A short story by Faruq Masudi
His name was Tufail Matto. His name is Tufail Matto. He will always be Tufail Matto. Or, is it Tufail Bhat.Or Tufail Lone…or Ahangar…or Zargar; Khan, Darzi, Shahdad, Naqashbandi, Hamadani , Nengroo, Hanji, or…Does it matter what his family name was? Do you mind? He. Just. Got. Killed.
The government says he was pelting stones at the troopers. The troopers say they shot in the air to warn him but the bullet ricochet off a tin roof and hit him in the chest. The eyewitnesses have a different version. Screw you; all of you. Liars. Liars. Liars.
I asked Tufail myself.
“Go ahead, tell me the truth”.
“I never lie because Mom has taught me never to lie. Dad caught me a few times lying and beat me severely. I don’t want to be punished again, please”. Tufail pleaded.
“So, what is the truth?” I asked him.
“I was coming home from my school with a backpack slung across my shoulders. Suddenly I saw this commotion in our neighbourhood. Boys my age were pelting stones at the security troops. It was a very fierce battle. They were in rage and shouting; we want Freedom…Freedom…Freedom… It was a chant. Mesmeric. Hypnotic. Bewitching. I stood still there, awe struck and I saw this trooper staring at me. We were both still. Looking into each other’s eyes…”
“And then?” I interrupted.
“He just took an aim and shot me in the head. I tried to figure out why did he shoot me but I had no time. I was already dead before I could figure that out. Now, if you will excuse me.They are calling me.”
“Who?” I looked around. I could see none.
“They call them angels and houries here. They have prepared a bath of honey and milk for me, to wash away the blood from my body. Here, on this spring of Jannah”. Tufail said.
“Do you like it here”?
“No, I wanna go home and hug my mom and dad, and my sis and my little bro and my chubby buddy and I want my candy back that slipped off my hands when the trooper shot me.” Tufail sobbed.
The phone rang. It was from the highest citadel of power. I was supposed to accompany the Chief to Tufail’s house for a damage control exercise.
We meandered through lanes and by lanes of the downtown. We emerged from a lane into a street which again circled into a Chowk and then almost ended in a slum. We were confused. We did not know what location it was. It looked like the typical urban uptown, posh, well-manicured lawns and then suddenly it would dissolve into heaps of rubbish and piles of stinking garbage. Where was Tufail’shouse? Since we were in mufti, we did not dare ask anybody for fear of any hostile flare up. Tufail lived here, in this city. Where? Everywhere. You jerk…
We saw a gathering outside a house. People were fleeting through its doors, like eerie substances. It was all dreamlike, like a fantasy being rehearsed for the media.
It was Tufail’s house. His Chaharum was being observed. We went in and met his dad and introduced ourselves. We paid rich tributes to Tufail and tried to establish a bond with Tufail’s Dad.
I signalled the chief. Now!
He took out a crisp wad of currency and offered it to Tufail’s father.
“What is it”? He asked.
“One lakh rupees. Ex-gratia compensation for Tufail”. The chief said with a brazen face.
Tufail’s father looked at the money, picked it up and went inside.
The chief and I exchanged meaningful glances;the bond was established. The soothing and healing touch was accepted by the family. Now there will be no more media blitz. No FIR. No collateral damage.
Tufail’s dad emerged a few minutes later and asked the chief.
“Do you have a son”?
“About Tufail’s age”. The chief replied, somewhat intrigued.
“A chief’s son is worthmore than a common Kashmiri kid.”
Tufail’s dad took out a thicker wad of notes from his waist coat pocket and offered it to the chief. “Two lakhs for your son. Now, may I kill him? Place, Timing and Day….That would be Tufail’s call!”
Faruq Masudi is a Kashmiri writer and film maker. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org