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Deccan Herald » Articulations » Detailed Story
short story
Laying ghosts to rest
Gautham N
Rajendra was a successful businessman in Ahmadabad; he owned and ran a small chemicals factory that supplied materials to manufacturers in the city.
 

Rajendra was a successful businessman in Ahmadabad; he owned and ran a small chemicals factory that supplied materials to manufacturers in the city. Of late, his business was growing and he had found new customers in Mumbai. He was satisfied; and when his son Ankit was born, he was over the moon. He had recently bought a nice house in a decent neighbourhood and made friends across all faith. His joy was complete, when his wife Sonali announced her pregnancy. He thought he was fortunate and blessed; until one fateful day.

It was Sonali’s wish that they pay a visit to the temple. On that day he had left his factory early. The temple complex had a play area and Sonali had wanted to go early so that Ankit could enjoy himself there. On arrival, Sonali and Ankit headed straight to the play area. Rajendra left them there and sauntered off to the exhibition hall.

As he entered the hall, he glanced at his watch; it was around 4:45 pm. Then all hell broke loose. There was big commotion and he heard blasts outside and sound of what he had assumed was the sound of crackers. He then saw two men running into the hall and one of the men take out a gun and start shooting indiscriminately.


A middle-aged woman got shot and fell 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 fallen lady was over him and had pinned him immobile. In what appeared a short-time, he saw uniformed men come in and evacuate people who were alive and carry out the injured.

The next few hours and days were a blur. He learned that both Sonali and Ankit never stood a chance when a grenade went off near them. He spent the next few days in agony. He cried and anguished about various ‘what if’ scenarios. Over the next year or so, slowly, his anguish turned to anger and then metamorphosed to rage.

Rajendra had become a complete recluse, not physically, but mentally. It added fire to his conviction that the people who provided refuge and logistics to the terrorists could have been part of his neighbourhood. 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 his revenge was complete.

The recent past

As his mental transformation happened, in the guise of a pilgrimage, Rajendra disappeared often from Ahmadabad. Rajendra was executing his plan. He found dark corners in Mumbai, Lucknow and Bangalore where he sourced raw material. His chemical background helped and he skillfully put things together; he learned more about weapons of destruction– mass destruction on soft targets.

It was nearly six month since Rajendra had started execution of the project and it was close to fruition. He had found a perfect place where he could wreak maximum damage– a mosque in a very crowded neighbourhood.

Along its periphery, there was a decrepit garage. In the garage, near the wall that separated the two properties, was the shell of an old car. Rajendra just needed to brush up some of his acting skills from his college days– a week later, he would have avenged the death of his family; it has been more than three tortuous years; but it was worth waiting.

Plan of revenge

Two days ago, disguised as a drunken beggar, with scruffy and dirty clothes and a garbage bag over his shoulders, Rajendra ambled into the garage compound and took refuge in the shell for the night presumably as a cover from rains. During the night, he had expertly assembled the bomb and timed it to go in two days, when the local community was being addressed. He had then ambled out of the place. Later he took a train out of Bangalore.

The present

Rajendra was jolted to the present. His train had arrived. He checked his watch; it was close to 4 pm. The bomb would go off around 8 pm today. Rajendra was making good his promise now. He was on his way to pay his thanks to the Gods– the ones he had spurned for the past three years. Rajendra alighted from the train and headed straight to one of the lodges that dotted the area. He freshened up and asked for food and coffee. Having eaten, Rajendra headed straight to the temple.

At the temple he prayed fervently and thanked the Gods; he chose a silent spot and sat down to think. Strangely he felt no elation. 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 and for her family and for a hundred other such senseless losses. Amidst the stream of tears, he saw the face of the vagabond child who lived near the mosque in Bangalore. He saw that face morph into the face of his son: That jolted him.

Rajendra Patel, completely confused, stumbled out of the Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple in Varanasi at 6.15 pm on 7th March, 2006. Thirty minutes later he heard about bomb-blasts in the temple and railway station, killing innocent people. As he got out of his room, he found Rehman (a neighbour) 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 God; he just needed to decide how to use it. After a brief period, Rajendra left the lodge looking for a phone booth.


EPILOGUE - TIMELINE

24th September, 2002: Two terrorists attack Akshardam Complex near Ahmedabad killing more than 50 people.

7th March, 2006, 6:30 pm: Two serial blasts rocks Varanasi killing more than 20 people.

7th March, 2006, 7:50 pm: Bomb disposal squad in Bangalore defuse a bomb in a garage adjacent to a mosque, based on anonymous tip received via a long distance phone call an hour earlier. Experts believed that if the bomb had gone off, it would have done considerable damage and created widespread panic across the country.

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