Mohammed Salim Ansari placed his taqiya on his head and carefully adjusted it in the broken mirror on the pista-coloured wall, overlooking the Dhobi Ghat. He noticed the zebibah on his forehead had grown considerably, it was now clearly visible even from a distance.
Ilustration/ Amit Bandre
Saadiq, his second born, joked that the prayer bump would soon grow to the size of a cricket ball. It was a symbol of great pride, that no one in his family did the sajda five times a day, except his Ammijaan and him. Even though she was blind, the Almighty was always visible to his mother.
That morning had started off stressful, his second wife, who lived in Maharajaganj, had called. She wanted to come to Mumbai. Handling one wife here was difficult, two would be traumatic. As usual, his handicapped sister, was shouting something incoherent.
He felt claustrophobic at home. The afternoon, he would spend with his badmashes Ashfaq, Siraj, Jadhav and Bangali. He needed some nasha. The day held plenty of promise.
As he set out for the abandoned mills, he saw a young girl in her early 20s, walking along the railway tracks. “Good maal”, he thought to himself. There was a boy with her, ekdum dubla pathla, he would be easy for them to overpower.
She had a camera in her hand, she must be looking for something to photograph. He would show her, pretending as usual to be a policeman.
He called Ashfaque and Bangali to give them a heads-up, meet them at the appointed spot. Their ‘modus operandi’ had always been foolproof.
First trick, then torment, finally threaten. They had always banked on a woman’s fear. The fear of ostracisation, now the fear of the ‘on-line’ world.
None of their earlier victims had ever ‘spoken up’ or challenged them’, so they had got complacent, grown in confidence.
Even here, they had recorded the whole ‘incident’ on his phone, they had made her clean up all the evidence. They had walked her out of the space, even dropped her to the station. They had also checked at Agripada police station - no complaint. So he was unable to understand where things had gone so wrong this time.
How could this girl have shown so such courage. To go directly to Jaslok Hospital. To actually identify them.
And then that telephone operator walli, had also come forward. That had sealed their fate. All his badtameez’s, Ashfaq, Siraj, Jadhav and Bangali, had cried in the court, Men should never show their true feelings in public, whatever the judgement, he felt.
Mohammed Salim Ansari placed his taqiya on his head and looked out of the grilled window from his Arthur Road jail cell. Somewhere close outside was his house.
But this would be his home “for the rest of the rest of his natural life”, the lady judge had said. Was the city really changing? Would women really start speaking up now? In a few years he would have to warn his first born, Shaafiq to be careful.
The concrete floor was very hard. The bump on his forehead would now get bigger. But he was happy. He could now pray, six, even seven times a day. The Almighty would forgive him, he was sure.
Rahul da Cunha is an adman, theatre director/playwright, photographer and traveller. Reach him at rahuldacunha62 @gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.
The events and quotes in this column are part fiction: Author