Episode 6

NOT GUILTY

The state elections were round the corner and various political parties were as usual conducting rallies to woo the public in their favour. A huge rally was being conducted on a sports ground by the ruling party and it was receiving immense public and media attention, because the Home Minister was going to preside in the rally and would also address the public.

The DSP called for an urgent meeting with his officials to discuss the security arrangements of this rally.

“Gentlemen, we would have still had this discussion if there was nothing serious that is going to happen. However, the situation is more critical than you can possibly imagine.

Our sources have just got confirmed news that there could be an attack on the home minister tomorrow at the function that has been organized. Who is planning this attack and why? Whether they are terrorists or local goons? These are questions that we can find the answers for later and besides, I already have people working to gather that information.

As of now, we will have to work on the measures for effective security. The home minister does not fear death or any threats but that doesn’t mean we should sit and watch the ‘fun’. I hope I am making it clear as to what is required from you people.” said the DSP.

“Yes, sir.” the police officials responded in unison.

At the K.G.R hospital, Inspector Khan met the head of the hospital, Dr. Joshi to arrange for 4 ambulances to be stationed during the rally. Dr.Joshi agreed to it.

“I am a big fan of the Home Minister. A lot of good things have happened in this city because of him. We will be in that rally and we would get to see him up close.” said Damodar.

“Don’t get too drawn into it, brother. We are on duty. God forbid, something bad happens… we have an additional responsibility, way more than the police or security personnel.” said Sameer.

“Nothing will happen, Sameer. Be confident and positive.” said Damodar.

2 days later, the rally was about to commence. The 4 ambulances were parked next to the stage where the home minister would address the crowd. 4 doctors and 4 nurses were along with the group. People had already gathered in huge numbers and the home minister would arrive any moment.

Inspector Khan approached Sameer and said, “You may not know me, but I do recognize you. I am good at remembering faces, no wonder, I am a police officer. You are the reason why my mother is alive today and I indebted to you.”

Sameer was surprised. He may have saved a lot of people, yet, it is obvious he may not remember anyone of them, however, for someone to notice him and thank him for his service was overwhelming.

“Please sir. It is my duty.” Sameer responded.

“Anytime, Sameer, you need my help… don’t be shy. You are free to come and meet me. Here, keep my visiting card.” said Inspector Khan, as Sameer took the visiting card from him.

The home minister’s convoy had arrived and the inspector rushed forward to check on the security. The people had already started cheering; the cheers became more loudly as the home minister walked towards the stage and ascended the stairs. Sameer looked at Damodar who was also cheering and clapping, he couldn’t help laughing at Damodar’s antics.

The meeting commenced, the home minister was giving his speech while Sameer and his group looked on. Suddenly, an explosion occurred just close to the stage rocking the area. Simultaneously, more explosions occurred with one happening exactly at the center of where a portion of the crowd was seated. Sameer watched in horror as he saw a few people thrown into the air because of the explosion.

Panic struck the heart of the people as they fled from the area. Suddenly, a gunshot was heard and Sameer saw the home minister clutch his left hand. The former then saw a group of armed men dressed in black running towards the stage firing in the air.

Sameer did not think twice as he rushed towards the home minister while the policemen and a few security personnel tried to fend off the attackers. Inspector Khan spotted Sameer picking up the wounded minister on his shoulder and then rushing towards the ambulance. Khan rushed towards Sameer’s group and helped place the wounded minister on a streture inside the ambulance.

“And to think of it, Sameer, I, now, understand why you wanted us to take the bullet proof vans and not the regular ones.” commented Damodar.

Indeed, the vans that the group brought were bullet proof versions.

“We are getting out of here, sir. Just hold on to him.” Sameer said to Inspector Khan, while a doctor and nurse started treating the minister.

“You said it, Sameer. Step on it.” said Inspector Khan.

Sameer and Damodar got on the front and the former started the engines. He drove the ambulance towards the main gate only to see it locked by more armed men.

“There is no way out. We are trapped.” Damodar exclaimed.

“Bullshit! There are 2 ways to open a door – find a key or a break it open.” said Sameer, as he switched gears and accelerated.

The armed men started firing at the van, even though there was protection in front, Damodar and Sameer took cover, however, Sameer did not stop the van. The armed men, seeing that the van was not stopping, jumped to the sides, as Sameer slammed the gate open with the van.

The traffic within the area was pretty much clear. Sameer switched on the GPS and checked the nearest possible hospital. It was 3 kilometres away. Damodar looked back at the bunker, the doctor continued with the treatment. Suddenly, there were gun shots and the group inside the van were jolted by it. Both Sameer and Damodar looked through the side mirrors, 2 SUVs were coming in close and the armed men inside were firing at the ambulance.

“Oh no! What have we got ourselves into!” said Damodar, panicking.

“Take a grip, Damodar. We are going to get out of this. Now, I need you to concentrate on the GPS.” said Sameer.

“I am calling for back up. Try to find the closest hospital.” said Inspector Khan.

“The closest one is Apollo hospital. Please see if you can have a force on standby over there.” said Sameer.

“OK, I am on it.” Inspector Khan responded.

The armed men on SUVs continued to fire, one SUV came to the left side and rammed the ambulance. The force was strong as Sameer almost lost control of the van. The other SUV came on the right and rammed it. Now, both the SUVs continued to ram the van to try and stop it.

Sameer was now aggravated, he had to do something… he had to do something fast.

“They want a fight. Well then, we will give them a fight.” said Sameer.

It was Sameer’s turn, as he rammed the van on the left SUV. The driver was taken aback as he tried to take a grip but his efforts were futile, as Sameer rammed the van again. The driver of the left SUV lost control. The SUV skid and from the opposite side a bus slammed on the back of the SUV, as a result of which it overturned.

The driver of the SUV on the right continued to ram the van, while the men behind continued to fire. Sameer then spotted another SUV coming from the front. The armed men on that SUV started firing, Sameer and Damodar took cover.

“I don’t think this van can take this assault any longer.” exclaimed Sameer. He then yelled at Inspector Khan, “Khan Sir, where is that goddamn back up?”

“I have no idea. They should have been here by now.” Inspector Khan responded.

Suddenly, the SUV in front was under fire. The armed men on the back were shot and killed. The front and back tire on the left were shot and punctured, leading to the driver losing control. The SUV on the right of the van didn’t notice it, as both the SUV slammed into each other in an head on collision.

Sameer understood what had happened, back up had arrived. There were 4 police jeeps coming from the left, and some of the police officers had fired at the SUV that was coming towards the ambulance from the front. Sameer stepped on the accelerator and drove away from the area, while the 4 jeeps stopped near the collided vehicles and took the rest of the armed men in custody.

“They are just in time. Sameer, police forces are at the hospital. Let us get there.” said Inspector Khan.

Soon, they reached the hospital. Sameer and Damodar were impressed. The police forces had taken over the security of the hospital. Sameer stopped the van at the portico, and the hospital staff came out to receive the home minister. Before being taken inside, he called out to Sameer.

Sameer walked up to him, the home minister touched his hand and said, “You risked your life for me. I don’t know whether I can ever repay you. Yet, know this, son… you need my help, don’t feel shy. My doors are always open for those who stand by what is right.”

Sameer was overwhelmed by those words. The media and press were already there. The cameras were switched on and the world was seeing a new hero that had risen out of nowhere, including Sameer’s family, Anita and her father. Sameer, Damodar, Inspector Khan and the K.G.R hospital staff were being showcased as heroes on national TV.

A news reporter provided a gist of the incident, “We had received confirmed reports that the home minister was injured in a public rally. Some unidentified goons had launched an attack on the rally and the home minister was shot on his left hand.

The situation could have turned worse if not for the efforts of the staff of K.G.R hospital, especially, the driver Sameer Malhotra and of course, Inspector Khan who made sure that the home minister was taken to the hospital safely and in time.”

Sameer’s family watched in awe as everyone, a few policemen, news reporters and some dignitaries related to the home minister were shaking hands with Sameer, Damodar, the doctor and the nurse.

“My son is an ambulance driver. He ended up as an ambulance driver. What will happen when the world gets to know that he is my son? They will question me! Question us that why is the son of a respected income tax official working as an ambulance driver! What will I tell them?” said Mr. Malhotra, as he sadly got up from his seat and slowly walked towards his room.

When Mr. Malhotra locked the door, Dia looked at her mother and spoke up, “I want to meet him. We ought to. God knows in what condition he is in.”

Mrs. Malhotra nodded her head and replied, “We will but don’t tell your father about it. He won’t like it.”

At Anita’s home, Mr. Patil remembered something and shared it with Anita, “One of my business acquaintances, Mr. Arora… his wife had a road accident. She was severely injured. He met her at the hospital and while going upstairs, he seemed to have caught sight of Sameer along with his staff. He saw Sameer and his father at the party, and that is why he immediately recognized him. He was shocked and he, later, informed me about this. Even I was shocked… no doubt. I know I was angry at that time, I readily believed that he was a cheat. Something tells me… either, he is not guilty or he has mended his ways and is trying to survive in whichever way possible.”

Anith got up from her seat and walked towards the balcony. She looked at the city, remembering all those beautiful moments she spent with Sameer. She then looked at her father and asked, “Why are you telling this to me? What do you intend? We did not give him a chance to justify himself, a person in his place would have given up on everything and committed suicide, yet, look at him, standing strong and brave… ready to face his life the way it should be faced. He is a hero now. And we, we are the people who should be guilty of not giving someone the chance to redeem himself. What can we do now?”

Mr.Patil walked up to her and said, “Yes, what can we do now. If I would have given this incident a bit of thought, I could have actually spoken to the principal of the college and allowed a thorough investigation. I am still not able to understand how the case was just closed without any further actions. And… we were all so drawn into it, we never did anything. Even, Sameer’s father did not take the step to have an investigation launched considering he is no less a respectable person and a lot of people know him”

“And that is only because we put our name, our respect, our dignity forward and allowed the truth to rot in the dark.” said Anita, tears welled up as she said it.

Both were silent for sometime after which Mr.Patil spoke up, “If you want to meet him, I can arrange it. I know the police commissioner, so I can get his contact details. However, you must understand that what has happened has happened and we cannot do anything about it. Your marriage has been fixed with Ritesh, though it is wise of you to see to it that you complete your studies first before the alliance.”

Anita wiped her tears, she took a grip of herself and responded, “It is ok, dad. I sure do want to meet him but that doesn’t mean I will change my decision. Don’t worry about it.”

Mr. Patil smiled at her and then walked away. Anita looked at the city again, she was heartbroken with what happened to Sameer. She looked at the sky and thought, “Did you really do it, Sameer? Wish I could have controlled all that anger towards you and just asked. I just made you walk away without giving you an opportunity to justify yourself. Now I am reaping the fruits of that mistake. Forgive me, Sameer. Forgive me for not believing you.

Her mind went back to about a month ago when Mr.juneja met Mr.Patil again and asked for Anita’s hand in marriage for his son. Ritesh was speaking to Anita and sounded quite polite that day.

“I am sorry for what I did to you. I am also sorry about whatever happened between Sameer and you. I know you are still thinking about him but… the past is past. If you think I am worthy for you, we can work this out together. My love may not be equal to Sameer’s but I assure you that I will keep you happy fulfilling all my duties.” said Ritesh.

Anita was indeed thinking about Sameer. She looked at Ritesh. She had to say something. Was there a chance to be back with Sameer again? Was there something she could do for him before she took this step? She took a deep breath and said, “I am not against this marriage but I would like to complete my studies before I take the step. I want to have a career of mine, so surely you want mind that.”

Ritesh stared at Anita and laughed heartily, he replied, “Of course not, why would I mind that? Do whatever you wish to do and be assured; I will always be there for you.

Anita felt relieved when Ritesh accepted that. It had been 2 months since then and the sight of Sameer on television brought some hope to Anita to meet him and ask for his forgiveness.

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