a hard time believing that, for the truth lies deeper than the mere facts on the surface. There is a part of all of us in your 'stories' isn't there?
    As they used to say on one of our old TV shows, only the names have been changed 'to protect the innocent.'
    And, btw, you are correct about your character ;)