Burma Bhai crept stealthily. Tucked away from other’s sight, Umbra — his shadow was with him. A few days back, in a gang war, Hanif Lala had murdered Burma’s friend Raju Pawli. Burma had vowed revenge. Earlier this morning his ’khabari’ (informer) had updated him that Lala would be alone in his ’adda’ (den). He reached Lala’s Dongri gambling ‘adda’.
Burma’s parents, who had migrated to Bombay from Rangoon, were casual labourers on building sites. As a baby, he had been nicknamed Burma by other construction workers because of his parent’s country of origin. Losing both his parents when he was around twelve years in an accident made him take up a life of violence and crime.
As a young adult, his growth in the back lanes of Bombay catapulted him to a stature where he earned respect from his peers. His street-fighting skills had been honed to perfection. He was given the title of ‘Bhai’.
Umbra was another reason that people feared him. Umbra had been befriended by Burma on one of his duels. Uttar Pradesh migrants nicknamed the ‘Rampuri Gang’ had been trying to get a foothold in the Bombay crime scene. Burma was trying to protect his territory. During one such scuffle, Burma and a Rampuri gang leader clashed with each other. The loud expletive language was followed by tense sparring. When contact was finally made, stomach-and jaw-busting shots erupted.
Suddenly, in a flicking movement, a new player was introduced by his opponent—Umbra was lunged forward to attack Burma. On reflex, Burma quickly sidestepped to avoid the attack. He reacted with a karate chop, along with a loud aural, guttural sound. Attacking the mastoid muscles and the jugular was enough to fatally knock out the Rampuri gangster. Burma’s eyes fell on Umbra. Hitting the pavement, Umbra also was lying in another corner. The sun shone, reflecting Umbra’s lone plight. He bent down to pick up and rightfully claim ownership. An invisible bond was immediately formed. Christening with an acronym of ‘Burma’ he carried Umbra home. Umbra would now be his shadow and go wherever he went.
Kicking open the door, he entered the dimly lit den.
’Lala, where are you?’ The six-and-a-half feet well-built Pathan got up from his armchair and stood up. He was all alone. Towering and facing the short but highly charged Burma, he laughed out loud in defiance.
Burma was quick to flash out, Umbra. Flicking open the Rampuri knife, he gashed the belly with a deep swing. Umbra did his bidding. The single-edged, 12-inches-blade cut open Lala’s stomach and spilled out his entrails, pushing them out in a stream of blood. The Pathan would not survive. Burma wiped off the blood from the knife on Lala’s pathani dress. He folded the Rampuri knife and put it in his pocket.
Burma and Umbra disappeared, merged as one, into the surrounding darkness. Object and shadow had just carried out a successful surgical strike.
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