Monday, 6 October 2014

It gets personal ( Game of Blogs, Team Story Weavers, Part 26)

Team Name: Story Weavers
Read the first part of the story here.
Read the previous part of the story here.
“And the journalistic fraternity is shocked and saddened by this development. It is time that terrorists realize that common citizens and journalists are not pawns to be captured and killed in this ideological game. Our heartfelt message to all responsible in this case, please free our fellow journalists…(sobs)..This is Raina Bhatt reporting live for NPTV 360.

Roohi sat in shock through the report. Even though she herself had been at the terrorist’s mercy just a few hours ago, this was different. She could not bring herself to imagine what Tara must be going through. The terrorists knew that Tara was Shekhar’s wife and they must be torturing her specifically. They could do anything, anything! Roohi burst into tears, even as Nana ji tried to hug her. Nani ji had collapsed on the bed ever since she had heard of Tara’s kidnapping.

Just then, the phone rang. It was Shekhar. Nana ji had a quick word with him before handing the phone to Roohi.

“Roo, are you alright beta?”

“Papa. I am fine! Whats happening with Mama? What are you doing to get her back?”

Shekhar couldn’t stop smiling to himself. He was proud of his young daughter – how practical and to the point she was despite the dire circumstances in which they were.

“Beta ji. You have my word. I will bring back your mother to you – safe and sound”

“Pucca, Papa?”. Roohi asked this even though she knew that her father would move heaven and earth to get her mother back safely.

“Pucca Beta!”

“And Papa, another thing”

“What beta”

“I don’t want just my Mama back, safe. I want both my Mama and Papa back. Safe. Will you do that for me Papa? Pucca promise?”

Shekhar sighed inwardly. He knew the risks of his job. But he was darned if he left his only, and most precious child orphaned. Of course he was going to get the three of them out – safely.

“Yes, my darling bachcha. I will get both your Mama and Papa back safely. Khush? Chalo, ab go and sit with Nanaji and try not to worry. I have to get back and ensure that this mess is over over once and for all. Bye, beta”

“Bye, Papa”
And the phone line went blank.

- - - - - - - - - 

Shekhar turned around to find his deputy Suraj standing there. The look on Suraj’s face was unreadable as always. Calm and composed, that was Suraj. Shekhar was glad that Suraj had been assigned as his second in command. As he saw it – this was the last and most dangerous stage of the siege. It was going to be now or never from here on. And it was now that he needed a cool and level headed person next to him. Especially now. Now that Tara’s life was in danger.

Tara. Oh, Tara! Shekhar tried not to think about her. His beautiful, eternally on the go wife. The mother of his child. The three of them had built such a beautiful loving life for themselves, even though there had been his deception. Yet, that was a life he was not going to give up on. Life was not possible without Tara. Tara – yes Tara. This was personal now. And Shekhar cared a damn if even the terrorists knew it.

Suraj, saw the look of real, unbridled anger pass over Shekhar’s face. He knew that his boss needed him now more than ever. Shekhar could take a misstep if overcome by his emotions. Suraj had to be there to make sure that it didn’t happen. Suraj looked down at the brief message scribbled on the paper that he was holding in his hands. He had no choice, but to tell Shekhar.

“Shekhar. The terrorists have sent us their demands. They want to do an exchange for the hostages”

Shekhar laughed. “What a surprise! Which high security prisoner do they want us to release now? Osama is already dead, eh?”

Suraj took a deep breath. “Shekhar. They do not want us to release any prisoners. They want us to evacuate the Baba Atomic Research Centre and leave these three scientists behind on the premises. Here are their names”

Suraj handed over the names to Shekhar. Shekhar’s face turned a shade darker.

“These guys are bloody clowns! Next they will ask us to give them the code to the nuclear detonators on a silver platter”

Shekhar took a few minutes to gather his thoughts. This was turning out to be the most important mission of his life. Not only had the terrorists personally attacked him and his family, they were now threatening to hold the whole country hostage. Shekhar’s two loves : his family and his country, needed him. And he wasn’t going to let either down. 

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be". With this thought in mind he called Suraj, and two other deputies close to him.

“So Guys, Heres the Plan for operation ‘Jai Hind’.
One, Update COAS and President. There has to be a full Army battalion on the perimeters of the city and especially BARC. This is war now, and it has to be treated as such. We are not going to take any chances here.

Two, Keep me constantly updated with the negotiations happening with the terrorists. Suraj, you need to be in on the conversation by the minute – I do not want the negotiators to stop talking. The more they talk, the more the chances are that our hostages will be kept alive.

Three, I will head swat team 1 that will go in covertly to the location where the terrorists are holding the hostages. Another team will cover for us from behind. Our mission is two pronged: Free the hostages alive and capture the terrorists dead or alive.”

“Is that all clear”

“All clear Sir.”

“Lets get moving then. There is no time to waste. Good Luck and Jai Hind”

Read the next part of the story here.

Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Cryptic Crossword - Secrets of red riding hood (Game of blogs - Part 13)

Team Name: Story Weavers
Read the first part of the story here.
Read the previous part of the story here.

After the whole drama at the railway station. And the final act – oh! The final act – which Roohi would always remember. The fakir with twinkling eyes. The eyes that played with her all day long. How could she have not recognized him? Roohi’s heart swelled with pride as she recalled the sequence of events that had led to both her parents ending up at the New Delhi railway station to rescue her. Roohi had been thrilled and overwhelmed to see her mother at the station. She was an amazing woman. Roohi knew it as always – beneath their veneer of normal ordinary people, her parents were actually extraordinary superheroes.

But now, the excitement was long gone and she was here, cooped up in ‘Nani’ house. Her Naniji had been a nervous bundle of excitement ever since Tara had dropped Roohi over at their Def Col apartment. Naniji was really anxious about Tara’s whereabouts and kept on cursing Shekhar when she thought Roohi could not hear her.

“Woh nikamma kahan hai, hain? Yeh do ladkiyaan yahaan par akeli ghoom rahi hain aur jamaai raja ghar par baithe hain!”

Nanaji did not look very perturbed by all Naniji’s thoughts. He had a deaf ear turned to her and his attention was on the crossword puzzle that he was solving on his old desktop computer. Roohi was not allowed to turn on the television as per her mother’s orders and she obviously had no access to a cellphone. Because her mother had strictly told Nani that Roohi was to be kept away from all electronic devices.

And now, looking at Nanaji and his cryptic crossword was all the electronic exposure that Roohi could get. Nanaji seemed to be stuck on a word now. He read out aloud.

“Four letters. A diary. A visual. A blog. Only better.”

“Hmmm..yeh blog shog sab aaj kal crossword main bhi aa jaata hai. Kya din aa gaye hain! I have no idea what this word could be”

Roohi looked up at her Nanaji, exasperated but eager to help. After all Nanu was such a cutie! Imagine - he was using a computer to do crosswords. 

“Nana, the word is vlog. Its short for video blog”

“Really Roohi? My goodness, I would never have known. What exactly is a vlog now?

Roohi was about to launch into a long speech on video diaries and blogs etc etc. and then she suddenly got an idea. She would show Nanaji. And that way they could do something other than do boring old crosswords. 

“I’ll show you now”

Roohi's search for vlog on google straightaway got them to 'Breaking news'. There was a vlog playing on all news channels.

Nanaji and Roohi were transfixed by what they saw on the screen. It was clearly a video taken from an awkward position, most likely a camera or mobile phone hidden behind a bag. The view was of the coffee shop inside the Continental hotel. All the furniture had been pushed all over the place. There was a group of hostages visibly crouching on the floor a few feet away from the camera. Once in  a while a terrorist would come into view. They all seemed very alert and carrying a week’s worth of ammunition. In short it was a very scary scene that was unfolding before them on the vlog.

About 5 minutes into the vlog, a man came and sat right in front of the camera. For a moment he looked directly into it, almost as if he knew that he was being filmed. But then he turned around and whipped out a mobile phone and started punching numbers into it. Because it was an odd looking mobile phone (It was almost as big as an iPad) Roohi could easily see what numbers he was punching. The phone number that the man had dialed was very familiar. In fact - Roohi immediately knew who the recipient of the call was. It was Tara’s friend Jennifer. Roohi had a photographic memory - and she had seen that number being used a lot on Tara's phone. 

Roohi was suddenly consumed with fear for her mother. She knew that Tara was still in contact with Jennifer (maybe even with her) as they covered the siege on the Continental hotel. But did Tara know that her friend was in cahoots with the terrorists. Roohi wanted to reach her mother immediately. Roohi looked at Nanaji. And then as he back at looked her, they could hear the terrorist speak into the phone.

Ji huzoor. Agar yahaan par kuch gad bad hui toh aap ke pass toh Rani sahiba hai. You have the main chess piece in the game Ahana. Usko apne muththi main jakkad ke rakhiyega. We both know that hamare shattir Shahzade koh sabse zyaada dard kaise pahunchaya jaa sakta hai.”

Roohi’s blood boiled and she could stand it no further. She knew that her mother would not listen to her over the phone. Hell! She might even not be picking up calls right now. She suddenly knew exactly what had to be done.

“Nanaji hamein Continental hotel jaana hai. Abhi”

Nanaji knew better than to question his granddaughter.  He instinctively knew that Tara was in some sort of danger. His daughter and granddaughter meant the world to him. And if helping them out meant going against the wishes of Naniji, then so be it. He quietly got up from his cozy old rocking chair and announced in a loud voice.

“Roohi aur main, sair karne jaa rahe hain”

Once outside the building compound, Nanaji showed extreme quickness for his age and hailed a cab.

“Hotel Continental”

Outside the hotel there were barricades all around. There was terrific police bandobast. There was no way that Roohi and Nanaji could get in. Roohi tried desperately to find the TV crew that would have come with her mother. But there were just too many journalists with too much equipment all around. And who would pay attention to a young girl in this melee?

There was just one thing that she could do. Draw attention to herself in the most dramatic manner possible. She took a deep breath and waited till a small posse of army men started moving towards the back gate of the hotel. Most of the media people and other bystanders had been asked to move away behind the barricades and they were following orders. There was clear stretch of path on which the army men were moving – suddenly, as if from nowhere, a small girl in pigtails appeared and started running at full keel straight at the army men, shouting at the top of her voice. There was moment of stunned silence and then the army men reacted quickly. Roohi was on the ground with her hands tied behind her in a matter of seconds.

But not before Roohi had managed to scream very loudly and clearly in the direction of the waiting media all around:

“Mummy. MUMMY!!!Red riding hood! RED RIDING HOOD!”

Shekhar saw the entire scene unfold on the screens at his command centre not very far away. A gush of pride washed over him again. He knew that Roohi had done something that he had managed to not do himself – warn Tara about Jennifer aka Ahana.

He looked at the screen one last time– now the cameras were focusing on little Roohi’s face – and stood up. The words to his team were now edged with determination:

“Lets get this finished boys. Lets do this. Now!”

 Read the next part of story here.
“Me and my team are participating in the ‘Game Of Blogs’ at with us.”

Monday, 15 September 2014

On Platform terror - Game of Blogs : Story Weavers (Part 7 of the story)

This post is part of #GameOfBlogs team name 'Story Weavers'. 
You can read the first part of the story here
And the previous part here


Roohi didn’t know what was irritating her more – the fact that the fat cat terrorist man had tied up her wrists and now her hands were tingling, or the other more infuriating fact that he had knocked down her Reader’s Digest while dragging her away. She smiled inadvertently while remembering that bit though. She hadn't been a scaredy coot. Even when they had smashed her phone. 

Papa will be proud! I didn’t cry or shout. I just dug my heels in and thrashed about to make it as difficult as possible for the fat cat to pull me away. Only if I was a little bit taller I surely could have kicked the fat cat right between his legs, just like Papa had taught. But he has a rifle. And that’s the other thing – Papa always said that in case the opponent has weapons, it is best to lay low and use your mind as a weapon. Oh Papa! How I wish you were here.

Roohi eyed the fat cat, ISISI commander Ibrahim Rehman, as he towered over his subordinates and seemingly barked commands at them. He was a strangely interesting man, and Roohi could not but wonder how a man who was so tall and huge, could move with such grace – almost like one of the tribal dancers one saw on National Geographic Channel. He was a Bear with the agility and alertness of a cat. Every few minutes, he would come towards Roohi and the two other unfortunate hostages.

Roohi eyed the two others tied up to the platform bench right next to her. Next to her was an understatement - for between the really fat Aunty in her eye-wateringly colourful Patiala suit and dressed in black top-to-toe goth babe, Roohi was all but sandwiched.

Patiala aunty was sweating and swearing with a lot of gusto till Ibrahim Rehman had come and pointed his gun very very close to her forehead. Since then she had been reduced to just muttering under her breath. Pity though, the sweating had not reduced. And that mixed with wafts of her jasmine perfume was just adding to Roohi’s feeling of suffocation. Goth babe on her left was cucumber cool. She had not batted an eyelid when she was tied up to the bench. Her crime had been to first kick one of the terrorists and then spit on their faces even as they were tying her up. What Patiala aunty had done to warrant getting tied up, even Roohi didn’t know.

Roohi knew one thing though. She was sure that her Dad was on the case and she wouldn’t have to be sitting on this damned bench with these damned aunties for much longer. She suddenly and very guiltily remembered her mother. In all the excitement and fear of the day, not once had she thought about her mother. But now, sitting next to these two very strange women, Roohi suddenly longed to be in the cool, self-assured presence of her mother.

And just then, as if in answer to her prayers, her mother’s voice – clipped, confident and so reassuring came wafting down to her. It took her a moment to realize that she was not dreaming it all up. One of the terror chappies, had pulled down one of the old TV’s that had been hanging from the platform ceilings and they had turned on the News channel.

The camera panned in on people standing outside a hotel. There were barricades, police, army jeeps and journalists. Tara had disappeared from the scene for the time being and an in-studio anchor was discussing the breaking news with a security specialist.

Suddenly the scene playing out in the screen behind them moved from the hotel to outside the railway station. There was a sudden hush on the platform. Everybody was quiet when they saw on TV what was happening just a few feet away from them. There were close-ups of the bloodstains on walls, shattered glass and bloody footwear. The reporter was stating that around 20 people had died, while a 100 were grievously injured and almost 50 people were believed to be now hostages inside the railway station.

One of the terrorists smirked and changed the channel. The screen suddenly split up into 9 squares and there were as many talking heads on it simultaneously. India’s most ferocious interviewer, Arnab Goswami looked especially agitated and furious today. The terrorists laughed and then the fat cat tuned the TV back to the previous news channel.

The news anchor was still in discussion with the security specialist. And suddenly they cut to a video of a man in a black hood, with a knife in his hand standing over another man in an orange robe, hands tied behind him and kneeling in front – seemingly awaiting his own beheading. There was a chill that ran down the platform. Patiala aunty silently started to sob. Goth babe let out a low whistle. Fat cat slowly turned around and looked at the bench. His eyes wavered over all three of them before coming to rest squarely on Roohi.

Even though he spoke without shouting, every single soul on the platform could hear what he said next.

“Not for us the old and tainted. Our sacrificial lamb will be young. Very young”

You can read the next part of the story here

“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”