CountDown : Start of Journey

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Chapter 4 – Life

Pradeep herded everyone out of the room. He told them that Samprit had called him on August 10 from an unknown number and told him that he was in Kochi. He had asked him to arrange a flight ticket for him. Pradeep had picked him up from Delhi Airport in his present condition and requested many times that Samprit allow him to take him to the hospital, but he refused. He then decided to call the doctor here. Samprit refused to share any other details with the family, but he did promise to call Goyal to the house and inform him of the developments the very next day.

Gurmit Sodhi got very emotional after listening to all this, worried for her son. She wanted him to continue this job, but she also wanted him to be safe.

The same night, she was sitting in the backyard, remembering her husband, Gurvinder Singh, when Samprit came there to take a walk and saw her. He asked her what she was doing there this late. He understood that she was worried for him, as he saw tears in her eyes; so, he sat beside her and put his head on her lap. She started to stroke his head gently, running her hands through his hair, relaxing Samprit.

Samprit asked, “Mom, how was dad in his job? Did he ever feel that he should resign from this job and start to live a normal life?”

Gurmit replied, “I don’t know how he was in his job, good or bad, but he did feel he should leave this job, and not once, but many times. Once he also gave a resignation letter. But Simrat Sodhi, your dadi, told him that, Followers of Guru Govind Singh never step back from their work, and he is doing work to protect his followers. He will never let him down,’ and that he should continue the job, no matter how much difficulty comes around.”

“And how did you control yourself when you got news about him?”

“I was not able to. Your dadi had died just a year before. She was my mother-in-law, but she always treated me like her daughter, sometimes even better. I was even not able to recover from that, then and I got the news about him. You and Simrat both were old, but not old enough to handle this. I was alone. I needed to handle you both and myself at the same time. It was your dadi’s blessing which helped me recover from all these things. And your nani whose advice to came here provided me a new home. Remember that everyone’s blessing is with you.”

“I don’t know, mummy. Every time it’s like we are close and then, kaboom, we are back at zero.”

“And you start again, and that’s the thing that matters more than anything else.”

“Maybe! But it won’t stop the attacker. We need to stop them soon.”

“And maybe God doesn’t want to. Samprit, you are doing your best; the attackers are doing their best, and god is doing everyone’s best. Believe in him and keep going.”

Gurmit left the backyard after a while, while Samprit stayed there for the whole night, thinking.

******

August 12, 2020

Goyal, Radhika, Anand, Raj, and Jatin arrived at Samprit’s house and settled in the room where Samprit was resting. Simrat bought tea and snacks for everyone. Goyal asked him what happened after he and Rahim got off the cruise.

Samprit, without answering the question, asked him instead, “Sir, who advised you to make Rahim part of your plan?”

Goyal, shocked, replied, “Why would anyone suggest his name? He is a great officer, and I selected him on my own because he had the quality to be part of this mission. Why are you asking all this? Tell us what happened to you.”

“On August 6, after getting off the cruise ship, we swam in the opposite direction until the cruise disappeared in the dark. Then we opened the lifeboat. We started paddling the boat in another direction. Rahim took an emergency bag along with him during the escape. We both were tired, and he offered me food from the bag. There were a few beer bottles and packed food. After eating it, I felt like there was something wrong with the food. I got unconscious. I don’t remember what happened at night, but when I woke up in the morning, I was tied up. I asked Rahim what he was doing, but he did not reply. He was just paddling the boat. I was not able to understand what was happening. I screamed a lot, and after around an hour, he said, ’Silence, pin-drop silence! I was like, what the hell was wrong with him?”

Samprit started to feel the pain as he shared the story.

Rahim asked, “Why are you screaming? No one’s here to listen to you. I will respond when I want to.”

Samprit replied, “But why are you doing all this? What’s wrong with you?”

“What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with you? Someone told you to run away, and you ran. I don’t believe you. Told me you identified me.”

“What are talking about? Sanjay told us to escape, and you also agreed with that. And what do you mean, I identified you?”

“You are a fool. You really believed that Sanjay was your batch mate?”

“Sanjay was my batch mate.”

“Ok! Enough. Let me tell you everything. I am the partner of the man who called you and warned you about this attack. My real name is Sahid. You will get to know more about me later. So, we are three members. You know two, and the third is a girl. The man who warned you was Samir, and the girl is Pusti. So, after giving you a warning, we started to take steps. As you are aware, the 7 people shown dead in the Kashmir valley blast were not dead. They were kidnapped, and they were not even there. We arranged for 7 dead bodies there before the blast. And as the faces were badly damaged in the blasts, a police officer tried to generate a face through AI. We hacked the server and inserted those 7 people’s photos. Later, with the help of Milan, we smuggled them to Musharraf. All those 7 are dead. Yes, I am a para commando. You will get to know from how long we are planning all this and how huge all this is. For now, I will drop you at Fuvahmulah island. From there, you need to find your way to India. On August 15, we will send you a letter at your father’s retirement house, sharing how we did all this.”

Rahim dropped Samprit there and left. It was a deserted island. Samprit didn’t have anything along with him. He didn’t know what to do. He started walking towards the east. It took a day for him to find people. He was very tired, and he got sunburn and got wound in different areas of his body. Local people were not able to understand him due to language problems, but a tourist guide helped him a lot. Somehow, he got on a boat from there to Kochi on August 10 and called Pradeep to arrange a flight ticket for him.

Everyone was quiet after listening to all this for around 10 minutes. Goyal broke the silence by saying, “So, we need to wait 3 days to know more.”

Samprit replied, “Yes.”

Anand, to lighten the mood, said, “I have a plan. Since we have 3 days, and Samprit and Radhika both are back, we can organize a party here. The house is beautiful and the time is to relax, and we can’t get a better time than this.”

Simrat agreed and said, “It’s a great plan; we should have a get together on August 14.”

Everyone thought it could help everyone, especially Samprit and Radhika, to keep the trauma aside and enjoy a few moments of life, so they agreed.

They invited their family, friends, and colleagues to the party. Simrat and Radhika were in charge of decoration and food, and Pradeep, Anand and Raj were handling the invitations, music, and other things.

******

August 14, 2021

The backyard was very well decorated; a food stall was present at the back along with a small bar beside it. A stage was also installed aside. A band of 3 people were playing soft music. Everyone was talking very softly. It was more like a formal gathering than a party. But it was beautiful. Radhika and Samprit were sitting to one side, discussing something. It was a great night for everyone, a few moments away from their daily chaotic life. Gurmit was happy to see Radhika and Samprit together again. They all enjoyed the food and drinks. At around one at night, the pairs started couple dancing. Then there was some free dance, and at around 3, one by one, they all started to leave.

Goyal, Raj, Anand, Jatin and Radhika were staying there. They all wanted to read the letter.

******

August 15, 2021

All were watching the flag hoisting at DD Nation when the postman dropped the letter at the gate without any information. Simrat was going to the kitchen when she saw that someone’s outside. She went to the door to look, but till then, the postman was gone. She saw the letter, picked it up, went to the kitchen, picked up the tray of tea for everyone, and then went to the living room where everyone was sitting. She told everyone that someone dropped the letter at the gate. Samprit switched off the television and snatched the letter from her. He opened it and started to read. Goyal asked him to read the letter loudly.

“Good morning and Happy Independence Day to all. I know you all were eagerly waiting for this letter, and finally, the letter is in your hand. We are three members. The man who warned you is Samir aka me, the man you all met was Sahid aka Rahim, and one girl, Pusti. Yes, I lied that we killed 7 people in the Kashmir valley blast. Leave it and let’s move forward. After smuggling them to Musharraf, I warned you all about this attack. I was sure that Goyal sir would choose Rahim, as he was the best officer he could get. Rahim is my younger brother. He was a para commander before this attack. As you all were working to find suspects, I was creating suspects. I ordered rosary peas in the name of Afridi; he was your first suspect. Later, I warned Milan to tell Musharraf to kill the girl he bought from him. He was your second suspect. I was unaware of Radhika. But when you spent your whole day there, I found her. She was not harmful to me, even though she helped me unknowingly. She provided you with the list which created the wrong victim list for you. My victims were the other 6. Before you went to Sanjay to ask for help, Rahim went to him to warn him. He moved the millionaires to the suites, which helped me a lot. When you all were providing security, Rahim went to the bilge of the cruise and inserted carbon monoxide in the ventilation pipe. I hope you all know about carbon monoxide. All 6 millionaires died within a few hours. He went back, killed Musharraf and the security guard, and injured himself. Ah, yes, the security guard. He was a moron. He was working for me when he was caught in Mumbai. But after that, he betrayed me. He changed his master. I told him I will help him to escape, but he refused. And I took my revenge.

I did what I told I would. I hope now you understood who was overconfident. Anyway, let do this one more time, which may be the last time. But, for sure, this is something huge. Honestly, we need time for this. November 12, 2023, everyone would be enjoying Diwali with firecrackers, but along with firecrackers, other things will also explode. We are ready with the plan, but still, it will take time. Until then, goodbye!”

Samprit looked up from the letter and said, “What the… what are they up to? What are they trying to prove?”

Goyal replied, “They are not trying to prove anything. They are using us. He said that he wants to give us a chance, but he is sharing all this so he could use us. He is way too smart than we thought.”

Anand said, “But what should we do now? 2 years is a long time. We can’t wait till then!”

Samprit replied, “We need not to. We should avoid them. Goyal sir is right, they are using us. If we don’t interfere, he won’t be able to execute his plan successfully. Let them do whatever they want. We will try to figure out their plan but will not take any action until it’s very necessary.”

Goyal commented, “Hmm! You have a point. I have a suggestion. What if you and Radhika start to do the paperwork at the office? It will give you both time to solve the case, and time for each other. You both can even take vacations in between.”

Pradeep said, “It’s a good idea. If things go right, you both can end up marrying.”

Anand said, “He’s got a point.”

Samprit replied, “I will think about it and will let you know. For now, I am on leave till August 20. I will come to the office on 21st and will share my thoughts about this.”

For the next five days, Samprit tried to enjoy time with his mother. But eventually, he was not able to keep the warning aside. He also went on 2 days of holiday with the whole family. He enjoyed it, but he still was not able to forget about the warning. Every time he tried to avoid the warning, something happened which reminded him of the warning.

******

August 21, 2021

RAW Headquarters, Delhi

Everyone was happy for seeing Samprit back in the office. Many greeted him with an exuberant “Welcome Back, Samprit!” He felt happy and guilty at the same time by seeing all this. He thanled everyone for their greeting and moved to Goyal’s cabin.

Samprit said, “Good morning, sir.”

Goyal replied, “Morning, Samprit. What did you think about the desk job?”

“Sir, I am ready for that, but I have a condition. If anytime it feels like I should be back in the field, you will instantly promote me.”

“Of course I will. Since Samir mentioned November 12, 2023, as the date of the blast, we will need you at that time.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Samprit left the cabin and visited Anand and Raj. They greeted each other and discussed Samprit’s new job. Anand told him that Radhika had started desk work from the 16th itself, and she was doing pretty well. She had been completing her job within a few hours and then left the office to roam in the streets.

“I don’t know what she is trying to do. But I am telling you, you both are very lucky to get time for yourself.”

“Let’s ask sir to give us some personal time as well,” Raj said.

Anand replied, “You are kidding, right?”

“Obviously. At least we have an excuse for going home late–we are busy at work. But you won’t. You and Radhika are not married yet, so, enjoy the time. Once you get married, after a year, you will try to be in office as long as possible,” Raj said.

Anand said, “True that.”

Samprit said, “Maybe! But I hope it doesn’t happen to me.”

Samprit left and went to Radhika.

Samprit spoke, “So, this will be our new location.”

Radhika replied in the affirmative and hugged him.

Samprit continued, “So, I got to know that you are roaming in the streets of Delhi.”

Radhika replied, “Yeah! Work is pretty simple; so, I complete it within few a few hours. To escape from daily life, I visit the streets of Delhi. I click some pictures and write about them on a blog.”

“Blog?”

“Yes, wait for a second.”

She opened the website to show her blogs to him. While she was showing the blogs, she said, “I have written very few blogs, as I started just a few days back.”

“Can I write for this blog?”

“Of course, you can.”

Samprit and Radhika started to explore Delhi on the same day. He shifted in the Villa and started spending quality time with the family, especially with his mother. Every day, he learned something from her. His blog with Radhika started to gain an audience after Pradeep gave their blog a shout out. They explored Delhi for about 3 months, visiting different streets, tourist attractions, street foods areas, and expensive hotels. They started to explore different cities after gaining an audience, like Gurgaon, Noida, Sonipat, Meerut, Mathura, Chandigarh, and Agra.

Samprit started to enjoy this lifestyle. They took holidays in between to explore these places. They completed their work very fast to escape from the office. The year seemed to pass in a second for them. Goyal sir was happy for Samprit but was worried as he started to neglect the work and research about those three.

******

October 14, 2022

RAW Headquarters, Delhi

In the office of Y.S Goyal

Goyal said, “Samprit, I am happy that you are enjoying the time. But you have stopped your investigation.”

“Sorry, sir!” Samprit apologized.

“No need to apologize. A year has passed, and we have a year left. I know that we won’t take any action, but still, we need to find something about them. We only know about Sahid, as he was a para commando, and I was able to get a few pieces of information, but we still don’t know what they are up to.”

“I know, sir, but earlier I was not able to avoid all this, but slowly and gradually, when I was able to, I started to neglect all this completely. I promise that I will start the investigation”.

“Samprit, don’t take this the wrong way, but the thing is that you are not able to balance two things at the same time. Once you start to do one thing, you keep the second thing completely aside. But try to balance two things this time. It will help you a lot.”

“Ok, sir! I will give it my best.”

Goyal gave Samprit the dossier on Rahim. Samprit flipped through it. Rahim studied till high school at Delhi Public School, Delhi. It was mentioned that he was an orphan and was staying in an orphanage. He completed his graduation from IIT Roorkee in 2013 in Computer Science. He joined the army in 2014 and was selected in the Para Commando division in 2017. He was one of the best officers India could have.

Samprit planned to visit the orphanage in the evening. He left the cabin with documents. He contacted the IIT Roorkee administration for the details of Rahim and came to know that he was the best student IIT Roorkee ever had. He had won many National and International competitions in the computer field. He was also offered a 25-crore package in an MNC without any interview, but he refused the offer and choose the army as his profession.

Samprit visited the orphanage in the evening with Radhika. When they entered the office of the orphanage, there were 3 photos on the wall. One was of Rahim, and they were sure the other two were Samir and Pusti. Samprit, without asking anything about Rahim, asked about the photo to the sir present there. The sir replied that the girl is Samira, and the two boys are Rahim and Rasvik. The sir asked them if he could help them with anything. Samprit replied that they want to know everything about them. Sir asked them to sit, as it would take time. He also asked one of the peons to bring tea for them.

He started by saying, “It was 2002 when they first visited the orphanage. They just wanted a roof to stay in and a guardian for school admission. We told them we have a school facility in the orphanage itself. But they wanted to study in DPS. They arranged fees for the school by themselves. Rasvik got admitted in class 9th, Samira in 8th, and Rahim in 7th. Rasvik and Rahim were brothers, and Samira was their neighbour in Kashmir. They were staying in Kashmir before. They lost their parents in a blast, and since then, they were staying here. We don’t know from where they arranged money, but along with paying their fee, they also donated a good amount to the orphanage. They were very good in academics as well as sports. But they never made friends. Doesn’t matter what the condition was, they always stayed together. After completing 12th, Rasvik and Samira went to Dubai to complete their graduation, and Rahim got selected in IIT Roorkee. They come here during vacations. But one day, Rasvik and Samira were caught having physical relations. Since children are also staying here, we requested them to not get involved in any such activity in an orphanage. But the news spread like fire in the orphanage. Not willingly, we requested them to leave the orphanage. Without making any excuses, they left the orphanage. But still they send donations to us every six months, along with a letter. We are very lucky to have such children. We don’t know where they are, what they are doing in life, but we always pray for them.”

Samprit and Radhika took a tour of the orphanage and then left. While on the way, Samprit got an idea. He told Radhika that during the introduction of the mission, Rahim told that his family stayed in Bhopal and he had a son aged five, to which she replied that they should visit Bhopal and cross-check. Maybe they could get a lead. They both went to the office instead of the house. They rushed towards Goyal sir’s cabin and asked about the same.

Goyal replied, “I checked about that. The information was false. What did you come to know about the other two?”

Samprit replied, showing him the photo of all three, “These are the three we are looking for. This one is Samir aka Rasvik, and we know this one is Sahid aka Rahim, and this one is Pusti aka Samira. Their birthplace is Kashmir. They shifted to Delhi in 2002. Samir and Pusti completed their graduation in Dubai while Sahid in IIT Roorkee. Maybe Samir and Pusti were in love because they were caught while having intercourse in the orphanage. One thing I find strange is that they still send donations to the orphanage, including a letter, but no address or anything is mentioned in the letter.”

“They knew that we would reach the orphanage for inquiry; hence, they didn’t mention any address.”

“I got that, but why are they donating after leaving the orphanage?”

“May be emotions!”

“May be!”

“What are you going to do next?”

“Sir, I wanted a 2-week leave. Radhika and I are thinking to visit the Maldives.”

“For investigation or trip?”

“Both.”

“Ok! You can. Join back from November 1st.”

“Yes, sir.”

Samprit and Radhika left the office and went to the villa to share the news. Gurmit was on a holy trip for 3 months, so they informed Pradeep and Simrat about their trip. They booked the ticket for October 16th from Delhi to Maldives on a Go Air flight. Departure time from Delhi was 8 in the morning, while the landing time at Maldives was noon. They booked hotels and arranged a vehicle online.

******

On October 16th, they reached the hotel at around 1′o clock. They checked in and freshened up. Then they enjoyed the evening at the hotel and planned to start the trip the next day. The next day, they went sightseeing and also enrolled in a scuba diving program. They got trained for 3 days, and then they were taken for scuba diving. They enjoyed it a lot. A week passed in enjoyment. Further, they went to Fuvahmulah island for investigation. They showed a picture of all the 3 suspects to everyone and asked about them. No one knew anything about them. After 5 days, it was the last day when they asked an old man about them, and he responded that he had seen them. He took them to a house and told them that last year they had stayed here for about a month. They both went inside and tried to find clues. The house was in ruins. Everything was broken and messy. They looked everywhere but were unable to find anything. While leaving the house, Radhika got her eyes on a paper. She took the paper and tried to read that. Sentences were not clear. She showed the paper to Samprit, but he was also not able to understand that. They took the paper along with them. They went to Kochi through a boat and then back to Delhi by flight.

They were back on duty from November 1st. On the first day itself, Samprit visited Goyal sir’s cabin to show the paper. Goyal sir tried to read the paper but was not able to. He used different methods like keeping the paper in light, using fire. Then he used water colors, and found that the paper was partially written in invisible ink and partially in regular ink. Also, it was in Morse code. He told him that he needed a day or more to crack the Morse code. It took a week for him to crack the code. He called both to his office. He told them they were trying to write a blackmail letter to someone, the letter which they had brought was a trial letter, and hence, they threw it. They were trying to blackmail some.

Samprit said, “But this information is useless until we find whom they are trying to blackmail.”

Radhika added, “So, what should we do next?”

Goyal replied, “For now, leave this and try to find something more about them. Eventually, it will lead us to the target.”

They both left the cabin and started again. They completed desk work, then visit the streets and at late night tried to find something about them. Time passed, but they got nothing. Gurmit returned at the end of December. After returning, first thing she asked them was whether they were ready for marriage? Samprit responded that they are not sure for now. She said that during the trip she met a saint. She showed the kundali of both to the saint, and he told her that 14 September, 2023 was an auspicious day for marriage.

Samprit said, “But we can’t be sure. Because the date is very near to the attack date.”

Gurmit replied, “Maybe that’s all the more reason to…”

Radhika said, “Aunty, we are ready.”

Samprit said, “Radhika!”

Radhika asked, “Aunty, can Samprit and I talk in private for a minute?”

Gurmit replied, “Of course, dear!”

Radhika said, “Samprit, please come with me.”

They both went to his room.

Radhika asked, “What’s your problem? Are you not ready to marry or are you worried that marriage will disturb our work?”

Samprit replied, “None of them. I am worried because the date of marriage is very close to the attack date.”

“That’s the reason I agreed with the date. You only told us that we should avoid them until it’s very necessary. This is the best way we can avoid them.”

“But what if something very necessary comes up?”

“We are not sure, and we can’t avoid marriage for a reason we are not sure about.”

Samprit thought for a while and then agreed, with the condition that if something came up, they would postpone the marriage. Radhika agreed with him. They gave the news to the family. Everyone was happy that finally after a long time, something good was happening in the family. Pradeep and Simrat congratulated them and wished them a happy life.

Gurmit got so excited that she started to plan the wedding from the day itself. She asked Simrat to help her, who agreed to help, as she was excited too. Pradeep asked Samprit that if they could talk for a second. They both went to the backyard.

Pradeep asked, “Again, congratulations. I want to talk about the blogs you and Radhika work on. Recently, you both wrote on the Maldives, and it attracted a huge audience. Some of my friends suggested that it could be great for your blogs if you start to explore other countries too. You could start with nearby countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and…”

Samprit replied, “Bangladesh! Pradeep, please excuse me.”

He rushed to Radhika.

Samprit asked, “Radhika, earlier you told us that Ahmad Sarif was caught in Mumbai as a spy.”

Radhika replied, “Yes, so?”

“And in the letter, Samir said that Ahmad used to work for him.”

“What the…”

“He shared all information with the investigating officer. I want that information.”

“I need to contact Kashis sir for that.”

“Ask him to send the information as soon as possible.”

She called Kashis and asked for the same. He replied that as soon as he got the file, he would mail it to her.

She told Samprit to wait for a few days, as it would take time to get the information.

Radhika said, “Don’t share this information with anyone for now. Let’s wait for confirmation and will see what to do next.”

Samprit replied, “Of course.”

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