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Sample chapter 4

4. Saharabad riots

Same day at my house Suzanne came with her family to join us on the breakfast in our mansion’s grove. Unaware of the external affairs outside the world we were engaged in scheduling the matrimonial dates for our marriage.

“Your win is sure sir. I feel glad to hand over my daughter to your family,” said Wahid Khan, Suzanne’s father, who perhaps was most glad of adhering further of an already age old relation.
“Truly, this is so auspicious day for me. At one side it is sure that I will win the Saharabad seat and at the other side Allah has bestowed me such a nice and decent daughter in law. I really feel blessed today” replied Abbu who looked very happy that day. 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 common Muslims commuters gathered in Jama Masjid for prayer three bombs exploded 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 rig the election results. A few people of Younis Khan masked themselves as fake protesters and provoked the already worsen situation which further intensified the chaos up to the brim. Soon the ‘real’ common people gathered and destruction suffused all around the scene. Thousands of Hindus and Muslim supporters mobbed on the road and attacked each other. Consequently, many lost their lives. Many lost their dear ones while many lost their properties. The poor police was busy in controlling the riot. Meanwhile, Younis Khan’s men took the advantage of the situation to rig the election ballot. Although the aim of the riot was achieved, the ‘fake’ riot, however, gradually grew stronger and ultimately crossed the threshold to turn into an irrepressible terror tornedo. Soon the whole city was under its radar. No one was safe, not even Ahmad Khan, my Abbu.

Back at home, the mobile phone of Abbu rang several times but Ammi snatched it from Abbu and finally switched it off to keep it out of his reach.

“No, not today. Today you will not receive any phone call until we decide dates for engagement and wedding,” said Ammi cutting the call.

“Ha Ha Ha… Bhabhiji I agree. 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,” requested the officer who had come with a bunch of policemen, all of them who were sweating with fear. They all appeared to be in some kind of haste and panic which induced some anxiousness in others too.

Abbu was confused and so asked, “Why? What happened?”

The officer narrated him the whole situation of the city.

“What?” Abbu got concerned by the news. Perhaps we all were.

“Yes sir, the whole city is facing the riot and it all happened in just few hours. I request you please not to waste time and move from here.”

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 had already slipped 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 chased us after they penetrated the security. We ran here and there for our lives – from one street to another; from one road to another, exploring new and unconventional routes, hence, as a result, I soon 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 ubiquitous hunters were looking for innocent targets everywhere. The complete town was shrouded under communal violence. Only death and destruction was visible.

I failed to find my parents. I ran here and there, looked everywhere, even got myself hurt, but failed to locate any of them. 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. The road was flooded in red, shops and houses burnt into ashes. 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 had never imagined even in dreams that life would take such a sharp turn, in just a flick of a moment, to turn onto me cruelly like this. My eyes were full of tears. And mind clogged with questions, revulsion and abhorrence.

Moving further along the way, I encountered a woman who was badly 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 any water she was already dead. Some people at near distance saw me with the woman. Perhaps they reckoned it the wrong way as suddenly one of them started to shout, “Hey there… look, look that man… he attacked our woman. Come…chase him.” But before I could speak anything, something hit on my head hard. Darkness shrouded my visibility and I fell down unconscious. 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. 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 in the vicinity was visible. My blood sprouted 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 would probably die. 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 the divine 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 like hope. I had quit but she refused to. She kept talking to me giving me hope that I would live. The angels tried to push me hard to take me away from her but it was too late for them. The death plans had been amended and postponed for an unknown period of time by then. However suddenly, before I could help myself, a sudden darkness all around, without any prior notice, shrouded my vision and I abruptly fell down unconscious.


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“Doctor…doctor…the patient is awake” cried a nurse loudly calling the doctor as I found myself in a hospital crowded with many other riot victims. An abrupt anxiousness to enquire about my present location bewildered me as soon as I recovered consciousness.
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2. Bereft Aarti
My eyes stick to a photo frame sometimes whenever I dream of my house, which is unfortunately now is 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 corner, 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. It was a tough time for both of us. Whenever I see that picture moments freeze, time slows down and past memories surround me all around. Then tears, before I realize, huh! …eyes twinkling with tears and filled with emotions pour down. We had snapped it in Saharabad, the place where it all began and all ended.
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