20- 20 VIEW OF 26/ 11

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - BOOKS - Lit­tle Ya­dav

Be­fore I be­gin this re­view, I have to ad­mit that I am not a big fan of S Hus­sain Zaidi. His two pre­vi­ous books, Black Fri­day and Mafia Queens of Mum­bai, started off well, but as you con­tin­ued, the books be­came repet­i­tive. How­ever, Zaidi’s last two books, Don­gri to Dubai and Headley And I, have con­vinced me to change my mind.

Headley And I, of­fi­cially writ­ten by Rahul Bhatt and Zaidi, is a grip­ping ac­count of what hap­pened be­fore the three- day ter­ror­ist at­tack on Mum­bai that be­gan on Novem­ber 26, 2008. It wouldn’t be too pre­sump­tu­ous to as­sume most of the writ­ing credit should go to Zaidi.

The book re­volves around two characters, Rahul Bhatt and David Cole­man Headley, and aims to solve the mys­tery of how th­ese two men from com­pletely dif­fer­ent parts of the world came to­gether. Headley And I also an­swers ques­tions per­tain­ing to the ex­tent of involvement of this duo in the 26/ 11 at­tacks.

Pak­istani- Amer­i­can Headley is be­lieved to have con­ducted a recce in Mum­bai and scouted for the tar­gets of the 26/ 11 at­tack. He also passed on vi­tal in­for­ma­tion about th­ese lo­ca­tions to the mas­ter­minds of this ter­ror op­er­a­tion in Pak­istan. Un­til his friend­ship with Headley came to light, Bhatt was best known for be­ing di­rec­tor Mahesh Bhatt’s son and a con­tes­tant in the pop­u­lar re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show Bigg Boss. Bhatt sur­faced on Mum­bai po­lice’s radar when his name cropped up in Headley’s emails while Headley was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated as a prob­a­ble sus­pect be­hind the at­tacks. Even though both men have had their fair share of me­dia cov­er­age in both Amer­i­can and In­dian me­dia, Headley And I still man­ages to sur­prise the reader be­cause of the range of in­for­ma­tion the book pro­vides about th­ese men as well as the hand- in- glove re­la­tion­ship be­tween ter­ror­ist out­fit Lashkar- e- Taiba ( LeT) and Pak­istani in­tel­li­gence agency ISI. Us­ing Headley’s state­ment, Headley And I also de­tails how LeT brain­washes ter­ror­ists when pre­par­ing them to strike in In­dia.

What makes Headley And I in­ter­est­ing is the man­ner in which Bhatt and Headley have nar­rated their sto­ries. Their rev­e­la­tions pro­vide the reader with sala­cious and riv­et­ing de­tails, such as Bhatt’s prob­lem­atic re­la­tion­ship with his fa­ther and how Bhatt’s deep- seated de­sire to have a fa­ther fig­ure in his life made him vul­ner­a­ble to Headley. In con­trast to how Bhatt’s side of the story at­tempts to tug at the reader’s heart­strings, Headley’s can­did ac­count of how he be­came a dou­ble agent and his un­abashed ha­tred for In­dia and In­di­ans is both com­pul­sively read­able and chill­ing. For in­stance, you can’t help but feel a sense of dread while read­ing Headley’s de­scrip­tion of how lax the city’s se­cu­rity sys­tems are. He points out that there were sev­eral, glar­ing, fac­tual er­rors in his pass­ports, but th­ese were not no­ticed by the air­port au­thor­i­ties when he came to In­dia for the first time. Had the air­port se­cu­rity been more alert and checked his pa­pers prop­erly, Headley would prob­a­bly not have been able to en­ter the coun­try.

Although there are some parts that feel repet­i­tive, like those in which Bhatt’s fa­ther fix­a­tion is re­it­er­ated in an at­tempt to make the reader feel for him, Headley And I is mostly a page- turner. From a jour­nal­is­tic per­spec­tive, Headley And I is re­al­is­ti­cally told, well- in­formed and in­sight­ful. Zaidi has suc­cess­fully cov­ered the de­tails of the case in the book’s 250- odd pages and pro­vided an over­view of the com­pli­cated net­works at work in In­dia, US and Pak­istan that will keep an av­er­age reader’s at­ten­tion. The book also doesn’t mince words when out­lin­ing Pak­istan’s involvement with and their sup­port of ter­ror out­fits that it nur­tures by al­low­ing them to op­er­ate in Pak­istani ter­ri­to­ries.

in­box@ dnain­dia. net

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