A Meal to Die For

Prologue: Such calls didn't matter to him. He had grown accustomed to them. This one however was eerie. It wasn't a cranky zealot on the other line, it seemed like a man who was sure with his intentions. He stuck his ground and challenged the caller before hanging up. It had started to drizzle. The clock of Rajabhai Tower struck 7PM. He had to get going.


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It was a quite evening. Monsoons should have ended by now but the dark clouds were not ready to go yet. There would be an occasional shower presumably an attempt of the clouds to make their presence felt. As if the darkness they brought to the usual bright sky of Bombay wasn't enough. He waited patiently for her. He knew she would come, she had said so. He was standing by the parapet, staring at the waves that licked the plastic laden shore of Marine Drive. He had an urge to walk down the rocks and into the murky waters of the Arabian. His cellphone buzzed, it was her. He briskly walked down to the usual spot.

Exchanging only a smile, they got into the taxi. He couldn't hug her, she would feel the holster. He was accustomed to the ubiquitous Fiat. This was a Japanese car. The taxi driver nodded at the destination. Hotel Shalimar lies in the middle of Bhendi Bazaar. Literally translated Bhendi Bazaar is where you would find Lady Finger or Okhra. But like all places in Bombay, this was something else. Nearby there was Chor Bazaar or Thieves Market where you could buy stolen goods at throwaway prices. They said it was the underbelly of Bombay, but he'd like to believe thats where you got good kebabs. He never bothered too much about such things anymore. They were a way of life. Crime existed even in five star hotels. He was not a novice.

Taking a left turn just before Metro, they were at GT hospital. The supposedly infamous district of Bombay had begun. He never understood why. There was bias against religion, against crime. He didn't practice any religion. But all of that didn't matter tonight. She looked beautiful. Her freshly washed hair smelled heavenly, like it did always. She smiled at him and they spoke about nothing in particular.

He knew it. His instincts were too strong. He knew they were in danger but he was a risk taker. He knew he could stop anything from happening. He pretended to be excited, his usual self rather. He was not going to take a threat call seriously. But his heart was beating fast, his senses were alert. There was enough adrenaline in him to keep him going for the entire week. Glancing in the rear view mirror, he made sure there was no car following them. He felt his ribs, the Browning in the holster calmed him down.

She was amazed. She had never been to this part of town. This was a new world for her. She liked it. Minara Masjid still lit brightly, tiny lights outlined it borders. She clicked pictures and he smiled to himself. He was going to miss everything should the Browning betray him tonight. The taxi driver knew where Shalimar was and he knew about the area too. He told them how a majority comprised of Dawoodi Bohri muslims. He pulled in on the opposite curb as he spoke about the locals enthusiastically. One didn't have to ask him "Kitna Bhaiyya?" The LED meter blinked Rs 32.00, thats why he hated technology, it cut down human contact.

They got off and moved towards Shalimar. An oil tanker shielded them from any onlookers and he yanked her hand and entered Noor Mohammadi. This was a part of the plan, should the taxi driver be involved. He could not take any chances tonight. They quickly ascended the steep stairs towards the A/C dining hall on the first floor. He didn't want her to see the kitchens and wanted other men on the ground floor to concentrate on their food and not on her. He assured her that it was better than Shalimar and boasted of a painting by the legendary Late Maqbool Fida Hussain and a chicken recipe by Sanjay Dutt.

A stout fellow sat in a corner eating a Kebab Platter. He surveyed him for possible signs of any weapons. He looked okay. He had to be discrete lest she noticed something unusual. They sat down and he called for the dishes she would like. Sooner than he expected, the waiter had presented the entire order. The Chicken Hakimi(half), tandoori chicken marinated in a secret yoghurt based gravy, tangdi kabab - three chicken legs marinated and grilled to perfection, bheja fry - the grey cells of a cow, nalli nahiri(mutton) in pure ghee and sheekh kabab - minced mutton, mixed with spices and grilled in a cylindrical form.

The food calmed him further as he saw her devour it. She couldn't choose between what she liked the best. She ate like a kid and he felt his Browning again. He had worn a loose shirt so the holster won't show through. But she wouldn't notice. She was eating gleefully, he took a bite of the tangdi kabab. The food was its usual best. It was cheap too. Soon they both had reached their plateau, this is when their pace slowed down and they were slightly distracted from food only to return at it again.

He was stuffed but he could eat more. Thats the way he was, there was always room for more. But she didn't want dessert and the hotel didn't have any. This was not the holy month of Ramadaan. No Firni. This was the silent month of September. He called for the bill and got up to wash his hands. He noticed the corner guy leave without paying. He must be known to the owner he thought and washed his hands under the rickety tap. He couldn't get the oil off his fingers.

She was wise, she had wiped the oil off on tissues and was waiting for him to return. She would then go to the basin. That's when it all happened. The door opened and he turned to look. It was the taxi driver. He smiled at him and proceeded towards the table. The horror on her face was enough. He turned around, the calm on the driver's face had vanished, the enthusiasm in his eyes was missing. It was replaced by a cold stare, he had seen this look before. He reached inside for the holster but the taxi driver was ready. Before he could swing his Browning out of the holster the driver had pressed the trigger. There was no sound, the silencer did it's job. The first bullet got him square in the chest, but the Browning was out and he aimed it straight between the eyes before another bullet struck and he lost balance.

He pressed the trigger as he stumbled onto the sofa. He hadn't missed the target by a large margin, the driver fell flat on his face, a pool of blood formed around his head. The white shirt stained red. He smiled at the sight. His shirt now soaked in his B+ve blood. He was a content man. She was with him and he had had a good last meal. What more could he want? They never made it on time to Saifee Hospital. Saifee Ambulance tried its best. But all he could remember was that Saifee Ambulance is where you got awesome fruit juice during Iftaar. "Next Ramzaan" he promised her before dozing away in her lap. She was too shocked to kiss him. Dessert would have been just fine.

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Epilogue: The corner man was an informer, the taxi driver had of course been stumped when he entered Shalimar but they were everywhere for him. They wanted it to be done at all costs. The taxi driver was just the man to do the job with his own men spread out.
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Meal for two Rs. 400, Noor Mohammadi, Bhendi Bazaar, 23476188. It is a generally quite place with no room for action, only good food. Needless to mention this is a work of fiction with no resemblance to characters living or dead. The only coincidence being Noor Mohammadi which guarantees some lip smacking food.

Comments

quaintkal said…
लय भारी किल्लर पोस्ट हाय बर का ;) :P
quaintkal said…
Oct 2012 la jaycha ka Noor Mohammadi la? :D
Rushikesh said…
Thank you :) October 2012 jau ki
Anonymous said…
You weaved a wonderful wonderous story! Loved it! Especially your style of writing. Reminded me of The Riot (one of my fav books) And of course great memories :)
Rushikesh said…
A writer derives his inspiration mostly from personal experiences and you sure contributed to them :) So thank you!
Rushikesh said…
And The Riot by Nick Darke or Tharoor?
Anonymous said…
You are way too kind :)
And Tharoor
Awesome, I think library has it. Will try to get it soon.
Charu said…
fantastic read !!
Thanks Charu! I wanted to share this particular one with you.

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