Vantage point

Thursday, September 12, 2002

After Shivaji's death Aurangzeb came to the South with his armies. At that time, there were two Maratha warriors Santaji and Dhanaji who wreaked havoc in the Moghul Army. The Moghul army was so scared of these two that it is said that they used to hallucinate about them. This fear was so intense that they were scared of drinking water because they would see images of Santaji and Dhanaji in them.

Why am I telling you this? Just preparing ground for my next story, let us say. By the way, you people stretched your luck a bit too much. I am posting one more story. I had thought of this as a story idea for a Hindi movie and am even thinking of writing a script. Then i'll make it into a movie when I earn 70 million dollars at the age of 30.

A Tale Of Fear

Shafeeq sat smoking in an easy chair. Every drag seemed to soothe his nerves a bit. He could not remember the last time he had been so nervous, so scared, so petrified. There had been times in his life before when fear played heavily on his mind, but that stage was long past him. Or so he thought. The last month had been hell. He felt totally powerless.

When he was in his room, he usually opened the window and smoked, air conditioner be damned. Looking at the Dubai traffic on the streets below, he usually felt like god. Sitting on the top floor of the skyscraper, he would think of his childhood in the dingy streets of Faridabad and revel in his success.

But he could not do that now. He had been advised not to go near any windows. It was just too risky. So he sat 20 feet from the window staring at it wistfully, and smoking away into the night.

As Shafeeq said to Afsal earlier that day, he was not sure what hurt him more, the fear or the humiliation at being afraid. Surely a man in his position was not expected to be in this situation. In fact a man in his position would be the last person to be in this situation. Yet it happened, and he felt helpless, powerless, and impotent.

He still remembered the day a month back when it happened. It almost seemed like a joke, a harmless prank one of his friends had pulled on him.

#### A month back

Shafeeq had just returned after having dinner with his family.

The blue mobile phone rang. Shafeeq was a bit surprised when it rang. It was his �special� phone on which no one ever called. He used it only to speak to a handful of very important persons. It was him usually initiating the calls. The number seemed to be based in India.

�Hello� he said.

�Is that Shafeeq?� a very polite voice at the other end asked.

�Yes, who is this?� he cautiously asked.

�My name is Santaji. I don�t think you know me.�

�Why are you calling me?� Shafeeq was perplexed.

�I need some money. I am sure you have enough of it, so I thought you would be the best person to ask.� Santaji said. Shafeeq was annoyed now. What was he, a loan shark?

�Hey listen, I am not a money lender. I don�t know who the hell you are but��

�Oh, I don�t want to borrow money from you.� Santaji laughed �You seem to have misunderstood me. I want you to give me money. 25 million US Dollars. I have no intention of repaying them.�

Shafeeq�s anger subsided. This was obviously a prank by one of his friends. He thought it would be best to play along.

�Oh, I see. And what would I get in exchange?� he asked sweetly.

�In exchange, we will not kill you or any of your men.� Santaji said sincerely. At the mention of killing, Shafeeq�s anger exploded.

�LISTEN, WHOEVER YOU ARE! A JOKE�S A JOKE ONLY UNTIL IT STAYS WITHIN LIMITS! DON�T MESS WITH ME OR YOUR COMING GENERATIONS WILL LIVE TO REGRET IT!� he yelled into the phone and disconnected the call. �I see the number the call was made from, I will find out who that was and make him pay.�

The phone tinkled again. The same number. Shafeeq put the phone to his ear. The same voice, but sounding a bit more serious said

�Shafeeq, I would advise you not to shout at me again. I am not some April fool prankster. I am serious. Now listen to me�.�

�Are you one of Ranjan�s men?� Shafeeq asked with seething rage. Only his arch nemesis sitting in Thailand could do something like this. Santaji however started laughing.

�No, I am not Ranjan�s man. Funny you should ask. My partner Dhanaji just called up Ranjan with the same demand and he asked him if he was one of your men. All you underworld Dons have remarkable predictable thought processes.�

�I don�t care whose man you are, you won�t live long, take it from me. I have seen your telephone number and very soon�..�

�Shafeeq, as my mother used to tell me, anger makes a man�s brains go numb. Do you think I am so stupid? Trace the number if you want to. But listen to me, I want USD 50 million transferred to a bank account in the Cayman islands. You will be paying 25 million and Ranjan will pay 25 million. In exchange, I and Santaji grant you your lives.�

Shafeeq disconnected the phone and shut it off. He had had enough of this nonsense. He called Manzoor from the next room. Manzoor was Shafeeq�s right hand man. He told Manzoor about the calls he got.

�Bhai, I am sure it is Ranjan. Only he can pull a trick like this. Don�t worry, we will take care of it. He has been seeking revenge ever since we injured him in the hospital attack. Just give me the number, I will take care of the rest.�


It had been a month since. Manzoor and his other lieutenants were convinced that this was Ranjan�s game. However what puzzled them was that the number that showed on the mobile did not seem to exist. The STD code was of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, but the phone number did not exist. Manzoor told Shafeeq that there was a way to do this, and it made the caller difficult to trace. But it was Ranjan anyway, so there was no need to worry.

Two days later, Shafeeq got a short voicemail on his regular mobile.

�Shafeeq, it seems like you and Ranjan both need to be taught a lesson.�

Next day�s Indian newspapers and news channels were full of the news.

� �. It is indeed a very surprising coincidence that this should happen. Salim Surti, who is the top man of the Shafeeq gang in India, and Ganesh Patil, who is the top man of the Ranjan gang in India have both died in separate accidents in Mumbai today. Surti�s car crashed into a flyover, while a helicopter carrying Patil crashed in Navi Mumbai. The Mumbai police think of this as some kind of a godsend��.�

Shafeeq was convinced this was Santaji�s doing and thought of contacting Ranjan, but Manzoor refused to agree. Manzoor said he had been hearing of differences between Patil and Ranjan since a long time. This was Ranjan�s plan to kill two birds with one stone.

What followed was a week of bloody killing all over India. The Shafeeq gang and the Ranjan gang clashed in numerous battles. Both gangs were boiling with anger at their regional bosses being killed. Each side suspected the other and lengthy retribution resulted. 10 of the top �local heads� of Ranjan�s gang and 8 of Shafeeq�s gang were killed, besides over a hundred men from each side. The city of Mumbai lived in fear as the Mumbai police seemed helpless to stop the madness.


Then seven days ago another call came.

It was 3 weeks since the first phone-call.

�See, Shafeeq, Dhanaji and I are tired of this. We don�t care if you are killing each other�s henchmen. All we want is our money. Now unless I get a positive response from you both, we are going to have to strike very close to your heart.�
Shafeeq answered him in a not so polite tone and hung up.

Manzoor came to Shafeeq�s room with a smile on his face

�I guess they are running scared, Boss. We have killed a lot more of their men and I think Ranjan is feeling yellow. I just got a call from his right-hand man Joseph. He wanted a truce, but I told him to go to hell. We will fight till the finish. Very soon we will be the sole rulers of the Mumbai underworld.� Manzoor laughed with joy. He was standing close to the window. Suddenly there was a sound of glass breaking. Manzoor made a croaking sound and collapsed dead. Shafeeq stood transfixed.

As his men came rushing to Manzoor�s assistance, Shafeeq�s mind kept replaying the words in his mind �

���.we are going to have to strike very close to your heart.�


Shafeeq did not go to Manzoor�s funeral. Afsal, now in a way �promoted� to being Shafeeq�s right hand man advised him not to. Afsal said he had given orders to the team in Thailand to go for the kill. Shafeeq�s cigarette smoking increased to an all time high.

A voicemail came the next day.

�The choice is entirely up to you and Ranjan, Shafeeq. Pay 25 million or else. I am faxing you the details of my account in the Cayman Islands.�


Next day it was on all news channels, even on BBC

��.Indian underworld Don, Ranjan was killed in a bomb blast in Bangkok early morning today. He was with 2 men, including one Joseph, supposed to be his right hand man. Police suspect the gang of Dubai based don Shafeeq to be responsible for the bombing. The two gangs have a long and bitter history of rivalry�..�

Afsal was elated at the �success�. He dialled the Bangkok number to congratulate his team.

�Hello Babloobhai? Great work, Shafeeqbhai wants to congratulate�.� Afsal stopped and listened carefully for sometime �Okay, Okay, fine. Yes, I�ll tell Bhai�. Yes, you take care.�

�Bhai� said Afsal with bewilderment on his face � Babloo says they didn�t kill him. In fact they have no idea who did it, because it is very difficult to get those types of explosives in Thailand.�

Shafeeq gestured Afsal to leave.


Shafeeq finished his cigarette. He picked up his mobile phone and dialled a number.

�Yes, Rasoolbhai, I have to deposit some money in US dollars in a bank account in Cayman Islands.�


Location: RAW HQ, New Delhi

The Director of RAW, India�s premier intelligence agency, was speaking on the phone to one of his associates. He hung up and took out his diary. It was still 15 minutes before he went home to his grandchildren. He thought he should write some thoughts in his diary like he everyday did.

Emotions wield greater power than men. Fear is one of the most powerful emotions. A gangster builds up his empire on the basis of fear. A terrorist achieves his goals through fear. The death and destruction in the process are just superficial means, but the real motive is to strike fear in your opponent�s heart. That is why a single man can hold a mob of thousands to ransom with just one gun. There is fear in every person�s mind that he will be the one to catch the bullet. Fear can build empire but fear can also destroy empires. For the very man who uses his gun to hold a mob to ransom, himself would most likely be petrified if he were at the receiving end. One who conquers fear is really the brave one, not the one who just strikes fear in others� hearts.

The Director�s phone rang.

�Sir, this is Mr. Kohli from the Finance Department. Someone has deposited 25 million dollars in one of our accounts in the Cayman Islands. Should I approve the receipt of payment?�

�Yes Mr. Sharma, go ahead� the Director said and proceeded to underline the statement he had just written in his diary.

One who conquers fear is really the brave one, and not the one who just strikes fear in others� hearts.