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Farewell my friends

When death is in your neighbourhood, staring with macabre glee, I can’t help but succumb to its gravity. Arif Zakaria expresses himself.

entertainment Updated: Dec 05, 2008 20:17 IST

I was planning to write a funny piece, an over the top article using humour as a device to divert the reader’s attention from the happenings of last week. But when death is in your neighbourhood, staring with macabre glee, I can’t help but succumb to its gravity.

Each encounter with death affects. The old embracing their fated end, the diseased getting their deliverance, the suddenness, the rudeness, the inexplicability with which death accosts people around us, is a phenomenon we can never fathom.

From all the images of death glaring from TV channels and the newspapers, nothing stirred my heart, moistened my eyes more than a body lying still in a coffin, the flag a shroud as a mother wept over a flower bedecked corpse of her son in uniform. Two NSG Commandos, Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Gajendra Singh, commonly known as Black Cats, took a bullet in the recent carnage. This is a small tribute to them.

Rare breed
Make no mistake.. there were other men in khaki uniforms, our local policemen, who too were slain in lieu of our service, my deepest sympathies to them. No one deserves this. A life can’t be lost to a misguided bullet.

But the sorrow upon the death of my local policemen is clouded with encounters of brashness, small misdemeanors and plain bribes.

I am a partner in crime with my local policeman. I have bribed him, teased him, lured him and forced him to succumb to the power of greed. I am an abettor in this crime and perhaps the reason for clouding my sorrow upon his death.

But these two commandos, who I knew not, belonged to a rare breed of men in uniform not tainted, bullied, misused by our civilian charms. You can bribe a cop, but try bribing a black cat commando! My sorrow is more heartfelt as I mourn them.

Looking at their dead bodies I wonder what must have transpired in their final moments. Were they lured by the assassins, did they see death lurking behind the majestic portals, or simply put — did they have a job to die for?

Oh, so brave
We all aspire to have a job to die for. A vocation of high position, power, prestige and great material enrichment. But do we save a life, are our actions responsible for the collective good of humanity, can we wipe out fear from a visage when death faces it in all certainty?

Sandeep Unnikrishnan and Gajendra Singh had that job. A job based on raw courage and skills with genuine bravado, the final bonus being death. We survived because they thwarted our death by embracing it first.

The Tatas are benevolent people. They will rebuild the hotel honouring these two NSG commandos by putting their portraits or perhaps an inscription in their historical arches about how one night these black veiled angels came down from heaven, did their job without fuss, needed no acknowledgement not even a glass of water and vanished.

I can’t wait to head back to the Shamiana at the Taj, and order the chef’s special double-decker club sandwich. As I bite into it I will have a solemn moment to remember these men who unlike me, had a job to die for. They were the coolest cats I never knew.

First Published: Dec 05, 2008 17:24 IST