THE GIRL WHO LOVED A SPY (free sample): Heena had always wanted to be a dancer. She knew she was beautiful. The boys in her village had made it easy for her to get this impression. They were always following her, singing songs to impress her, asking her to accompany them to Aligarh to watch movies. Once she realized the perks of being beautiful, her ambition skyrocketed. She would ask her lovers to get her beauty creams, clothes, and cosmetics. In return, she hung out with them and sometimes even allowed them to touch her. Before she was sixteen, Heena had broken off relationships with three boyfriends when she realized they didn’t have any money left to spend on her. Her only requirement was money because with it, she knew, she could stay desirable all her life. She liked getting the attention of men.
When Hakim visited her home and someone told her that he was from Mumbai, she liked him instantly. His age did not matter because he was someone who had money and lived in the right place. She was overcome with the desire to go with him and make a new future. She already loved Mumbai, even though she had never been there. She knew Mumbai had colour, a beautiful sea, and lots of money. When she heard that Hakim had promised her father a sum of ten lakh rupees as meher, she was ecstatic. With that kind of money, she could buy her own house in Mumbai and live happily.
Looking at Hakim’s eyes and seeing the way he looked hungrily at her bosom, she immediately knew what he really wanted. It would be easy. By that point, she had slept with many men. Hakim was her way out, and all she needed to give him in return was her body. She’d married him without any further thought. He would take her to Mumbai with dignity and give her money to be happy. She made up her mind to stay with him for six months. It would be long enough for her to figure out how things worked in Mumbai. After that, she could start dancing in films. Soon, she would be a huge star.
When Heena reached Mumbai, her dreams were shattered. Her rich husband was a pauper here. She had to live in a stinking chawl and share two small rooms with two other women and ten children aged six to eighteen. The women were much older than her and chewed pans endlessly, not talking to her. After winning Hakim’s confidence and becoming his favourite wife, with whom he spent all his nights now, she’d informed him about her plans to dance in the movies and learnt that she couldn’t succeed. No matter how hard she tried to please him, Hakim said he would never give her permission to pursue her dreams. He said: ‘Dancing in the movies is a cheap thing to do.’ That made her dislike Hakim to such a degree that she started thinking of ways to get rid of him.
One afternoon, she met Imran. She had gone to the hand-pump in front of the chawl to fetch water for her bath. He winked at her and she smiled.
Then she walked up to him. ‘Don’t you know that I’m married?’
He laughed. ‘Yes, I know. I’ve watched you from the moment you arrived as a bride six months ago. But I am surprised… what are you doing spoiling your life with a loser like Hakim?’ Imran went on to say that he was twenty-three and had a job that paid him fifty thousand a month. He said she was beautiful and had a great voice. His lips were dry when he said this, and she watched him lick them again and again to keep them moist.
Heena looked at him closely. He had green eyes, a wide jaw, and an athletic, six-foot body. He wore a shirt with its top button open that fell loosely over his blue jeans. His teeth were white when he smiled, and his hands were long and powerful. She wanted to be held in his arms; she wanted to be told that she could be a dancer. ‘I want to be a dancer in the movies. Can you help me?’
Imran smiled. ‘Yes. I know a few people in the film industry. I can talk to them. Yes, we can make you a dancer in the movies.’
That evening, she quietly slipped into his small room and gave herself wholeheartedly to him. She knew he would get addicted to her charm.
* From, "The Girl Who Loved a Spy". To read more, order the latest from here at Rs 150: http://amzn.to/2dEUHRh
"Chapter reveal" from the latest thriller, "The Girl who Loved a Spy.'
Once in his room on the fourteenth floor that overlooked the Colaba bay, Andy thought about his course of action. He had checked in under a false name with the fake identity provided by Kapoor. "Now that they know your name, they might be watching you," he had said in a brief message.
Andy took a ten-minute, therapeutic hot shower, dressed in fresh denim and a white half-sleeved linen shirt, and went to the bar. It was ten-fifty. There were a few men and women speaking rather loudly, laughing at each other’s slightest display of humour. A typical late-night bar scene in any hotel in the world. No one noticed him come in and sit on a stool by the counter except a tired-looking waitress, who smiled at him warmly. He ordered a large 100 Pipers on the rocks instead of his Old Monk rum—a new drink for a new identity.
Andy called Hakim using the new phone that had come with the identity papers. As the phone continued to ring, Andy sipped his whiskey. The call went unanswered, and he decided to try again after a few minutes. While on his third drink, he was finally able to get through to a man who said that he might not be Hakim but was still willing to meet him in Colaba at midnight. He sounded weird on the phone, and Andy sensed the hesitation of a double-cross in his voice and knew he had to be careful.
From the hotel, he walked towards Colaba on the Madame Cama Road, with the local ministers’ houses on his right and the Mantralaya, the state secretariat, on his left. Scores of policemen in khaki walked about, munching vada pavs, their favourite midnight snack. He arrived at Café Royal, opposite the police headquarters in Colaba, at the stroke of midnight. The manager walked him in, and he chose a table for two near the wall. He asked for a cola, careful not to drink too much and risk muddying his senses. Brightly painted portraits of Bill Clinton and Marilyn Monroe looked at him from the wall.
Fifteen minutes later, a man walked into the café and looked around uncertainly.
‘Hakim!’ Andy called out.
The man was about sixty and sported a sparse beard. His forehead was darker, suggesting his accustomed and regular prayers. He was wearing trousers and a t-shirt that was too loose on him, clearly clothes he wasn’t used to. When Andy shook his hand, he realized Hakim’s hand was trembling. It also left his palm wet.
‘You shouldn’t have called my name so loudly.’ He looked constantly at the entrance instead of Andy.
There was a shadow outside, and Andy was quick to realize the danger as Hakim’s mouth opened wide.
Instinctively, Andy punched Hakim hard on the nose. He screamed in reflex. The manager ran towards them, and they were surrounded by waiters within seconds. In all the hullabaloo, one of the waiters tripped and fell, bringing the others crashing down on him like footballers jumping on each other after scoring a goal.
Andy made his way through the heap of bodies as they began scrambling back to their feet and dashed for the entrance. He saw the shadow at a little distance from him. His distance from the entrance told Andy something he already knew—the man was uncertain whether he should run away or watch what happened next. By now, two policemen patrolling nearby were heading for the café.
In the end, seeing Andy rush out, the man decided to run. He was a large man, and Andy was sure he could catch up with him quickly. The man ran towards the High Court, and Andy followed him, closing the distance between them faster and faster.
Suddenly, a car appeared out of nowhere, the man jumped into it, and it dissolved into the night mist as Andy stopped and watched it go, out of breath. It had all happened too quickly for him.
Andy returned to Café Royal. The policemen were asking Hakim questions in a strong Marathi accent. Andy decided to help the poor man, even if it came with the suspicion of a double-cross. Help is help, and Andy knew it should be treated as such. It took him ten minutes to send the policemen away.
‘Who was that man outside?’ Andy asked Hakim after they were alone and the restaurant got back to business once again.
‘I don’t know. But for the last week, I have seen strange people watching me all the time. I’m very scared, sir.’ He sounded like someone who was convinced he wouldn’t survive for long. Andy had been told that Hakim had been helping the police and intelligence agencies for the past ten years. These things came with considerable risks, and Andy felt like Hakim’s time might have run out.
Andy decided to pull the carpet out from under him. ‘Please send your family someplace safe.’ It was a blow for sure. The man’s eyes rolled, and he nearly fainted. He’d just been told that he should prepare to die.
‘I thought the government would eliminate these men.’ He was shaking, the glass of cola exhaling bubbles in front of him sitting untouched.
‘Act brave. If you panic like a pigeon, the cat will pounce on you and eat you. Don’t close your eyes. If you think your life is in danger, their lives are in danger too. And everyone else’s in Mumbai, if our enemies have their way. We have to stop them. Your enemy and the nation’s enemy are the same, Hakim. It is only a question of who strikes first.’
Hakim nodded and finally decided to turn to his cola for relief. He finished it in one go and banged the glass on the table rather noisily. Andy thought the man was getting control of himself and smiled. Time to press for more information. ‘What do you have for me?’
‘What’s that?’ Andy had heard the name from Gulabo and seen it in Kapoor’s evaluation.
‘It’s an unmanned fort on an island about 180 kilometres south of Mumbai.’
‘What’s at Murud?’
‘Explosives, I think.’
Hakim got up after this and left the restaurant as if he’d suddenly remembered something important.
Andy paid for both of them. From the café, he walked to the deserted Gateway of India, a hundred meters away. The air was cooler than he had expected, and he shivered. Mumbai was never cold enough for anyone to wear woollens, but at that moment, late at night, Andy wished he had something warmer on. He watched the ships anchored in the harbour in the distance, their decks brightly lit. Small boats bobbed in and out of the waves, and their lights shimmered. He turned and looked at the Taj hotel with awe. It had been restored after the fire and bombings by terrorists a couple of years back. Now it looked grand, as it always had.
He considered the terrorists who had sailed in fishing boats from Karachi, braving the rough Arabian Sea for three gruelling days, their peanut-sized brains bleached white by a guaranteed seat in heaven. Was it the same people who were now planning to replicate the attack? Sending more brainwashed fools? But fools could do a lot of damage, as they had the previous time.
As a writer and a motivational speaker, I have been speaking at schools and corporate offices for the past few years. It was only recently that someone suggested that I should share my quotes.
"Your quotes," the person said, "have helped many to better manage their personal and professional lives."
I'm humbled. And to tell you the truth, I firmly believe in what I say and live by my thoughts. In this post, I'm sharing these thoughts in a creative format as designed by my team of supporters and friends. Please do share if these resonate deep down.
"There are no winners and losers, just those who tried and those who didn't" -- Kulpreet Yadav
"Dreams don't fail, people do. Try all over again." -- Kulpreet Yadav
"Nobody succeeds, the bar keeps moving up. Doing what you love is the only happiness, the reas success." -- Kulpreet Yadav