‘My son loved trains... Maybe he just hopped on to one’
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 works for, 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.
On February 28, 2002, Rupa had taken shelter in Ahsan Jafri's bungalow when the mob attacked. Her last memory is of Azar, 13, clutching her hand, before she passed out from the smoke. Azar was gone when she opened her eyes.
The next day, Dara went to the 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'."