‘We never actually crossed the Gulshan lake sahib, I don’t understand…’
“We know that. Now bara sahib is coming in, shut up and answer properly” barked the OC and when that fat guy stomped to get into the salutation pose, even the bara sahib who had just entered, was shocked.
There was no introduction and even this man didn’t bother to inform me why I was here.
“You understand that this is being recorded and will be produced, right?”
This was the second time the camera was set to roll. The fat guy standing behind the the main guy was nodding his head, in a way to convey that I should acknowledge and say yes to the question I was being asked. I nodded.
“We tried asking you about incidents and you deny involvement… lets start from the scratch. Tell us how it unfolded. Okay sir?” He asked me with a smile. He was a smiling man. Even when he was angry, he would smile. But when he was angry with me, he’d smile at the fat guy standing behind him. It was an indication.
The fat guy was nodding again. So I said, ‘Yes’.
“Okay, so let’s start from the beginning, what you thought of and how you decided to help them and everything that went through that old rusty brain of …” He went on for a full minute, with a smile. Then he stopped, expecting me to start speaking.
‘Saab, Those three days were the most horrifying days of my life. With only 2 years left for my retirement I’m now considering quitting the force, the same force which previously I’ve always cursed for being the most boring force in the world. In all these years of democratic government at service I only thought that the most thrilling experience would be guarding the second cousin of the nephew of the Prime Minister. Durbhagyabashoto, I was stationed in the city guarding kafirs and believers alike.’
“Hmm” He just noted something, some kind of observation. I had not even told him anything and he was making observatory remarks already! Anyway, I couldn’t afford to think much, I had to resume talking.
‘My duty had just begun at 2015 hours. I went through the registry and skipped all the normal theft cases. What caught my eye was how the imam had reported that, every night since the beginning of the fasting, the kafirs had decided to burst crackers near the masjid and disturb him and the sanctity of the holy month. Although furious, I showed that to my team and we all had a hearty laugh on how the imam was so confident about the miscreants. I skipped that too and moved onto check the other cases. Just then, my colleagues called me for chai and I placed the registry on the desk and moved towards chai to discuss about how the chief had decided to grant a paid holiday for Rifat and his family for deciding to go to Saudi. “Was it Saudi that made him grant it or his general liking towards Rifat?”… “I don’t think so, Rifat helped the chief with solving….” I didn’t pay attention anymore. My mind dwindled back to the Imam’s report and about khafirs who were destroying our nation from outside and inside. Just when I had finished my chai, Amin came in smiling, without any regret for having arrived late.
He started, “What’s the matter sir? Anything interesting today?”
I didn’t want to tell him that after having arrived on time, I wasted my time gossiping about Rifat and didn’t find anything substantive to work on. After all he’s my sub. So I told him about the Imam’s complaint and thought even he’d laugh it off and go through the registry himself. However, his smile dropped as soon as he heard the news.
Was he also one of the few true nationalists, did he feel the same rage?
He started, “Actually sir, they are college students. Practising for their science exhibition in the flat that is owned by Ahsan saab, VC of North South University near the masjid. The exhibition would be staged very soon. Until then, there will be a little disturbance. I myself help them sometimes. Nothing to worry. You needn’t even bother checking. You want me to ask them to stop?”
‘No, let them practice. The Imam should be okay. And North South na? That University had reported something about a student before I joined, right?’
“Na na sir, that university is clean, Bhalo bhalo…”
I was at ease now. This didn’t bother me much.’
“Parkisita na?” asked the guy in uniform
‘Na sir, it has been only one month since my transfer to the Capital city…’
“Don’t interrupt” yelled the smiling man, whose smile was long gone.
“Sorry sir” saying so the guy in uniform took swift steps back and started to slowly open the door of the room.
I had seen this guy in uniform before. Even today he wore a few medals on his shirt, that obviously meant that he occupied a high position in the city. And if he was saying sorry to the smiling guy, this fellow must be occupying a commissioner or maybe even higher a position in some other branch of the police.
As the door opened, I could hear great commotion and unrest, like a lot of people walking around…
“Okay, go on”
‘It was 2050 hours already and I decided to go about the normal patrol with my sub. Amin. I checked the time log of the previous shift’s patrol and I knew I had duty near Gulshan North Avenue, I always liked the Russian Embassy…’
“Then why did you bloody not go there?” He was at the top of his voice now. With a clinched fist he banged the table once. I was shaken. Literally shivering now.
“Check if that came in the video”, he said very softly making signs with his hands after he had composed himself.
“No sir” replied the fat guy immediately, from behind the camera.
‘Sahib, Amin said that he had come by the same way while coming to work and that’s…’
“Who is the fucking sub.? And you have an experience of over 30 years, Ya’illah”
‘Kshama kara sahib, it was that one day, I will never repeat this’
“I will make sure you never repeat it”
There were a lot of things that were being said about me from the past few days, and so many statements, this was also one that I failed to understand completely.
“Speak!” he demanded.
‘So we didn’t go there sahib, we never actually crossed the Gulshan lake. I took the UN lane and parked our vehicle and just then Amin got a call and he got busy. And we only received the news at 2130 hours of the shootings sahib, I don’t know anything else. Really’
“Amin, Amin, … yes, what was he talking about, over the phone?”
‘He was giving directions to some place near the Russian embassy sahib. Please! I don’t know anything more, right at 2130 I reported back to the Vathra station to take further orders and at 2230 they took me into the questioning room’
“Where is Amin now?” his voice was soft now. I really couldn’t understand the functioning of this guy, modulating his emotions and voice.
‘He came with me to the station but I didn’t see him after that.’
He now opened his briefcase and took his laptop outside. Before he played a video, he turned to me and asked, “Raibul Syed sange apanara samparka ki?”
‘Assistant commissioner Raibul?’
I knew Raibul since he was a child. He was my nephew and very young. Because of his education he got the officer’s post very early and ascended to the AC’s post quickly. He was now commanding many officers like me.
‘He is my nephew sahib, he spoke to me before joining the force. I only briefed him about all the responsibilities of an officer’
I could sense that my face had now lit up suddenly. A momentary emotion of pride took over my state and I was no longer in grief. I had to control my emotions.
He had tears in his eyes now. He looked away from me and played a video on his laptop.
A white lady was reporting from the cafe scene, and the video was filled with a lot of information in it –
“Numerous Italians, Japanese and Bangladeshis were brutally killed… The cafe had been cordoned off… Normalcy seems to have retu… A chef was killed mistakenly by the police… Among the police, Assistant Commissioner Raaibol Sayid sacrificed his life….”
It hit me suddenly, as a lightning bolt. What had the lady just announced? Did she talk about my Raibul? They even put up his picture, it was clear now. The reality and the depth of the situation dawned upon me. There were only faces in front of my eyes now. Tear drops falling out of my eyes. I sat there expressionlessly, thinking about my six year old grandnephew.
The white lady continued, “an Indian and an American were also among…. the police is now probing into… The Vice Chancellor of the North-South University is said to have provided accommodation to these homegrown terrorists… One of the terrorist identified as a student of the same university… Islamic terror… Believers were allowed to go unharmed…overall 29 people including…. ‘black sheep in the police department’ is the question of the hour… ‘We are looking this in all angles and no one will be spared’ says…”
Everything now fell in place. My negligence caused the life of the kid whom I loved so much.
“Kafirs and believers alike, isn’t that what you said? As long as this hypocrisy and discriminatory approach continues, we will keep losing good men. I will come with my final report” He stopped his camera and closed his laptop.
I sat right there. Contemplating on my life and Imam’s, Amin’s, Ahsaan’s, Raibul’s, my grandnephew’s, my country – Bangladesh’s.