It wasn’t easy being a bastard child. In the school he came up with – what he thought as – clinching excuse that his father died saving a wounded soldier during the last war. However, gradually he knew that he knew as much about his father as other children knew about God; no body had seen Him but they believed that He existed.
The war connection – his mother once told him – was indeed correct. She, however told him that he didn’t save a wounded soldier; he was the wounded soldier, or, to be exact, the wounded airman. She saved him whilst her husband was away fighting at the border against his father’s country.
It was the darkest of the dark nights, made more dark because of the black-out against attacks from the air by the Pakistan Air Force. They had to maintain total black-out out not only because of their personal safety but also because the closeness of her village Rangarh to Indo-Pak border at Attari. Whilst lights on either side of the border would help the pilots, total darkness would disorient them in some way. She had gone to sleep early since, she told him, she was scared to remain awake. It was cold and she felt safe pulling the quilt over her head, which not only provided warmth but muffled the piercing sounds of the fighters and bombers at night. Two nights before, she was informed by the other villagers, one of the PAF pilots baled out of his burning plane and landed on the kotha (house top) of Jagtar Singh’s house. Jagtar was an octogenarian but patriotism, intensified by the war, had bestowed a certain degree of sprightliness and presence of mind in him. So, before the hapless pilot could extricate himself from the parachute and the stunning landing, Jagtar had inverted a bucket over his head and screamed for help. The vigilante group of young men of the village had then taken charge of the pilot and handed him over to the police. Jagtar and the young boys had emerged heroes. However, Kunti, his mother, had wondered, with some justification, what on earth was Jagtar doing on the kotha on a dark winter night (In their village, and in other villages of Punjab, it was customary to sleep on the clay roof top only during summers).
Anyway, since then, Kunti carefully latched up the door to the staircase leading up to the kotha of her own house as well as the front door. On that night, it was the front door of the house on which she heard urgent knocking. When she heard it, for quite some time, her reaction was that it couldn’t be. Surya, her husband had left just a month back, his leave having been cut short with war clouds gathering between India and Pakistan. He couldn’t have been sent again on leave so early. She tried to go back to sleep thinking that the breeze was playing tricks. But, anon, there was urgent metallic knocking and not the careless work of the incessant breeze. She slipped out of the quilt, put on her chappals and donned her dupatta over her salwar-kameez and rushed to the wooden front door.
“Kaun hai?” (Who’s there?) she challenged the intruder.
“Pehle kunda tanh khol kudiye, pher dasdanh haan” (First open the door, lass, and then I shall tell you)
This was not to her liking at all. Calling her a lass was understandable; she was married less than six months back at the age of sixteen, the age at which most of her friends and relatives got married. So, indeed, her voice had given herself away that she was still a girl in her teens. However, that she would open the door for a stranger, in the middle of night, in the midst of war, would be a wrong assumption on any one’s part, even if he knew Punjabi, her mother tongue. She picked up fresh courage thinking of her husband Surya in the Indian Army and said in no nonsense, yet girlish voice:
“Main nahiyon kholna kunda” (I will not open the door)
“Tera biyaah ho gaya hai, kudiye?” (Are you married?) The voice across the door asked her.
Before she could deny, and since all through her childhood, she had been brought up to always tell the truth, she accepted it straightway by saying, “Ji; aur oh border te ladan waaste gaye ne” (Yes, and he has gone to the border to fight)
“Kudiye, mere pichhe bande paye ne. Main Pakistan Air Force wich haan. Zara soch, je tera ghar waala Pakistan wich qaid hone waala hoye tanh tu nahin chawehngi koi usnoo bacha lave?” (Lass, men are chasing me. I am in Pakistan Air Force. Just think, if your husband was running not to get himself imprisoned in Pakistan, won’t you wish someone would save him?”
She involuntarily shuddered when he mentioned Pakistan Air Force. But then, she instantly thought of Surya too, imagining him heavily wounded and bleeding, knocking at the door of some Pakistani woman. Only she could save him from sure death. Her mind was immediately made up and she lowered the chain latch from the door. One side then opened with his incessant pushing. He nearly fell inside the veranda but steadied himself and sat on the manji (a cot made from hemp rope and bamboo frame).
“Chheti buhaa band kar lai. Ate je koi puchhe tanh keh dayin tu kalli hain.” (Quickly latch up the door and if anyone should ask, tell them you are all alone) He instructed her.
He was fast becoming unconscious. So first thing after latching the door she took him inside and made him lie down on her palang (bed), covered him with her rajaai (quilt) and offered him some water in a copper glass. He drank and asked her to look at him briefly with his pen torch. He was boyish, less than twenty-five she decided; probably about twenty two or so (“why did he call me a lass then when he was himself a boy?”) She hadn’t looked at men’s faces closely other than of her own husband and her brother. However, she instantly knew that even though he was bruised and pale he was handsome. He was in his flying suit and boots and then she noticed the area around his midriff where a lot of blood had oozed out and congealed there with the thick fabric of the flying suit. By this time, exhaustion had got him totally and he was knocked out on the bed with his booted feet resting on the floor.
She went close to his face and heard his breathing and reassured herself that he was still alive. She was just taking out his flying boots when there was incessant knocking on the door and some voices. She had the presence of mind to respond after a gap of nearly a minute. From the veranda she shouted, “Kaun hai?” (who is there?)
One of the vigilante boys shouted back that they were looking for a PAF pilot who baled out of his burning plane and whose parachute was discovered in the bushes near the pond. He asked if she had heard or seen him. Kunti shouted back that she was sleeping and that she was alone and she had both her doors latched and there was no question of anyone coming inside.
The boys left with an instruction to her to be vigilant.
She returned to the bed and holding the pen torch between her teeth she removed his shoes with some effort and then the socks. She found the zipper of the flying suit from his neck to his legs but it was difficult to see the wound because the congealed blood had made it stick to the skin. She took the thermos flask next to her bed wherein she had kept warm water for her for the night and dipped the end of towel in it and nursed the wound. It was deep and the bleeding recommenced after her nursing. She went to the cupboard and took out a bottle of Dettol, drenched the towel in it and applied it to the wound. He got up wincing with the pain and instructed her how to nurse his gash. Since the towel was already spoiled she tied it around his wound and then let him sleep. She had to sleep on the floor sandwiched between two quilts she got from the other room. In the night he winced with the pain several times but didn’t get up.
The dawn presented its own problems. As she got up she saw the mess around. Anyone coming in would know what had happened; many times the neighbourhood women came to pass the time; then there was the jamadarni (sweeper woman) who would come to take the night soil from the latrine. Kunti mopped up all the blood and swept the clay floors, bathed, said her morning prayers, switched on the small Bush transistor Surya had got from the army canteen and listened to bhajans (hymns) being broadcast in Vividh Bharti’s morning programme, got the chulha (village stove) going with gobber (compost) pies burning in it. She made a glass of tea and took it to him holding the hot steel glass in her dupatta. He was still in pain and could not get up on his own. She helped him up and perched him against the bed rest with a tasseled and embroidered pillow stuck between his back and the bed rest. He confirmed that it pained a lot as he sipped the tea.
She hurried him with the morning ablutions even though he could hardly move telling him that once the jamadaarni came, he should be in the other room. All went well except the jamadaarni pointed out whilst carrying out the night soil, “Tid tanh thuada theek hai ke nahin?” (Do you have a tummy upset?). Anyway, she was paying her all of ten rupees a month and it wasn’t for her to point out the bigness or smallness of the job involved. She could have been with her husband.
Later, the PAF pilot told her that his name was Haneef Mohammad and he was flying a F-78 Sabre jet when it was shot down and he had baled out. He had taken off from the air base of Sargodha in Pakistan. She asked him innocently and he agreed that if he had not been shot down he would have bombed their village and wiped out many innocent lives probably including hers. She was only sixteen but having been told Mahabharata and Ramayana stories by her nani (maternal grandmother), when she was small, she knew that fighting was a person’s calling just as being a housewife was hers.
Haneef instructed her what to get from the village chemist to nurse his wound properly. The only problem was that in that small village, the hakeem (chemist) would be too suspicious to supply her with those items. So, they decided against it. She, therefore, took a little bit of his half dried blood, soaked a make-shift bandage in it, tied to her finger and went to the hakeem to buy dettol, and some pain killers and cotton. She boiled some water and cleaned up the wound as best as she could with Dettol. She fed him some breakfast of roti and achaar and milk and gave him a pain-killer. So, when the neighbourhood women came to chat with her, he was fast asleep in the room on her palang (a cot with nawaar or taped coarse cloth) whilst they sat on the manji in the veranda. The talk was all about the plane having been shot down by the ack-ack guns in the night and how it had totally burnt after it hit the ground. They had thought the pilot had got burnt with the plane but later they had found his parachute. He could be anywhere, the women said. All other news was how good the Indian forces were doing on all fronts and had “nearly reached Lahore“.
Later, she asked Haneef about his plans. He said it would take him at least a week to recuperate and literally begged her to keep him there.
Having given him shelter, she had no choice. ‘Atithi devo bhava‘ (Guest is like god) is what her nani had taught her.
His needs were very little. He told her many stories of the war and about Pakistan. But, however hard she tried, he didn’t open up about himself and his family. He carried a picture of himself in his wallet and when she asked for it, he gave to her to keep. He was a devout Muslim and said his prayers five times a day.
She had no difficulty about keeping him there. After the first day, everyone had lost interest in his whereabouts especially since a bloated dead body was discovered in a flying suit in the nehar (canal) in the next village and everyone assumed it was that of the one who had baled out near their village.
The night before Haneef left, until late in the night Kunti and Haneef lay in their separate beds. She was, she knew, sad to let him go. When Surya was away, she had someone to talk to, someone to help in the house, someone to share her loneliness with; a lass of sixteen who had been with a man – Surya – only too briefly before he was called for fighting at the border. If only he were not an enemy, she would have been quite fond of him, she thought.
She turned in her sandwich of quilts. She heard a whisper from the palang, “Neend nahin aa rahi?” (You ain’t able to sleep?) She decided that if she answered immediately it would give her away. So she took her time and answered, “Nahin aisa tanh nahin hai.” (No, it isn’t like that). “Ute aa ke kyun nahin let jaaundi?” (Why can’t you come up and sleep?), he asked her. She replied immediately, “Nahin, eh galat hai” (No, it is wrong). “Marna bhi galat hai, ladaai bhi galat hai; theek ki hai?” (Death is wrong, war is wrong; what then is right?) he philosophised.
She had much more resistance than that. He’d known this in the last six days of being there with her that her nani had given her immense character. However, after many hours when he whispered from the bed, “Mainu pyaar ho gaya tere naal. Mera jaanh wich dil nahin hai” (I have fallen in love with you and I don’t want to leave). She whispered back, “Eh galat hai” (This is wrong).
But, she lacked conviction and he got down from the bed, lifted the quilt from her and carried her in his arms to the bed.
One day, she received an official looking registered letter. With trembling fingers she opened it; at the same time praying to all the gods that Surya should be alive. Gods heard her prayer; but, the news was as bad as the news she had feared: Surya had been declared missing in war. At the end of 1971 Indo-Pak War hundreds of armed forces men, from both sides, were declared ‘missing’. This meant that the fact of their being dead or alive couldn’t be ascertained beyond reasonable doubt. Many years later, for example with Rajjab Ali of 8 Rajputana Rifles’ Charlie Company, many were found in the prisons of the other side even when they had been declared ‘martyred‘.
She was inconsolable with the news. She had become a half-widow at the age of seventeen. Her first reaction was that the reason why Surya was missing was because of Haneef’s country waging a war against India. And yet, not only had she helped Haneef, an enemy pilot of the same country recover from his war injury but had also helped him escape. She had taken him in the evening to the village temple in her husband’s clothes. He carried his flying suit and ID papers in a bag with him. This didn’t invite any suspicion since many people would gather at the temple on occasions and pray together for war to end and for their and their relatives’ and friends’ safety. After the kirtan (singing of hymns), Haneef had just slipped into the temple vaatika (garden) and that’s the last she ever saw of him. Since, there was no news later of his discovery or being killed, she knew he must have crossed over the no man’s land between the two countries that was reputed to be heavily mined.
It was in September 1972 that she gave birth to a bonnie boy. Her parents were ecstatic and so was she. Her penury condition had become better at that time because the army after having waited for six months after the war had declared her husband dead so that she would be entitled to pensionary benefits (of a person killed in war) and other claims. Also, she had inherited some money after her nani‘s death who had willed her everything being her favourite grandchild.
When it came to naming the child, there was consensus amongst the family and neighbours that he, being the son of Kunti and Surya – as in Mahabharata – should be named Karan. Only she knew that he could very well have been named Kareem.
Unfortunately, Kunti’s prayers regarding the likeness of Karan to her hadn’t come correct. Surya and Kunti both were dark complexioned but Karan was fair like Haneef, and ruggedly handsome. Indeed, when he was of the age when he could play with other boys, they all teased him that he couldn’t have been born to Kunti and Surya or anyone from their village Rangarh and that most likely he was haraami (bastard).
By the time Karan was in his seventh standard, two things were prominent about him: one, he was very bright student; and two, he was totally fed up of the abuses hurled at him about being a bastard child. When boys visited his house, he’d proudly show them Surya’s garlanded picture in a soldier’s uniform. But, the abuses continued.
On the day, Karan stood first in the whole of Punjab, in his matriculation state board examination, he received the usual jealous and distasteful remarks from his class mates, “Haraami chahe badmash di aulad hai per laik kaafi hai” (The bastard may be a devil’s son but he is very intelligent).
On many occasions, he had asked his mother about his father and she kept saying that he was Surya’s son. However, on the day when his matriculation exam results were announced, he had been emboldened to not just ask her but also reason out with her. He started by saying that he had no resemblance with Surya. She said it happens sometimes. He asked how was it that he hadn’t heard much about him. She said that was due to the fact that he was killed before he could see him, his child. He said that he didn’t even resemble her. She said that too happened sometimes.
Finally, he weighed it in his mind; it was one thing to be suspicious and it was yet another thing to be confronting her, his own mother, the mother who had sacrificed everything for his happiness and provided him good education and facilities (with the money she had got from the army, his mother had opened a sewing center in their residence whereat three girls worked for her from 9 AM to 5 PM and stitched the clothes that his mother cut and designed. These were then sent for sale to Amritsar).
Nevertheless, curiosity got the better of him and he told her, “Per maan tussi ik chhoti photo her waqt dekhde ho jadon thuanu lagda hai ke main nahin dekh rahiya.” (But, mother, I have seen you looking at a small picture when you think I am not looking).
Kunti finally succumbed, burst out crying and told him all about Haneef. She told him that he was a very nice man, very handsome, thorough gentleman; but, had now crossed over to his home-country Pakistan. She showed him the dog eared picture of Haneef.
As Karan lay in his bed that night, he kept thinking about the incident of the Sabre jet, the baling out of his dad, the mental condition of his sixteen years old mother, and the atmosphere of the night before his father left for Pakistan. Finally, when he went to sleep in the wee hours of the morning, he forgave his mother. But, he wondered whether Haneef would still be alive and would he recognise his son from across the border…..so that he won’t be haraami any more. His picture was now imprinted indelibly on his mind’s slate.
It was the first major anti – terrorist operation for Karan Singh of the National Security Guard in his home district of Amritsar. He was just fourteen when NSG was formed as a special force for counter-terrorism activities post learning of lesson during the 1984 Operation Blue Star to flush out Jarnail Singh Bhindranwaale and other terrorists from the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Karan was deeply religious as brought by his mother’s teachings but the use of the Golden Temple for terrorist activities and subsequent shooting down of the Indian Prime Minister by one of her own security guards, Beant Singh, in retaliation against her having ordered Operation Blue Star had a deep impact on Karan Singh. So, whilst, young men from his area dreamt of joining the army, Karan was focused on joining the army and later to become a NSG commando or a Black Cat. His resolve was strengthened when in end April 1986: 80 officers, 180 JCOs and 1,500 NSG commandos participated in clearing the Golden Temple in Operation Black Thunder I. The temple was cleared and handed over to Punjab Police on 1 May 1986. There were no casualties on either side.
By the time in May 1988, Operation Black Thunder II was conducted that resulted in the killing of 30 terrorists and surrendering of nearly 200, Karan had finished his schooling. One year later, Karan appeared for the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) examination for National Defence Academy at Khadagvasla near Pune. He topped the merit and was called for interview at Services Selection Board, Meerut. Three days of grueling tests and he was to undergo a detailed medical examination. When he was selected, he knew that joining the Army (Infantry) was for him only a step towards becoming an officer in the NSG.
During the three years training at the NDA and one year at IMA after that, the one person that he missed most was his mother. She was the person always closest to him and he worshipped her. When he was to pass out of NDA, she came to NDA to witness the passing out parade and Karan receiving the President’s Gold Medal that made her very proud of him.
After being commissioned into the army, Karan opted for and got selected in the special forces and was employed in J&K to counter the insurgency there. After a few years of this, as was his desire, he was selected to be part of the National Security Guard. He liked the ring of the title ‘Black Cat’. He felt proud of being part of the elite Special Action Group (SAG).
Karan’s first major operation was in July 1999. Two terrorists had attacked a BSF camp near Srinagar, killed three BSF officers and wife of the fourth one and had taken 12 hostages. The orders given to him and the team that he led was that no harm should come to the hostages. BBC and various Indian news channels showed the stand off nearly live. Later when Karan saw the footage, it appeared to him that the NSG were shown in poor light even though it was a very successful operation. It was all due to the fact that the two terrorists were holed up for nearly thirty hours and the news channels, without even understanding what was involved in the operation, appeared to give a verdict that it was shameful for so many of the Indian security forces to be pitched against just two terrorists for nearly thirty hours. The general feeling was that the Israelis would have done it neatly and much faster. Such perceptions irked Karan and he resolved that in the next operation, he would be more pro-active to seek results quickly. No one dared call him a Bastard now that he was an officer, but, every time Karan read the word or heard it, it hit him hard that he was actually one until he would find his dad. However, any active campaign on his part to find his dad would give him away; as also spoil the reputation of his mother whom he loved immensely. In J&K, he had interrogated many captured terrorists; some who had taken to terrorism after being in the Pakistan armed forces; but, no one had heard of a pilot named Haneef Mohammed and what had happened to him after the 1971 Indo Pak War.
Karan would never forget the date of 24 Dec 1999. He wished it had turned out better. The whole nation thought of it as a botched up operation. He, and others in NSG, however, knew that they tried their best. And, if at all anything was lacking it was the decision making at the higher levels; the delayed decision making, that is. In any case, he wasn’t thinking about the anti-hijacking operation launched by he and his team. He was talking about him whose life he could have saved. That morning, he got up early as usual and went through the demanding physical fitness routine he had set for himself. At Manesar, in Haryana, they were to listen to a lecture and witness a demonstration on counter-terrorism techniques by a German team. He looked forward to both. NSG having been modeled on Germany’s GSG 9 (Grenzschutzgruppe 9or “Border Guard Group 9”) was fortunate to receive periodic inputs from it. It was a grueling day since the Germans were really professional. In NSG, as Karan knew, there was never an easy day. However, as the day was ending, he was about to heave a sigh of relief. And then, there was a beep on his secure communication set. They were seeing the last part of the German demonstration on the ground. The next day, Christmas Day, was a holiday. He had planned to take a vacation until the New Year and spend sometime with his mother in their village. Seven more days, he thought, and it would be another millennium. How many people can boast of being there for the ending of a new millennium and beginning of a new one? The beep was an urgent communication on the most secure set. Within an hour Karan and his team were heliborne to land at Raja Sansi airport at Amritsar. The Indian Airlines Flight IC 814, with 178 people on board, had been hijacked immediately after take off from the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was to head for Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India. Captain Sharan was in command. Karan was getting regular updates. It was late in the evening, at about 17:30 P.M. that the plane had entered Indian airspace. The hijackers had demanded from Captain Sharan that the aircraft be taken to Lahore. They reached overhead Lahore when it was night and dark and they were low on fuel. However, the authorities in Pakistan had turned off all lights at Lahore airport as Pakistan didn’t want to get involved with the terrorists and the hijackers. Captian Sharan had told the hijackers that the plane was now really low on fuel and had to land at Amritsar. And, that’s why Karan and his team were on their way to Amritsar. The country held its breath. Luck didn’t appear to be on the hijackers side. Now that the Flight IC 814 had landed at Amritsar, there was a chance that Indians would be able to stop the flight taking off further. The Crisis Management Group had had an emergency meeting in Delhi and it was decided to refuse the aircraft’s request for refueling. Decision had been taken to immobilise the plane.
The MI-8 helicopter carrying them to Amritsar was taking much more time than they had planned. This was one occasion when the entire country was waiting for them. Karan thought of giving the country a beautiful Christmas gift: rescuing the hostages without a single casualty and apprehending the hijackers. He was fully alert and so were his men. With a large sketch of the aircraft he was giving instructions to his men about how to storm the aircraft.
He knew that the Punjab Police won’t be able to do anything. He wanted the negotiating team to buy time till the time he and his team landed at a heli pad nearby and then were taken to the airport. The CMG had meanwhile instructed the Punjab Police to have a sharp shooter immobilise the aircraft by shooting at its tyres.
It was becoming extremely difficult at the Amritsar ATC not to heed the request of the hijackers for refueling the aircraft. They were already threatening to shoot one passenger at a time. All that the ATC could do was to tell the hijackers that the fuel was being arranged since there was no earlier requirement and hence provision for night-fueling at Amritsar. Every five minutes of else the hijackers would boom, “Aur kitna time lagega? Hum passengers ko shoot karne waale hain.” (How long more it would take. We are ready to shoot the passengers).
The pilot of the MI 8 was signaling to Karan that they were landing. All the men and their weapons and ammunition were promptly put in a vehicle and they were on their way to Raja Sansi Airport. He was receiving continuous instructions on his walkie-talkie about storming the aircraft through the fuel-tanker that was being sent to refuel the aircraft.
At the ATC, there were overalls waiting for them, the ones usually worn by the air fueling teams. These included red helmets. He squeezed in the seat besides the driver. Two other Black Cats squeezed in the cabin whereas others were hanging on the side, with slings and hooks, not visible from the aircraft.
As the tanker sped towards the aircraft, Karan thought of the glorious moment. Once the refueling started and he and his team of intrepid commandos hid in the belly of the aircraft, half the rescue work would be over. The other half would be when they’d cut their way upwards from the belly and storm the aircraft at least at two places to take the hijackers off guard. The team at ATC told them that they were able to establish that there were 3 to 5 hijackers on board.
But, why was the tanker driver going so fast? Before Karan could tell the driver to slow down, the ATC on his radio set asked him to slow down. This was quite a sight: at one end of the runway was this Airbus 300 aircraft seemingly ready to take off. From the other end a speeding fuel tanker was approaching it. Karan felt that the tanker was still going too fast. His boys needed time to carry out their plan. Also, speed was not particularly suitable for hanging at the back of the tanker for dear life.
Already, from the voice at the ATC, Karan could make out that a lot of rethinking was going on. He won’t have been surprised if the CMG from Delhi was busy passing instructions by the minute. Why couldn’t they simply trust that the NSG, with its motto ‘Sarvatra Sarvottam Surakhsha’ or ‘Best Protection All Round’ would be able to do its job well? They were highly trained for just these kind of contingencies. A fledgling organisation like the NSG needed such high risk operations to earn and build on its fierce reputation, Karan thought. But, firstly, they had reached very late and the patience of the hijackers was at its lowest. Secondly, still there were doubts about the success of the venture.
To his utter frustration the ATC asked the tanker to slow down further. It was as if the tanker was now being remotely controlled. Karan thought the driver got panicky and instead of lifting his foot slightly from the accelerator, he screeched to a halt.
Sensing that the Indians were up to some tricks, in the aircraft, a Hijacker who called himself Doctor stabbed a passenger called Rupen Katyal several times. Captain Sharan was given orders to take off despite further protests from the ATC.
Suddenly, Karan and his team saw the aircraft coming towards them and even when they ducked for cover the Flight IC 814 took off. It was so close, it could have hit the tanker and they would have all died.
Finally, Flight IC 814, with hijackers on board, had taken off without refueling but also without the Indian authorities having been able to stop it.
As Karan up-righted himself, he wanted to ask the driver why did he panic and screech to a stop when all that he was being asked was to slow down? This one act had warned the hijackers that there was something amiss about the tanker approaching. It was as if the driver had somehow managed to warn the hijackers about the impending storming of the aircraft by the Black Cats.
He turned towards the driver. One look and even through his beard he recognised him: Haneef Mohammad, his father. He couldn’t control himself and muttered under his breath: “Bastard.” His eyes had extreme hatred in them for seeing his father after years but seeing him as a helper of the terrorists, as an enemy who would always be on the other side.
The driver heard the word ‘bastard’, saw the look of hatred in the eyes of the young commando, opened the door and jumped out of the tanker. Karan jumped out of his seat at his end. Whilst jumping out he had his Browning 9 mm pistol out. Haneef had started running now. He was still trying to figure out as to how did this young man guess about his having warned the hijackers by his suddenly stopping the tanker. Surely, everyone else would have taken it as justifiable confusion on the part of the driver.
Karan shouted, “Stop” but Haneef kept running.
Karan shouted again, “Stop or I’d shoot.”
Still Haneef kept running. Karan now aimed low so as to injure Haneef in the leg and stop him. But, at this juncture Haneef slipped and whilst falling forward the 9 mm bullet hit him in the back.
By the time Karan caught up with him, Haneef was breathing his last and there was blood everywhere. He turned him around to face him. He was still very handsome. He wanted to save him and call him “Papa” or “Dad”; but, it was already too late.
Later, they took him away. The only regret Karan would always have was that his mother saved Haneef and gave him love and now he, Karan, his son, killed him. He had to kill him.
“Why did you have to run away?” he silently asked, thinking of Haneef at night, “Why couldn’t you live with us as a family, in love, in trust, and in peace?”
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