Part One: Wedding Season
Sunday, Dec. 2, 1984. The date carried no significance when Khan commenced his shift at 3 p.m. It was a Sunday like any other. Eight hours later, as he returned to his rough shanty in the bustee of Jaiprakash Nagar, there was little to remark upon. Or at least little that was known to Khan.
It was wedding season in Bhopal, the lake city of Madhya Pradesh, the state that lies in the very heart of India. If a bejeweled white stallion had cantered along Berasia Road that December night and disappeared like an apparition into the wind, no one would have batted an eye, least of all Nadir Khan. Baraats, or wedding processions, reach their peak in the winter months and Khan had come to know this as a seasonal commonplace.
To see Khan that night would be to observe a 35-year-old, slight of build, medium height, with a full head of dark hair and a pencil moustache that arced dashingly above his plush upper lip. He walked south on Berasia, then east along what had come to be known as Union Carbide Road. He was not the type to hurry his walk.