-‘ The times were of 1996, Kashmir was on the boil and the temperatures were being raised by some extreme volatility and absurdity ignited from POK and the cataclysmic effect was being provided by the false inheritors of a sumptuously created dark and shady cause. Kashmiri young men thought that it was a mission possible as some stupendous pulp fiction had been drilled into their psyches by heavy duty vocabulary of men who were at work wearing the cloaks of falsehood and indecency. The result had to be a disaster of sorts and it proved to be so.
-‘Death happened often enough that a certain melancholy existed between the young men and women of this little village in the vicinity of the town Sopore when they made their daily farewells to proceed with their everyday routine. That day someone by the name of Adil too was bidding farewell because at the moment he was doing so he never knew that it would be his last farewell wave to his everything, Shireen. A love story was to end that night not because of anyone else’s fault but his own!
-‘Time and again, as and when they met Shireen always told Adil that he had lost his way and he should get back to the place, from where he lost it but he never bothered to listen to her but that day when he had an elaborate talk with his heart ache he somehow convinced her that he would try to listen to her. Just a few moments back Shireen had told him, ‘It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try to keep it at the back of our mind that death brings no pleasure to the world. Everyone forgets it just too soon. You are nothing but just a sacrificial lamb on this mission of pure insanity. The gun will land you only at one place because it is nothing but a one way ticket to the grave. The choice is yours and I have given mine to you, and I repeat ‘just drop the gun’! He wanted to but could not as gruesome death snapped him off as it did to so many young men on the dusty and bloody roads to hell!
-‘My friend knew as to what was going on between these two well read young people. One had lost the way and the other was showing the one which was a better option and a very decent one. But by the time Adil realized the futility of the gun slung around the shoulders it was simply too late. My friend, Prashant wanted to get him back but Adil was in a spider swamp because even if he wanted to come out of it he could not have. His own friends who had turned killing machines snuffed the life out of him in a disdainful way by using treachery/stab in the back/betrayal as alibis.
-‘This story was told to me by a friend in Shillong as I had gone along with my family to spend some time with my close uncle who was throwing a retirement bash and had invited us to be present because both his sons were abroad and he needed someone from the family to be there. It was at a party when my friend told me this story on a chilly wet evening courtesy Meghalaya weather over a warm drink!’
(The story obviously is in first person as related to me by my friend so it is he who is speaking, the mouth is his but the script is by yours truly)!
I never met him but from Shireen I could make out what kind of a boy he would have been. I still remember Shreen telling me once that he had told her that I feel monotony and death to be almost the same. This was a reply to the question the girl had asked, ‘Adil the pathway you are on leads only way and with your end many causes would end. The first would be the worthless cause you are fighting for and second my cause which you always give high priority. So is there any worthwhile fun in letting death chase you? The young man looked like a very typical character but I still preferred to ask Shireen as to what his reply was. ‘It was as cold as ever, death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it and I have that line entrenched in my heart’! I did not ask another question thereafter!
The conversations with Shireen inclined me to think that she in actuality wanted to get the spoiled brat back but she also knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy affair. I did talk to Adil’s parents too and they too were of a similar opinion that he had got into the wrong company and it wasn’t easy to locate him. But I could make out that they too wanted their son back home! Then one day Shireen had the courage to walk up to me and say, ‘Sir, can you help me saving Adil?’ I did not reply because it was a tricky question since whatever he was, well read, emotional and loving yet he carried a rifle in his hands and that made him a scary object for the innocents moving on two legs. But she asked me again, ‘you did not reply back sir’! ‘I will try my best and trust me I will give him every possible chance, If it all works out then trust me I will not make the first move, but if he makes one then you know the consequences of the same. My sympathy is with you but I have a duty to do. I give no guarantees or assurances because it all depends on him. If you can prevail upon him to give up, then I’m with you and his parents but the first take has to be his’! ‘What if it becomes the last of his life as you said you give no guarantee or assurance’. ‘But I also did mention, it all depends upon him’?
It was after a fortnight or so that Shirin along with Adil’s mother Farida Begum came to meet me. They had a piece of information to share and it was the mother who broke it out, ‘Sir, Adil wants to give up’! ‘That is great’ was my remark but the next question was where exactly? ‘In his uncle Farooq’s house and his father (Mohammed Sadiq) will take you there. I followed it up with another location, ‘in our ancestral village on the banks of Wular just ahead of Bandipora’ was Farida’s reply. I got up after this small positive talk and then said, ‘It’s nice that he wants to come back to the place from where he started this futile journey to nowhere. He should have done it a long time ago. Anyway it’s fine but from now onwards it all depends on Adil and you all. I still cannot give any confirmation but for the fact that we have the patience till the final limits of extreme but it is not infinite. I believe you, Shireen but as far as Adil goes I have doubts’! ‘But Sir, I do not have any. He is simple and a loveable boy, innocent to the core as I earlier said, a boy who in childhood loved playing ‘I spy’ games and almost all the times he loved being a cop’ was Shrin’s sharp response. I heard her attentively and calmly and I could see the tears in her eyes but I could do nothing other than give the affirmation that I will not press the trigger first. I never did and lived up to my promise as someone else did, supposedly childhood mates (Rafiq and Sajjad) who always loved playing robbers in their childhood games (I came to know that later)! But those games have turned ridiculously ugly now!
They had left and almost after two hours I got some information from an informer that there was some militant activity on the banks of Wular and the plan was to kill Farooq. He also mentioned that it was Adil’s gang that had planned the assassination. The information was not a confirmed one and the source was not a trustworthy man that I knew. But it was still an information to ponder over. One set of information was that he was going surrender for the good but the other said that an assassination was going to take place. Elaborate discussions were held in the situation room and finally it was decided that we will go with both. In case he was going to surrender it would be good and if things go bad then we would opt for the ugly option. We never got a chance to take any of those because someone could have taken the ugliest possible one’!
A day before the when action was to take place Farida and Shirin had come to me and everything had been fixed for a late night rendezvous the day next but I never told the other part of the information to either of the two because I did not feel it a necessity at that time (but in retrospect it was a mistake I thought as the situation developed when Shrin told me what exactly happened later). Farooq was going to make him lay down his arms and Adil was going to assassinate him posed a confusing scenario, yet we had to move in. Whole night we sat there but there was no movement at all. Obviously frustration had seeped in but I still thought that the lady and the girl were pretty sure. Anyway we walked into Farooq’s house. Everything was calm, silent as if a ghost had sniffed the place as the doors were open and the makeshift wooden gate half open. We walked into the house and after the search found two bullet ridden dead bodies one was of Farooq and the other was of Adil. Obviously hell had to break loose and it did as people poured in from all the places and the fingers were being raised at us, not an uncommon thing in those days but there was no other option but to face it and my only vehement answer to all the queries of the people was that we did not kill them, ’what is the goddamn proof Sir, you told me that you will not make the first move and he could not have made it because he had left his gun and other things at home to be handed over to you by me. Here they are’ and she(Shirin) hurled the bag at me! I had no answer for the time being but one, ‘we did not fire?’ ‘Then who did it?’ shouted the red faced girl. ‘No idea for now but trust me we would get plenty of them after going over the events’! It was not a failure but for that moment the flash floods of all the possible odds were against us. I knew it was a double cross situation where only one thing looked true and that was Adil had come to surrender and he was going to be brought by his father. I had to pick up the thread from there and that is what I did’!
Sadiq was a heart broken man when I met him. Other than consolation I could share with him nothing but the brave man had plenty to share and that is what he said, ‘that night they all stayed in the backyard room of the house and all four of then, Adil, Sajjad, Rafiq and Gani had decided to surrender the day next. They were all childhood friends and looked so happy. First I thought to inform you Sir but on second thoughts I decided not to do so fearing that they would be in danger from the others moving about. Early next morning Shrin had come to meet them but to our surprise we found that the three had left and Adil was fast asleep. We did ask him where the others were. His reply was, ‘they must have gone to their home to inform their parents as far as the plan for tonight goes’! But they never went home!’ I knew that it was a jam trap and Adil for sure was walking into it and in fact he did as the events in the evening spoke for themselves. I asked Sadiq a question, ‘you were supposed to accompany him to Farooq’s house, why did you not go?’ ‘While leaving he said that he would go to Gani’s house first, spend some time and then move on. Whether it was predefined or not I do not know but what I know is that I (Sadiq) should not have allowed him to go’! I had built up the plot in my mind and I was now very sure that it was a betrayal and Shirin confirmed the same later the same afternoon when I met her.
I knew that in this game of death betrayal was not common and this wasn’t the first example of that and neither was it the last. In the beginning of the conversation it was very hard to convince Shirin but later on she said it herself when I told her that I had the information though an unconfirmed one that Adil was going to kill Farooq to whom he was going to surrender. The response was heavy, ‘Sir, you should have told me this before, I would not have let Adil leave that day’! ‘That is the mistake I committed’! It was a mistake, ‘you said Sir. But the cruel thing was, it felt like the mistake was mine, for trusting you.’ ‘It wasn’t a mistake sir it was a blunder for which I will not be able to pardon you. Anyway you all have cold frozen stone hearts, I never expected much from you. Though I agree you all did not kill him but you knew that something was missing. Had you told me that missing link Adil would have been alive today. Anyway. it is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend and Sir, I thought you were a caring friend.’ I did not speak a word and left!
It was bad. I pondered that evening and thought that some kill with a bitter look, some with a flattering word. The coward does it with a kiss. The brave man with a sword! The cowards had killed Adil by a kiss. for there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first and the latter trusted his childhood mates. But I knew that the three would not be able to run a long way and they could. All three were annihilated within days by the security forces in a joint operation! This was supposed to happen and it did but I knew I had gone somewhere wrong. I still live with that guilt in the corner of my heart. Time moved on and so did the remaining characters in this story. Shirin too got over the tragedy and kept on going with her studies and now is settled in Pune but has not forgotten the years that remain closest to heart. Time does melt humans and the girl now a lady too has mellowed down and the family of four, she has two lovely daughters and are now on a different horizon’!
I kept (me) looking at my friend as he finished his elaborate emotional monologue but I knew that the man now loving his retired phase of life still carried this story in his mind and psyche. Who says that soldiers do not have an emotional heart, surely they do have but there is a time to open it up and the setting that evening was perfect to limp into nostalgia of the past years, we both had been lulled into it!