Literature

Surveillance – A short story

In the story we intently listen to a cafeteria manager, in a besieged University in Srinagar, the summer capital of the valley, who is talking to a cop on his phone which, we learn, he’s talking to him, particularly, because he has to prove his credentials, on the whole, to the cop, as a ‘dog’.

He is wearing an upturned face. He doesn’t want to be spoken to, it seems. The waiter, who he calls a syesus, is unable to comprehend whether he should go to the table by the window, which is, as a matter of fact, two tables away from where he has stopped dead in his tracks, where two boys are talking about, we hear, Fanon, perhaps.

The manager, visibly livid, straightens up and begins his monologue on the phone. The cop, for us, in that moment,  is someone, so forlorn,stufied, who only listens, with marked disinterest, and twirls his pen nonchalantly.

A young boy, he says, sitting across my counter, near the window, has been blabbering this that, in my cafeteria, from past half an hour. He has been guzzling down my turpentine, which I call coffee in the third world in the post truth era, like..emm… a horse.

I heard him say he’s a bastard and, yet, wants to establish a puritanical Islamist state in Kashmir.  He has already mentioned some ‘bawd’ called India five times, can’t guess what exactly he meant, four times its disintegration, three times its devastation, two times its annihilation and lastly only  a passing mention of Azaadi, freedom.

(At this point the cop on the other side of the line grows impatient. He wants to pass on information to his seniors. He wants to act, maybe. ) With him is another boy, all chocolate and bones, who’s cute and all and is nodding in acquiesce to everything the smart ass is telling him all the bloody time. Do you want CCTV recordings, details etcetera? Yes, okay. I will send them to you before evening. The cop drops the call abruptly. The manager isn’t even given a chance to say a goodbye properly. He wonders, for the heck of it, if he is actually a ‘dog’. He imagines himself as a ‘dog’ and feels disgusted.

Two days later the cop, with the cctv footage, with another cop, an SP, press for the arrest of the two students. They are dangerous, the proctor agrees. He entreats the cops to implicate them under false charges. I want them in jail, he fumes. A student’s protest which they expect might rock the campus, in two days, will also be attended by these two students, the scapegoats, and, the top cop says,  I will arrest them and book both under PSA. You know how it is: no trial for six months.

The day finally arrives. But, somehow, in our only possible conclusion of the story, the boys do not turn up in the campus.


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