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I

Greetings Guruji.

We have been waiting for you anxiously since morning.

What happened? Why are you so late?

Oh, I see. The road accidents have now become daily occurrence.  God knows when the new highway is going to be completed. Until then it will go on like this. So how long was the jam did you say?

Three hours? Unbelievable. You should have come by train instead of bus.

Oh I did not know that your house is that far away from your home. Anyhow, please come on in. And where is your luggage?

What? Are you not going to stay with us? We were expecting you to be staying here for couple of days. That’s what I understood from our chat over the phone. That is not good. You are visiting us after a long while.

So you are planning to return today itself. This is not right. Kavita and Samtawill be upset. They waited for you before leaving for school.

No. They won’t be back in the noon today. They are heading for a field trip. Won’t be back until late in the evening and by that time you will be gone. What will I tell them now? Anyhow, have a seat.

I know It’s hot in here. The electricity will soon return and I will switch on the cooler for you. Would you like a juice? Or shall I first make a tea for you?

What did you say? You want limewater? Sure, please be seated I will be back. Yes, yes please go ahead. The restroom is right there. In the meantime, I will bring you some limewater.

So now tell me Guruji, how is life treating you?

With me it’s the same old stuff. These days I am just whiling away time. My long leave still continues.

Kavita’s teaching job is going fine.

Samta is now in the tenth standard.  Tough year. You know better than me. How challenging it is for students of matriculation. Good thing is that both mother and daughter go to the same school. It is good if you are under supervision all the time at such an impressionable age.

Would you like another glass of limewater?

Oh yes, I still have plenty in the jug for you.

No I am not fond of limewater. I will rather have beer in a little while. Oh that reminds me of Kulfi, Kavita has been preparing for you. She knows you like her homemade ice-cream.  Don’t know if it will be ready soon, as the fridge is not working due to power cut.  Maybe it will be ready by the lunch time.

Guruji you should have stayed. Kavita will really be upset. You know how sensitive and caring she is. She has great regards for you, ever since you came to our wedding when she met you for the first time. It was she how wanted you to name our daughter. Everyone likes her name. it’s very unique. Kavita proudly mentions to everyone, “You know what she was given this name by Siddharth Sir.” And she never forgets to repeat that he used to be my husband’s class teacher during his school days.

I really don’t understand why you have to leave tonight?

No please don’t worry. We are not going to discuss this with anyone. I am just curious to know what’s the urgency behind your short trip?

Hmm. That’s bad. I am sorry to hear about that. The in-laws of your daughter should be respectful. They cannot just think of ruining her life by asking your son-in-law to just leave her and walk away. If I am not mistaken they too have a daughter who is married.

So what if she is treated the same way. Imagine, if she is unable to bear a child and then one day her in-laws kick her out like the in-laws of your daughter? Only then they will realize what it means to abandon somebody’s daughter.

But have they tried to figure out that if it is the fault of your daughter or there is something wrong with their son.

Here we go. I knew that  might be the case. This is a male dominated world Guruji. Even if the man cannot procreate a child, the blame must lie on the shoulders of a woman. What a hypocrisy.

So you have basically come to sign up for a lawyer and have to leave early to look after the case.

No please don’t feel guilty. I can understand. One cannot travel all the way just to meet an old student and rush back home. I am rather thankful that you have spared a moment to see me in spite of such difficult circumstances.

What did you say? You stopped by the court before coming here? That’s fine. So, are you done with the paper work at the court? That’s good. At least we can talk now without any distraction after the main purpose of your coming all the way here having been served.

Does your daughter still work? That is good. At least she is not depending on anyone. I know it’s hard for her, but in a way it is good if she is liberated from her such abusive relationship. Don’t worry Guruji. She is still young and might find a more caring husband.

Why you never told me about this abuse going on at the hands of her in-laws? We could have fixed them.

Guruji nobody cares for idealism these days. You could have used my services.

I understand your curiosity. Will definitely talk about the subject that is bothering you. First let me make some tea for you. By the way, here are some poems Samta has written. She wanted me to show them to you. Before leaving she had said, “Papa please do not forget to show them to Guruji and seek his opinion, so that by the time I come back I can talk about them to Guruji”. Poor girl did not know that you won’t be here by then.

Is it fine? I don’t make as good tea as Kavita. She often complains, “Hemant you better stay away from the kitchen. You cannot even make a tea what else one can expect from you?” Seriously? You liked it?

Now I understand where have you been all these months? We always wondered that you have forgotten Jodhpur. Earlier you used to come here very frequently.

Oh yeah things change once you retire. And yes you live far from here and it becomes difficult to travel without any reason. And on top of that if you have crisis in the family you cannot think of traveling for fun.

I totally get it Guruji, but it’s your own house. You should keep coming here and feel free to stay with us as long as you wish.  People might have forgotten you after your retirement, but we haven’t.

What did you say? You liked the poems? Samta will be happy to know that? Which one you liked the most?

Actually I liked that too. It is the most recent one she has written. She has been through difficult times. It’s all about that. It’s a very powerful statement against those who gave us hard time. She had to suffer because of me. My poor little child. It is good that today she is away on field trip. Will feel better.

Oh I am sorry. I got little lost. I am okay otherwise. Sorry I missed your question. What did you say?

Oh Samta is really doing good in studies. She is fond of reading and writing.

Cannot say Guruji, whether she wants to be a teacher like her mother.  She is also doing good in sports.

No never. I don’t want her to become a police officer like myself, though she has all the capabilities of becoming one. She never gets frightened when she goes for swimming or horse riding.

You also think that way? Kavita keeps telling the same thing to everyone, “She is so much like her father”.  She is so dedicated that she always stays focused to her work. Whenever she returns from school, the first thing she tries to do is finish her homework before eating her lunch.

I remember that’s what you used to say about me. “Hemant is the only one in the class who stays focused to his work. He is like Arjun- who only focused on the bird’s eye while practicing archery. “After you said that, my classmates started teasing me every now and then calling me Arjun. They almost stopped calling me by my real name. Even today some of them call my Arjun. “Hey Arjun how are you man?”

Nothing much. Just killing time and thinking about the future. That’s what I am doing these days. At times I feel I should not have joined the police department. Should have become a teacher. You always used to predict that I will be a teacher one day. But see you were wrong. I wish I could turn back the clock. I always enjoyed reading and writing. Your subject always interested me the most. Should have pursued masters in Hindi literature.

Guruji I don’t know if I ever told you this. But when you narrated the tale of Arjun in the eighth standard it had a deep impact on me. His character sketch had left a permanent mark on my memory. May be his military skills to fight in the battlefield inspired me to choose a career that demands risk and courage. Or maybe because of my father who wanted his two sons to join the police.

Being a village man he always saw policemen as real face of the authority and wanted to see his sons in khaki. My younger brother never fell into the trap, but I did. He went his way to become a successful businessman and I chose the profession of my father’s liking. Had he been alive today, he would have rather cursed himself after seeing how his son is being treated.

Whatever may be the reasons, that story changed the course of my life. Then you started comparing me to Arjun and my classmates renamed me after him. It then became the objective of my life to become a warrior.

Not sure. What I am going to do next. My leave will continue for some time. Maybe I will have to quit. I might join my brother’s business. He keeps telling me that if it becomes difficult to survive just leave the job and join the business. If nothing I can do farming. That’s what our father used to do. We still have some ancestral land to look after, so why lick the boots of those in power?

Just forget what these leaders and some newspapers are saying. They are all distorting the facts. The reality is something else. To call someone traitor to hide your own sins is an old game.

Oh no. This all went wrong. Guruji I tell you one thing that had I not been in problem, I would have fixed the in-laws of your daughter. After all, she is like my sister. Right now, I cannot even save my own ass, how can I save anyone else. Sorry for saying that Guruji, but can’t help it. After all, I am a policeman.

I will explain each and everything that happened, but let me first grab some beer before I tell you the entire story.

II

Are you sure you don’t want it? Oh you have quit alcohol totally? I see. Hope you won’t mind if I can have one. Okay let me keep the second bottle back in the fridge then.

So what I was telling you Guruji, the problem began with a simple investigation. There was blast in a Muslim area. Around three people died and many got injured. The motorcycle bomb used in the crime was meant to target a mosque. We immediately started working on it. As a police officer you are supposed to look into all sorts of possibilities. All angles must be considered with an open mind and that’s what my team was doing. We questioned ourselves why would anyone target a mosque? Who could benefit from killing Muslims? Even before we could reach a final conclusion, some newspapers quoting intelligence agencies reported that there could be a foreign hand behind the attack and probably the blast was engineered by the Muslim extremists who want to create animosity between Hindus and Muslims.

The leaders started blaming our neighbouring country. Others demanded tough laws against terrorists. We picked up some Muslim men, interrogated them, rather tortured them, but nothing came out. They all pleaded their innocence. A few of them broke down and gave confessional statements that it were they who did it at the behest of Pakistani agents. But at the bottom of my heart I believed that they may not be involved and have agreed to confess to the crime to avoid further physical trauma. Probably they also feared death as some colleagues of mine threatened to kill them in a staged shootout.

Oh what a relief. The electricity is back. Let me switch on the cooler for you.

Feeling better? I hope the kulfi will be ready by the time you leave.

So what I was telling you that those in power had already made up their mind about the objective and the suspects. They did not bother to wait for our investigation. However, we continued our work. We were able to trace out the owner of the motorcycle that was used in the attack. It was registered under the name of Atmaram, a priest who lives in Gujarat. We told our seniors that we will have to go there to find more about him. The permission was granted and we left for the city where he lived.

Once we reached there we were amazed to find that he lived in a huge ashram. It was his spiritual center. There was a big line up of people outside a small hut, which according to the ashram volunteers is his room. The people who were waiting outside were devotees who had come from distant places. His big sized pictures greeted them from all sides. Beneath those pictures were written the slogans that read; “Long Live Swami Atmaram, Long Live Hindu Raashtra”. His discourse was going on and was audible on the sound system. He was telling his followers that we Hindus should do our karma with dedication. He went on to say that one who does his job dutifully is a real Hindu. I still remember him saying, “The karma of a doctor is to give treatment to his patients without discriminating between them, likewise it is the karma of a teacher to educate his students without discrimination between the rich and the poor.” The place was fully guarded by the police. We looked at each other in disbelief.  We wanted to question him. Apparently he knew that we were coming. It is possible that somebody in the department might have tipped him about it.

We were asked by his secretary to wait. We were made to sit there for solid one hour, before we finally met him. We were taken into his room where he sat on a high chair. There were no other chairs in there. Obviously, he wanted us to sit down on the floor crossed legged like rest of the devotees do. We removed our shoes and sat down in submission.

Wait a minute. I think our kitchen help is here. Let me first instruct him for the lunch. What will you prefer to eat Guruji? Vegetarian or non-vegetarian?

No don’t shy. Please tell. He is good at making a chicken curry.

Fine then. Shambhu please come here. Meet our Guruji. He has come all the way from Jaisalmer. He used to be my teacher when I was your son’s age. He is more like my father. Has never missed an opportunity to attend important events in my life. When I got the police job, he was there to attend the passing out ceremony. When I got married he came to give us his blessings. When Samta was born he came to see her. But this time he has come after a long while.By the way, he gave her that name.

Now kindly make a fine chicken curry, mixed vegetable and some daal and rice.

No don’t make any dessert. Memsahib has already made some kulfi for him so don’t worry. I think it will be ready soon. Please keep checking. And please get me another beer from the fridge.

Shambhu is a great cook. He is with us for the past two years. His son is studying hard. He wants to become a doctor. He is around twelve. Both Shambhu and his wife want to see their son’s dreams come true.

III

So I was telling you that we all sat down to virtually listen to the sermons of Swami Atmaram. It was hardly an interrogation. He did not let us ask him questions. He looked at me sternly as if I did something wrong and he was in the position to grill me. He started with a very direct question, “Hemant Pal Singh. That sounds like a Hindu name. Why are you after me? Why don’t you go and catch the real terrorists? Is your anti-terrorist squad determined to tarnish the image of the Hindus? Those who live here, eat here, but have their loyalties towards Pakistan are the ones who pose real threat to our nation. They are killing your own Hindu brothers every day, raping your own Hindu sisters in Kashmir. Go and arrest them.”

After some time, I had to intervene. I told him politely, ‘‘Swamiji. Don’t get us wrong. We are here to verify certain things. All we need is your cooperation. The motorcycle that was used in the blast is registered under your name. All we need to find out is how it landed up there?” But this simple and to the point question infuriated him. He started accusing me and my colleagues of trying to frame him. He claimed that his motorcycle was stolen long ago, but could not furnish a police report to prove this. Then he went on to blame the police and the government of having anti Hindu bias. I mustered some courage to remind him of his discourse on karma and told him, “Swamiji we are doing exactly what you were preaching a while ago. As police officers it is our duty to investigate without discrimination.” He gave me a long glance. With his flowing beard and forehead smeared with sandalwood paste, he looked more intimidating. He then raised his fist in air with a trident in its grip and screamed, “It is time for my Pooja.” We got the message. It was time to leave.

One moment let me take this call. Who is it? No I don’t want to talk to the media at this point of time. Sorry, but no comments.

Bloody hell.

These media chaps are bothering me too much these days. Someone says something about me and they keep calling for reaction. Until when I will keep on responding to their accusations?

Sorry Guruji. As we left the ashram, some of his followers threatened to sue our department. We were not in a position to arrest or detain him. After all we were in a different jurisdiction and could not proceed with the help of the local police. We had to return. But one thing was sure that Atmaram was trying to hide something. My instincts clearly told me that he was aware of the plan to bomb a mosque.

Wait a minute. I need another beer.

IV

Once we were back, I was called by a very senior officer into his chamber.He warned me to go slow on the case and rather look for other possibilities. I pleaded that we are only following a paper trail as other clues have led us nowhere. But he remained adamant and said that we still need more evidence to interrogate people.

The one thing that really bothered me was that he wanted me to treat saints and preachers with respect. I lost my cool, but I controlled myself. I only said that we were respectful to Atmaram when we went to question him, on the contrary we nearly broke the bones of the Muslim men who were rounded up on suspicion. At least Atmaram and his followers should realize that. Then this officer got agitated and said that do whatever is told and asked me to take a leave.

That night when I came home I was very upset and disturbed. I told everything to Kavita, she tried to console me and said that I need to be strong to take such challenges in life. She encouraged me to work hard to gather more evidence to silence my critics. Then I started making more investigations.

It was not very long after my encounter with Atmaram that I got a very strong lead. It came from a former driver of Atmaram. He was exploited by his employer, often beaten and not paid sufficiently. He met me at a secret location through a reliable source. He told me that when he quit the job after being repeatedly harassed, he stole some of the valuable items of Atmaram. Among them was a laptop which he found through someone had information about the activities of his ex-boss. Since he is not a technical person, he took the help of his educated nephew who pointed out at certain files on the laptop that revealed his involvement in several bomb explosions, including the one we were investigating. He had gathered about my encounter with Atmaram though his contacts in the ashram and wanted to teach him a lesson.

As soon as I got the laptop, I opened it to find myself that how right he was. Atmaram had organized a meeting in his ashram a year ago. It was at this meeting that planning was made to target Muslim localities. One of the resolutions stated that we need to avenge Muslims by bombing their mosques. Since Muslim extremists keep on bombing our temples, we should do the same, it read. There was a small video clip saved on the desktop that showed Atmaram asking those in the meeting to raise their arms to pass the resolution. Another file showed that his group wanted to overthrow the government and form a Hindu republic.

I was baffled after going through all these files. I felt guilty of arresting Muslims in some other blasts that were also carried out by Atmaram and his gang. I wanted to run away to the ashram of Atmaram and arrest him and drag him to the police station. But this informer had warned me to use these clues carefully as Atmaram is very influential. The state where he was active has a government of his people who won’t let him get arrested easily. In our state too he had a massive following. That he had cells in our department was also established.

Sorry Guruji, it’s time for another beer.

I know Guruji, I have to be careful, but can’t help it. Beer is giving me solace these days. I have stopped taking hard liquor on doctor’s advice, but it will take some time before I am in a position to quit alcohol completely. These bhainch..s have ruined my life.

Sorry Guruji. I have no respectable words for them. Being a police officer you get used to swear.

V

So where was I?

Yeah. I decided to lodge a criminal report against him anyway. The information on the laptop was sufficient to charge him. I did accordingly. But to arrest him was another challenge. For that you needed the cooperation of the police in his state. Again a request for that was supposed to be made by the top officials in our state. There were too many roadblocks, yet I proceeded. That was enough to throw a bombshell. The matter came out in open. The media reported it widely. The slapping of criminal charges against Atmaram was not a small news. It had rocked our parliament. The leaders who frequently visited his ashram for blessings during elections were up in arms against our department.

I got a call from Rajendra Meena, who is a Member Parliament from the party that is close to Atmaram. He wanted to meet me personally. I knew what was coming. I still hoped that he could be my ally if convinced. After all he is known for his strong anti-terrorism views. Who knows that he may turn out to be a big support. With those mixed thoughts I decided to go and see him.

Yes. Your memory is very sharp. He is the same chap, who attended my award ceremony. But ours is a thankless profession Guruji. People forget your good work too soon and always remember what you have not been able to deliver. And Meena is one of those. Remember what did he say during my award ceremony? “We need more courageous officers like Hemant Pal Singh to fight against terrorists.”

After exchanging a few pleasantries, Meena said that I am doing a good job and deserved promotion. I could clearly see where he was coming from. He offered to recommend my name for a better posting. It was an attempt to take away the investigation from me and hand it to someone who could be manipulated. I asked him why he is being so kind. Knowing that his trick won’t work, he came to the point. He said, “Hemant, do not forget that Atmaram is a respectable figure. Any attempt to arrest him might result into riots.” I told him that the police can handle the riots and at the same time arrest him for his involvement in a serious crime. Meena won’t let it go. He said without any shame that Hindus won’t accept this humiliation.

I was honestly taken aback by his comment. I had expected him to share his concern over Atmaram because of his proximity to him and his ashram, but never anticipated that he would make such a candid statement. I had to remind him that I am also a Hindu and I am doing what a police officer needs to do. And that was it. Without looking at me, he plainly said goodbye and best of luck. I took a leave.

Throughout my travel back home, I kept wondering what happened to Meena, who was once so warm to me? Why was he so cold today? After all I was dealing will terrorism, his own favourite subject. Why a man who has always been advocating for tough laws against terrorism is so scared about dealing with Atmaram who had committed a similar act?

Give me a second Guruji. My bladder is full. I will be back soon.

Shambhu can you bring me another beer? Also let us know when the lunch is ready. Guruji must be hungry.

VI

How well you know Meena?

Oh so nothing beyond that he is an MP and he was there at my award ceremony?

No problem, I will tell you how we came to know each other and how he grew up as a politician.

You know what? Meena was very nice to me. He came very close to me around the time when I was given that bravery award. He was not a very big politician back then. Although twenty-five years have passed, my memories are still fresh as if it all happened yesterday. Meena was like a small time local politician who was highly ambitious. I too had started my career as a police officer. In a way, we both were sailing in the same boat. Almost the same age group with ambitions to grow.

You know that Guruji how our state was impacted when in our neighbouringprovince of Punjab, the Sikh militants wanted to establish a separate homeland. Every now and then there was violence in Punjab in which Hindus were getting killed. Ganganagar as you understand is close to Punjab and has a sizable number of Sikhs. The militants had created a strong support base there. They began looting banks and challenged the authorities of the police.

One day following a tip off about their activities we surrounded a village and detained some suspects. As the operation was going on the militants attacked the police party. Our team repulsed the attack. The shootout led to the killings of some militants and our men. We failed to arrest others who managed to escape. After some time, we were able to nab thee militants. I interrogated one of them personally. His name was Gurdial Singh. He was high on his conviction. Even in the face of torture, he recited prayers. He had a dark flowing beard and had intense eyes. He wore a round turban. It was hard to break him. He told me that they want liberation from a Hindu state where Sikhs are being discriminated. I challenged him saying, that our country belongs to everyone and we do not discriminate with anyone. His reply still echoes in my memory. He had said with an authority, “You can say that because you are a Hindu. If you had a turban around your head, you would have realized what I am trying to convey. Its only us who are being tortured and getting killed for raising voice of dissent.”

When I look back now, I feel he was probably right.  We never tortured Atmaram, leave aside the question of killing him. Anyway, he revealed nothing. After several days all three men were killed. A story was concocted that Gurdial Singh was being taken to the court when two of his associates attacked the policeparty to rescue him, as a result of which battle ensued and three men died in an encounter.

Absolutely. That’s what it was Guruji. We actually murdered those people. Killed them in the name of war on terror. We were told that the government wants peace. We were warned by our seniors that nobody will dare to testify against terrorists in the courts, so just catch them and kill them. Our leaders told us that it is a war against Pakistan that was supplying arms to the militants to destabilize our country. This became an accepted routine. The police from Punjab would come at will into our state to pick up suspects and then kill them without any fear. No body questioned anyone and I got an award for bravery.

What did you say Shambhu?

The lunch is ready? Come Guruji. It’s time to eat.

It is me who is talking alone. You are not saying much Guruji.

What did you say? You have come to listen to me?

Please be seated and feel free to help yourself. Shambhu is really good at making mixed vegetable. You must try it.

Why have you turned silent?

Shocked, I believe.

I knew, you would be when you hear the real story. But that’s what your Arjun was doing Guruji. Following the orders from the top and just focusing on the bird’s eye.

People never knew the real stories of these shootouts. All that mattered to them was safety and security and believed in what was being fed to them through the press and our leaders.

You don’t want more food? You ate very less. Maybe that’s the reason that you are still so fit.

I think I have made you upset.

What?  You want to go for a walk? Are you okay? Oh I see that’s your routine. Sure?

Shambhuask the gunmen to be ready. We both are going for a small walk and also check if the Kulfi is ready. Guruji would like to eat it after we return.

Guruji give me a minute. Let me wear my runners.

VII

Yeah these gunmen will be with me till the time I am in service. I cannot leave without them these days.

Do you see that tombstone? It was recently unveiled by Meena. It’s in the memory of local army men who were killed by the militants in Kashmir. God knows what they have doing there. Torturing people or actually fighting like real warriors.

So Meena was enamoured by the news stories about me. He came to congratulate me personally. He said that he felt indebted by someone who acted like a saviour, otherwise everyone felt that the police lacks will to deal with the evil. He not only attended my award ceremony, but also organized a separate event in my honour. He had formed an anti-terrorism front and began honouring the victims of violence.

On one occasion,he brought some women who tied Raakhison our wrists. The whole event was covered by the journalists brought be Meena. We were all described as saviours of womenfolk. I was giggling inside my heart at this drama as one of the officers who had extended his wrist for Raakhi tying was accused of a custodial rape.

Meena never left any opportunity for photo op in an event of any terror attack blamed on Pakistan. Pakistan High Commission in Delhi became his favourite spot for protests and demonstrations. He frequently visited me to encourage me to keep up good work. Frankly speaking I also got carried away by his nationalism. But the situation changed a bit later. I started seeing in him the signs of opportunism. He would not shy to use any tragic incident for self-publicity. It became more or less clear that his patriotism was only meant to achieve power. On one occasion he alleged that Pakistan was sending in counterfeit currency in India to disrupt our economy. But our sources said that he was just making it up as the counterfeit currency was being produced locally by his own people.

Eventually, his anti-terror stance paid dividends. He got a ticket for the parliamentary election and succeeded in becoming a lawmaker. He fought the election on the plank of security issue and people trusted him because of fear. In parliament too he never sat ideal whenever the issue of terrorism arose. Our department started taking him seriously. With power, he became arrogant and inaccessible. We stopped seeing each other too often and gradually I moved on in life with my police job and he with his hawkish politics.

Partly because of his arrogance and partly because of his gimmickry, I stopped taking interest in his work. When he called me last time, there was nothing much common between us. It was a brief and unpleasant encounter. Maybe he was honestly trying to help me by offering me a better posting for the sake of our past relationship, but surely he was interested in saving Atmaram.

Don’t get surprised Guruji. Most people walking in this ground try to avoid me. These hostile stares are very common these days. Good thing is they are not throwing stones at me. Thanks to these gunmen nobody will dare to touch us. God knows what will happen to my family if I quit.

Yes. That report was accurate. A mob had gathered outside our house and burnt my effigy. People from Meena’s party had organized that demonstration. Those in the crowd chanted slogans, “Move out traitors from here.” Samta did not go to school for several days. She was taunted by several girls in our colony. “See there goes the daughter of a Pakistani agent,” they repeatedly said in one voice until she broke down in tears and came home crying. I was now accused of working in the interest of a country against which I fought for years risking my life. They forgot that I was in the forefront of war against terrorism sponsored by those across the border.

Why I am laughing? Wait a minute. This is hilarious. Something just popped up into my head.

At one time we were chasing some terrorists following an incident. Both us and those people were on foot. While chasing them we came close to a border area. The zero line around that time wasn’t fenced like today. In an absolute craziness we kept running after them only to realize later that we entered Pakistan. When the firing started from the other side we retreated. Such was our obsession against our enemies and today they are calling us the agents of Pakistan. Where were people like Meena then? Will he ever dare to pick up a gun and fight against the enemies? Never Guruji. It is easy to talk about terrorism sitting in the air-conditioned rooms and behind the security cover.

So what happened after the case was registered?

Our department was split. Some officers came into my support seeing that the case is based on solid evidence, others wanted me to be transferred. People in power wanted me to be suspended for hurting the religious sentiments of the public. There were protests against our department everywhere. I started getting threats. What added fuel to the fire was that the Muslim men arrested for the bombing had to be released after a human rights complaint was launched. The court reprimanded the police and the release of the Muslims became embarrassing for the government that was until now accusing Pakistan for abetting terrorism. It became an international story. All this was so stressful that I decided to take a long leave. So here I am, trying to fight back.

Oh I am so sorry. I did not realize that you have to return.

What time your bus leaves?

Come let’s go back then. Will have kulfi then I can see you off.

VIII

Shambhu we are back. Is the Kulfi ready? Perfect. Please bring it over.

Guruji my bladder is full again. Let me relieve myself. I will be back. It is all the fault of beer.

What are you looking at?

Those pictures were taken recently. One is from Samta’s last birthday party. The other one is from our trip to Shimla.

See how the time flies.  I look so fit and young in that picture. Nobody can now recognize me from this photo from the award ceremony.

You are right Guruji. I have put on lot of weight.

Yes, booze is the culprit. On top of that my hair are getting thinner.

But see our marriage picture. Kavita hasn’t changed a bit. She remains as beautiful and fit as she used to be back then.

You know what when you join the police you are full of zeal and energy. As you keeping moving to the top, people start spoiling you, especially with wine and women. Fortunately, I stayed away from women, but always found wine to be irresistible. I should have tried to be as self-disciplined as you are.

Oh here comes the Kulfi. Thank you Shambhu.

Kavita is a great woman. She is not only a good wife, but a courageous life partner. She has always stood behind me like a rock.

You know Guruji ours is a love marriage and her father was opposed to this relationship. Though our families come from the same caste group, but he did not want his daughter to marry a policeman. He himself being a teacher wanted to marry off his daughter to a teacher. He never had good impression about policemen. But Kavita remained steadfast and married me against his wish.

I always had love hate relationship with my father-in-law. But you know what? In the time of crisis, you can better see who is your real friend and who isn’t. After reading about the controversies involving me in the newspapers, he called me one day and said, “Hemant we are totally with you in this fight. I can see that you are holding on to the truth.”

Of course. That was something laudatory on his part. On the contrary, one of my first cousins, who is a prominent wrestler came to our home to tell me that I should just obey the orders instead of locking horns with the authorities. He sounded more like a follower of Meena. I joked at him, “What is the use of your big body when you cannot dare to stand up against powerful people?” He felt so offended that he stopped seeing me. He did not even come to Samta’s birthday party.

Also there is a well-known Christian police officer, who was sent to Punjab to deal with terrorism. He is now retired and lives in Delhi. I had an opportunity to work under him. He was always strict to me. I was surprised when he came out openly in my support and wanted the police to deal with Atmaram sternly. Instead of listening to an advice coming from a seasoned police veteran he was instantly blamed as anti- Hindu. His religious belief also came under attack. Men like Meena did not have courage to come to his rescue. This is despite the fact that he was honoured by the Hindus in Punjab for eliminating Sikh extremists.

I will definitely convey to Kavita that Guruji liked your Kulfi.

She is certainly concerned because of the situation, but has not lost her courage.

Last week, she had to go to see the doctor because of constant coughing and congestion. Nothing to worry. She is fine otherwise.

You know what this doctor asked her? “Why your husband is bent upon punishing Swamiji? After all you are also Hindus, so why is he bothering him?”

Yes. That’s what we have been facing Guruji.

But you know what Kavita told him? She asked him whether he discriminates between his Hindu and Muslim patients? With a great awkwardness, he had to say no. Kavita then asked him that why he expects her husband to favour his own community in the line of duty.

Shambhu. Tell the gunmen outside to be ready once again as we have to see off Guruji at the bus stand. And ask the driver to get the jeep out.

IX

Guruji it would have been better if you had stayed.

Yes, please keep coming. And next time make sure to stay with us for some days. And kindly keep me posted about your daughter’s case. Don’t hesitate to ask for anything I can do to help.

We will be at the bus stand soon.

Don’t worry we won’t let you miss your bus. If need be we can go all the way to Jaisalmer to drop you.

Yes. Guruji.

You raised a very valid question.

I too have been part of the system and have been enjoying its benefits. But never before I tried to understand it. When we were criticized by the civil rights activists in the past for taking law into our hands, we always asked them to mind their own business. We missed no opportunity to defame them as the stooges of the terrorists. Any reasonable voice of dissent was seen by us an act of sedition.

Idealism had completely blinded me and turned me arrogant. I saw myself as the only custodian of the national interest. I used to get mad at whoever suggested that we torture and kill people. My reply used to be that the people you are defending are criminals, as if we had the power to decide who is a criminal and who isn’t.

Nothing Guruji. I am fine. I just got little emotional. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to control your tears.

Thanks for coming Guruji. You traveled all the way to listen to my story in spite of your own problems. It has really touched me. There are very few people who make out time to listen to me these days.

As I grew older I began seeing things differently. I started realizing that how wrong we were. Our job was to arrest people and let the court decide their fate. The recent incidents have opened my eyes completely. In a way, whatever has happened has happened for the good.

We cannot bring those people back who were killed by us, but won’t let it go on like this.

Here we go Guruji. The bus stand is here.

Guys just wait here. Let me go inside and see him off. You stay here and watch.

Yeah. That is the bus which leaves for your city.

Guruji bless your Arjun – who is caught into a whirlwind. Pray for me so that I get enough strength to stick with the truth. Until now I have been focusing on the bird’s eye. I now need to look beyond as there is no God in whom I can trust. The real Arjun was fortunate to have almighty on his side who gave him confidence to fight against his own people for the sake of dharma, whereas I am forced to fight a new Mahabharata where the lines between the evil and the good are blurred. I am rather being stopped from shooting at the real enemies as the meaning of dharma has changed. Bless me so that I emerge as victorious in this frontline.


Gurpreet Singh is a Canada- based journalist who publishes Radical Desi- a monthly magazine that covers alternative politics.

One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Poignant narrative reflecting the family troubles and tortured faced by women after marriage along with political situation. Reminded of the long monologues of Browning