I'm a certified fiction person. I don’t enjoy reading biographies…auto or non. I don't like reading about tragic events and I definitely run away from the all the rise of the phoenix kind of stuff. So why did I pick up a book that epitomizes all that I do NOT read? In a single word… curiosity.
I picked Black Friday up on the same week that Yakub Memon was hanged. The outcry and hue that the media raised after that, was partially responsible for me for picking this one up, and rest of it was because I had given the author a try previously. S. Hussain Zaidi had authored the only other True Crime / Investigative novel I had read in my life…. From Dongri to Dubai. I loved the way he wrote that one. It was informative without being dragging. And it chronicles the underworld of Mumbai in words that is enlightening without raising it to hero-worship like some movies do. Hence, I was in a positive mindset when I picked up Black Friday.
What I did not know when I picked it up though, was that I was about to get myself into a whirlwind of emotions. I'm a Mumbaikar. I’m born and raised in this city. And even after spending months together away from this city, I can never call any other city….Home. At the same time, I'm a Hindu. I might not be devout follower of rituals or idol worship, but I'm a firm believer of the teachings of Hinduism. If there is one thing that I have learned being in this city is that this city keeps all close to her heart. It doesn't matter what religion you belong to, if you are ready to “work”, this city will reward you. Of Course, I know of the horrific things that had come to pass in the city that never sleeps. Though, I was very young when the riots and blasts came to pass, I know this city is not immune to communal disharmony. However I know this city doesn't hold grudges. The city rewards those who work. And no matter how many times the ill-wishers try to make it come to a halt, the city bounces back on her legs.
When you read Black Friday, one thing that kept running through my mind, was that I don’t understand the people behind it all. Anywhere in the world when religious people do heinous crimes in the name of the religion, I find myself cringing. For the life of me, I can’t ever understand the whole “dying for your faith” funda. During the pages when Mr. Zaidi writes about events that led to the blasts, and aftermath of the blasts, I could not really relate to the emotions of those who plotted it all. (I understand I shouldn't relate to them, but…)
The book is scary. For someone like me, who believes in a black and white life…the idea that life could be disturbed and destroyed in a flash of a few mins is scary. As I mentioned earlier, I was very young when the riots and blasts actually happened. Living those moments through the words of Mr. Zaidi was a nerve wrecking experience. The planning, the execution, the brainwashing and work that was put in making the blasts happen, is too complicated for simple words. The feeling that mostly you feel is dread, while marveling at the sheer belief that propelled them to complete such a feat; Relief to know that the plan was to execute these in more than one city, which could not happen. You feel the pain of those who suffered during and after blasts. Those whose lives were changed, those who changed themselves.
The book also brings forward one very overshadowed aspect of the whole deal. Mumbai Police Force. They are blamed, they are cursed. They have been flayed by media and common man. What the book shows is despite what we like to believe, Mumbai Police is a commendable force. Are they super efficient? May be not. Are they on top of the things? May be not always. Are they a force to be reckoned with? May be not that too. But they did, and continue to do an admirable job given the amount of things they had to handle. Urgency of the situation, media pressure, political biases and image in public. Add to that lack of infra and experience. The work that the Mumbai Police did, is nothing less than commendable. The sheer amount of paperwork that Mr. Zaidi had to read (the details are in the epilogue), shows the enormous effort that police had to put in.
What was infuriating was, that even after such an intensive work that Police put, the treatment that this case was given by our judiciary system. The delays, the gimmicks and tactics put in to stretch the time taken for justice…it’s infuriating and very heartbreaking. Whether the time taken is justified? NOPE. Could this have been done faster? More effectively? DEFINITELY YES.
So, coming to the conclusion.
Do I like the book? Yes, and No. Yes, because its informative. No, because it raises wayyyyy too many questions that no one can answer. (Like what makes people die for their faith? How come faith is more important than innocent lives? etc)
Do I recommend the book to others? Yes. For exactly the reason why I don’t like the book, I recommend this to others. These questions need to be raised in minds. Only then, can we stop fighting.