The airport lounge came alive with the words…Flight No. 22FK… is about to land. Passengers are requested…
Manek Daruwala bent down to pick up his suitcase.
It was then that he spotted the piece of paper under the seat.
On a white A4 sized paper, were written just two words: DON’T LEAVE.
Could be some love lorn lady, a desperate teenager perhaps beseeching his/her love interest.
Dismissively, he crushed the paper, and threw it into the litter box.
Through the glass frontage, the silhouette of the blue crane came alive through the evening skies.
His Frankfurt flight was landing.
He got up, made his way towards the checkout counter.
It was then that he felt dizzy; seconds later he lost consciousness, and fell on the linoleum floor.
EIGHT HOURS LATER…
“You’re lucky. Very lucky. Here, read this”.
Manek held the paper his wife Sharada placed before him.
The banner headlines screamed: PLANE TO FRANKFURT BURSTS IN FLAMES. ALL 246 DEAD.
Below was a colour picture of the crashed bird, neatly split in two.
The professor broke in a cold sweat.
“That’s my flight…I was to be on that plane, he cried out.
His eyes fell on the boxed article.
“The police have identified the suicide bomber as 34 year old Irfan Mallick. A member of the dreaded Intaqam E-Lakshya, Irfan is…”
Manek looked at the photograph.
Bespectacled, black beard, an orange cap half tilted to the right.
Wait…he’d seen him.
Then he remembered…The man was seated next to him at the airport lounge. They’d exchanged pleasantries. The man had commented…something about the drink…the fact that the two were sharing the same Tropicana fruit juice.
Manek read further, “Irfan is a Philosophy graduate of St. Xavier’s College…”
The newspaper fell from Daruwala’s hands.***
His mind traversed to some 15 years back.
Irfan Mallik, shy yet inquisitive_one of his brightest students.
There was an incident. It was his graduation year.
A bomb blast at a temple.
A distant uncle of Irfan was caught. Was slapped terror related charges. The police had taken the then 20-year-old Irfan away. He was tortured. Kept in illegal custody. The poor boy had pleaded innocence. Protested he’d no connection with any unlawful elements.
Word of his torture and confinement had reached Manek.
The Police Commissioner was a college friend.
A phone call sufficed. Within an hour Irfan was released.
The poor boy had come over.
Manek remembered Irfan’s parting words.
“You’re my God, sir. I can never forget what you did for me”.
Poor Irfan. His dream of becoming a police officer and serving the country had been nipped in the bud.
Much later, Manek heard the boy was working in Dubai.
Manek’s eyes turned misty.
Irfan, his dream shattered, had become a suicide bomber.
Still, he had a choice. He exercised it.
Did a final act of goodness.
Repaid his debt.
Some humanity still resided in a heart sold to the devil.
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