Thursday, 14 March 2013

Book Review: Headley and I by Hussain Zaidi and Rahul Bhatt

A troubled young man of mixed parentage with one foot in his father’s Pakistan and another in his mother’s United States takes to drugs and drug dealing. Nabbed by the authorities in the US, the dealer turns approver and then, an informer. Later he also turns to fundamentalist Islam and joins the Lashkar-e-Taiba which uses him to reconnoiter various sites in Mumbai for a planned terrorist attack. During his various trips to Mumbai, the terrorist befriends two younger men living in Mumbai. One of them is the son of a celebrated film maker and the other, a man of humble means and a Shiv Sainik. After the 26/11 attacks, the two young Mumbaikars are shocked to find out that they have been unwitting pawns in a larger game, that they have helped the terrorist navigate his way around Mumbai. The Shiv Sainik had actually taken the terrorist to Sena Bhavan and allowed to take a number of photographs and video recordings.

Hussain Zaidi’s Headley and I is the real life story of how two innocent young men, Rahul Bhatt, Mahesh Bhatt’s son and Pooja Bhatt’s brother, and Rahul’s friend Vikas Warak, a fitness instructor and Shiv Sainik, met with David Coleman Headley during his various recce trips to Mumbai. There were a number of meetings and Rahul Bhatt in particular started to look up to David Headley as a father figure. When the truth came out, Rahul summoned the courage to reach out to the authorities and speak the truth, taking Vilas with him. In this, both men were immensely helped by Mahesh Bhatt who used his enormous clout to ensure that the two innocent young men were not unnecessarily detained by the police or harassed in any other manner. Vilas Warak lost his job, but never went to jail.

Incidentally Rahul Bhatt is a co-author of Headley and I though I suspect Zaidi wrote more than half of this book. Mahesh Bhatt has written the foreword.

Headley and I is a good, easy read but failed to excite me a lot because much of its content is well-known. In any event, it is not half as interesting as Zaidi’s Dongri to Dubai – Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia. Zaidi does a good job of showing Rahul Bhatt’s estrangement from his father and how Headley filled the void in his life. Rahul Bhatt comes across as rather naïve at times, which I guess is only fair.

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