‘My son loved trains… Maybe he just hopped on to one’https://indianexpress.com/article/india/crime/my-son-loved-trains-maybe-he-just-hopped-on-to-one/

‘My son loved trains… Maybe he just hopped on to one’

DARA Mody has measured charred feet of stacked bodies to find his son.

DARA Mody has measured charred feet of stacked bodies to find his son,while wife Rupa still retains the half-burnt clothes she was wearing the day Gulberg Society was attacked and he went missing. Giving up the hunt for Azar then is out of the question.

Ten years later,Rupa scans every newspaper clipping on riots or riot cases at the NGO she is working in and chases down every lead on a boy matching Azar’s description. She has sent CDs of Rahul Dholakia’s film Parzania,based on their story,as far as Chennai for people to watch: the last frame of the film,which was banned in Gujarat,freezes on Azar’s photo,with Rupa’s phone number.

She also keeps copies of Parzania close to her heart. For her,Sarika,who plays Rupa’s character,is “uski (Azar’s) maa”.

Ironically,says Rupa,they had moved into Gulberg Society in 1997 from Shahpur as that communally sensitive area had seen tension following the Babri Masjid demolition.

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On February 28,2002,Rupa was had taken shelter in Ahsan Jafri’s bungalow when the mob attacked. Her last memory of is Azar,13,clutching her hand,before she passed out from the smoke. Azar was gone the next time she opened her eyes.

Next day,Dara went to Civil Hospital to look at the bodies kept there. “Azzu was very tall,taller than both of us,so Dara thought from the size of the feet we could identify him. But none of them was Azzu,” Rupa says.

Ironically again,the Modys’ own house was left untouched by the rioters because they thought it was a Hindu home as Rupa kept an idol of a “Maataji (goddess)” inside. Even the Muslim women who took shelter there survived,putting on the bindis that Rupa used. “The people who hid in my house told me how they overheard rioters who came to kill going back saying,‘this is a Gujarati home’.”

According to her,the police took away bodies wrapped in sheets from Gulberg. “But when we went to Civil Hospital to identify people,all were burnt. So,who burnt them?”

The Modys were the only Parsi family living in the Society. Now life is all about keeping the faith. The fact that Azar is not among the dead who have been identified convinces them he is somewhere.

Just a few days after the riots,on March 5,someone called them up after seeing an advertisement on Azar in a local paper,from Siddhpur in Mehsana. “Nibhanmama,” the voice said. The phone belonged to a relative whom only Azar used to call that way. “I thought that had to be Azzu,but it was a false alarm,” says Rupa.

Five days later,Meghaninagar Police Station Inspector K G Erda (incidentally an accused in the case) called Rupa to tell her they had found the body of a tall boy with a pista-coloured dupatta. “I was wearing a pista-coloured suit that day and Erda’s wife being a Parsi,he knew me well. I think that is why he took the trouble of calling me. I did not go to the hospital,but sent a piece of my torn dupatta to match. Neither the dupatta nor the boy was mine.”

Following a gap,in November-December 2002,the Modys got a call from Vadodara about a boy wearing jeans and a T-shirt and fitting Azar’s description throwing stones at people in Fatehgunj area. He had wounds on the leg and head. Rupa’s sister,who lives in Vadodara,followed up the case with the mental hospital in Vadodara’s Karelibaug area,only to be told that the boy was sent to either the juvenile detention centre in Bhavnagar or Jamnagar. “I keep in touch with all the mental asylums and homes for beggars,just in case,” Rupa says.

“My son loved trains,so sometimes I feel he must have hopped onto a train,” she adds.

Azar was the only son among Dara’s and his two brothers. “When he was born,his chacha named him Azar after cricketer Azharuddin,who was a star then. Azar means ‘fire’,which is holy for us”,Rupa says.

Filmmaker Dholakia is a close friend of the Modys. “He was with us till January 20 that year for Uttarayan (the kite festival),and when he heard what happened,he decided to make Parzania.”

Rupa is determined to continue the battle. “Modi se Mody ka takkar hai,dekhte hain aage kya hoga (It’s a fight between Modi and Mody,let’s see what happens).”

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“I am fighting now for Binaifer (her daughter,now 21). Tomorrow this could happen with her,” adds Rupa. “He (Modi) can build 10 Gujarats,but against that there is one Gulberg.”

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