The newsreader at the prime time TV channel adjusted his voice and announced in a grave tone, ‘In another suspected case of a jihadist attack, a suicide bomber blew up at a crowded market in the Kuwaiti town of Salmiya, leaving nine dead and over thirty injured. The deceased include two Indians – Raju Chatterjee, a native of Sainthia village of West Bengal, and George Jacob, hailing from Alappuzha, Keralam…’
Born to Catholic parents, George had a childhood rooted in Christianity and Jesus Christ. He used to spend his spare time at the church rather than at home because it amazed him and also because he felt his love devoid house suffocating. Whenever his parents fought, he would clutch his rosary and pray for miracles. His mom and dad separated in due time, and George’s life was a misery since then. As life posed tough questions before him, his faith started waning away gradually. He no longer believed in miracles, started doubting the existence of God, and questioned concepts of afterlife and soul. His friends labeled him an atheist, although he was agnostic.
George reached Kuwait through an acquaintance and was recruited by Sultan Center, a major retailer. His job primarily included driving the company pickup van to different farms and markets to procure commodities. Life was quite. On the eventful day, he had driven to the Salmiya market to take stock.
Everything was normal when George heard a loud boom, and before he knew his life had come to a halt. Soon enough, his soul departed from his shattered body and was led into an upward journey. The soul stopped when it reached an imposing castle bound by a massive door. Knock. The door was opened, and the soul was lead to a well-decorated inner chamber. The soul could see someone seated there.
“You may enter.” A voice announced. The soul entered.
“I am Chitragupta, and here we shall evaluate your deeds on Earth and decide on your fate.” Saying this, he started looking into the stack of records before him.
After some serious introspection, Chitragupta spoke, “This was your fifth life on Earth. The first life was that of a snake, a parrot came next, and then you were a horse. You first attained the form of human in your fourth birth, and you were a peasant woman from Mongolia. And in your previous birth, you were a male born in India. Your karma from these five lives have been carefully evaluated, and you are deemed fit for salvation. No more rebirths for you.”
George Jacob, the young atheist from Kerala thus attained moksha and was now a part of God.
Raju Chatterjee was a typical Bengali Brahmin. He was compassionate, always lending a hand to the needy. Raju was a strict vegetarian, for he firmly believed that all animals and birds and even fish had souls, and it was wrong to kill them. Also, he was an ardent believer of Lord Ganesh. Raju Chatterjee eked out a living by giving students classes in Mathematics and Sanskrit, and he served as a priest in the nearby Durga Devi temple. The meager income from tuition was enough to sustain him during his youth days, but things changed as he married and had kids.
Forced by circumstances, he was forced to leave his beloved homeland behind and migrate to Kuwait, where he was employed as a Mathematics teacher at the Indian Public School, Salmiya. Though far from home, he did not let go his faith and way of life. He would spend his leisure time after work reading and explaining the Gita to housewives and children of the few Hindu families who lived in the vicinity.
Mr. Chatterjee was at the local market to buy provisions when he felt a sharp pain on his left knee. Soon, the market drowned in heart-wrenching shrieks of horror and cries for help. Blood was everywhere. The shattered palm of a little kid was the last horrifying sight seen by him before he breathed his last.
Munkar and Nakeer, the angels of death, visited him. Despite the blood and gore all around, the Nakirains were a terrifying image with their body in black and blue-black eyes that are unusually large. They started asking questions.
“Who is your Lord?” “What is your religion?” “Who is your prophet?”
And to all those questions he could only answer “O what a pity for I do not know”.
Raju Chatterjee was condemned to eternal hell as he was a non-believer.
Othman Ashfaq Hamdan had reached the marketplace of Salmiya well before noon. He lingered quietly, observing the locality. His religious attire belied his hideous motives. People who passed failed to notice a time-triggered explosive tightly strapped around his waist.
Ashfaq was an orphan boy born in Syria and was brought up by a group of strange men in Kuwait. Right from a tender age, he was taught that his duty was to fight the holy war for Allah. They told him that those who did not follow the words of God ought to be punished. They trained him with rifles and bombs and promised him he would enter heaven for taking up God’s work.
What they did not tell him was that Islam was a religion of peace. They hid the fact that physical jihad was only to be used as a last resort for self-defense, and never to be used against harmless civilians.
They had manipulated him well, and on the agreed day at the agreed hour, he prepared himself to go up in flames for what he believed was his duty. He was glad and prepared to enjoy the pleasures of heaven. He went up in flames, and nothingness prevailed.
Death was the only reality, and it had embraced Ashfaq.