[ Issue 6 / August 2013]

It is possible that a wave of life didn’t hit me that night, when I saw you in the dark. It is possible that you could have had a rock on your finger and an arm around your waist.  I imagined we could have been at a party where I would have kissed your hand, said how do you do and you would have let that glorious smile do the talking. You would have thought me an awkward boy looking for an opportune moment, and I would have…. changed for you.

But our setting was different.

I saw you in the midst of your comrades, and I saw the pistols, bombs slung over each one. I didn’t even know you but I wanted to take you out of this frame. The jungle, the artillery, the stoic men, the ashen faces, the remnant of a night tent, the younger ones quicker, braver and the even younger ones, the runners, hiding behind. But you didn’t fit. You were too beautiful for this world.

Were you out of a novel too? Disappearing, vanishing, present in every leaf and every rustle of this jungle. Did you slit throats, derail trains and break into jails in broad daylight? And what did you have for lunch, dinner and… breakfast and snacks. I wonder if you knew what snacks were.

Had you known what it is to have a home? Or have you been defending your land for so long, that home is not the four walls of bricks and cement anymore, it’s all around you? But you don’t have a closet of clothes; do you have a spare uniform to cover yourself with, maybe hidden in a hole in one of these trees?

Do the police think you an easier target? Do you never consider that they’ll rape you first before they kill you?  Your postmortem in the newspapers would read Top Naxal Chief killed in latest encounter; Female, age 21. No one would question, your file will read: Internal Security Threat. But you don’t fear that, do you? I wonder if some rare times, you smile when a joke is cracked or a tune is hummed after a big break and a big kill.

When was the last time you smiled?

I wish I could tell the world your future, your drudgery-stricken, bleak next days and the days that follow. Weeks are out of the question, if anything you’re realist. I will also say that sometimes, when the sun sets beyond that distant hill, you go to a distant past where a Ma and Baba called you by name, not a fluid identity, not a Lal Salaam Komraid. In that distant past, you never snipped a corner of polythene to be used as loo-bag.

Today, I can’t look at the same sky and lead the same life. I am not my old self.

*

Ragini Lalit, on most days has trouble with words. She’s still learning.

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