What is simply so intriguing about life is that, it can come with good tidings, bring joy and happiness but on a flipside it can also bring out the worst in a person, give nothing but sorrow and the world before you know it can topple over and wipe you off the surface of the Earth. Makes you wonder what level of free will does one possess in their lives? Is everything that makes of us a deterministic, pre-planned path controlled by a higher power? Answers are yet to be found but while here we are debating on who hold the reigns of life, far away and deep in trouble was one man who was debating his chances of survival. Who was that man? He was a commoner. Nevertheless, he was noticed and then pulled out of the fringes of his boring, routine based life. The next 4 hours were life-changing, adrenaline pumping and deadly dangerous but he had to risk everything. It’s not like he had a choice in the first place.
This story is a long one. This man’s tryst with destiny is a strange one. It all began with a single phone call, a few words exchanged followed by an empty silence and a buzzing dialer tone. The call was from a man who identified himself as Nirman Kheda who was the most sought after terrorist after the demise of Osama Bin Laden and the head of the vicious and blood-thirsty so-called vigilante group, ‘The Red Militia’.
Nirman Kheda was the son of corrupt Vatsal Roy Kheda who was a Delhi-based diamond merchant who scammed millions of innocent families into various Ponzi schemes that made the Kheda family extremely rich and eventually powerful. In 2003, Vatsal Roy Kheda funded the Indian Mujahedeen plan of over-throwing the then Indian government and establishing their ideologies on the Indian society. The Indian army managed to mobilise their troops in time and set off on a strong offensive against the terrorists. The Indian government stayed in power and the terrorist forces were pushed back. Vatsal Roy Kheda was caught and found guilty of treason in the court of law. He was hanged for his crimes against the state and his family were forced to seek asylum in China.
Nirman vowed to avenge his father’s death and at the age of 17 he orchestrated 7 mass bombings targeting metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. How Sarthak was connected to Nirman is a mystery to me as well. Sarthak was a regular college-going boy who would have been very young when the bombing occurred. Nirman was 20 years his senior and their interaction was highly unlikely. Why choose Sarthak then? Was he an unfortunate victim of a random attack? Or was he chosen for a specific purpose?
Time was temporarily suspended, every second holding longer than minutes. Sarthak held the phone tightly in his hand, his knuckles turning shock white, his bodily function engaging in a full lock-down. He was pale. Paler than a ghost, the platelets in his blood having lost their rich red colour greeting his skin with a cold dullness that only corpses were well aware of. You could see it in his eyes, in the tight corners around his lips and in the worry lines that ran short and blurry on his forehead. Shock was etched in every nook and corner of his countenance. An artist would have admired the stillness in posture and expression that Sarthak displayed. Such stillness would make it easy to sketch every infinite detail, the difficulty would arise if the artist ever attempted to canvas the raging inferno of anger that ran around in circles inside his head.
Sarthak was given specific instructions: Go to his mother’s office and bring the recordings of therapy sessions that his mother had conducted with an influential politician. Don’t go to the police. Bring the recordings to The Kala Ghoda Festival which was going on in South Mumbai. He had only 4 hours to complete the tasks, failure to do so would lead to bomb exploding at the Kala Ghoda Festival which could possibly obliterate the whole of Coloba. It was bad enough that his best-friends and his family had decided to go to the festival. He put up a fuss and decided to stay at home. He couldn’t be the cause of a massacre, he couldn’t…
Sarthak gradually made an attempt to break his paralysed stance. He carefully put the phone on the hook, his movements arduously slow. Time was watching and ticking by, slowly integrating into reality and starting to make its presence known. There were ripples of reality and the urgency in time that destroyed the stillness, realisation hit him like a truck and Sarthak found himself grabbing the keys of his motorcycle and running out of his house straight to the parking lot.
~45 minutes later~
He slid cautiously into his mother’s office and locked the door behind him. A feeling of nausea was swirling inside of him and he tried his best to ignore it. He didn’t want to steal from his mother or let alone help the state’s enemy but it had to be done. He pushed back his fear and started opening draws scanning through the case files…
~35 minutes later~
He found the recordings. His mother had stashed the DVD in a case that read ‘Shilpa’s Yoga Work Out’. Sarthak almost smiled at his mother’s ingenious way of hiding confidential data. His thoughts were interrupted by his phone ringtone suddenly demanding attention. He carefully put the case with the recordings in his bag and walked out of his mother’s office, answering the call simultaneously.
“Bring the DVD to the Kala Ghoda Festival.”
Like I mentioned earlier, life is unexpected and you never know what kind of surprises it has in store for you. Sarthak was racing down the streets of Mumbai, determined to get to the festival and save his family, friends and the lives of innocent strangers. Time was ticking away way too quickly for Sarthak’s liking, a selfish brute time really is. The endless traffic jams and red signals, were eating away Sarthak’s patience and an old fear was creeping along his back. He abandoned his motorcycle halfway toward Vile Parle and ran to the train station instead. He caught a fast local that was going into the south of the city and he checked his watch obsessively throughout the train ride. He had an hour left and 5 more stations to go. Sarthak couldn’t care less if his incessant foot tapping was irritating nearby commuters, he was under immense pressure, the lives of the innocent people were in danger and terribly enough in his hands.
He tried calling his family, when he reached Marine Lines, who for some annoying reason were not answering their calls. His calls to his friends were coming off as unreachable or network error. He finally reached Churchgate the last stop and glanced at his watch again, he had about 40 minutes left. Without further ado, Sarthak stormed past, commuters ignoring the abuses most of them were hurling at him. He almost tripped but managed to catch himself before he collided with the pavement. He hailed for a cab and got in regardless of the taxi-driver saying no. Sarthak tossed 200 rupees at the taxi driver who stopped complaining and hit the gas.
~30 minutes later~
He ran out of the cab and wondered how on earth he was going to get in through massive crowd that was blocking his entrance. He cleared his mind and pushed through the crowd, not caringly about rules and regulations. He managed to get close enough to the entrance, luckily he had his mother had bought him a pass and he hastily shoved it to the ticket counter who stamped it and handed it back to him. Sarthak rushed inside and his phone started buzzing again. He picked up
“Come to the clearing, where the Pottery Contest in happening.”
Sarthak pushed his bag higher on his shoulder, and made a run for it. He stopped and asked around and got directions towards the clearing. He reached the venue and scanned intently, looking for anyone that might be overly suspicious in their behaviour. His eyes rested on a group of familiar faces and he got distracted for a minute. Those were his friends and far to the extreme right were his family. He felt someone roughly bump his shoulder and walk past him. Sarthak rubbed his shoulder and pulled his bag in front of him, his eyes widened as the bag was ripped open from the zips, he searched the whole bag but couldn’t find the DVD. He started ahead, and recognised the man who had bumped into him, he left his bag on the ground and ran ahead, he caught up to the man and swung him by the arm. The man turned around, his gun pointed straight at Sarthak heart. Suddenly a strong wind blew his hat away, giving Sarthak an unobscured view to the man’s face. Sarthak took a step back, he couldn’t believe it.
“Don’t tell me that it was you all this while, my dear-” The truth died on Sarthak’s lips. Sarthak fell to the ground, blood flowing in ribbons through his chest. People noticed the blood, the fall, the sudden cold lifeless dead body, some screamed, some hid their eyes but no one noticed the shadow of the shooter who quietly made his way through the crowd.~Blogger's Note~
Okay readers, I have a confession to make, Sarthak is a real person but before you guys start googling him and full on stalking him, he is real but the events that have been depicted are not. Fictional yes. Well, it's his birthday today and I decided to wish him (and also save the expense of buying a gift) by writing a- I think it is sort of a fan fiction (why am I even going to such lengths? (Hell Sarthak I am giving you celebrity treatment)) story. The thing is that Sarthak had mentioned casually that he'd want me to write a story about him and well I took it seriously and wrote one. And today is also his birthday so HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARTHAK! and I hope you enjoy this unwanted attention and countless rough drafts that I have wasted on you. And also before I forget, I definitely don't want you dead, or have you go through what this character went through. Just have an amazing birthday and always be the funny man that you are.