Writing a first person narrative, narrating two sides and the detailing to ensure facts are intact must’ve been a huge challenge; how did you retain the intent?
It was very challenging. I had to read everything that was written about Headley and Rahul. I went through every interview given by Rahul. The NIA (National Investigation Agency) interrogation transcript helped in a big way to tell the story. Headley and I looks into international terrorism as much as it does into the minds of two different people who were connected, somehow. And somehow, the first person narrative seemed more justified.
How much of a role did human emotions play in this book with the key players?
The entire book is about emotions. Rahul and Headley come from dysfunctional families. They had endured a lot in their childhoods. So, it was important to draw into the psychological graph that the two were going through. The emotion and sentiments of the two individuals were the keys.
Of all the people who were involved in the 26/11 attacks, why did you pick Headley and Rahul Bhatt?
Why Headley: He was one person who conducted the recce. He was the mastermind behind the attacks. He was the man who made it easier for Kasab and the guys to come to Mumbai through the sea route. Had he not done the recce so disguisedly, the mayhem that Qasab and the rest caused wouldn’t have been possible. Why Rahul: Nobody in India, not even the NIA knew Headley as closely as Rahul did. Even the NIA managed to interrogate Headley for just 30 hours, and that too, within limitations. Headley allowed Rahul to peep into his personal life. To include Rahul’s side was important for us to know what kind of person Headley was.
A lot of your research must have been confidential. Did your background as a crime reporter help?
Of course. Some of the information was confidential, but once the chargesheet was filed, the interrogation became a part of public domain. My experience as a crime reporter came in handy in giving the right treatment as well as gathering information. Having worked as a crime reporter, you’ve made certain contacts. You’ve built a relationship, you’ve a reputation that people can trust you with confidential information, you have a certain credibility in the market. This helped immensely.
Headley and I, Hussain Zaidi, S Hussain Zaidi with Rahul Bhatt, Harper Collins, Rs 350. Available at bookstores