Tuesday, 18 October 2011


The face I look at in the mirror stares back with cold eyes. The only emotion it mustered up in the past year was not a pretty one. But I guess it’s only natural. Even a plant uprooted and grown in unknown soil does not bloom as it did before. I was just human. I wash my face in hope to wipe my sorrow away. But the mirror mocks my optimism.

I walk back into the hall from the washroom and quietly make my way across to the window. Five people lived in this small apartment. All of them were asleep, but me. They all had a smile on their face as they slept. Sleep was a return ticket to home and back. We all had the same dreams every time we slept. Home, family and everything that we missed. The smiles turned to frowns as soon as the eyes opened and our hearts sunk faster than a submarine. But sleep gave us hope of being back where we belong, someday.

Snow was only fun during summer when you escape the sun to cool down at a hill station. This city is under snow for seven months of the year. The snow in this city depressed me. Not a soul walked the streets in the blistering cold. It gave the mind the impression that it lived in the city of the dead. A huge contrast to what the mind was used to back home. The only times I got to talk to myself like this was when I had asked myself if it was right to leave home to go abroad.
I got ready and collected my phone. My wallet lay open on the table and the picture of my family was staring back at me. I took my wallet and headed down to my taxi. Night shifts in this sort of weather were never profitable. I burned more fuel to keep warm than my fares for the night could buy. But it wasn’t me who called the shots.

I drove around the city in search of anyone to break my silence tonight. But my mind fought with itself. Friendliness was seldom reciprocated back by the people who rode in the taxi.

“Hello, all. Good night isn’t it? Where can i take you all?”

“All right, Ali baba. Why don’t you stop with your jabber and drop us at Halsted. First you come to our country and then screw around with us. Why be a so happy when you see us, when you want to kill us?”

I stopped at an intersection and saw the reflection of the taxi in a shop’s window. The man within couldn’t kill a fly. All he wanted to do was to earn for his family back home and get his children educated. How some events changed the way the west saw brown skinned people was sad. I knew that these things didn’t matter and I had to focus on sending money back home. But was it too much to expect people in the ‘new world’ to be understanding?

For about 20 minutes, I drove around the city. My mind debated with itself but it reached no conclusion. My attention was caught by a suited man who seemed to be in a hurry. I stopped the taxi in front of him and he loaded a suitcase in the trunk.

“Airport” he said.

“All right, sir.”

My mind, divided in two over the issue of talking to passengers started the debate again. But after about 5 minutes…

“Where you going, sir?”

“India. Excited to get there. Been a childhood dream to visit India.”

“I from India myself. Delhi.”

“I am off to Bangalore. You people have made quite the progress. Not far when the IT market will shift there permanently.”

“India always been great, sir.”

About 10 minutes passed by in complete silence as he talked on the phone. I looked at him in the rear view mirror. I was driving someone who was going to be where I wished I was right now. Flashes of home went by my mind and as was always the case, my heart was filled with hope that I would someday go back.

“Well, I just got invited to a conference in Delhi. So I will see your city as well.”

“Delhi is a great city, sir. Really beautiful.”

The taxi came to a stop at the international departures. I grabbed the suitcase from the trunk and helped the man get a trolley.

The man took a camera out of his backpack.

“What’s your name?” He asked.

“_______” I said.


I obliged with a clueless face as he clicked a photograph of us together.

“What’s your address? I am sure your family would want to see you.”

My heart filled with joy for the first time since I landed at this same airport. I took out my wallet and wrote down my address on a piece of paper. I handed him the paper.

“When you can look at the passenger at the backseat through your rear view mirror, remember that the passenger can see you as well. The mirror could not hide the tear as you heard that I was going to your city. So I figured I would help you get any message across.”

My heart was over whelmed with emotions as I hugged him and uttered a few words.

“Just tell them I will be back soon.” I said.

The man walked away into the madness of the airport leaving me with emotions aplenty. My face looked up to the heavens as snowflakes fell on my face. I took my wallet out of my pocket and removed the picture of my family.

I kissed it.

People sell their land and head to foreign land in search of better jobs and opportunities. But 95 % of them fail in this process. What they were back home, happy and content is exchanged for hardships and labor. Is there even an agency that spreads awareness about the plight of people who don’t make it?

Shashiraj Singh

Monday, 10 October 2011

When the storm and silence came at the same time ..

They call this the city that never sleeps. Today the city wasn't going to sleep for a whole new reason. No cars went past me as I stood at a check point that had at least a mile long traffic jam at midnight. It was empty tonight. The feeling was surreal. Yes, we had trained to service for occasions like these, but when the situation comes about for real, you feel sick in the stomach. As it is Bollywood had made a mockery of the police over the past few decades. Any wrong move will just cement the image of an incompetent police force in the minds of people, thanks to the over zealous media. Even if they saw how pro-active we were right now, by tomorrow some corrupt police officer was going to undermine the efforts we make tonight. But that was no reason to be lax in our efforts. We had a duty to fulfill.

Mumbai never gave you the opportunity to be alone. Life in this metropolitan city is unlike any other. Friends are made on the locals, bus stands and any place where two people stand. It is a cruel city that moves so fast that if you get left behind you can never catch up with it. Everyone is on the same plane and are the support for each other. Its the people that make this city what it is. Friends and family are the way you get by, though you are on the salary of an assistant sub inspector.

But, for the first time I was actually alone. I was also scared for my life and more importantly for my wife and daughters. I took my phone out of my pocket and dial for them. It is remarkable how much warmth one feels when he talks to family when he is in peril. It feels good to know that someone is out there praying for you as you stand guarding a city in siege.

I kept the call and heaved out a sigh of relief. My family was safe, at home and waiting for me to return unscathed. The relief lasted for 10 seconds as my walkie-talkie cracked into life and a rather stressed voice issued a warning.

"Hijacked white skoda heading towards Girgaum Chowpatty. Two terrorists."

Somehow this night was providing me with all possible emotions. Nervousness and apprehension took over me as I heard the walkie talkie crack back into silence. The feeling didn't last long as the sight of a white car heading towards me shifted the mood completely. There they were. The people who thought we were going to be helpless when they ran around the city and blew it up.

As they whizzed past the check point I had just got a glimpse of them. It was instinctive, what happened next. From relief to apprehension and now fired up, I had shifted emotions faster than a hindi duet song changes outfits. I climbed onto my motorcycle and kick started the engine. The bike roared into life as if it were waiting to make a contribution. The bike sped up as quickly as adrenaline was rushing through my veins. Either it was the cold air that was hitting me or my anticipation to this pursuit, but my throat was getting really dry.

I followed the car watching the terrorist in the shotgun seat brandish a gun. I alerted my seniors of my pursuit. It was perhaps the most alive I have been in my life. Death lingered just a few feet away from me and I followed it with nothing more than a baton. Some people might think its crazy to be doing so. But had those same people paid their taxes i could have had a sniper with me.

As my thoughts tried to keep me occupied and not thinking about what was to happen in the next few minutes, I noticed one of the terrorists had opened fire and a small shift to the left of the road was enough to notice that they were shooting at the barricade that was being set up.

It happened in a heart beat. My wrist moved instinctively on the accelerator. The bike overtook the car and as soon as it did I applied the brakes and stopped right in front of the car. To avoid a collision the car swerved to the right and hit the road divider.

My eyes was still transfixed on the gun the terrorist brandished within. I jumped off my bike and ran towards it. With both hands I caught hold of the gun as the terrorist tried to orient himself after the collision. My heart sank as the terrorist gained control of himself and was forcing the barrel of the gun towards me. I fought for my life.

The other officers were still at a little distance away from me and even though it felt like an eternity for me, only a few seconds had passed since I had gotten off the bike. Then it happened. One. Two. Three. If there were more i wouldn't know. The adrenaline that had gotten me thus far was still pumping through me as I kept holding the gun so that he couldn't kill anyone else tonight.

The struggle was the first thing on my mind. I did the best I could to make sure that the bullets did not miss my body. The second thing in my head was something I had only read about but never thought happened. All the people who meant the world to me flashed in front of my eyes and every smiling face made my grip on the AK-47 stronger.

I saw in his eyes the look of a scared man. He tried to free his gun from an injured policeman, but he wasn't able to.

It was as if i was staring into the sun. I feared if my family would be able to do well without me. And that is the last thing I remember.

My phone lies next to me and it rings away. There are sobs and cries at the other end of the call. I cannot pick the phone and make them stop. They cannot sell the gold plated trophies and get 3 meals on the table. I did what I could that night and took the bullets for you. Can no one walk towards my phone and answer the call?


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Dicklamer - This is a work of fiction, though heavily influenced by a modern freedom fighters true story, Tukaram Omble. I still find it funny that dabangg super stars who are like so built and heroes on screen, hide in their homes when times like these come around. I guess thats why they are called actors. These are the real heroes.