A white American is never questioned. Is never wrong.
I was first made privy to S. Hussain Zaidi’s brand of investigative journalism as a high schooler, chancing upon his book Dongri To Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia.
The book, a peek into the life and lies of India’s greatest crime lords including Dawood Ibrahim, put romantic notions of the gangster life into my best friend and I. We spent days imagining how life would be, not as a criminal, but as a don, dreaming of a penthouse in Hiranandani and expensive sunglasses and watches attained through ill-begotten funds.
Such is the writing prowess Zaidi sahab lends to his works- you literally live the words. The moment.
So during Lady Lockdown I downloaded a Kindle copy of Headley and I, a published in 2012.
It’s an adrenaline pumpoing story of the Pakistani jehadi David Headley (whose reconnaissance missions to India lead to the dastardly attacks of 26/11 in Mumbai) and Rahul Bhatt (yet another ‘unsuspecting’ son of Bollywood who got embroiled ‘unknowingly’ into the game of terrorism.)
Narrated in the voices of both Rahul and Headley, the storyline is gripping. As a nonchalant Headley narrates his motives resulting in the Mumbai carnage that killed 166 people and injured the very soul of the metropolis, he’s unapologetic in his hatred for Indians who are “chutiyas“. He talks of his multiple trips to India under the guise of setting up an immigration business, where he befriends aspiring actor Rahul Bhatt- a bridge to Bollywood. There Headley, masquerading as an American tourist, films and photographs Mumbai hotspots in preparation.
Bhatt explains how Headley, with his charisma, went on to become a father figure for Rahul in lieu of the daddy issues an ever-absent Mahesh Bhatt ensued. How Headley never let his mask of being an American- and not a Hindi and Urdu speaking Pakistani- slip.
Bhatt jokingly calls him ‘Agent Headley’. Not because he knew Headley was a jehadi, but because of his immense knowledge of International intelligence, arms, spy networks and a penchant for being a body builder. A man just like James Bond.
However, realisation soon dawns, and yet another father figure abandons Rahul. “It was as if the man was Ravana personified, with ten different heads and ten different faces,” he laments.
The book delves into Headley’s American connection with the DEA and FBI along with his connect to the LeT and the Al Qaeda. A quadruple agent of sorts, with his fingers in all four pies. A twisted yet charismatic man only letting his personal gains, and never relationships, define his every move.
Headley and I delves into the murky world of global terrorism, offering a peek into the mind of an LeT operative in hatred with India.
Resulting in 10 men, not even the mid echelons of a global terror network, who had Mumbai by its balls for three whole days.
How? Read on…