Later that month, Prof. Pickett flew to Mumbai, India to deliver an invited lecture in country’s prestigious atomic research institution BARC. His hosts arranged for him to stay in one of the prominent hotels of the city, frequented by the foreigners, Bollywood movie-stars and cricket-players. However, this multi-religious and multi-ethnic, but secular country had been on an emergency alert, due to a recent border-confrontation with its religious neighbor and subsequent fear of any extremist group’s infiltration.
Due to his tight schedule on the lecture-day, Prof. Pickett came down for an early breakfast to an almost empty dining area. He found a young gentleman drinking coffee alone, while looking into a magazine. Both exchanged pleasantries when the youth, introducing himself as Shahid invited him to join at his table. Prof. Pickett found Shahid smart and curious. He had finished his higher studies in physical sciences overseas and returned home. In fact, he was looking into the recently released picture of the same black hole in a science magazine. That led both to get into a deeper discussion on black holes. Slowly, more hotel-guests arrived and a line began to form for the buffet-breakfast.
Soon Prof. Pickett was picked up by his hosts. Later in the day, while he was presenting his lecture, several simultaneous terrorist attacks would rock Mumbai targeting three upscale hotels and the cricket-stadium where an international match was being played. In initial count, 300 people perished, with more unaccounted for. To his utter shock, Prof. Pickett learned that one of the targeted hotels was where he was staying. A “Breaking News” on a flat-screened wall-TV began to display a short video, culled from security cameras from same hotel. From one camera, it appeared that the attacker had waited until the line for breakfast was well-formed. From the shot of a second camera, it became clear to Prof. Pickett that the attacker was none other than Shahid. Pulling out a dark backpack from under the table, he would join the breakfast-line, and detonate the hidden explosives.
Wondering why he was spared, Prof. Pickett suddenly visualized the image of the distant black hole where bright light entering a dark abyss of no return. He also learned the word “Shahid” in local language meant “a martyr”.