As my father sipped his morning coffee and glanced at the newspaper headlines, a chill ran down his spine. He just thought about the shootout at the Mumbai High Court premises and the miraculous escape he had just the previous day.
My father worked for a department of Government of India in Mumbai. We had been living in the Central Government staff colony at Antop Hill near Sion for about two decades with lots of friends for company. Even now, I am in touch with some of them on social networking sites. People in the colony shared a special bond and we used to have wonderful get-togethers. Youngsters used to look forward to the Sunday inter-building cricket matches. The colony had become an integral part of our lives.
One fine day, my dad announced that he had been posted in a different government department on deputation which would fetch him better rewards and higher remuneration. His office informed him that he would have to vacate the residential quarters and move to the quarters of the other department where he was posted on deputation.
This was a big blow to me. If we shifted, it would disturb my academics in the middle of the academic year. I would have to change my school in the middle of the year. Also, at that time, my mother was undergoing medical treatment in a nearby hospital. Shifting our residence meant she would have to come down all the way from Anushakthi Nagar in Chembur to Antop Hill. My mother came up with a solution. She told my father to seek the advice of his boss and tell him that we needed an extension of stay in the present quarters. His boss, however, informed my dad it’s possible only on medical grounds and that too, for only a few months.
My father also learnt from the administration department officials that an application had to be made to the authorities concerned, duly supported by medical certificate attested by a notary public. Further, he would have to pay the rent in advance to retain the quarters.
My father filled the application form and obtained the medical certificate and other supporting documents. But he had to get the medical certificate attested. So, he went to the Mumbai high court near his office in search of a notary public. On that particular day, a goon — as one of the witnesses — was being brought to the court. It was reported that he had turned approver in a criminal case. Someone, who was against his becoming an approver, had sent a few gangsters to eliminate him in court itself. Those armed gangsters were waiting within the court premises, leaning behind a pillar for the arrival of the police van.
The police van approached the spot where the prisoner was to alight. As soon as the vehicle halted, bullets rained from the other end of the court premises. People ran helter-skelter. Lawyers in their long black gowns and heavy files in hand managed to duck down.
My father also ran but tripped and fell. He was close to the line of fire and one bullet grazed past his shoulder. Luckily, a Good Samaritan pulled my father into a room and shut the door immediately. And within a fraction of a second, some bullets were piercing the door. My dad had a miraculous escape. But for that stranger, who pulled him inside the room, God knows what would have happened. He thanked the stranger profusely for saving his life. An unknown stranger, who didn’t run away at the first sound of bullets, risked his own life to save a fellow human being! Rarely, do you come across such people who make a world of difference to the society.