I read books for the sheer fun of it and at times they do teach me so many life lessons by the stories that I develop a solid connect with. And then there comes along a book totally unknowingly as a surprise and refreshes the memory of a haunting dream I used to get long back. The book in question came as a surprise gift from a very dear friend and it covers the two deadly nights from our part of the world. First was the night of Bhopal Gas Tragedy (1984) whereas the second night covers the Babri Masjid Demolition (1992). Fortunately my dad had a tiff with his dad and he walked out of the ancestral home in Bhopal (Bairagarh precisely) in the summer of 1984 and as the tragedy stuck on the fateful night of Dec 2nd 1984, everyone in the family was relieved as he was posted with State Bank of India Chola Rd branch in Bhopal before moving out. Although we were not there or anywhere close during the fateful night and didn’t lose any family members or friends due to distance but the real time horror stories were so haunting that I always dreamed myself standing on a railway over bridge (Chetak in MP Nagar) over looking a railway track with a huge ditch dug out on the left side open ground and dozens of dead people are being burnt in it. Even in the official records of Bhopal City administration it is mentioned that they did burnt 100s of bodies with no records and 100s were buried in common graves without any knowledge who they were. How and why they decided to burn the few and bury others is beyond anyone’s imagination. As I grew up the frequency of haunting dream subsided but I guess the next few nights will be tough on me as the book and the story is going to take a toll on me for sure.
The book not only made me speechless but touched my heart big time deep down somewhere I find it very hard to explain. Story of a Hindu Doctor and a Muslim man who face the two fateful nights in the City of lakes. How their paths cross not once but twice as they come so close to death, how they dodge or face or embrace it is the story all about, which choked me big time, tears rolled down my cheeks with a huge lump in my throat which refused to subside hours after I finished the book. As far as I know of anyone with any connection with the city of Bhopal, the Gas tragedy is engraved in our hearts for life. Imagine the situation of a Doctor who is about to perform an Autopsy on a patient who suddenly moves shocking him by being alive on the operation table. Or the situation of a blind man (due to tragedy) who has no idea where his loving wife is, or his twin daughters when they don’t even find their bodies, never sure if they are dead or alive. Or a kid who loses his entire family in the course of one night due to no fault of their own. Unbelievable. And this is just one story that the Author talks about here, there were thousands who faced the same dilemma. Or the second fateful night wherein one political party created a huge rift between two sects of the society which will never get filled in any near future. Unfortunately I witnessed that night as well as the following month stuck in Bhopal with my Dad while the entire town was curfew-ed for quite a few days. The story refreshed all those memories of us eating Potatoes with whatever else we could gather from our neighbors during those days of struggle but how the old town suffered due to the divide was sheer heart break and unbelievably sad as covered by the Author in this fictional (I hope) story.
Unfortunately I had to travel out of town while I was reading this book and the four hour train journey I took both ways, it was quit a challenge to read it in the moving train sitting in a chair-car. Every page will choke me up and I will put down the book to control my emotions and stay normal being in full public view and again I will grab it as the story is so engrossing as my mind will keep asking me “What happened next?”. The book is simply unputdownable with so much hope and inspiration it gives that all is not yet lost after-all. The way it ends, Kudos to Dr. Pradeep Kapoor for the same. I totally loved it, it went beyond my expectations, you have to read to know how and what he does with the story.
Since I was born and brought up in Bhopal it was such a delightful experience to read it. What amazed me and made me super happy was that he didn’t use any fictional names of the places, restaurants, theaters, roads, hospitals and all that. As the characters moved from one place to another, I could actually visualize it all in my brain and it was a terrific experience. My family is living in Bhopal since 1940’s and we still have our ancestral home back in the town, which we keep visiting a few times a year without fail. As I will be going back to the home town come November, the whole thing will come gushing back this time in my memory I believe. Also, I am planning to gift and share the book with my other Bhopali friends who are unaware still as what this book is based on.
Have you read “A Tale of Two Nights”? if not, you have to read this without fail. Although it may be a fictional account but I believe no story can come any closer to what happens in those two nights in the city. It is a must read for all even if you have no connection with the happenings. A beautiful story of hope and survival, friendship and relations, it will now be etched in my memory for life.