He called himself Sameer, didn’t encourage visitors and limped when he walked.
Three days after 32-year-old Faisal Sheikh was arrested for his alleged role in the 11/7 blasts conspiracy, neighbours at the Bandra (West) building where he’d been living for 10 months remember “an extremely polite boy who was also strangely secretive and went out of his way to avoid the police”.
“About four months ago, a male friend of Faisal’s, apparently a spurned lover, jumped off our terrace and landed on a roof 15 feet below, breaking his foot,” says “70-something” Irene D’Souza, the secretary of Bandra’s Lucky Villa Cooperative Housing Society. “Faisal and a female friend took the boy away in an auto instead of calling in the doctor. They were afraid a doctor would call the police.” He called me “auntyji” and spoke in chaste and very police Hindi, D’Souza adds. “He was a very courteous boy.” Now in the custody of the AntiTerrorist Squad, Sheikh is believed to have been the commander of the LeT’s western India wing.
Yet, for someone who allegedly received lakhs from its Pakistani headquarters every month, he was strangely preoccupied with money.
“He was always complaining that his electricity bills were too high,” says D’Souza. “In fact, he hasn’t paid the last two months’ bills.” The few neighbours who ever saw the inside of Sheikh’s one-room terraced flat number 24 say it was sparsely furnished, with just a TV and two cots. “The only time Faisal was curt or brusque was if someone tried to enter his cocoon,” says neighbour Bernin (25).
His only visitors were a young man and a woman with a scar on her right hand — both are currently being sought by the police — with whom he often smoked and had animated discussions.
“We saw Faisal about thrice a day,” says Bernin. “At 10 am, he would get his tea and meals from a caterer, leave at 5.30 pm on his Pulsar and return home, sometimes in the company of male friends. He always wore brown cap, jeans and white kurta” He would only talk when it was unavoidable, adds D’Souza.
“Usually just to get his elec tricity bill and ask if I could turn the water on because he need to fill up a bucket or two.”