Friday, June 20, 2008

Target London (Part 2)

“Arre, what happened to my dear little darling?” Waqar wiped his tears and Tariq took his beer to save it from spilling over the child.
“I don’t like Bhai pulling my hairs.” Henna increased her effort to gather tears and started to howl loudly.

“Oh, he is just a small child and does not know any thing.” Waqar made a funny face and tried to pacify the child.

“Why don’t you tie his hands?” She stopped her howling and demanded abruptly and resumed. Her voice was shrill and effortlessly produced streams of tears from her innocent large eyes. She could rain teardrops on drop of a hat to smoother her dotting father to outrageous demands. Henna now seemed proud of running little streams flooding her pink cheeks and delicate neck. Her mother Jahida was got fed up of her antics. Waqar continued to pamper the child and spoil her for forever. She gave up completely and let Waqar deal with the little girl. She told him to find a boy for Henna, who could put up with such noisy tantrums. She would better be excused of such daunting responsibility.

She would say- we don’t know what troubles she might face in her adult life? What kind of boy would she merry, how would he treat her. Please have mercy, don’t spoil her and think of future. Nobody likes a woman who throws tantrums and behaves unreasonably.

“No need for that. I will tell him to behave.” Waqar put Henna on his lap and promised softly. Tariq could see little tears still sticking to his friend’s eyes.

“He won’t. I hate him.” She resumed her howling and threw legs violently on his chest.

Waqar caught hold of her tiny legs and made a funny face. She stops shrieking.

A flock of birds descended nearby and she sat up, wide eyed.

“Abba, see these birds, I will catch one today.” She forgot her hair-pulling brother, funny-faced father and developed keen interest in the flock and ran after it.

Waqar slowly drew his contorted muscles back in place and returned to his menacing, brooding, lamenting posture. Tariq watched him being transformed from a loving father of little girl to a fanatic. Dreams of a grand terror strike. Which may deprive many young girls of their funny-faced fathers, loving harassed mother and hair pulling cute little brothers? They perhaps, will never dare to howl again and would seize their interest in flock of noisy birds.

They watched as Henna ran after birds and join other children.

Waqar had came to Europe as an illegal migrate like him and slowly settled him self in Paris. He was a tall fair man. Lately he has shown greater interest in religious affairs and social work. His once modern office at the back of shop has slowly acquired religious posters, big stick of incense spewing heady scented coils of smoke. The table and chairs have been removed and a big white covered cushion appeared for cross-legged sitting, the wall providing back support. Tariq avoided sitting crossed leg because of the acute backache.

Waqar has been active in making the new immigrants settle in France or make their further journeys little easy, providing help and guidance.

He drew closer and spoke in steady low voice.

“Brother, today I want to share some inner thoughts with you. I know you are a damn greedy fallow, but that’s all right with me. You are like my own younger brother. You have to promise me that if some thing happens to me you will take of my family. Repay whatever I have done for you. Money is not a problem; I have enough for their needs. What they might need is guidance and support in difficult times ahead.”

Tariq listened carefully. Waqar seems to have made a decision, and would carefully set to do the job in a systematic and organized manner. He decided not to know more about his plans. It has been always better to know less and stay out of possible trouble in future.

He silently nodded to abide by his friend’s wishes. Waqar again lapsed in to his brooding posture, looking at sky, listening to some divine voice, nodding his neck and making some decisions, analyzing thoughts.

They were silent for some time before he eventually turned his fierce eyes on him. His voice disclosed a strange finality and conviction, which made Tariq nervous.

“I will try to do the job alone but if the situations demand I might have to take Jahida and Henna with me.”

Tariq froze as he heard his friend disclose the possible alternative scenario.

“One more thing; if my plans are exposed and they are sure to find me. You tell them of my location and get whatever reward they offer and donate it to help the struggle.”

Tariq felt numb and disoriented.

“Don’t worry I won’t be caught alive and sure to take maximum enemies with me. You have been only my contact and no body else knows about your secret activities. So when I am gone you will be free from any further troubles. I know you too secretly want me dead. It will solve so many little problems. You too can choose to do some thing and get involved in the war yourself.”

“Is it necessary to involve Bhabhi and Henna in this?”

“I will try, not to. But if there no other way left, we three will be become martyrs and they too will always be remembered. And I am sure you would do some thing about it and our sacrifices don’t go waste. It must be used to motivate more people.”

“Does Bhabhi know about it?”

“No. Not yet......... I will tell her ............if its needed and I am sure she will agree.... but even if she does not.... she has no other option but to obey me...I would hate to put my little darling Heena in danger...but.... One must be ready to sacrifice the dearest...I hope you know that?” Waqar avoided him and looked away.

They parted after having an unhurried delicious meal of Chicken and Tandoori rotis kept warm in casserole. Tariq ate little, neither Waqar showed in interest in his favorite delicacies. Jahida was disappointed and asked whether the she cooked well or not. She was not satisfied by answers she got from the men and she could sense the tension in air and curiously kept asking him of their serious expressions and silent sparse eating.

“Bhai, I wonder every thing is all right? You both men are so serious today, didn’t even bother to play with kids and show them some thing interesting in the jungle?”

“Yes every thing ok. We were just discussing some old friend who has died.” Tariq looked at Waqar and lied.

‘Oh. Allah, who is it now? Some one I know?”

“No. He was an old friend from India who comes with us to Europe.” Waqar curtly silenced her innocent curiosity.

Tariq felt bad but was relieved to be spared of further lies and answer questions from a simple Jahida.

They ate silently. Waqar seemed lost in his thoughts and avoided his gaze. Jahida tried to initiate conversation with her husband and Tariq. But she had to go back to the noisy children and helped them eat.

Waqar hugged him closely and kissed his forehead. He avoided to look at him and suddenly broke off; he stopped for a moment as if trying to remember some thing and then thoughtfully got in to his car.

Tariq waited for their car to move ahead and clear his way. He saw it disappear from their sight. The tiny hand of Henna waved them good by. A nudge from wife made him break his frozen composure and turned the key.

“Any thing serious happened?” Praveen enquired.

“No.” Tariq didn’t look at her.

He knew she didn’t believe him. His own voice seemed peculiar, as if it belonged to a complete stranger.

He began to wonder if Waqar’s fanaticism has influenced him in some way. His thoughts went back to howling Henna, throwing her tiny legs and a demure, simple Jahida serving him food.

“Abba ...Henna is going to London.” His son Ali spoke with a tinge of jealousy and expectation.

So Waqar has already decided to take them on his dangerous mission.

“When will we go to London?” Ali was impatient to hear a promise from him.

“Abba will tell you later. Now will you please let him drive?” Praveen come to his rescue.

A crimson sun was setting in the wide horizon and the road seemed to head for the mighty fireball. The car ahead appeared to head for it too, gradually becoming smaller till it turned in to a tiny dot and then it was gone. Tariq felt dizzy and stopped the car on side and asked for bottle of water. He stepped out of car and splashed cold water on his face again and again until he felt better. He looked away from the sun.

Praveen looked at him with troubled curiosity. Her face hidden in a scarf she always wore so elegantly. Tariq knew she was worried and would need a proper explanation from him- always a difficult job.

Ali laughed and asked Praveen to let him imitate his Abba, he didn’t wait for her approval. He come to him and extended his hand and took bottle of from him and immediately splashed water on his face, drenching his cloths wet.

Ali was not happy with the result and sheepishly looked at Tariq for help in his venture. Tariq felt secure that his tears were hidden in cold water invisible to his son, who always thought him to be a brave man: beyond such cowardice. He went to embarrassed Ali and knelt down.

“Sorry Abba.”

“It’s alright beta. Let’s go.” He picked him up and went to the car.

“I will drive, you must take rest now.” A pale and troubled Praveen has shifted to the driving seat.

Tariq avoided looking at her.

.........To be continued

Originally posted at:

Target London (Part 1)

Tariq was approached by Waqar to undertake the present job during a family outing. His firm was recently awarded a contract for supply of electrical panels to a London based electrical maintenance firm, a subcontractor for British Rail. He looked forward to his visit to London for installations and commissioning. He felt uneasy when Waqar discreetly enquired about his possible assignment in London. Waqar dreamt of a fantastic revenge on England for its despised support to Israel and participation in invasion of Iraq, action in Afghanistan , the list was long with tedious explanations and he vehemently spoke of crafty western agenda.
“The big Satan has been humbled and now it’s the turn of small Satan to pay a just price for being its pet poodle.”

The depth of vehemence conveyed in tone and sense of commitment by Waqar alarmed Tariq. It was not the first time he heard such display of deep hatred from him. May be he was just letting his steam off and would go back to mind his business of the profitable grocery shop and a nubile French mistress.

“What do you think brother?” Waqar was tipsy and eager to discuss his pet subject further.

“I don’t know what you are talking about?”

“I am talking the punishment to the cruel poodle?”

“I don’t like politics and its quite good life here.”

“I have a good plan and hope they approve it... even if they don’t. Who can stop me to do that on my own?”

“Are you serious?” Tariq had wished it were his usual ranting and nothing more serious than that.

“Well every one wants to do more in life.”

“It’s ok. But why you think of such things all times.”

“And once again let some one else become a hero, why not me?”

“Well I don’t waste time dreaming such things.”

“You are a greedy man, only concerned with wads of money. But ever you thought it has some ones blood on it?” Waqar looked at him with piercing glare.

“Forget it. We are supposed to be here on a picnic. Aren’t we?”

“Forget it? Forget what?” Waqar demanded.

“Nothing brother... Now please don’t get worked up and spoil the mood. See the ladies and kids are looking at us. Please stop this crazy thing and be normal. Will you?”

Tariq didn’t like the way Waqar was treating him. He has always been pompous and authoritative but things were getting too serious for him to put up with his unpredictable attacks and personal insults.

“Shut up! You are only interested in money and have no conscience. Why you hide your face when I tell you about the sacrifices, pain, blood and death? Are you are a sissy? Be a brave man and accept the things as they are. You are an unbeliever, too fond of western life.”

Waqar loved to rebuke, influence other and display his authority and senior status. He was three years elder than Tariq and that suppose to bestow on him power and authority of an elder brother.

“I think you have taken to more western ways than me and your crazy imagination doesn’t make you more faithful.”

“You have forgotten our culture and manners. I don’t like it.” He snarled.

“Did I say any thing wrong?’

“Yes you did. I am talking of some thing of great importance- revenge, martyrdom; and you are telling me all this bullshit.”

“Please don’t tell me you are you serious!”

"It’s your pay back time brother."

"What does that mean?"

"So you forgot like others too?"

"You were helped to settle down here, earn good money. Didn’t you promise to payback?" The Cold words conveyed menacing possibilities for any betrayal.

Tariq remained silent.

“I can offer supreme sacrifice and ready to be a martyr through any means. What about you?” Suddenly Waqar sounded too calm and serious.

Tariq looked at him to judge the depth of his belief and was curious to know more about his plans. He tried to rationalize his aversion to join Waqar in his holy war.

“I love my little family.”

“A true solder never thinks of these things when a war is being fought.” Waqar persisted in his attempt to influence him.

Tariq was silent, judging him further. Waqar kept looking up and nodding. Slowly he began to speak.

“But you too are helping the cause in your own way. May be it’s better than not doing any thing at all. Every one can not be expected to offer the supreme sacrifice.” Waqar’s voice was clear and calm. Just few moments before he was speaking like a drunk with no self-control. Tariq relieved but wondered whether he was witnessing a subtle acting.

“It’s true I do it for money and have no interest at all in the messy politics.”

They were sitting crossed legged on a flower printed sheet spread on a country roadside, drinking beer and munching delicious tandoori chicken. He could see their wives taking a stroll, watching children play hide and seek behind bushes. Tariq frequently changed posture to ease pressure on his back muscles, to avoid relapse of dreaded painful backache.

“But brother, you can get more money if you are ready to do some thing more than the usual.” Waqar said in low voice, intensely watching his reaction.

“I am happy with whatever I get doing coordination and don’t want to land in some real action, which I don’t like. Its better we continue to do whatever is possible and stay hidden, out of trouble.”

“It is also coordination work only and some important information will be needed.” Waqar opened a new beer and handed him.

“What’s that?” Tariq enquired.

Waqar was silently looking at ladies and children having a good time, laughing, and running after each other.

“I too have family to take care of and a sick mother back home. But I am not greedy and selfish like you. I may be caught some day, betrayed by some rascal. Then what will happen to them?”

“You are right. I told you many times, happy doing little things and leave rest to the experts. We are not experts you know.”

Waqar didn’t reply and again looked at blue sky, brooding, slowly nodding, as if listening and agreeing to some divine voice from sky. He seemed to have gone to his trance once again. Tariq drank and waited patiently, closed his eyes and thought about Praveen and Ali his son. He decided to cool off his relations with Waqar. It would do him no harm or perhaps be a better option, given to his friend’s dangerous obsession and preoccupation with a lunatic revenge plan. He wished it was one of those crazy ranting and Waqar would go back to his life as before.

“I some times wonder what I am today.”

Tariq could feel he was being exposed to some hereto-secrets hidden in recess of his friend’s fertile brain. He tried to listen carelessly as he had always done-betraying no keen interest and eagerness, which he was indeed developing.

“I am an unknown shopkeeper with some money? But who knows me back home? No body.”

“Is it that important to be well known?”

“Yes it is. I want my name remembered by every body.”

“Remembered? What do you mean?”

“I loved football and wanted to be a professional footballer. But my father wanted me to be a doctor. He never listened to me and made sure I missed my practice of the day, being locked up in my room with my tutors of various sizes and shapes to mug up physics, chemistry and biology lessons. Some of them looked like heartless monsters. They would test my memory and hit a ruler on my extended soft palm. I felt humiliated and I wanted to kill the devil and thought of various methods. That would result in an accidental death of those hated monsters. But could not venture beyond the planning stage and never gathered courage to execute the plans and prove myself, at least to my self. Later when I got to know their own miserable conditions and compulsions to make my father happy; trying to prepare me for a career in medical profession; I gave up those grand assassination plans, those poor tutors were just trying to make a living and earn to keep their kitchen fires on.”

Waqar took out another beer. He was a gracious host and would make sure his guests would have had enough of delicious food and drinks.

Tariq knew all this background, having heard his friend many times over, but Waqar seemed so lost and trying hard to explain his position, he had no option but to listen and nod in agreement as he was suppose to do faithfully. One has to be and seen attentive and react in proper way when elders are saying some thing or any thing they felt like saying at any moment. Waqar resumed his monologue.

“Now I am sure that stage is near and looks quite possible it’s with in my own reach. No matter if they approve my plan or not. I have other options and some like-minded resourceful friends with me. And they are as passionate and willing as I am… I mean…”

Waqar looked away, fell silent turned his face looking at the noisy children and ladies, his eyes becoming moist. His daughter Henna raced toward them threw herself at him and started to sob.

..............To be continued

Originally Posted at:

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