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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

I did not know initially I am writing a novel....

It was December 2013 and I was in Indore for Industrial visit to Reliance Comm. My acquaintance Gopal Uncle, a 50 years old man who earns 2 lacs per month but who behaved so cordially with me that I sometime felt he is someone of my generation, was the highest authority there.

My days in Indore when I had started writing MPM. The man with grey sweater is Gopal Uncle. Rest are engineers. 
Next day I got opportunity to visit his grand office which was crowded with engineers and thanks to him I soon dissolved with the employees there. However, apart from practical works there was nothing 'interesting' there and i would often feel sleepy and bored sitting for hours in his cabin (especially when he used to leave me alone for meetings). To add to the worst, many of the employees would stare me from outside which was really embarrassing. Two days passed as usually. My embarrassment had reached to brim and hence the third day I decided to pretend them that I am busy too, in fact busier than them and so I asked for few white pages from the manager which he thankfully gave. I sprang to Gopal Uncle's cabin for some solitary. It was in his office where I wrote the first page of MPM.

Now, as I have stated earlier too that I did not write MPM intentionally. In the process to show others that I'm busy i started to write. Initially, I wanted to write feelings of an 80 years old man who is now retired of all his responsibilities and has no work to spend his time. And eventually, about his feelings, when he gets nostalgic about his initial marriage days, his time spent with his wife who is unfortunately no more with him. It started like a story- a story of every common man who remembers his young-hood days and his mistakes done in those initial days of maturity. He also remembers his achievements, his successes, his failures, his love and eventually her.

MPM is a politically motivated romantic story. The romantic part was designed and amended as per the requirement to keep the story moving. Aarti is completely my imagination. However, the character of Faizan is inspired from one of my friend from Kashmir. Faizan Sheikh or more comfortably Faizan bhaiya was my room mate for however just two months during my engineering years in Bharatpur. He is the most honest and sweetest man i have ever met in my life. I always miss those days I spent with him.
Diwali moments: Me and Faizan Bhaiya (in left)
Nevertheless, during those days election campaigns were a common scene in which terms like Hindu, Muslim, Kashmir, and Pakistan were frequently used. We had a TV set and we would watch news channels and then often debate on such issues. And he would frankly tell me what he feels for India, Pakistan and Kashmir and issues related with them. It was the first time when i realized the pain, the Kashmiris are going through. His every word was important for me because he was not just Muslim but a resident of Kashmir.
Moreover, I was fortunate enough to learn various facts from the Holy book of Quran. Faizan bhaiya would passionately describe me the stories and facts of holy Quran, especially about the true meaning of 'Jihad'.

Apart from it, as you already know, that in those times rumors were spread about our respective Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi that if he came to power he would riot Muslims, which was of course not true as we already know it today. However, most Muslims (including Bhaiya) did not like Mr Modi and most of them expressed their discomfort on him being the PM as shown on various news channels.

Apart from politics, various riots such as Muzzaffarnagar riot and many others disturbed my spirit of being 'Indian' as Hinduism, Muslim, Bihari, Marathi etc were somehow oppressing our integrity and I did not like this. It was not acceptable. It was then when my anger, my provocation started taking shape of MPM when i picked up pen & paper and portrayed my disgust against such anti-national feelings. MPM is an outcome of various political activities that happened in last one year + my personal thoughts for religion, country and humanity. It is an effort to revive our dedication towards national integrity and hence highlight the fact that when it comes to country and religion, country comes first.              

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Sample chapter 5

“When I first sworn in as the prime Minister, some of them called me ‘Muslim’ Prime Minister…” I said as people booed instantly. “They said it is a country full of Hindus, Muslims, Ups, Biharis, Marathis etc., and you don’t stand a chance. But today as I stand on this platform in the shoes of a Prime Minister I can look straight into their eyes and say that you are wrong. This country belonged to Indians, belongs to Indians and will always belong to Indians” people applauded with strong claps as I said further. “I am proud to be a Muslim. I’ve always been. But we need to understand something that when it comes to choose between country and religion, always country comes first” people cheer again. “I got a lot of people to thank to make this day a reality. To make the impossible possible. I dedicate this day to the man who first believed me that I can do it even before I did, Mr. Surya Dev Shankar (crowd cheered)… To my wife Aarti (crowd cheer again while she smiled in response). You must’ve heard a saying that behind every man’s success there’s a woman. In my case the woman is none other than my wife herself. I’m also thankful to my friends who made it possible for me. Those who provided the impetus to my political career-Zeeshan, Sam and Rameshwar.” A name clicked my memory as I paused in sentiments. A tinge of emotion- a raw nerve was touched and then I continued in a heavy voice, “… to my father who would be so proud today. I kept my promise… Abbu” I said as I sobbed with choking short breaths. Zeeshan watched me dolefully as his eyes too sparked with tears. “…and at last to you people who backed me when I needed you most. Ladies & gentlemen, on this very day I swear that Faizan Ahmed Khan will be committed to the people, by the people and for the people. Thank you very much…”
It was my best speech in that time. Aarti was the happiest person to witness it from me. Later when we met we talked about it in solitary.
“…pretty nice speech” she said after we found some solitary for ourselves.
“Yep…thanks to you” I replied as she smiled in response. She turned a little shy. So, I asked her, “ Aarti, Why are you shying? Tell me what is it…”
“I wanted to tell you something…” she said as she turned a little shy.
“What is it?” I asked her curiously.
“Not like this…I feel shy. Come close and lend me your ear” she urged me.
“What? Why?” I asked anxiously but she stared me strongly. “OK Don’t be angry…say what is it?” I said coming closer to her. She folded her hands near my ear and whispered-
“I am pregnant…”
The moment she said know I was…I couldn’t believe my ears. I begged her to say those words again and again.
“Faizan… You are about to become a father” she said joyously.
For a moment there was complete silence in the vicinity. I wanted to live this moment as much as possible. It was the moment of my life. I was overwhelmed, simply carried away by emotions. So much that the ecstasy of becoming a father had choked my throat and I could not speak a word out of contentment. Only a drop of tear from my eyes to express my bliss, my happiness. And Aarti could read them in my eyes.
No matter how dark and stormy the night may be, the next morning is always and equivalently fresh and full of life. The night of my life was over and the morning was brighter than I had expected. I had rediscovered my happiness. She had given me my ‘family’ back. I held her firmly and kissed her. Kissed her passionately to live my moment… to live my ‘morning’.     
“Excuse me …sir”
Unfortunately, a man had breached our solitary and we had to postpone our ‘romance’.
“Hmmm…” I said as we left Aarti at a distance.
“Sir… Taliban has posted a new video and...”
“…his commander has congratulated you for your victory addressing you as ‘Brother’…”
I was shocked as he said it, completely speechless by words I watched him with wide eyes. I knew a new challenge was waiting for me to deal with. Meanwhile, Aarti suddenly appeared between us and asked, “Faizan what happened? Who has congratulated you? I didn’t hear…”
I gestured the man to leave and held her in my arms, sighed, and said, “No one…just your ‘brother in law’ has remembered me…”


Sample chapter 4

22. Rise of the 'Son':The promise to Father

Amidst the celebrating people, a rogue obscurely was present there. He watched everything from behind and did not like it. It meant to be his day but somehow victory was stolen from his jaws. Revenge was the only route visible to him. The thirst of power had consumed his intelligence. He took out his gun and fired a shot.
The bullet hit my left shoulder. Consequently, people got panicked. A sudden stampede followed it and things turned chaotic. I fell down on the ground and heard two more shots fired. The Anti-riot police force had reached the town. Zeeshan helped me get up while I was restless to see the shooter. And when I saw him, I was not surprised maybe because I always knew it. Abbu was lying on the ground with blood sprouting off his chest and his white suit stained red with blood. I crawled to him desperately; the pain hardly bothered to me. I pushed the policemen furiously aside, who were dragging his body, and escorted him lie down on my lap. And then I looked into his eyes. He wanted water. I shouted somebody to lend us some water. Zeeshan rushed for it.
“I am sorry…son” he said while I simply wept like a child. He was not just my father but also the last person whom I could call family. The fear of left alone in this world was the most dreadful of all. I always wanted to grow up soon to be left alone to hold my responsibilities myself, but not like this. That day my maturity wasn’t working for me. I felt like a five-year-old Faizan whose daddy is departing forever leaving him alone in the dark.
“No! You don’t need to be…”
“Faizan...I know I have always been rude to you ever since you were born. But that does not mean that I did not love you son. I apologize for everything, son …”
Zeeshan returned with the water and Abbu drank it a little. He also informed me that the ambulance is in its way and would reach soon.
“I have smeared our family’s name & reputation. When I would die these people will remember me as a terrorist. But I can’t bear that load son...” he said as tears dropped from his eyes. “You are my last hope Faizan. I want you to do something for me son. You see I have made quite a mess here (he chuckles). Clean it for me… ” He said but I was simply crying for him. “ Look into my eyes and promise me that you will fulfil my last desire. Promise me that one day you’ll do something so big that would cover all my sins behind the curtains of your greatness and then history shall forget the name Ahmed Khan forever, but remember only Faizan Ahmed Khan, son of Ahmed Khan. I shall be alive in your name, in your work. Promise me you will surpass my legacy…” he violently roared at me and hugged me instantly to console me.
“I promise you father…I promise you. These people who today fear from us; call us terrorist will praise us one day; commemorate us everyday. I promise you I will make the impossible possible…”
He smiled at me saying he was proud of me and that he always was. And then a light surge of wind followed by a blink of eyes distracted my attention. And in moments, I felt the warmth of my greatest fear, which realized me of the melancholy departure of my only family. He was gone. And I felt as lonely and afraid as never before. Only my close ones know how much I wailed for his death that day hugging him as tightly as I could for the last time.
Later that day, presence of armaments and telephonic contacts with terrorist groups in a police raid on our villa confirmed his active role in the terrorist activities and riots. Everybody condemned the incidence. Media and various opposition parties left no chance to spoil his name. And although their acquisitions were not wrong I did not liked it, which is understandable for he was my father. How could I hear against him? And in the mid of everything the general elections were completed. Despite of the sins committed by my father people had chosen me as their new MP huh. It was my greatest victory. My dream had come true and I had finally achieved what I had struggled for. But I did not celebrate. I did not even bother for it I had lost everyone to cheer my victory with. No father, no mother, no kin. Solitary was my reward for victory. I even ignored to answer media. My supporters and friends did come and cheered for me but I had very coldly responded to them and did not stay long in their celebration.

Few days after a phone call came in the evening when I was sitting alone in the dark. At first, I did not pick it up and ignored several times. But it constantly ranged and I annoyingly picked it up.
“I wanna talk to Faizan Ahmed Khan…”
“I am Faizan Khan…”
“Hello Mr Faizan! This is Suryadev Shankar talking…”
“Do I know you?”
“(Chuckling…) I am the Prime Minister of this country…son”
“Sorry?” I asked out of surprise and then suddenly realized my gaffe. “(Coughing) S S S Sorry sir… I...I apologize for my behaviour”
“Hah! Don’t worry. It happens. I rang you for I wanted to meet you. In fact let me first congratulate you for your gigantic victory in elections…”
“Thank you sir. It would be my pleasure to meet you. But I am, you know, quite upset with…”
“…with the tragedy that happened with your father. I know and I really understand your grief. But at the same time, you must understand your responsibility you have held for that town. I know its tough time for you but you need to understand that you must finish what you have started. Recover from your past. I can help you do that. That’s why I want to meet you.”
“I…don’t know. I feel so intimidated”
“Listen young man. I take the oath for the PM on Tuesday and on Wednesday we celebrate our victory. I want you to be present there. Always remember son there’s never a second chance. If you don’t act now you will regret it all your life. Take care. See you soon in the party. Goodbye!”
And he cut the phone with that. I was not confused with choices because he never gave me time to think. Next day he just announced publically that I have joined his party. I was a hero for people despite of my father’s activities. And he knew how to use me for his benefits. He always knew I do not have courage to refuse him and so he took complete advantage of my politeness to take the any decision for me without even asking me. And I simply like a child just nodded for his every statement given upon me publically. But it was good for me especially in the long run. He was weaving my golden future and I had no problem with that.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
In the party
“There’s my man. Come on over here young boy ha ha…” he welcomed me as I entered his party. He introduced me with his guests. All those high profile people, you know, ministers, business tycoons, celebrities and other giants you can expect. I was nervous. My hands were shaking with anxiety. In fact I felt my tongue tied too to express myself properly that day. Mr Shankar asked me to speak less and to just behave normal. Soon we were surrounded by media who at once threw their questions like stones on me.
“Mr Khan when did you decide to join Congress? Was it in your mind since always?”
“What would you like to say about your father?”
“Did you always know he was a terrorist?”
Their questions made me uncomfortable to stand there. People were watching and I felt shameful standing among them. I could hear them talking about me. But before I could speak a word Mr Shankar stepped ahead to defend me.
“(Jokingly) Gentlemen maybe this is not the right time. I mean you are spoiling my party,” he said pulling me behind.
“But sir, his father Mr Ahmed Khan has been accused of terrorist activities. What makes you feel his son is innocent enough to let him join your party?” asked a reporter. His question hurt me so much that I left the party and walked to the balcony upstairs.
“What was the occupation of your father mister?” Mr Shankar asked to the same reporter while everybody in the room turned silent. And the reporter? Well he simply lost his tongue momentarily.
“I asked what your father used to do to earn his livelihood?” he asked him again.
“He was a …farmer” the reporter replied nervously to the PM while others were watching them silently.
“Really? Then what are you doing here? Why are you a media person and why not are you a farmer just like your father was mister?” he asked him the reporter had no answer. He simply lowered his head and kept quiet. Perhaps he had understood that he had crossed the line and it would be better to hold the tongue now.
“Just like him a son of a farmer is not necessarily a farmer, an engineer’s son is not always an engineer, and a doctor’s son is not always a doctor. In the same way, the son of a terrorist is not always a terrorist. Ahmed Khan betrayed the nation and that was wrong. No doubt about that. But Faizan Khan, his son, has paid enough for being his son. We have all witnessed his loyalty live few days ago and he need not prove it again to us anymore now. He himself became a witness and gave statement against his father in the court. It takes courage to do that. But he still did it and you people today question his loyalty? Huh! Nonsense. Excuse me now” he said and left from there angrily. People present there were stunned by what they had just witnessed. They too did not know how to react at it.
“What’s wrong with Suryadev? I never saw him losing control on media like this?” said one of his ministers to the other.
“…and that too for that ‘infant’. I just don’t understand,” said the other one in reply.

Meanwhile, Mr Shankar went upstairs in the balcony to console me. I was standing alone there in the dark trying to poise between my past and present. Numerous questions and complains about everything that had happened up till then in my life were going through my thoughts. My eyes were full of tears and mind crammed with suicidal thoughts. I was completely frustrated by life. It looked tough to survive in such hostile atmosphere. I had just almost given up. But fortunately not Mr Shankar. He, in a way, taught me to fight such situations; art of patience to prevail over tough time; pretend to be tough even if you are not; to outsmart media. In simpler words, he taught me ‘politics’. He backed me not just that day but always since then. And that day he did something similar.    
“I arranged you a million dollar party and you’re standing here in dark,” he said trying to change my mood. But it was not successful, as I did not reply anything to him.
“Don’t worry they have left. You can come down now,” he said again leaning by the wall.
“Huh! (Tittering) I am not running away from them but my past…” I replied to him.
“I understand this is not easy for you kid but bad times can be your best teacher if you start learning from them and at the same time it can be your murderer if you quit. Don’t let these situations kill you son,” he said.
“Hah… may I ask you a question?” I asked him tittering at his motivational quotes.
“Yeah…go on,” he said.
“Why are you doing this? I mean you are a Prime Minister. You are not supposed to be like this, you know, wasting time with a guy like me. No Prime Minister does that. I mean, come on, you must have more important work or people than me. Why are you wasting your precious time on someone expendable like me?” I asked him curiously.
“Hah only a jeweller can distinguish true jewels amidst glittering objects. You are not expendable. You are an investment. An investment for future. Bright future” he replied and instantly turned a bit maudlin; a subtle emotion on his face. He paused momentarily and then continued, “When I see to you I see myself. You reflect me of my old initial days in politics. I remember a young man, still a child then, so lonely, entering into the temple of democracy for first time, facing camera, accusations, threats- all for the first time. Young, enthusiastic, zealous yet afraid and hesitant. I started my political career as student; went jail several times; slept on streets; been hungry. I have seen the worsts of life. Everybody sees the brightness after my success but they didn’t see the darkness before it,” he said as his eyes had moistened with tears.
“I am…sorry” I replied to him.
“I know that hurts but I will suggest you only one thing at this point of moment,” he instantly said wiping his tears and shifting the gears to his actual personality. “Accept your past, live in your present and plan about you future where you want yourself to be tomorrow. I have seen you very shy and always silent. In politics, silence is suicide. You will have to learn the art of fooling people. Even when you are in panic, you have to pretend strong before everybody. Always remember – never accept your fault or you will be doomed. Give up you shyness and face them boldly looking into their eyes. Live like a king. Make even wrong things right with your self-confidence,” he said encouraging me.
“Wow you speak terribly nice hah!” I replied.
“(chuckling)…but you are thinking something else too. What is it?” he asked me noticing my perturbation.
“I don’t know if I should ask it” I replied hesitatingly.
“Go ahead. Like I said – no place for hesitation” he replied.
“People say that you used me for Muslim votes. I mean all this help and support was just a political move not human”
“Huh (yawningly)… Well they are right.”
“Yeah! I used you. Perhaps every time. Faizan you are quite novice in this field and it is tough to explain you but someday you will understand that in politics such things are very common. And if you want to survive here you must learn this art too…” he said as instantly one of his servants interrupted him in between and informed that people were waiting for him in the party.
“Well perhaps this is the time. Come with me. Pretend to be strong down there and show them that you are no more a child now”
And that was it. When I stepped down people did not meet Faizan. They met Faizan Ahmed Khan, a terrific MP from Saharabad. And with the exponential take off in my attitude, nobody dared to ask me about my past. They accepted me as one of them and that was my first victory over my weaknesses.    


Sample chapter 3

4. Saharabad riots

Same day at my house Suzanne came with her family to see us. Unaware from the external affairs going outside the world we were happily sharing our family moments with each other.
“Your win is sure sir. I feel glad to hand over my daughter to your family,” said Wahid Khan, father of Suzanne.
“Truly, this is so auspicious day for us. At one side it is sure that we will win the Saharabad seat and at the other side Allah has gifted me such a nice and descent daughter in law. I really feel blessed today”. Abbu looked very happy. It seemed as if for the first time in life he was proud of me.
However, at one side where the air of love was blowing, the other side a silent storm of hatred was just about to hit the city. That day, in afternoon, when innocent Muslims gathered in Jama Masjid for prayer three bombs explode at three different places near the mosque. First one in the market, second one on the streets and third one in the mosque itself. Rumors were spread that a Hindu community has done these bombings to oppose the election results. A few people of Younis Khan masked themselves as fake protesters and ignited the riot. Soon the ‘real’ common people gathered and destruction was seen all round the scene. Thousands of Hindus and Muslim supporters gathered on the road and attacked each other. Many lost their lives; many lost their dear ones while many lost their properties. All the police got busy in controlling the riot. And simultaneously, Younis Khan’s men took the advantage of the situation and looted the booth. However, the aim of the riot was achieved, but the riot gradually grew stronger and soon whole city was under its influence. No one was safe, not even Ahmad Khan, my Abbu.

The mobile phone of Abbu rang several times but Ammi snatched it from Abbu and finally switched it off.
“No, not today. Today you will not receive any phone call unless we decide dates for engagement and wedding,” said Ammi cutting the call.
“Ha Ha Ha… Bhabhiji, I think I should also switch off my mobile. It is also ringing quite a lot today,” said Suzanne’s father switching his mobile phone off. We continued our talks but got interrupted in between when police came into our house for security purposes.  
“Sir we have been sent by the state government to provide full security to you and your family. We request you to move to some safer place with us,” said the officer.
Abbu was confused and so asked, “Why? What happened?”
The officer narrated him the whole situation of the city.
“What?” Abbu was stumped by the news. Perhaps we all were.
“Sir the whole city is facing the riot and it all happened in just few hours. Sir please do not waste time. Let’s go.”
Nobody there at that time could believe what had just happened in few hours. We did not know how to react at the situation. But before anybody could think of something, situation got out of control. Thousands of anti-Muslim protesters and activists surrounded our house and readily tried to arson it. The security force was small in comparison to the number of activists. Consequently, the furious mob started chasing us after they penetrated the security. We ran here and there for our lives – from one street to another; from one road to another and as a result I lost them during the run. Everywhere scene was same – protestors were all around for the kill. The city had turned into a wild forest where hunters were all around looking for innocent targets. The complete town was shrouded under communal violence. Only death and destruction was visible.
I could not find my parents. I ran here and there and got hurt myself. My left leg was severely hurt. I could feel severe pain in my chest and my head was bleeding but somehow I managed to move further. The deadly scenes before my eyes were even more painful to watch. I could see flood of blood on the road, burnt shops and houses. There were children crying for help, woman and olds brutally attacked. Broken hands, legs, and corpses lied all over the road. Madness, complete madness all around had enveloped the town. I could not imagine even in dreams that life would take so sharp turn in moments to turn onto me like this. My eyes were full of tears. Moving further along the way, I encountered a woman who was hurt, asking for some water. She appeared to be a Hindu. I looked around and soon found a bottle of water from a demolished shop. But before I could fetch her water she was already dead. Some people at near distance saw me with the woman. Perhaps they misunderstood me and one of them started to shout, “Hey there… look, look that man. He attacked our woman. Come…quickly come.” Before I could speak anything, someone hit on my head. Darkness shrouded my visibility and I fell down unconsciously. The mass attacked me brutally and left me almost dead.
I saw blood sprouting from my body perhaps they had stabbed me from behind. I fell down and could hardly move. I was losing my breath gradually and my vision slowly fainted. Everything looked slow as if time had slowed down its flow. I could hear my heart throbs quite clearly and could feel the footsteps of death approaching to me slowly & gradually. The breath slowed down every second and no hope of survival was visible in the vicinity. My blood flew and spread all over the ground. I could feel losing myself while looking up into the blue sky which appeared to be coming nearer and falling upon me. I thought that finally this is the end and I should quit now. It was in these conditions when I first heard her voice- ‘keeeeep breeeeathhhingg….doooonntt cloosse yourrr eyeeesss’; quite unclear though. My dim vision could hardly see her face. Her long hairs had blocked the sunlight. Her fragrance transmitted new life in me. I could hear her long and unclear voice which then sounded as lullabies. I was deadly hurt but some harmonic music being played in my ear hardly let me feel any pain and when she gave me the oral therapy I refused to die. The angels pushed me hard to take me away from her but I had changed my plans by then. However suddenly, a sudden darkness all around, covered my vision and I fell unconsciously down and didn’t remember what happened afterwards until I regained my consciousness.


Sample chapter 2

3. Initial life

My complete name is Faizan Ahmad Khan, son of Ahmad khan, a Muslim party leader and for your concern, ladies & gentleman, no, I was not so serious since birth but riant, especially in final years of my graduation. I never got my graduation completed, unfortunately, because of the outbreak of the riot in the city then. But I never felt sorry for that may be because collecting green notes were never my desires. I was always fascinated towards doing something different, something out of the box but never exactly knew what. Talking about the behaviour and qualities, I had every quality that a 24-year-old lad of a rich and politician dad generally possess. I was jubilant. I was crazy. A bit careless and an apple eye for my parents. The only quality that separated me from my parents was that I was a semi-atheist i.e. I was a bit impious in his existence. Sometime I would pray and sometime not. I barely kept fasts and visiting the mosques were seasonal events. Unfortunately, according to my mythical philosophy, God existed only in the minds of hypocrites. And it were these philosophies that sometimes resulted into severe tongue lashes from my father.
“Idiot, be afraid of his anger or you will be doomed to hell someday.” 
These used to be actual words from my father to me. Apart from Faizan, I had few nicknames that my father used to address me with quite respect. Some of these were- idiot, jolter head, dumb, shameless and of course his favourite one -useless. The only shield I had against Abbu was granny.
She would always protect me from his fury saying, “Why do you compel him to obey Allah. When the right time will come Allah will himself make him believe in his existence and show him the right path?”
Abbu did not have courage to argue granny but as a clever politician he would always throw his ‘emotional bomb’ as his last weapon saying, “I am not his enemy Ammi but he must follow Islam. He has grown up now. People have started talking about his impish behaviour...” But granny used to cut him in between asking him to give me some space so that I could myself learn and understand the ways of life.
But Abbu, he was impatient. He was eager to see me enter into politics. He often used to say, “Allah knows when that time would come. Mark my words clearly Faizan. The day when his patience ends, he will snatch from you your most beloved thing of life and that day you will repent. No one would be there to listen to you. You will be all alone and helpless. And the worst thing is that it would be too late to pray.”      
However, for me, these words were simply the daily dose of waste lectures, which should be yelled out immediately after the drama was over. And immediately when the temperature would fall to normal I would rush to the then most important thing in my life, my girlfriend Suzanne.

And like most girlfriends, she had the same question on her throat, “When will you talk about me to your family?” But since I was a son of a politician, I would always give a diplomatic answer, “Suzz the elections are close. I will definitely talk about us to my family as soon as the elections are over but this is not the right time. However, before we do that, I have something special for you in my pocket; here let me take this out. Here…this is for you Suzzy.”
I know… but I was doing nothing new. Often to suppress any such issue, we men have to bring something to woman that is bigger than that issue. Most of the time it is jewellery or any other precious gift. But, we often do it to cover the original topic and get rid answering daily to madam’s never ending questions. “This is to symbolize my love to you and lady may I take the liberty to wear you this ring to your finger” I told Suzanne and she was delighted with the surprise. Perhaps they always do.
After the meeting, we both went for a small ride. We were happy and I was satisfied with the on goings of life. I could see no ice burg on my way. No obstacles. Just a straight happy life – get a job, then get married and live happily. That was my plan for future. Huh! …How wrong I was? I never learnt that life is never certain. It’s always unpredictable.
Meanwhile as we were passing by the road we observed few protesters making some anti –Muslim slogans in respect to elections. Suzanne always disliked politics. Hence, with an angry look she said, “Why do these people disturb the peaceful environment of our country? What these people want? I do not understand these people. Why cannot they concentrate on just their religion? Why?” Perhaps it showed her vacuous knowledge in politics that led her easily provoked and endorse for her people. My thoughts were rather implicitly insulated from the word ‘politics’ and ‘religion’. However, I did care about human lives and ethics. 
I replied to her politely, “No Suzz it is not like that. These people are neither Hindu nor Muslim, not even common people. These are politicians. They only worry about their self. They fuel such issues to fulfil their political ambitions. Believe me. After all I myself am a son of a politician.”
She smiled and asked, “So you are telling me that even your father is a mean person. Are you against of your father’s ways and thoughts, Faizan?” I sighed and replied her negatively saying, “I am not against my father but his ways are sometimes beyond my understanding. That is why I hate politics and keep away from it.” Perhaps she could understand that I was quite honest and innocent and bear no qualities of a politician.
Now before I proceed further, I would like to give you a glimpse of the political scenario of the city I lived in. I used to live in Saharabad, a city full of communal tensions. History had it that none of the communities Hindus or Muslims here lived in peace and a kind of cold war always existed between them. My father was a political leader of a Muslim party. He in many ways hated Hindus even more than he loved his own religion. He also had a political rival, surprisingly not a Hindu but a political giant,  Younis Khan, a secular party leader who supported Hindus not because he respected them but to earn Hindu votes. Fortunately or unfortunately Saharabad was a Muslim dominant area with my father having the major impact and hence most of the time it was him who emerged as the winner. And needless to say that this fact was the biggest headache for Younis Khan who could clearly see his career drowning with the dominance of my father over the city. Since the elections were near an atmosphere of political tension could also be observed in his camp.

“Sir this time too, Ahmad Khan looks very strong. We cannot bear to lose to him again. It would be his hat trick in a row if he wins this time. We must do something and as fast as possible,” said one of the ministers of Younis Khan who was restless about the repercussions of the election.
“He is right we must win this time either by hook or by crook,” said another minister adding fuel to his worries.
Younis Khan too was desperate over the issue and so he asked his ministers to do whatever it takes to win him the elections. It would have been his third consecutive defeat if lost. He was really frantic enough to do ‘whatever’ it takes it to win.  
It is a bitter truth that often in politics common people’s dream is shattered for political benefits of one single man. It never matters which political side is the beneficiary, common people are always at the losing side. Be it the age of kings and kingdoms when millions shed their lives to save the glory and throne for one single man (the king) or be it the present time when preplanned fake communal riots are done in which millions of innocent lives are screwed, again just for the political ambition of one single man, the politician. It is always we who suffer. Something similar was going to happen in my life and I was completely unaware of the silent storm that was slowly approaching towards my peaceful life. Meanwhile as usual in the political seasons, Saharabad also observed political rallies, speeches, promises, boastings and all that. The heat was at its peak. Both parties did not miss any chance to accuse each other on several political issues. The attempt to gain the confidence of common mass was just fuelling the cold war. For both the parties it was like a knockout match – if not now then never. 
Time passed as usual and voting was done. Elections were over, can’t say peacefully but somehow it was over.                
Meanwhile one day at home Ammi caught me red handed talking to Suzanne on phone.
“O.K. Who is she?” she inquired with a different version of smile on her face while hands folded round to each other in a definite gesture.
I got so nervous and hence gave a diplomatic answer “No one Ammi, just a friend”. My legs trembled with fear and face red with shyness, which she had already perused.
“Just a friend?... Faizan you can tell me. I am your mother after all. Now come on tell me do you like her?” she asked me as she could clearly notice the grin on my face.
“She is my colleague, Ammi …you will not understand”, I paused for a moment and hesitatingly continued. “Fine, I am in love with her and want to marry her.” Initially my mother stared at me but eventually the scary look turned into a smile and she said, “It’s all OK Faizan. Why are you so nervous?” She hugged me and promised that she will talk to Abbu about this. Half war was won and it gave me a little respite. But the next hurdle was the real obstacle- my Abbu.

At night, during the dinner, Ammi cunningly raised the question, “Don’t you think our son is now mature enough for marriage? I think now we should start searching a right girl for him. What do you say?”
Abbu replied astonishingly (in a hard voice) “Marriage? And that too of him? ‘Mr Useless!’ Huh! ” he said and concentrated on his dinner.
Ammi instantly came into my protection saying, “Why? Have you planned to keep him bachelor all his life? And what is wrong in my son? He is smart, dashing and let me tell you many girls die for him, huh.”
Abbu stared at me surprisingly and murmured, “Girls die at ‘him’? What’s wrong with them?” He said as my sibs sniggered instantly.
Ammi stared at him even more cruelly and asked, “What did you say? And leave all that what do you actually mean?” She backed me good enough to make Abbu finally quit his irking behaviour for my wedding. Laxity in other matters could be tolerated but she was in no way ready to give him ease in escaping my wedding responsibility. He finally surrendered before her adamance.
Abbu replied, “No I do not mean anything Resham. But you know its election time and I am too busy right now.”
Ammi replied in anxiety, “Elections are already over now. Only results have to come. In shah-Allah, you will only win. And I am not asking you to set the wedding tomorrow but we can at least see the girl and meet her parents.”
I kept myself isolated from the talk and simply listened like a good boy, you know, eyes low and mouth shut. However, my heart, it was throbbing 172 times per minute.
Abbu thought for a while, looked at me, smiled, and said, “So it seems that both mother and son have already chosen the girl…Hmmm” he said as he stared at me. “Ok I would like to meet the family tomorrow at the breakfast. But right now just forgive me coz I’m too tired and going to sleep”. He said as he yawned and left.
I gave a little smile of appreciation to Ammi. But from inside, a whole wave of tsunami, full of craziness splashed on me. I still remember that day I gently went into the room, closed the door and then I jumped on the bed, I shouted as loud as I could, somersaulted and did everything you would have done when India won the world cup in 2009.

However, the life of these happiness was quite short as the destiny had some other plans for me. Perhaps for everybody. Everything looked good until that fatal day, the day of results. General counting of votes began and after half counting of votes, Abbu was leading with fair margin. This news bewildered Younis Khan as if his worst nightmares were about to come true. Name, fame, money, luxury and a 30-year long political career. Everything was on the line. Moreover, with debts in millions he would always live in fear of being tortured, if not cleared. The fear to lose everything made him insane. He would murmur anything all the time along with a causal agony attached with the fear.    
“This is not good. This is not good,” said a sweating Younis Khan trembling in agony.
Junaid Khan, one of his party member and a very wicked mind person said, “Sir, this is not the time to chant our mistakes but to do something. We must act quickly.”
Younis Khan earnestly requested Junaid”, Junaid…my friend, do anything, anything but just make me win anyhow”.
Junaid Khan simply replied, “Sir with all due respect, why not we loot the booth.”
Younis Khan was dumbstruck after hearing it from Junaid Khan. Junaid Khan continued, “Yes Janab, we cannot win honestly. So we must loot the booth”.
“Are you mad? How is that possible? If we are caught, we will lose everything we are left with. Moreover, we would be imprisoned for such act. It is too risky,” responded Younis Khan.
Junaid Khan replied, “Sir we will not do it directly rather we will spread some communal rumours and create a fake riot. Then we have to take advantage of that riot to loot the booth since all the police will get disturbed in controlling the riot.
“Riot?” asked a perplexed Younis Khan “Will it work? Should we attempt it?”
Junaid Khan was a bit frustrated convincing Younis Khan. He replied, “Janab please… we do not have time to think. We must do it or we shall lose.”
Younis Khan knew that he has no other option. Moreover, he did not have enough time to think. He had to decide something before the counting was over. Debts in millions, pressure from party members and various other powerful people; moreover worry about his existence in politics. All these things compelled him to take a vicious decision and unfortunately, he did. Ignoring the gravity of his evil decision he agreed to go along with Junaid’s words irrespective of the repercussions and effect on innocent lives.


Sample chapter 1

2. Bereft Aarti

My eyes stick to a photo frame sometimes whenever I dream of my house, which is unfortunately now bereft of us. It should be still there, perhaps, in our bedroom. It is so strange that even at this stage of my life I still remember every moment, every memory linked with that house. We got it snapped when she had finally accepted to marry me and there was a kind of celebration all around the country. The TOIs, The HTs and many others had headlined in its first page ‘Finally Aarti says yes’. But there were also some orthodox people who had protested against our wedding. That was a tough time for both of us. Whenever I see that picture moments freeze down, time slows its flow and past memories surround me all around. Then tears, before I realize, huh! …eyes go wet, twinkling with tears and filled with emotions. We had snapped it in Saharabad, the place where it all began and all ended.
“Sorry we could not save your wife” this was exactly what they (the doctors) told me when I reached the hospital after I was informed by one of my friend that the hospital she works in has been attacked by the mob. Then they moved on leaving me desperate, helpless, and all alone in the hospital. My dear friends we all love someone in our life and that ‘someone’ too loves us more than anyone in life, does. That ‘someone’, who was always before our eyes when we needed them but we never saw them, thanked them. How pathetic! Sometimes we never respect what we have in present and sacrifice it for future. However, when they are gone, we realize their importance and unfortunately, it is often too late to recover the loss. Aarti was the same ‘lost thing’ for me now.
Sometimes in life, there is someone, whose company is indispensable and in no way we are ready to accept his or her absence ever. They are important. They are life. Moreover, we want to thank them but often may be out of shyness or because of the wait for that ‘right time’ to come, we never say it. And at the time when the person is gone, we realize that the ‘right time’ was always there and we just had to pick up one single day and utter out our feelings for them. I too wanted to say this simple word of ‘thanks’ to Aarti, my wife. I just wanted to say thank you, thank you for everything, for every moment she filled in with joy and contentment. Thank you for being there in every those single moment when I was alone, empty and broken.

Back in hospital, Zeeshan, a very close friend of mine read the situation, noticed his role, and took the charge.
“Doctor it is very tough time for my friend right now. I request you to leave him alone. I will be looking after the legal procedures further. It would be very kind of you if you discharge the dead body as soon as possible,” said Zeeshan taking care of everything.
The humble doctor could understand our feelings. Perhaps they always do. The doctor assured him saying, “Sure sir, we understand your situation. Please take care of Mr Faizan. It is very hard time for him. He surely needs you.”
‘Hard time’ that is what he said. Huh! Actually, it was not just the hard time for me but a time full of emptiness, questions, and disgust. I was not just depressed, but broken. I was confused about how would I lead rest of my life without Aarti. I was helpless. I did not know how to live without Aarti. It had been about 40 years now and she had become a habit. I just could not figure it out who would prepare my speeches. With whom will I discuss my planning? Who will take care of me, my life? I just did not know. I had no answers.
Zeeshan helped me move out of the hospital. I was moving slow and random like a thick piece of object. My face had turned pale, eyes red with tears and hairs disorganized. Neither could I listen nor could I see anything, may be because I didn’t care to. Zeeshan just pulled me somewhere out of the hospital. As we moved out of the hospital, we were surrounded by a flood of media and public supporters. Though police was there for my security but they could resist only the people, not their questions.
“Sir, your own wife died in the riot what do you have to say?”
“She was a public hero. What actions will you take against the people involved in the riot?”
Zeeshan came in between and he asked me not to listen or answer them and just move with him to his home. But I did not want to leave like this and consequently I pulled my hand back and said to him, “No, I want to stay…stay with her. Zeeshan just let me go. Just let me go brother.”
Zeeshan denied and said, “You look tired and weak. Come let’s go home and have something to eat.” But I refused saying, “I have to tell her something. She is going away from me. I have very less time my friend. Let me go.”
I pulled his hand away from my hand and rushed to the ICU where my wife was lying cold and low. I was running as faster as I could, trying to save all the last moments with her. As I walked in the room, I saw her dead body lying like a piece of object- silent and motionless. A sort of feeling travelled down my heart. I could feel her, her presence. It appeared as if she is sleeping normally, as usual she used to. And at any moment, she would be awake and ask me “How was your day?” I went to her, sat down, and held her hand. Looking at her face, I moved my fingers on her hairs. A tinge of emotions moved down my throat …a raw nerve was touched and I could not help myself sobbing. Zeeshan was looking everything from outside but he did not interfere. Perhaps he too was weeping, behind the walls. He was listening me talking to her. Yes, I was talking to her. Perhaps people with high common sense will call me mad but believe me if you have really loved someone you will understand. I was an atheist but she always wanted me to pray to God. And that day I did. I did make a small prayer for her. And I could not waste a moment disclosing this to her that I am no more an atheist  as she wanted and I do prayers now for me and for everyone.
“I …prayed him … I swear I did. You believe me, don’t you? I requested him (the almighty) to give me my life back because that belongs to me…even for just a single day or for a single moment. Heaven can wait…” I said in a melancholic voice. “But look what he did? He did not listen to me. He never listens to me. Neither did you. Aarti you cannot leave me here alone. I don’t know where are my medicines. I can’t find my handkerchief. I forget to take my watch. I don’t eat dinners. And I can’t sleep at nights. Everything’s just messed up without you. So just wake up please. Come back. Come back in my life. I can’t live without you…”
Tears? Yes, tears came in my eyes. But even that did not awake her. She remained muted and did not reply. A woman who used to turn restless over my one single minor cough was silent that day. Silent forever. This was not acceptable. No! And the Gods would have to answer for her condition. He was equally responsible. He was equally the faulty. 
“I never prayed to you but she did, always. You owe her devotion and that trust in you. She cannot listen to me. So please send my last message for her. Just tell her ‘Thank you’. Thank you for being there at all the time I needed her. Tell her that she was not just a good wife but also a good friend, and perhaps my soul. Tell her that I feel myself graceful for every support of her. Tell her that how much I loved her. Tell her…please… ” I said sobbing and spent the whole night with her trying to live those last moments, every single moment left with Aarti, my Aarti.

Next morning some noise of arguments woke me up. When I stepped out, I found some ministers of my cabinet arguing over any issue.
“She was a Hindu. So her funeral must be performed according to the Hindu traditions otherwise Hindus will not like this and may protest against us.”
“No, no, since she married to a Muslim so she becomes a Muslim and her body should be buried down otherwise Muslims may not like this and protest.”
The debate slowly turned serious. I was standing behind them and felt disgusted with their behaviour. Eventually it became important to interfere in between.
“She was a Hindu and her funerals will be performed in complete accordance to the Hindus tradition. No more discussions on this issue please”, I interrupted angrily in between.
Mr Ashraf Khan, our party leader, was also present nearby. Cunning and selfish in behaviour, he came close to me and said, “I know its difficult time for you. But just look at yourself. You look tired and weak.” He ordered one of his men to get me a glass of juice. He then held my hand, acted of being sad and said, “It looks as if it’s been only couple of days passed when I saw you both as newly married couple.(He takes a long breath) I miss her too. However, these are things of past and you will have to prevail this bad time, at least for her. We have elections in this week and people want to hear you. They too are sad. They mourn for you. This is the time to take advantage of the sentiments of these people. You just prepare your speech well and leave the rest on me.”
“I will not be able to speak in public right now and I apologize for that. I am sorry,” I said cutting him in between rudely. His tongue instantly was twisted and he muted for a while. “Only thing that I am worried about right now is my wife’s funeral, that’s it. Please excuse me I gotta go,” I said rudely and left.
Zeeshan was present nearby. Ashraf khan knew only he was the one whom I would listen. Therefore, he went to him and said, “Console him. He is crucial for our victory in election. You are his friend… he will listen to you. Go now.” Though Zeeshan knew, it was not the right time to do that but he could do nothing but follow the orders. Therefore, he replied positively to Ashraf Khan and left.
Late that dayr, the cremation was done with proper rites & rituals. I kissed Aarti for the last time and lit her body on fire. I watched the flames growing gradually. And as they grew, I could see the past memories surrounding me and literally taking Aarti from me away and away with the flames.