Chapter 5

Written by: Nishant Kaushik


In the ICU, a text flashed on an unconscious Akshay’s phone. Rahul seethed as he read his sister’s cry for help. Deciding a text response would just not cut it, he returned the call.

‘You bet something’s not right,’ he said. ‘Appa once told me you and I were not cut from the same cloth because Amma and he were chalk and cheese. I now understand what he meant!’ The gunfire in the backdrop provided a necessary distraction. ‘What in the name of God?’

‘Rahul,’ Shweta trembled. ‘You are shortchanged for time to tell us how much you detest us.’

‘I am on my way now,’ his voice broke. He had turned on the television in the room. The news flash sting-rayed him.

‘Don’t,’ she replied. ‘But believe me – I have wronged none of you. Remember these words, in case words are all that stay when the morning arrives.’


At the floor manager’s instructions, the ballroom had been stuffed with a group of twenty petrified guests. The smell of dread and death filled the air. In a corner, shorn of his aura in this sour moment of truth, sat Swaminathan cuddled with his sister. ‘Do you remember what I told you every time you came sobbing to me after being caned by Appa?’ He held her hand to comfort them both. ‘Beside you like a rock.’

Across the floor, Salim and Aditya sat with their knees scrunched up against their torsos. Word was doing the rounds that help was on its way.

‘What is the one thing you’d ask for if you were to make it out alive?’ Aditya whispered.

Salim’s gaze seared him. ‘The what lies in the why am I here. You?’

Almost waiting to be asked, Aditya shot back. ‘To not let you make it out alive.’

‘In pursuit of what ultimate goal?’ Salim chuckled.

‘Of being a hero to my father.’

Hours later hushed whispers prompted the survivors to exit through the rear of the building in a single file. Behind a posse of policemen that had formed a shield, anxious relatives and onlookers held their breath. Looking over his shoulder, Aditya dragged Salim and Shweta off the sea-face and into a dark alley that led into nowhere.

‘Run for your lives,’ he pushed them into the darkness. ‘Thank me later.’

As the couple gasped for words, Aditya asked. ‘Salim, does this make me a hero?’

Salim struggled to fight back tears. ‘Every inch a hero.’ And they fled into the deathly night.

The doves did not turn, but the hawk was snapping at their heels.




This chapter captures the energy and chaos really well. It also opens up the possibility of hope for Shweta. Great chapter Nishant.