By CV Nitin
Kabir Duggani turned fifty. Three days later, he stepped out of the Arthur Road Jail.
It was cloudy and everything was grey: the prison walls behind him, his clothes, the
sky. Even the grass looked an ugly shade of grey.
Nobody was waiting for him. Both his parents were dead and his wife Vidya ran away
with another man. An ugly old man. That’s what he heard one year into his prison
With three thousand four hundred and twenty rupees in his pocket, he walked to the
nearest bus stop. Mumbai had changed a lot since he went inside. Buildings had
gotten taller and the roads narrower. There was a smartphone in every hand and an
earphone in every ear. But amidst all the progress, one thing did not change.
The 27D to Marine Drive.
Kabir’s lips curled into a thin smile when it rolled to a stop in front of him. The bus
was different and the fare had increased but after all these years, the 27D still went to
He got in and sat at the back. Outside the window, he noticed huge hoardings of
Chief Minister Chandrakant Rane. He was promising a ‘better and brighter future for
every single person born in the great state of Maharashtra’. A bunch of high school
students in brown and white uniforms filled out the seats around Kabir. They were
talking excitedly about a cricket match that was currently underway at the Wankhede
There was a time when Kabir loved cricket more than anything in the world. Posters
from Sportstar magazine were plastered all over the walls of his house. Sachin
Tendulkar, Shane Warne, Wasim Akram… they were his heroes. Even now, if he
closed his eyes and concentrated hard enough, he would be able to list out the
playing XI of every team in the ‘99 world cup. He was not going to attempt it though.
His interest in the game was long gone. Prison life changed him completely and the
number of things he cared about could be counted on the fingertips of his left hand.
Right now, there was only one thing on his mind: go to Marine Drive, sit by the
promenade, look at the sea and drink hot chai. Just as he had done all those years
ago on that warm winter night when the moon hung low over the Mumbai skyline,
heavy and vulgar. That warm winter night when the salty waves slapped angrily
against the black rocks. That warm winter night when the millennium was on its
deathbed while Kabir had his entire life ahead of him.
He was convicted for murder that night.
He had gone to work as usual in the morning. Blue shirt, tan pants, no tie. Vidya was
away, visiting her family in Nasik. Her elder sister had given birth to a baby boy.
They had invited Kabir too but he couldn’t take any more days off from work. He was
a typist at the Life Insurance Corporation of India and he had used up all his leaves
(and then some) for his honeymoon six months ago.
He spent the entire day typing out insurance proposals. Lunch at two, smoke break
at four. By five fifteen, he was done but he couldn’t leave yet. Punch out time was five
thirty. He looked around. The office was as lifeless as a cemetery. But over the next
fifteen minutes, the ghosts of his fellow employees slowly came back to life as they
got up from their seats, said their goodbyes and exited the office. Kabir covered up
his typewriter and followed them out.
He didn’t want to go back home yet. Vidya wouldn’t be there to sit with him and ask
him about his day. She was gone only for a couple of days but god, he missed her.
There was a new film playing at the Eros theatre in Churchgate: Shool. Somebody
named Manoj Bajpayee was the hero. Kabir had never heard of him. He bought a
ticket and went inside.
The movie was about an honest police officer fighting against corruption in Bihar. It
wasn’t his kind of film. In the second half, Kabir closed his eyes for a minute and
slept for an hour.
The conductor tapped him on the shoulder. He opened his eyes and looked around.
The bus was empty. They had reached Marine Drive. Kabir got out and stretched.
The bones in his back cracked in a satisfying manner.
Kabir had long hair that was more black than white and he constantly brushed it
away from his eyes. He was not very tall. Just 5’7. But people generally had the
impression that he was much taller. He had a long red scar on his face that
frightened even adults. It was like his identity card: Here is a dangerous criminal,
He walked the hundred steps to the promenade and stood on it. There it was… the
mighty Arabian Sea, stretching all the way into the distance, as far as he could see.
He stared at it without blinking.
A minute passed. The salt from the sea was heavy in the air and he could feel the
sting in his eyes. Another minute went by. He blinked and a single tear rolled down.
For the first time since he got out of the prison, he felt like a free man.
As he sat down on the rocks, his thoughts invariably went back to that fateful night
that changed his life forever.
After the movie, Kabir had eaten a quick dinner at a small South-Indian restaurant
right behind the Taj Hotel. Four idlis and a masala dosa followed by hot filter coffee.
The weather was pleasant; perfect for a long stroll. If only Vidya was here, Kabir
thought. It would have been so romantic to have her by his side on this aimless
nocturnal escapade. He decided to repeat this night with her when she came back to
In the next few hours, he had encountered a whole bunch of people. A retired army
officer recounted his adventures on the Indo-Pak border while a dozen college
students played Antakshari next to him. One of the teams got stuck on ‘Ri’ and Kabir
hummed ‘Rim Jhim Gire Saawan’. They took the hint and belted out the song
loudly. One of them invited Kabir to join their team and he gladly accepted. They
sang so many songs that Kabir’s throat started to get hoarse. When they finally
stopped and tallied the scores, his team had won the game by seven points.
By midnight, most of the people had gone back home. The only ones left were young
couples snuggling and smooching and doing everything else just short of having sex.
A palmist settled down next to Kabir and pestered him to take a hand reading. ‘Give
me ten rupees and I shall predict a golden future for you,’ he promised. Kabir
refused. He decided to go home.
He had enough of the sea.
A teenager came along carrying a large tea can and paper cups. Kabir bought a cup.
He took out the money from his shirt pocket. A crisp newspaper clipping came out of
his pocket along with the two crumpled ten rupee notes. Kabir paid the boy and
looked at the paper. It had turned yellow with age but carefully folded, as if by an
origami artist. He opened it.
Kabir knew the entire article by heart but he read it anyway.
MLA CHANDRAKANT RANE’S SON SHOT DEAD
December 14, 1999
Govind Namdev | Mumbai
Advik Rane, film actor and son of Colaba MLA Chandrakant Rane was
found dead inside the Churchgate railway station at 12:30 AM. Advik
sustained a bullet wound to the head that resulted in instant death.
He was 23 years old.
Manoj Pahwa, a security guard at the station, found the body and
reported the crime to the police. Pahwa said that he heard a loud shot
in the subway sometime after midnight. He ran down the steps into
the subway and found Advik sprawled on the ground. A Glock G25
revolver was found a few feet away from the body.
The prime suspect in the killing is believed to be Kabir Duggani, a 25
year old government employee who was present in the subway along
When asked for a comment, Mumbai police commissioner Vikram
Srivastava said that the suspect was in their custody and it was an
open and shut case. He added that the gun was sent to the forensic lab
for fingerprint analysis.
Advik Rane had acted in one movie, ‘Shikari’. Though the movie was a
disappointment at the box office, critics noted that Advik had real
potential to become a star.
Kabir folded the newspaper cutout and put it back in his pocket. He ran a hand
through his thick hair.
The report was factually accurate but largely incomplete.
Yes, Kabir was present in the subway along with Advik Rane that night. But the
reporter had no idea that Advik tried to rob him and that it resulted in a violent
fistfight. Kabir was knocked unconscious and he ended up in the Breach Candy
Hospital for a week.
They highlighted that Advik was a young actor with great potential but missed the
fact that he was also a cocaine addict desperate for his next fix. That morning, he had
escaped from a secret drug rehab facility which catered only to the super rich and
mega powerful families in Mumbai.
They mentioned that a Glock G25 revolver was found in the subway but they failed to
report that it was registered to Advik’s father, Mr. Chandrakant Rane.
So many important facts to consider. So many threads to unravel. But nobody
bothered to investigate. Kabir himself had no idea at that time. He got to know these
details several years later. By then, it was too late.
Not that these tidbits mattered anyway. The forensic results came out two days later
(while Kabir was still unconscious in the hospital). His fingerprints matched with
those on the gun.
The media got their headlines. They sold a ton of papers but they never bothered to
ask a single question after that.
It was an open and shut case after all. The judge took one look at the forensic report
and slapped down a twenty five year prison sentence. No parole, no concessions.
Bang went the gavel.
Kabir sipped his tea. Twenty five years. Twenty five bloody years he stayed locked up
in prison for a murder he did not commit.
He had shouted and screamed and begged and pleaded. Swore on his mother that he
did not commit the murder. Nobody listened. The proof was right there. Three clear
fingerprints on the gun that was fired. That was all they needed to lock him up.
Why did you kill him? The police had asked again and again. That was the only
question for which they wanted an answer. They had the suspect and they had the
proof. The only thing they didn’t have was the motive.
Why did you shoot Advik Rane?
I did not shoot him, replied Kabir.
Dozens of interrogations in a cold dark windowless cell. Kabir’s answer did not
change even once.
On 14/12/99 around 12:15 AM, I went to Churchgate station to catch the
local train back to Sion. There was a man sitting on the wet floor of the
subway with his hand outstretched. His clothes were shabby and he
had a thick beard that covered most of his face.
I did not know he was Advik Rane. He looked like a beggar only. I felt
sad for him and decided to give him some change. But the second I took
out my wallet, he jumped up. He had a gun in his hand. He told me to
give him all the money.
It was the first time I saw a gun in real life. I was so scared, I nearly
pissed my pants. He had a crazy look in his eyes and I thought he would
really shoot me if I didn’t give him the money. Also, he was really big…
easily more than six feet. I didn’t want to risk my life for two hundred
rupees. So, I quietly gave him my wallet.
But then he saw the gold ring on my finger and asked me to hand it
over. It was my engagement ring. I was not going to give it to him.
Advik pointed the gun at my head. I knew I did not have a choice. This
bastard was crazy enough to shoot me. I tried to pull the ring from my
finger but it was really tight. I told him that it was not coming off.
He said that he would help me. He put the wallet and the gun on the
ground and tried to pull the ring. That was my chance. I didn’t know
what I was thinking. I kicked the gun as hard as I could and started
running. I had almost reached the exit when he caught up to me. He
punched me so hard on my head that I thought I felt a crack in my skull.
Even now, I am having these terrible headaches and these tablets are
not helping me one bit.
He threw me on the ground and started punching me everywhere.
Blood came out of my nose and mouth. I hit him back a couple of times
but it made no difference to him.
‘THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T LISTEN TO ME,’ he
shouted with every punch. He removed the ring from my finger and put
it in his pocket. I had given up by then. I was actually glad that he took
the ring because I thought the pain would end. But then something
changed in his face. It was as if I was looking at a rabid dog. He sat on
my chest and wrapped his hands around my neck. He strangled me so
tightly that I stopped breathing. His mad eyes were the last thing I saw.
I thought I was going to die for sure. I closed my eyes and passed out.
When I woke up, I was in the hospital. I still don’t know how I am alive
and Advik is dead. But I swear I did not kill him. I didn’t even touch the
gun. I don’t know what else I can say to make you believe me.
I did not shoot Advik Rane.
So who killed Advik?
He had no answer then and he had no answer even now.
Kabir spent countless sleepless nights in his tiny prison cell wondering what exactly
happened that night after he passed out. There had to be a third person involved in
the crime. Kabir had heard rumours that Advik was closely involved with the
Mumbai mafia. Was it a rival gang member that shot him? Did the police fabricate
the forensic report about his fingerprints? It was so easy. Kabir was lying
unconscious in the hospital for a week. They could have easily gotten his fingerprints
anytime they wanted.
Another thing that troubled him was that his ring had gone missing. Kabir had seen
Advik putting it in his pocket. But when he asked the police, they said that they did
not recover any ring. Were they lying? He was never going to know.
Kabir was sure of one thing. The police knew the truth. They were never going to
reveal it though. There was too much at stake. Chandrakant Rane lost a son but he
still had a reputation to save. Elections were just six months away and his career
would have been destroyed if the public found out that his son was a drug addict and
a criminal. There was no way in hell he was going to let the truth come out.
It was much easier to fabricate a lie and pin it on a scapegoat. Kabir was the perfect
candidate and his fate was sealed even before he regained consciousness. The MLA
used all his influence to create the narrative he wanted. Newspapers portrayed Kabir
as a deranged killer. The only way to save the city was to lock him up for a long, long
The forensic report was the final nail in his coffin. The case was fast-tracked through
the court and in less than ten days, Kabir was doing hard manual labour inside the
Arthur Road Jail. This was government efficiency at its peak.
Six months later, Chandrakant Rane won the elections with a crushing majority.
Kabir smiled at the way fate played its games with men. Chandrakant’s political
graph had only risen higher and higher after his son’s death. He had completed two
terms as the Maharashtra CM and was now serving his third.
Meanwhile, Kabir spent the best years of his life in a cell that was unfit even for
The first few years were the worst. Kabir was not rich by any means but he had
enjoyed a certain quality of life on the outside. In prison, he died a hundred different
deaths every day.
There were cockroaches in his bed and worms in his food. Guards beat him up for
the smallest mistake and prisoners beat him up for fun. He was forced to clean toilets
and break rocks and do all kinds of menial work. He was a respected government
employee for god’s sake. They simply laughed at him.
It was a never-ending nightmare.
Every year, he sent out his parole application with the faint hope that he would be
allowed to go back home. But his paperwork always came back with a single word:
The worst part of his ordeal was that he was denied visitation rights. His wife and his
old widowed mother were not allowed to see him. That broke his spirit entirely.
He later found out that his wife didn’t even attempt to meet him. She had married
another man and moved out of the city. Kabir was shocked when he heard this news.
He didn’t eat for a week.
A couple of years later, his mother passed away and the court did not let him
perform her last rites. That was when he decided to stop fighting.
His wife had eloped and his mother was dead. It was all over for him. There was
nothing for him outside the prison walls.
He took a decision. He was not going to step out of prison until he completed the full
twenty five year term. He was not going to send out another parole application and
he was not going to prove his innocence. The prison was his home now. He vowed to
be indifferent to the corruption and the evil that went on outside. The system had
Do whatever you want. Do your worst. See if I care anymore.
This was his revenge on the world.
A new man was born that day. A man who devoted his life to personal excellence. He
exercised everyday. A hundred push ups and a hundred pull ups. He lifted weights
and did yoga. He borrowed books from the prison library and learnt breath control
He did all the work that the guards assigned him without batting an eyelid. In case
there was an additional shift, he volunteered and if he was offered a choice, he
selected the hardest job.
His body started to change. Muscles tightened and took shape all over his body. He
was toned and chiselled like a living, breathing human sculpture.
His face changed too. With the huge scars that refused to leave his face, nobody was
going to call him handsome anytime soon. But he didn’t care. He was happy with
himself and that was all that mattered.
Prisoners stopped fighting with him when they realised they were no match for him.
They had a newfound respect for him and left him alone. Even the guards did not
bother him anymore.
This was how he led his life for the past twenty years.
Dark clouds gathered over the water. It looked like heavy rain was imminent. Kabir
got up to leave.
He had enough of the sea.
He didn’t know. He had no plans.
He walked on the cobbled streets of South Bombay. Most of the buildings of his time
were gone or had taken up totally different avatars. Once upon a time, this place was
filled with cotton mills but they had all disappeared. Restaurants, nightclubs and
shopping malls had replaced them. It was a totally different world and he was not
sure if it had a place for him.
It started to pour all at once.
Kabir ran to the nearest building. He was completely drenched. His hair stuck to his
face in long grey strands. As he dried himself, he looked up and saw that he was
standing right opposite the Churchgate train station.
It was in a terrible state. The beautiful dome for which the station was so popular
was broken in half and the right wing of the building was completely razed to the
ground. The big yellow stones that made up the exterior had turned black. It was as if
somebody had scorched down the building with a giant flamethrower. Kabir
‘What happened to the station?’ Kabir asked the man who stood beside him.
‘Big fire… four years back it happened,’ said the stranger without looking up from his
phone. ‘You didn’t see the video?’
‘What video?’ Kabir asked.
The stranger peeled his eyes away from his phone and looked at Kabir.
‘YouTube video.It was viral.’
He typed something on his phone and pointed the screen at him. Somebody had
recorded a video footage of the Churchgate railway station at night. It was dark and
he could barely make out any of the details. Then, all of a sudden, the entire screen
turned white for one long second.
‘That was the first hit.’
He watched as lightning struck the building’s dome five more times. Kabir was
amazed. He always thought that lightning never struck the same location more than
once. Apparently it did.
Six bolts of lightning at the same spot in less than a minute and the dome collapsed
on the screen; right in front of his eyes.
‘Some short circuit or something happened because of that and the entire building
started burning. Full night fire engines were there to put out the fire. So much
controversy happened after that and the government was forced to build another
station. Go straight and take a left and you will find the new station. It is very good.
Full modern. High class.’
The new station was of little interest to him. Kabir thanked the stranger and crossed
the road to the old one.
From the outside, it looked like a soldier lying dead on the battlefield with his head
and hand cut off. Inside, it was completely empty except for street dogs. They had
taken over the first platform and made it their home. Kabir looked to the left. The
steps to the subway were right there. Dark, wet and haunting. Come down here…
they seemed to whisper to him.
It did not seem safe. The steps were broken and there was sand and rubble all over.
Rain water flowed down and collected in small muddy pools at the bottom. There
was a single lightbulb above the steps but the shadows it cast were greater than the
light it gave out.
He had no good reason to go down there. Yet, something drew him down; like a
strong magnetic force. He took a deep breath and started walking. It was wet and
slippery. Kabir held the side of the wall for support. Just one look and I’ll go back up,
He carefully side-stepped the water puddles that formed at his feet. There was
nothing to see here except junk: metal chairs, tables, electric cables. It looked like the
employees had dumped everything from their offices down here when they moved to
the new station. He almost passed out from the horrible stench in this tiny cramped
space. It was as if death himself settled down here in the subway and made it his
It was time to go back up. The past was dead and gone; nothing but a memory in his
nightmares. But just as he turned, his eye caught a sharp yellow flash under a table
on the other end.
He did a double take. What was that. Gold? A gold ring?
Maybe it was his engagement ring, quietly sitting here all these years. Hiding from
the police and the passengers and everyone else; patiently waiting for the true owner
to return. It sounded insane but Kabir could not push the thought away. He decided
to find out for himself.
But to reach the other end, he had to cross a huge pool of murky brown water. A
dead rat floated on the surface. He had only two options: walk through the water or
jump across. Kabir chose the latter. He took two steps back and leaped.
It was a good jump. He made it to the other side without any problem but the tile on
which he landed cracked on impact and the sound reverberated across the subway.
Flakes of paint fell from the ceiling like white powdered sugar. He quickly made his
way through the maze-like path around the assorted junk and reached the table that
had promised him gold. He bent down on his hands and knees and looked.
It was not a ring nor was it gold. It was an ink pen with a gold coating. Kabir threw it
down in disgust. What am I even doing here, he thought as he walked back. The
world outside the prison was very different and he was not liking the way he
responded to it. Too many irrational decisions Kabir, he thought to himself.
He jumped over the muddy pool again but this time, he lost his footing and didn’t
quite make it to the other side. He fell into the puddle. But instead of hitting solid
ground, he continued to fall.
He went right through it, like there was no floor. The water completely sucked him in
and thrust him down at such a speed that he could not even comprehend what was
happening. He opened his eyes and looked around but it was completely dark. Kabir
felt like he was falling down the tallest waterfall in the world. His body twisted and
turned and flayed about in all directions. He could feel his eyes bulge out of the
sockets. His heart pumped so hard it almost burst out of his chest. He couldn’t hold
on to his breath any longer. Water was beginning to enter his lungs.
I’m going to die, he thought.
And then it stopped. Everything froze. Kabir could not feel the water anymore. He
could not feel his own body. He was suspended in space. Time stopped. He felt as if
he was in a state of complete expansion. Weightless. Everything was in him and he
was in everything. Past, present, future. It was all here; inside him.
All the light of the universe emanated out of his soul. It blasted out into space and
split into thousands and thousands of beautiful vibrant colours. So many of them!
He had never seen such beauty in his life. He understood it all now. He truly knew
the meaning of life.
If this was death, he was ready to go. He smiled and closed his eyes.
And just as it started, it ended. The light and the colours vanished. They were sucked
right back into his soul. It was dark once again and Kabir’s fall into the vast expanse
of nothingness resumed.
A small light flickered in the distance. It was so faint he could barely see it. He
turned his body in the direction of the light. He was hurtling towards it now. The
light grew bigger.
It was a naked light bulb, giving out a warm yellow glow. He could see a long flight of
steps right below the bulb. It felt familiar. And just as he realised where he was, he
fell down hard on the steps.
Kabir sat up and looked around. The world around him began to take a solid shape.
He was back where he started: inside the Churchgate railway station; on the steps
that led to the subway.
But something was off this time. It all felt a bit strange. He looked around. There
were movie posters on the walls. He read the titles: Sarfarosh, Hum Dil De Chuke
These were movies from 1999. Did all of them have re-releases at the same time? It
didn’t make any sense.
He was almost too afraid to ask the question that formed in his head. Did he… did he
go back in time?
That was the only other option and it was foolish to even think it out loudly.
‘THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T LISTEN TO ME.’
Kabir froze when he heard those words.
It had been twenty five years but he still remembered them so clearly. That gruff
drug-fuelled monstrous voice was imprinted in his brain and haunted him in his
‘THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU DON’T LISTEN TO ME.’
Kabir ran down the steps and into the subway. The impossible was now his reality.
A young Kabir Duggani was sprawled on the ground, unconscious. Sitting on his
chest was Advik Rane. The man who destroyed his life forever. Here he was, right in
front of him, with his meaty paws around his neck, crushing the life out of him.
It was as if Kabir was watching the entire scene on a television set. But this was not a
movie. It was real life and it was happening right in front of him.
Kabir sprinted and launched himself headfirst into Advik. The two of them flew a few
feet into the air before rolling to a stop in a jumbled heap. Despite being the older
guy, Kabir got up first. He caught hold of Advik’s hair and smashed his head to the
ground. Advik started to bleed.
‘Get the fuck away from me or I’ll kill you,’ Advik shouted.
‘Like you tried twenty five years ago?’ Kabir said.
It didn’t make any sense to Advik. ‘What the fuck are you talking, you old bastard.
Have you gone mad?’
Kabir pushed the hair out of his face and came close. ‘Look at me. Here. Look at
these scars. Look into my eyes. Don’t you recognise me?’ Kabir slapped his face and
made him look.
Advik stared into Kabir’s eyes and a faint hint of understanding registered on his
face. He looked at the young Kabir lying on the ground a few feet away and back at
the older Kabir.
‘You are… you are…’
‘Yes. I am.’
Kabir said and swung his arm at Advik’s nose. He heard a crack. ‘I am back, you
The young Kabir on the floor spasmed involuntarily and the older Kabir ran to his
side. His face was so bloody and broken, it was totally unrecognisable. Kabir tried to
wake him up but he didn’t get any response. He sensed a shadow creep up on him.
He turned around but it was too late. Advik’s right fist connected with Kabir’s temple
and sent him crashing into the wall.
Kabir got up and tried to shake it off. His discipline in prison meant that he was in
peak physical health. But it was evident that age was not on his side. He was fifty
years old and his opponent was a young coke-fuelled monster. It was the second time
he was fighting him but Kabir wasn’t betting on his odds.
‘How are there two of you at the same time? Are you real or am I imagining you?’
Advik asked and punched him hard in the stomach. Kabir fell down to his knees and
coughed. Blood gushed out of his mouth.
‘This is what happens when you don’t listen to me,’ Advik said. He pushed Kabir to
the wall and caught his neck in a death grip. He lifted him up three feet into the air
and held him there.
‘Who is going to save you now?’
If only he could shout, Kabir thought. A security guard or someone would come and
they would be saved. In a split second, the truth of the entire situation dawned upon
him. There was nobody else coming to save him. He was the saviour. He himself had
come from the future to protect his past.
He tried to control his breathing to think better. One thing was clear. Advik was
going to be dead by the end of the night. By a bullet to the head. He looked around.
Where the hell was the damn gun. If only he could find it and shoot the bastard. He
tried to recall where he kicked it. He couldn’t remember. It had happened only a
couple of minutes back but also twenty five long years ago. It was all a blur in his
head and it disoriented him further. Kabir was starting to get dizzy. He swung his
legs and kicked Advik but it had no impact on the brute.
Advik threw him down on the ground. Kabir rasped as he tried to send in as much air
as possible to his oxygen-starved lungs.
‘I just realised something,’ Advik said. He walked over and lifted the unconscious
Kabir off the ground. ‘I don’t have to kill you. If I finish him, you wouldn’t even exist.’
Kabir was tiny, like a limp rag doll in Advik’s hands. Advik punched him hard on the
‘Don’t,’ Kabir said. He tried to get up but slipped and fell. There was a large wooden
box next to him that contained cleaning supplies. He held on to the box for support.
‘Now, how should I kill you?’ Advik said. ‘Should I strangle you to death or crack
open your skull? Kabir didn’t respond. The wooden box had moved slightly when he
took support on it and tucked away behind it was a black handgun. A Glock G25.
Advik was still talking.
‘If I pluck out his eyes, would you go blind too?’ He said and cackled like a maniac.
‘Let’s find out right now.’ He put his fingers over young Kabir’s eyes and started to
press them hard.
Kabir didn’t waste any time. He pulled the gun out and fired a single shot.
The sound echoed in the tiny space of the subway a thousand fold.
Advik’s head rocked back as the bullet found its mark. He was dead before he hit the
ground. Kabir dropped the gun and ran towards his younger self.
He cradled his head in his arms and tried to wake him up. Kabir had forgotten how
young and handsome he was once upon a time. He looked so innocent; unaware of
the horrors that were awaiting him.
Loud footsteps in the station above. That had to be Manoj Pahwa, the security guard.
Kabir put the young boy’s head carefully on the ground. He was not going to wake up
He jumped over to Advik’s body and frisked him. The ring was in the right pocket of
his jeans. The footsteps grew louder. Kabir probably had half a minute to escape.
With one last look at himself, he sprinted out of the station and into the darkness.
December 31, 1999
Vidya just finished 108 pradakshinas in the temple behind her house. She sat down
on the steps and got lost in her thoughts. It was dark, close to nine thirty. People
were already bursting crackers and shouting Happy New Year. There was no reason
to be happy. Two days ago, the judge gave his verdict and her husband was shifted to
the Arthur Road Jail to begin his prison sentence.
Vidya was helpless. There was nothing she could do to bring him out. She just hoped
he was safe inside amidst all those other dangerous criminals. She prayed to Lord
Ganesha to protect her husband.
Earlier in the day, the lawyer told her that it was all over. There was zero chance her
husband was coming out any time soon. His chapter was closed and the sooner she
accepted the fact, the easier it would be for her and her family.
‘You are still a young woman… and very beautiful too. You can get married again if
you want. Lots of men would die to take you as their wife. Do you want to spend the
rest of your life going to prison two times a month to visit your husband? Is that the
life you want? Think about it.’
She nearly slapped him when he said that. If only Kabir was here with her right now,
Vidya thought. She wanted to cry but her tears were all used up in the past two
‘Sorry to disturb you but I just found a ring here. Is it yours by any chance?’
Vidya looked up. Standing in front of her was an older gentleman. His face was
obscured by the shadows but he sounded exactly like Kabir; only older. Was he
Kabir’s father? That was impossible. Vidya knew that he had passed away when
Kabir was a young boy.
He was holding a beautiful gold ring. She could recognise it anywhere. It was the ring
she had put on her husband’s finger on the day of their engagement.
‘How did you get this ring. It is Kabir’s!’
The man stepped into the light. He was wearing a white shirt and blue jeans. She
could smell a lovely perfume on him. Vidya looked into his eyes and she screamed.
‘You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this moment.’
‘What happened to you! Did you escape from prison? Is this real or magic?’ She had
so many questions.
‘I don’t know if it is magic or not but it is a long story for sure. But first, do you
wanna go watch the fireworks with me on Marine Drive?’
Ten, nine, eight… the crowd shouted in one voice. Vidya and Kabir joined them…
three, two, one…
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
One millennium had ended and another one began.
All the couples on the beach started kissing. Kabir looked at Vidya and smiled. They
held hands and watched as fireworks lit up the sky in a hundred different colours.
‘So tell me, did you really kill that guy?’ Vidya asked him later that night, as they sat
on the beach.
She looked at him sharply.
‘Generally, you commit a crime and then you go to jail. But in my case, first I went to
jail and then I committed the crime.’