May be curfewed nights by Basharat Peer struck some cord or Navtej Sarna's article in The Hindu provided the impetus for me picking up the pen and jotting down one forgone yet unforgettable episodes from yester years.
November 1996, Sunday! Don't remember the exact date! I left home at about 11a.m for a friend’s home who lived at Chattabal. Crossed the road, passed Gole Market, took left went past Govt. Girls high school approaching the crossroad. I had to go straight and then take a left but for some strange unknown reason decided to take left via embankment, a short cut perhaps. As I took left I was awestruck by the mesmerizing sight of a security force's officer. Standing tall at over 6 feet, sporting a hat and black goggles complimenting his imposing figure. He was impressive to say the least. There were a couple of jawans standing alongside him. Suddenly I realised that i was not carrying my identity card along. a thought of tracing back sprouted in my mind but they already spotted me and that relinquished. Devising some excuse I continued walking , putting up a confident facade but deep inside digits for god had been dialed. Suddenly the officer exploded..
“Hey Sardar come here"
Looking at his big hands, I thought a slap, may be two or more! Whatever! I stopped.
"Where are you going"
"To my friend’s place Sir"
Yeah "SIR"...every security force personnel enjoys knighthood in Kashmir.
"Where do you live" he continued
"Just nearby sir"
“Do you know kashmiri"
"A bit sir"
“Ask him in Kashmiri , Where is he going? Who is he?"
Then I realised that huge figure of that officer had completely eclipsed an old man, around 75, may be, wrinkles all over his face, bloated eyes, wearing a pheran and a white skull cap, sitting on the road alongside had a tiffin.
In Kashmiri I asked “Chacha where are you going"
"I am coming from Pattan. My grandson got mysteriously ill last night. My wife and son brought him to SMHS hospital. I have come to them with food and money. They don’t have enough money to do the medical tests and child is serious"
I translated it to the officer
"Ask him does he have an Identity card? He thundered
"Chacha do u have an identity card?
"I was in a hurry and I forgot it at home. Tell them to please let me go?
"Sir he doesn’t have one”
"Ask him to open the tiffin"
"Chacha open this tiffin"
Chacha opened it, three boxex in it, Rice, some cooked green vegetables in the second and curd
The good looking gentleman I described earlier turned into a proverbial monster. Picking up a dirty stick from the roadside, dusting it off on his trousers, he put that into the box containing rice and moved it thoroughly. Repeated the same with other two as well.
Chacha told me again “tell them to let me go"
"Sir he might be getting late , please let him go" I said
"OK OK! Close this box" gesturing with his hand too.
"Sir can I leave" I asked
Chacha blessed me and thanked me for helping out. I started walking, relieved more than anything else that they didn't ask for my I-card.
While coming back after about 2 hours I decided to come back from that very route hoping to see that officer again but that missing I-card was holding me back , but a glimpse of the guy was bit too much than perhaps a slap, they wouldn’t have used gun for a 12 year old. I took the embankment again, walked a fair bit ,turned left and was shocked. The officer was still standing there perhaps a few feet away from his earlier position, one jawan was with him, a few more standing bit far away and the old man was still sitting there. I was shaken to the core. I continued walking and as was about to cross chacha , looked at him, he was sitting there , resignation written all over his face, stoned eyes. Hopeless if I can use a word but he was much more than that.
"Ask them to forgive me, I have pain in my back, I can’t sit like this , I will die of this pain. Please tell then to let me go"
The officer was standing a few yards away looking the other way and the jawan was staring at me.
"Excuse me sir, please let him go. He has back pain. He is too old to sit like this for hours. Please let him go" I said
"You want to give him company"
******** (adjective) you do your job or I will make you sit here for the whole day"
"Get lost"******** (adjective)
Completely disgusted and hurt I started to stray away. From the corner of my eye I could see chacha. A tear trickled down his furrowed cheek, head dropped and I turned corner.
I don't know the name of that officer, the jawans or the chacha. But even to this date I am not able to figure out what was that officer trying to prove.