To read the previous chapter, please click here.
August 30th, 2016
3.43 PM. UNDISCLOSED LOCATION, INDIA
For four days he remained silent. Waiting, pondering, to tell the truth.
Inspector Deshmukh sat at the interrogation table. On the very same chair that he had been sitting for the pass three days. He sat, smoking his cigarette. A drop of sweat is seen trickling down his chin as he sat observing Kumar Desai.
Kumar looked bad. He had a bleeding nose thanks to the punch he got from Deshmukh two days ago. But yet, despite the beatings, he remained silent. But not today.
“Okay” Kumar swallowed. “I’ll tell you everything.”
Inspector Deshmukh brought his chair closer. “Good.”
“But first I need a drink.” Kumar requested.
A glass of cold water was brought in. Kumar gulped it down in an instant, took a deep breath, and began his story.
It’s funny how God works in mysterious ways. Funny how things, no matter how accidental they seem, are actually preplanned. How everything is meant to be. And how fate plays a huge role.
My trip to India all began when I heard about the racial riots that took place in Gujarat last year June. What seemed like a typical visit to my hometown turned out to be a life changing experience.
I was walking pass the old mosque one evening when weirdly enough, I had this sudden craving for Chai (Indian tea). I walked over to the only Muslim stall still operating after the racial riots, sat there, the only Hindu, and drank tea with the Muslims.
They seemed distant at first. They always seem distant. I mean, who wouldn’t be? Here comes a man, from the very same religious background as those who burnt down Muslim houses just a week ago, and now he’s drinking tea.
No waiter came to serve me. I sat there for a good 30 minutes and was about to leave when a little Muslim boy, about the age of 10 years or so came over with a wet towel on his neck and said, “Bhaisab, chai?”
Every person in the stall stared at us in wonderment.
I obliged, drank the best chai I’ve had ever tasted, paid for the Chai and paid a good tip to the kid who, quite curiously didn’t accept it.
Since then, I made regular visits to the stall. Things were back to normal in Gujarat by then. People started going about their daily lives. And my friendship with Alif grew.
I started learning the Muslim way of living and he, in return, learnt the Hindu way of living.
We used to sit at the temple steps of the nearby Ganesh temple and used to chat about how silly people were being. How fanatic some people could get when, despite all the differences about our religion, we still shared the same philosophy; believing in God and believing in Love.
That was the year during the month of Ramadhan, I learnt the arduous way of the Muslims, who fasted. Some Hindus think it’s stupid to fast and torture one’s body in such a way.
But officer, really, everything has it’s reasons.
The Prophet fasted because he wanted to experience His Self. He wanted to forget the body, because just like the Hindus, the Muslims too believe that the body carries the soul to a different state of mind altogether.
The first week was difficult. I couldn’t even swallow my sliver. But i did my prayers with much discipline.
While Alif would do his daily prayers, I would be at the temple, chanting the name of the Lord. And in the evenings, I would break fast with him after hearing the evening Azan.
It felt good. I felt… happy. A sense of peace came to me.
Although I didn’t realise the true purpose of my life, I realised who I was in one way or another. We’re all like candles, officer. Each one of us is burning. Some of us, the warmth and light that is emitting from us is slowly dying off. Alif lit the candle of my life. And I, lit his.
We became extremely close. I quit my work in the UK. I hated the lifestyle there anyways, and I started working as a consultant at a nearby Law firm. Thank God i knew different languages. I know German, French and a little bit of Persian. So, as you can see officer, i was doing quite well for an Indian living in India.
On the day of Eid Mubarak, my first Eid to be exact, I celebrated it with fire crackers and had a great dinner at Alif’s house. His father was reluctant to let me in at first, but thanks to Alif, ever the wise one, we celebrated it like a family.
Soon, the Muslim community got to know me. And we formed a sort of a bond.
Once, the Imam of the Masjid actually asked me if I would like to join him for prayers.
I know it sounds stupid officer, but I, ever being the curious one, obliged but only with a condition.
I told the Imam that although I’m coming to the Masjid to pray, I honestly told him that I was not interested in converting. And to this, he laughed and said, “Converted or not, Allah is still the same everywhere.”
You see officer, you call God Krishna and Jesus, but to the Muslims, God is Allah. Many names, just different forms.
Alif told me officer, he said, “Religions are like cups. Cups with different shapes and sizes and colors. All of them share the same basic thing. Scooping up water to quench our thirst.”
My mother wasn’t too pleased about me mixing with Alif. Although, deep down she knew Alif meant no harm, but her motherly instincts told a different story. She knew I’ll get into trouble.
Things were great. I used to visit Alif everyday after work, buy himself and myself ice cream, and we used to sit at the alley nearby, across from the Dabba and observe people. We talked about many things. We talked about Islam and Hinduism. We also talked how the Muslims, think that Hinduism is a primitive religion. Praying to stone sculptures and believing in silly things such as threads. I, in return used to explain how we Hindus think that Islam is a violent religion.
We cleared each of our doubts when we talked about this. And we realised the similarity in us and realised that although religion does serve some form of importance in our lives, in the end, religion is like a school uniform one wears in order to learn something from a school. Without a uniform, you will receive no form of education whatsoever.
So yes, religion does serve is basic purpose. To teach us about Love, God and mostly about ourselves.
Things were good. There was even once when I took Alif to the Ganesh temple. Explained to him what I knew about each of the deities presiding in the temple. Thought him what each of the weapons the deities hold in their hands signified.
Alif was particularly curious about Shiva, the snake God who had a snake wound up on his neck. “How can people pray to such a scary being?”
I explained what the snake meant. The snake meant lust, ego and our evil qualities all put together as one. And the snake wound up on Shiva’s neck, despite being close to a human body, doesn’t bite or hurt Shiva. Why? Because just like Shiva, we too must keep our negative qualities in check. Keep them at neck’s length, never let it rear it’s ugly head. Keeping our egos in check. Putting a limit.
He understood. And we lived our lives.
Then hell broke loose. The racial riots broke again. This time, the Hindus started it.
You see officer, I’m sure, you being a police officer would know some of these things by now. How they work and such. Majority of the people living in Gujarat are Hindus. So as you can see, the racial riots didn’t break out because of religion reasons alone. It was all a political scam.
A way so that Prakash Patel can get the majority of Hindu voters. Who cares about the Muslims? Fuck them. And that’s what happened.
But you see, as I’ve mentioned earlier, fate plays a huge role. And it was fated that Alif would die.
We sat at our same usual spot. I told him I was going to get him ice cream. I left him at his place. I walked a few steps, turned back and saw him sat at his favorite spot, dangling his legs like a little boy does, humming an old Hindi song. That was the last I saw him that way.
I went to the ice cream stall. It was closed. Infact, shops around me were being closed down hurriedly. I knew something was amiss.
I ran officer, I ran as hard as I could. My heart beating fast. Because what I saw after that, was something that will never leave my memory, ever.
Shops were burning. There were bodies everywhere. And Alif…
He was dead. Killed. He laid there motionless along with a pile of bodies. Muslims as well.
Tell me, is this what Hinduism is all about? I felt hurt. My country going down the drains thanks to politicians like these.
But you see officer, the hardest part of all was to bring Alif’s body back home. His parents had gone into hiding. And I had his body with me for three days. I waited three good days like a crazy man, crying over his dead body in my room. My mum thought I had gone nuts.
On the third day, I went to his house with his body.
His parents couldn’t believe what had happened. I couldn’t either. The neighbours beat me up. They were about to slaughter me, just like how our own people slaughtered Alif. I can’t blame them officer. I mean, had i been in their shoes, I would have done the same. Anger, is a terrible thing officer.
Alif’s mother stopped me from being killed. She told me to go away and never to come back.
I did come back. But not for Alif’s mother. But for guns.
The security for the World Expo was quite weak if you ask me. I managed to enter without attracting any attention. It was my first gun. My first time shooting. Killing someone. But I had to do it. It was for the good of my country.
And I killed the man who brought this onto us. I have no regrets.
There was silence after Kumar spoke. Deshmukh sat staring at Kumar, puffing his cigarette absent mindedly. Kumar covered his face and started sobbing.
The sobs went on for the whole night.