Terrorists, it is said, are people like us; human beings with similar interests in school and college and office and everywhere; and in everything. Indeed, if you have looked at the profiles of some of them; their neighbours, relatives and friends have been surprised that such and such turned out to be a terrorist. The earlier revelation, with immense scandalising potential, was if someone had to tell us that Mr. Saxena (name withheld for obvious reasons), who sang songs about the virtues of his wife and who carried a glad-eye for females in our colony, was actually gay. Homosexuality doesn’t scandalise us anymore. Nowadays, we are half preparing to be confronted with the revelation of someone or the other in our colony or known to us turning out to be a terrorist.
It could be the guy who spends a lot of time on facebook. It could be the one who contributed the maximum to your colony’s Ganesha idol. Yet again, it could be the one who likes Pakistani singer Hadiqa Kiyani better than Lata Mangeshkar. Or, could it be the guy who is always helping women and old people in the building, especially when the lifts are not working? It could be the boy from two blocks away who repaired your computer for free; they are known to be tech savvy, ain’t they?
Would the terrorist’s immediate family know that he is one? If he is married, would his wife know? I remember this one from Hagar the Horrible comic strip:
Hagar: I am off to invade England. Rough and lonely seas, strange shores, and immense glory and wealth await me.
Helga: On your way out, will you take the garbage to the bin please?
Likewise, would the terrorist’s wife have average marital interests whilst our man is reading ‘Ten Easy Ways to Make Bombs’ in bed? “Darling, you are always reading something or the other in bed. Now switch off the lights and come into my arms.” And our fellow feels irritated because he has just come to the fascinating part where the red wire has to make contact with the blue one from the small alarm clock. “You go to sleep” he pleads, “I am studying for an exam. I don’t want to fail.”
Fail at what, Mr. Terrorist? At blowing the daylights out of innocent men, women and children; just like your wife and kids. But he doesn’t let these thoughts make him weak. He is doing a job just like everyone else; the paanwaala making paans, the Best driver driving his bus, or the coolie carrying someone’s load to make a living.
She has not given up yet; no woman does. She continues undettered: “Darling, when will we go and see ‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ (A movie: ‘You Can’t Live Your Life Again’) . Sarita and her husband have already gone and seen and they say it is a good one.
Mr. Terrorist has come to the point in the book when the explosion is more or less assured, extinguishing many lives. He is about to tell her irritatingly, “Of course we shall go to see the movie as soon as I have finished killing dozens of people in Zaveri bazaar. Their Zindagi (Lives) will never be dobara (Again). Why do you always interrupt me only when I am planning something big?” But; at the last minute replaces it with, “Don’t worry, we shall go and see it after I have finished with the current assignment.”
Does she suspect him? Does she know what he is up to?
Her next utterance is reassuring, “Salma broke her chappal strap today. Will you have it repaired tomorrow?”
“Oh, for heavens’ sake, woman”, he nearly blurts out, “Here I am about to make a bomb and you are worried about your daughter’s broken chappal strap.”
She didn’t expect a reply to the last one. She knew the answer. Finally she only would have to get it repaired just like she did with Aslam’s satchel. ‘Why can’t the husbands take interest in anything other than their Office Work, she muses.
“Darling”, she asks next (she hasn’t finished with the questioning that he finds tougher than what his apprehended friends were subjected to by the Police, “Where are you going tomorrow?”
“Zaveri Bazaar”, he says involuntarily.
“Ah then” she says, “Since you are going there in any case, how about getting me a diamond ring that you had promised me two years back?”
“Woman”, he says, “Will you please shut up and let me read this interesting book. It is really a bomb”.
She is about to give up when a really bright idea occurs to her. This would be just perfect. They deserve a break. The last time they took a holiday was many years back when they went to Nainital. But, of course, that was before they shifted to Mumbai.
“Hey, I have an idea”, she coos in his ear, “Aslam and Salma are going to have term break. Why don’t we go and spend sometime at Matheran? It will be great fun, pony rides, hills, fog and gentle rain…”
“Shut up”, he tells her mentally, “If all goes well, our next holiday will be in Murree.”
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