– Chapter 2 –
– Chapter 3 –
“Doesn’t it hurt when your friend decides to keep things secret from you, Amar?” Ameen asked casually, as he steered the car towards the Coimbatore Railway Junction.
“Huh?” Amar responded, pretending he did not hear.
“I have one such one unfortunate friend”
“I don’t think I understand what you are saying, Ameen” shot back Amar with a quizzical look, fighting hard to mask his guilt.
There was no reply from Ameen as he hit the sudden break and the car came to screeching halt.
“Oops, I almost drove past the red signal” he said, after a few seconds of silence.
“Which friend and what secret are you talking about?” Amar shot the question, hoping he sounded indifferent. But Ameen kept silence, as the signal turned green and the car slowly moved forward, gradually shifting towards top gear.
“Skip it. You wouldn’t know. You are my most trustworthy one, besides Ashika” Ameen said, as he slammed the brake again. This time because he almost overran the railway junction. He took a sharp right and drove in.
“Amar, go on and check if the train has arrived. I will park the car and be right with you”
“Sure”, said Amar as he got down. Ameen’s words of confidence still seared his heart. There was no hint of sarcasm in his tone, when he said it.
Does he know? Should I have confided in him? What is going on in his mind? All of this and more such questions were rummaging through Amar’s conscience for answers.
Raptisagar express was scheduled to arrive at 7:55 AM and Amar made his way to the platform where it was slated to arrive. He checked the clock it was 7.45 AM. He leaned against the wall, lost deep in thought, as he waited for Ameen and the train to arrive.
February 14, 1998:
Curiosity often wins over common sense. And it did, despite the fear that had engulfed Amar. He broke from his trance and started advancing (curiosity), instead of retreating (common sense), towards the direction of explosion. It turned out to be a timber store. Someone had thrown an explosive from a moving vehicle and the thatched roof was set ablaze. There was absolute chaos and panic. People had gathered by large. Amongst them benevolent or brave very quite a few, benevolent and brave were just a handful.
Luckily those handful of people swung into action, inspiring the rest. No lives trapped in the burning structure helped to an extent. Once the fire settled down, all it took was just a spark to ignite the differences between the masses. That is when a more common trait took over – prejudice. Someone thought out loud on which faith would have been responsible for this. That was sufficient to dichotomize the group. There were finger pointing and yelling and very soon a clash erupted.
Unaware of the melee, a gang of pre-teens girls had bicycled their way though that street. This instigated a couple of guys from the mob to turn their attention towards these innocent passers-by. While the swift among the females managed to flee from the scene, a fear-stuck young one stood there, immobilized. Amar was just a spectator from a safe distance, until he saw this.
Gallantry overcame fear and he sprung into action. He neither had a Plan A or Plan B, but ran towards that girl, hoping someone would notice and help them out. He planted himself between the girl and those guys, facing her with his back turned to the two goons. He shot a look of reassurance towards here, as he got ready to turn and face the advancing menace. Before he could do that, he felt a hard fist across the side of his face.
“AMEEN” the girl screamed and that was the last thing Amar heard before passing out.
“AMAR” he heard someone calling out. He realized the train had arrived and he turned around to see Ashika standing there, with an expression of pleasant shock. She didn’t expect to see him there and with it went her plans of surprising him.
While Amar, in his confused state, couldn’t think of a response, he heard another familiar voice.
“So, are you guys up to something that I shouldn’t know?” It was Ameen
This time, Amar didn’t turn back to see what Ashika’s expression looked like. He only wished that he would pass out right there and hopefully wake up to realize this was just a bad dream.
—— End of Chapter 4 —–