"Nahin, Nahin, Taap Nahin (No, No, I don't have fever)," these words in Marathi were uttered by Pakistani gunman Ajmal Kasab in the 26/11 terror trial court when the court staff enquired from him whether he was unwell.
Ever since the trial began in May, Kasab, a fourth standard dropout of an Urdu medium school, has been keenly observing the proceedings and picked up bits of English and even Marathi as witnesses, lawyers and the judge speak in these languages although the evidence is recorded in English.
"Tumhi Nighun Ja (You may leave)," were the first words in Marathi which Kasab learnt as Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam would utter these to him after the court proceedings. Not short on humour, Kasab now sometimes says "Tumhi Nighun Ja" to Nikam during the lunch recess before both of them burst into laughter, breaking the sombre monotony of the court proceedings.
The lone surviving terrorist of 26/11 Mumbai attack can be heard wishing "good morning" to Special Court Judge M L Tahaliyani. On occasions when witnesses depose in English, the judge would ask him "have you followed?", drawing a nod in assent from Kasab.
Kasab is very intelligent and has good grasping power. His military training by the 26/11 conspirators in Pakistan probably has something to do with it," Nikam told PTI. Kasab's mood, Nikam said, fluctuated between the docility and testiness. "On Raksha Bandhan, he inquired from his lawyer whether some girl would come to tie a Rakhi on his wrist, while on another occasion he threw tantrums for mutton biryani to be served to him in jail," said Nikam.
Of late, however, he has been sitting unusually quiet in the dock without even looking at the judge, lawyers, the court staff and media representatives. Kasab shares the dock with two other accused, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed. Four constables guard the dock, two on each side, an uncommon sight in a courtroom.