The Story of Bhopal -
UBAID NASEER

Reviewed by Vinoo Matthews

Vol.34.12. December 2021

CHEMICAL INDUSTRY DIGEST  -- A Blockdale Publication 

This is a fascinating fictional story about a man who in spite of the grave dangers lurking in the background did his best to save numerous lives. An interesting read, which is not only emotional, but also worth remembering. Let’s rewind back to 37 years. In the early hours of 3rd December 1984, as the city of Bhopal slept, a silent, but a deadly cloud of poisonous gas methyl isocyanate (MIC) spilt out from Union Carbide India Ltd’s (UCIL’s) pesticide factory and turned the city of Bhopal into a colossal gas chamber. While official figures vary, unofficially it is universally accepted that over 25,000 people died of exposure to the gas that night and over 500,000 people were injured due to the exposure. It is counted among the worst industrial tragedies in the history of mankind. Thirty seven years down the road, the factory that caused the gas leak lies abandoned, toxic, and still pollutes the ground water and soil of Bhopal. Thirty seven years down the road, babies are still being born with disability and deformation due to genetic damage caused by exposure to the gas.

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Avi Vasu -  Author of Ubaid Naseer

About the author

Avi Vasu

Avi completed his undergraduate studies in Liberal Arts from FLAME, Pune, where he received the Gold Medal in Filmmaking. His minor subject was Psychology. Avi is a polymath - he enjoys photography, designing, quizzing, playing music at house parties, inventing stuff, learning new languages, playing video games, flying drones, cooking, and he does many of these professionally as well.

The Bhopal Incident Captured through Actions of Unsung Heroes

Innumerable books have been written about the incident and many films have been made. Stories of negligence and callousness. Stories of incalculable misery and continuing sufferings. Stories of loss and despair. However, that night also witnessed some extraordinary heroism, and those stories are still untold.

Avi Vasu’s book ‘Ubaid Naseer’ is the untold story of an unsung hero who was the Deputy Station Superintendent of Bhopal Railway Junction on that fateful night. The protagonist Ubaid Naseer single-handedly took charge of the train station, which became the epicentre for people fleeing the city in panic, while his family fought their own battle against the invisible enemy.

This fictionalised recounting of true events, which unfolded on that fateful night when the Bhopal gas tragedy struck is the story of an ordinary man who was pushed to do extraordinary things due to his values and circumstances. The writer has mentioned about other people in the book who themselves did brave and heroic things that night, and went unrewarded. They remain unsung heroes, precisely because nobody wants to reveal their part of the story.

In the book the writer has brought forth the story to the front, so everybody can know them and get inspired by them. We have all heard of the tragedy, but only few know what living through it felt like,” says Avi of the book. He adds, “Writing this book was an emotional process, because interviewing survivors and heroes gave me so much inspiration and humility. Fortunately, just before the lockdown, I visited Bhopal and met several amazing people connected with the events and the characters involved. I was honoured to be able to meet them and learn so much.”

Very Readable and Moving Story

Ubaid Naseer is an extraordinary read, which reminds all of us that in this book unsung heroes are the real celebrities. With its vivid imagery and moving portrayal of a true story in the backdrop of the Bhopal tragedy, this book deserves a place in every bookshelf. It is about a powerful story of an ordinary man who is put in an extraordinary situation and decides to follow his heart and fight to the finish for justice. Here, Ubaid Naseer, is the ultimate underdog, who elevates his existence with his heroic actions, saving lives when the gas leaks snuff out thousands of innocent lives.

You literally live through the events and the associated emotions of real characters on the fateful night at Bhopal in 1984. Extraordinary performance by conscious ordinary citizens caring for human values is very well articulated in the book. When ordinary people are inspired by an inner calling from compassion to stretch to extraordinary levels of effort and service, miracles happen. Avi Vasu’s book is an inspiring story of one such miracle. It is inspiring enough to listen to our heart and serve with wholehearted compassion.

The book also portrays a powerful story of an ordinary man who is thrown into an extraordinary situation where he decides to follow his heart and fight to the finish for justice.

Gripping Narrative

A powerful story of an ordinary man who is put in an extraordinary situation and decides to follow his heart and fight to the finish for justice. There is every ounce of powerfully evocative and emotionally charged details in the book. Shockingly, it also talks about the protagonist loosing his brave little daughter in the world’s biggest chemical disaster. The book brings to life the story of the disaster through one family’s struggle for justice.

Ubaid Naseer, being a fictionalised version of a true story, is portrayed brilliantly by Avi. The narrative grips you from the first page onwards. The writing style is dramatic, the language fluid and there is a maturity in the writing that belies the fact that this is his first book.

The storyline is gripping. The narration takes you down memory lane. Ubaid’s struggle and sacrifice through the pages lights up the flame of selflessness, which is evident in our hearts. Finally, it can be mentioned without bias that this is a thoughtful and quite well researched book, which covers the dedicated efforts of Ubaid Naseer and Major Gurcharan Singh Khanuja, both unsung heroes, who saved numerous lives at great personal risk. Based on true events, it is a thrilling read, and has the potential of a great film script.