Monday, November 28, 2011

Exploiting the web: Narendra Modi

- Nirendra Dev

One would fail in the duty if a vital facet of Narendra Modi’s personal story is not highlighted. It is his love for the razor-sharp new technology, the Information Technologies. Years back when Modi was first sworn in as the Gujarat chief minister on October 11, 2011 replacing an embattled party old-war horse Keshubhai Patel, there was a small piece of story ran by PTI wire service. It spoke about Modi’s swearing in being live covered by his personal website. The IT knowledge of Indians was not yet to the mark as it is now. I was temporarily stationed at PTI’s Chandigarh office for a short while. In fact, the moment the news story about website reached our desk at Chandigarh there was a modest debate on the merits of such a news report. Little wonder, Modi had kept himself low-profile but his incisive knowledge and more importantly the use of IT revolution was perhaps second to none. In later years too, this interest only sustained. It would not be out of place to mention that the ‘computer-mediated communication’ or the internet has a profound impact on his life and career and he too has tried to make use of it --- both as a tool to promote one’s personal image and also as a key system for governance.
I often tell friends that had not the train inferno taken place, the little known township of Godhra had the potential of making news in IT revolution, a point I had highlighted rather eloquently in my first book, ‘Godhra – A Journey to Mayhem’.

For Godhra and its Panchmahal district, the irony was more. On February 27, 2002 when unscrupulous elements set fire on Sabarmati Express, they not only precipitated an unprecedented communal carnage in Gujarat, but the mayhem also derailed Panchmahal district from its track of long journey for IT revolution. “For Godhra and Panchmahal district; there was certainly a set back due to the violence, subsequent tension and days of curfew. On December 31, 2001, Panchmahal district and its headquarter Godhra clicked into a web history in western India when citizens in the district were given the opportunity to simply walk into a nearest STD and cyber kiosk and obtain ration cards or file pension claims.
The entire credit for IT revolution could not be obviously given to Modi because the process for the same had begun long back. With traders’ friendly atmosphere and pragmatic business acumen of locals, Gujarat had attained e-governance network spread over to the taluka level --- as against even “CEO” N. Chandrababu Naidu’s Andhra Pradesh having up to district level only. Gujarat attained largest number of Internet Service Providers (30) and also emerged as a hub of four gateways and nearly 65,000 internet subscribers.
This is one part of the story of IT in Gujarat. The other part belongs to Modi. The Gujarat watchers know it pretty well that no other chief minister has able to make use of IT and importantly to his advantage.
Today, more than one news letter are web posted to millions of IT users a across the globe daily and I would have no hesitation that the perceptible change in people’s perception about him and especially his developmental activities reach internet users – his friends and foes alike.

As I interacted over the matter with Gujarat government officials over the months, many endorsed my views rather strongly that Modi understands it pretty well that internet mediated communications/newsletters/ video footage can have transformative impact on people’s mind as more and more people are slowly getting affected by this technology. Modi is among the first group of Indian politicians making use of the technology and even social networking sites like twitter.
Importantly, he keeps himself updated and would not miss opportunities to pass on his comments and catchy oneliners on news and events promptly.

The Gujarat watchers say he has also benefited by the IT and these social networking sites and news letters. “One likes it or not, the internet has dramatically influenced his friends and foes alike. To those who view things with jaundiced eyes of a Hindu chauvinism, his twitter messages etc tell them how Hindus have been endangered. Yet again, for others, these make significant differences in changing their opinion about Modi,” said a minority community public sector employee posted in Ahmedabad.

Not entirely to my surprise, he further told me that as elsewhere jihadi networks or closer home. how Anna Hazare’s crusade, have used internet as logistical and publicity tool; Modi one of the rare Indian politicians who has been using this too. Adept application of the net especially in terms of making use of the free web space have gone to his advantage to manipulate public opinion and as well as the press agendas. Modi has understood it pretty well that a website’s greatest contribution is to remove the prospect of compartmentalizing an event, any propaganda or a theory. It is this so called worldview – actually rightly influenced by his propaganda – that has fetched him dividends in terms of investors making a beeline for his state.
It is a known fact, both old and new, and even corporate sector endorses that effective publicity does help bring in new players. Therefore, it is not quite surprising that when Maruti Suzuki had to shift its unit from strike-torn Haryana, the choice was Gujarat. When Ratan Tata was shoed away from Bengal, he also called up Modi and when Delhi Metro compartment maker Canadian firm, Bombardier has to look for a place in India, the natural choice was Modi’s Gujarat.

In other words, Modi’s image is being rechristened or reshaped by the internet as the web technology is definitely having an increasing impact on his voters in Gujarat, Indian citizens in general and rest of the world in varied and diverse contemporary contexts.

ends

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Did Mamata get a snub in Delhi? PM declined meeting?

Was it a snub? Has Didi’s Delhi visit turned ‘damp squib’?
An angry Trinamul supremo set to step up attack on Congress by opposing FDI in retail and opening of aviation sector, had to swallow her bitter pill.
"Going to plead for Bengal," Ms Banerjee had replied cryptically before leaving for the airport in Kolkata on Tuesday, Nov 22. However, most of the time during her two days stay in the capital, she confined herself to meet the party leaders and union ministers from her party only. Initially, there was no confimation from either side whether the chief minister, who has been demanding special financial assistance for her cash-starved state, would meet the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh during her stay in the capital.
The party also mid-way decided to oppose FDI in retail and aviation sectors and attack government on the price rise.
“We have been asked by the leadership to oppose proposed 51 per cent FDI in retail and also 26 per cent FDI in the avaition sector. On the price rise front, we are to criticise the government,” a senior party leader said.
The union cabinet cleared the 51 per cent FDI in politically hyper-sensitive multi-brand retail on Nov 24 wherein her nominee Dinesh Trivedi reportedly registered the party's protest on the same. However, the Commerce minister Anand Sharma pooh poohed Trivedi's mild protest saying he has already discussed the matter with Ms Banerjee, who on her part hours before the cabinet meet chose to speak ambiguosly.
Fielding questions from reporters, the Trinamul chief said opening multi-brand retail to foreign investment may require further discussion adding the government needs to protect farmers' interest.
"We are always pro-farmers. We can keep the country smile only because of farmers and industry. Let industry smile, let agriculture also smile,” she said.


The West Bengal chief minister had arrived in the capital to press the Centre for financial assistance to her cash-strapped government as well as urge the Congress leadership to discipline a section of Bengal leaders including the likes of Congress MP Ms Deepa Dasmunshi for their repeated vitriolic outbursts against the Trinamul-led government in the state.
“My understanding is that the vocal West Bengal Congress leaders have also toned down …. At least there is no fresh ourburts from Ms Dasmunshi,” said another party leader trying to underline that all seems well between the allies.

(ends)

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Short Story : The Pawns

By : Nirendra Dev

The Operation ‘Freedom from Terror’ seems to have taken a decisive turn. The US-led coalition forces are set for victory following the fall of Taliban. Half-a-dozen daily newspapers lay tossed aside. It appeared a lazy morning --- the time piece moved at a lingering pace. The war has meant different things to different people.
“We were opposed to American unilateralism. The US hegemony is now knocking at our doors,” screamed a communist leader in New Delhi’s famous Ajoy Bhavan even as his fellow comrades appeared reconciled to the ensuing electoral debacle in hitherto red-bastion, the state of West Bengal.

Vidyasagar was preparing to go for a walk along the beach at Mumbai’s famous Chowpaaty. Unknowingly the riot of sights and smell left him aghast momentarily. Yet, he thought that was the place he could go around. Chowpaaty in Mumbai, one-time ‘Bambai’, is the best place for a loner to feel that he is not alone!

The rise and fall of sea-waves, the mingling crowds, the resourcefulness of a faceless Mumbaikar all combine together to make a rainbow coalition. Vidyasagar was unsure, as he reflected walking towards the water, dirty water, on why he was recalled from Kabul. He had thought of a little longer innings at Afghan capital particularly after the successful battle.

The US-led forces were rejoicing the moment. The Taliban has been crushed! This was unthinkable. “But we did,” said the NATO force commander.

New Delhi had played a crucial role in the decade long struggle, especially at the fag end, the decisive period of any war. The political leadership wore a ‘smug grin’, as newspapers reported and the government of the day could show a thumb to its detractors.

“The Indian government, after years of playing the Muslim appeasement card, took a decision and stuck to help the US-led forces fight terrorism. It has been crushed,” said the Prime Minister in his national televised message. For long, his government was at the receiving end of a smear campaign for being corrupt and Hindu fundamentalist; now all seemed to have silenced.
Politics always enchanted Vidyasagar.

He was in Kabul and few sensitive Afghanistan pockets like Kandahar as part of a cover up operation for the intelligence agencies. It was a tough assignment.

The Chowpaaty resembled a sprawling fun-fair; except, as he knew, that it is on 365 days a year. Nothing seemed to have changed at Chowpaaty.

The dirty stinking water seemed too familiar. “We know each other too well,” the waves seemed telling him.

He used to come to this place about five years back; when as part of another cover up operation he was deputed to work as a freelance journalist in Mumbai.


Even as he was lost in the thought of the past, the constantly shifting crowd were unmindful of his presence. The crowd here does not allow anyone to settle down. Vidyasagar thinks of making way back to his apartment. He finds a place to sit on the sand for a while --- as the chai-wala and other hawkers pass by. He does not intend to pick up anything. Chowpaaty snacks, as he recalled, were big hit once. They still might be.

Rosalin Upke used to be his permanent companion to these places. But today, he was not sure of her whereabouts. As she gone back to Konkan belt, her native place; or still around in the city?

The loneliness of the fading afternoon cast a gloomy mood over him. On a similar afternoon, a few years back, Rosalin had suggested Vidyasagar, “I wonder why you are not proposing me for the marriage”.

“Even without that, you are more with me,” he had replied – probably concealing from her that his job while allowed him to befriend a daughter of a senior civil servant, but there was a ‘ban’ for marital relationship.

“You cultivate sources ….. not relatives,” one of his bosses used to say.

Vidyasagar’s reply did not amuse Rosalin. She knew the guy is avoiding the main issue.


But it was getting late! “Doctor has already given the date ….. I cannot hide all these any longer,” she meekly told him.

A stunned silence filled the atmosphere as they were at a loss – unable to measure for the first time what lay ahead.

A number of permutations and combinations went whirling through his mind. Right from his first meeting with Rosalin, Vidyasagar knew, he was drawn to her. She too liked him. But then, why the hesitation?

Thinking about the past is no panacea to all problems. “Please have something sir,” a teenaged or even less by one year or so hawker insisted.

Vidyasagar was somewhat annoyed. Rosalin had vanished from his thought and the dirty sea water again threw in fowl smell. Just then his mobile rang!

He had to attend to the caller. The young hawker boy just could not fit in his thoughts!


‘THE COMPULSION TO BE RIGHT IS THE ENEMY OF CREATIVITY’, he saw a best seller book on sales. The title attracted him. Who bothers about the author and the content, he thought for a while and picked up the book.

My life has been a tale of lost opportunities, he again told himself walking back to his apartment.

In the night, he went out for dinner; Mumbai ishtyle!

He ordered for ‘pao bhaaji’, something he relished always. Only the Mumbaikar knows the virtues of pao-bhaaji. As he licked his fingers – he thought this was his private space in the midst of thousands of others - moving around in the city of ‘functioning anarchy’.

He walked back to his room. It seemed cooler. That’s again the strangeness of Mumbai; the evenings get cooler and often pleasant.



He should not be alone tonight, Vidyasagar thought; after all Mumbai allows all that liberty. Long back, he knew that things can be arranged at half-an-hour notice.

“Well, I will try this out,” he told himself.

Vidyasagar was in a specific lane – being directed by a pimp. “Saheb, don’t forget my cut?”, the fellow said virtually dancing on his toes directing Vidyasagar to a particular floor.

When was the last time, he tried something like this? Well, a few months back in Kabul. The young Afghani damsel was pretty, modest and energetic.

“In Mumbai, girls can also sing,” the pimp chuckled yet again. Vidyasagar knew all that.

But the sudden downpour almost spoiled his night. The girl he was going to meet, had already left her flat ‘on hire’. “Don’t worry sahib, I can take you to a better stuff,” the pimp literally prayed.

Vidyasagar was annoyed. Somewhat superstitious. It’s a jinxed night. He thought of coming back to his room.

But he allowed the physical interest to prevail over the dictates of his mind. He agreed to the pimp’s suggestion and walked towards another by-lane.
There are certain times in life when every place gets surrounded by a radiance of romance, he thought.

"Hope I am not making a mistake …,” surprisingly an empty feeling inside the stomach made Vidyasagar feel slightly ill he crawled upstairs.

At last he walked in a cabin and was ready for the awkward meeting.

What arrested Vidyasagar’s attention was the bunch of fresh smelling red roses arranged carefully in a cheap vase. The Mumbai’s famous Gajra – of white jasmine lay around virtually inviting the desired lover in him.

Vidyasagar stared at the girl, gave a good glance and appreciated her figure. He has done these exercises many times in life.


Life seemed to have taken an u-turn and he found himself facing some moments that were gone. Rosalin Upke used to greet him with such red roses in her rented apartment. Rosalin, he always thought was his first love.

But he had ditched her due to the call of the duty. Since then he has spent many nights with one-night stranger-friend --- more of a temporary bed partner.

He had turned more stone-hearted! Literally. At least this was the phrase she used for him in her last letter.

But slowly all his thoughts seemed getting lost in a harsh environment. The ambience in the small room charged up his blood and body as he felt attracted towards his gorgeous hostess. The chiffon saree was beautifully placed over her body but betraying her deep naval even as long slender arms and neck were all bare – inviting him.

The night passed on pleasantly. Just then there was a buzz in his mobile. He jumped up from the bed. It was still a misty morning 4.45 by his watch. The girl had also woken up and taking a puff at the cigarette.
“You are a gentleman,” she remarked giving him a character certificate.
“But not everyone thinks like you….,” he said.
“Why Saheb, your wife does not like you. Or she cannot satisfy you,” the damsel quizzed.
“What you have to do with all that?” he shot back.

She remained silence as if she wanted to protest for his remarks in his silence. Vidyasagar dressed up and made a call to his caller. There were few important instructions from his superiors.

Slowly the morning was dawning over Mumbai. He got ready to move out before it’s too late. Normally, he avoids making his habits of these night stays a public knowledge. His job required him to be more careful.


“You are hurrying up for your office sahib? You know, my sister Rosalin was betrayed by a gentleman like you. She thought he would marry her. But he fled, said his des-seva job and bosses would not allow him to marry?”

The remarks left Vidyasagar stunned.
He wanted to ask some questions but his voice had gone into silence.

Vidyasagar knew he was getting nervous just as those suspects arrested and put into questioning before intelligence sleuths. Still he braved through his momentary hesitation and asked her, “where is your sister now?”

“She is rotting, what else,” Vidyasagar’s one-night hostess remarked.

That put Vidyasagar into a more dilemma.
The thought of Rosalin Upke almost veiled his eyes with tears. He never imagined that one day he would be put into such a quandary.

He again asked, “rotting …. Where?”.
The lady did not reply. Vidyasagar was getting shattered more. Why is she not speaking up and telling Vidyasagar that her sister Rosalin is not Rosalin Upke he knew.

He glanced at the red roses on the table. They seemed to have lost the fragrance as well as the romantic aura of last night. Where is Rosalin Upke, he wondered yet again.

The time passed by and Vidyasagar thought it was high time for him to move out of this place.

Suddenly there was some spring in his feet and he walked away trying not to look back; not even to take a glance at his last night partner’s face. Was he scared?
What if she resembled Rosalin Upke?
So he has slept with both the sisters? Is it being decent?

Only a few hours back, the girl in the special cabin gave him a sort of character certificate – gentleman!
Do gentlemen behave like this?


In the night, he recalled his physical desire was so dominant that he properly did not care even to take a closer look at his partner’s face.
Her physique arrested his attention so much that he got lost in that, penetrating himself to the most.
The smell of her sweat threw away an aroma of unknown happiness.
He had massaged her body and stimulated erogenous zones and she kissed him, allowing him to penetrate he had growled in pleasure.

Just then there was a call from his superior; ordering him to try to zero in a young damsel who could be utilized for a large operation in Thane district, in the outskirts of Mumbai. “Well, I could have one soon sir…..,” he replied remembering his meeting with the previous night’s companion.
Life must go on; he thought and more so for pawns and even a patriot! like him!!
In the game of chess, he knew, once the game is over, the pawns and the queen go into the same box.

(ends)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

'Arms of Comfort' : A short story

The short story, 'Arms of Comfort' was also ran in Washington Bangla Radio website


“The north east of India should no longer be a playground for Indian army and the self-styled freedom fighters or whatever name they are known today,” chuckled Capt. Devkant Basu as he hung up the telephone.
The land-line telephone calls have minimized to rarity these days so much that the receiver carried some dust on it. Dusting off the black telephone set and the table, he thought it was over 20 years now since he had left Nagaland. “Jantrikata amader grash korchche (The machines and the machine age are eating up all our time),” he remembered his father often saying in chaste Bangla as he was reflecting upon the use of mobile handsets during last 10 years in his life. The land-line phone is hardly in use these days.

Captain Dev, as he was known during regiment days had served with The Hill Rifles, the famous anti-insurgency crack force --- also known as the friend of the hill people. He had given up the military boots after a combing operation around Akuluto region – an insurgents infected pocket in rural Nagaland. The excess committed by his jawans with the latent support of superiors in the force had left him disturbed. He knew, he could not continue in the same force yet again.

Despite being the protectors and friends of the frontiers for over 100 years, he was aghast when his unit had to carry out a series of indiscriminate raids, torturing and intimidating innocent tribals – including embarrassing women and children. His immediate superiors supervising the operation and the government both in the state and in Delhi had given message trying to reinforce that they wanted to allow Akuluto to bleed to teach the supporters of militancy a lesson!

Capt. Dev had since his voluntary retirement taken up several movements for the welfare of the forces personnel and the civilians in states like Manipur, Nagaland and Jammu and Kashmir. But his social work is actually easier said than done.

These days, at least Capt. Dev knew, it has become fashionable to speak about human rights and demand revocation of controversial legislations like the Armed Forces Special Power Act.
Under AFPSA, many think, states like Nagaland and Manipur, reflect a violent society and the armed forces only cannibalizing their role.
There are hundreds of human right activists and as many NGOs these days who make a living by attacking the armed forces and the so called draconian laws that give them unbridled power.

Capt. Dev had always tried to be reasonable while taking up issues and always focused on both sides. Consequently, he is thus disliked by both the camps often -- activists as well as the armed forces. However, he always thought a microscopic section would admire his sincerity and objectivity.

He was getting ready for a visit to Nagaland and neighbouring Manipur in the far off northeast India. The mission will be to enlist on the spot reports so that the civil society leaders in Delhi can argue and take up well the demand for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Power Act. A noted Gandhian from Maharashtra has already announced a front in the national capital in support of the demand. By August 15, the Gandhian has also threatened to sit in a week-long dharna, the sit-in-protest.

The flight was via a brief stopover in Kolkata. As the small Indian Airlines aircraft was about to land in Dimapur airstrip, in close proximity to the Hill Rifles Training Centre complex; his memories flashed about olden days.
He recalled some anecdotes – some friends – some good and a few not so good ones.

One thing he did not like those days was the double standard of the local police. Many a times; Hill Rifles jawans of the intelligence unit would gather volumes of information after working long hours through days, questioning 100 old local suspects and accomplices in and around villages but police would hardly reciprocate on those by arresting members of the banned insurgent group.

The flight to Dimapur was occasionally bumpy due to inclement weather. The sari-clad visibly aging airhostess served him some snacks and coffee.

Suddenly he remembered about his friend Ramola Christine, a police officer with a difference. Unlike many in her department, Christine was sincere and objective. Despite being a local tribal, she did not mix her professional duty with her being a Naga. So was Capt. Dev, a thorough professional.

This mental wavelength had brought them together. They often worked jointly on a few missions and produced successful results.

They also exchanged books along with notes about movement about some top underground leaders.

Within days of their acquaintance, Capt. Dev knew that Christine had a good network of local informers and that often proved vitally helpful for Capt Dev and his unit.

But he has not heard from her for ages. For first few years, since he quit Nagaland and the force, they spoke over phone, exchanged Christmas cards and even once in a blue moon dropped letters. But slowly all faded.

The Naga insurgency and the missions for military men like Capt Dev to crack the spinal cord of militancy, the local population’s support, was like a fertile land --- unexplored in more ways than one!
It was also a murky pond where everyone tried to be fishermen – fishing out of the troubled waters, as the time-tested saying goes.

Besides being a sincere and also a hard worker who could give up weekend breaks for “good assignments”, Christine was also a stubborn sort of lady.

Stubbornness ran deep in her vein, Capt. Dev had told her many times as Christine would often report to him about fights with her bosses – men bosses – in a typical patriarchal society of the Nagas.
But Christine was much of an independent mindset who refused to be slapped into obeisance just because her bosses or the political masters of the day desired so.

Even years after he left Nagaland, Capt Dev knew Ramola Christine was not married. She had written her about adopting a small boy, Dadiram, a Nepali lad – whom she had first hired as a helping hand for her domestic chores.



The thought about Dadiram made Capt Dev slightly optimistic. At least he can help him know more about Christine. But he also did not know much about Dadiram other than his first name and that he was serving as a police informer. Long years after his secondary-level Class X11 – education, Dadiram had employed himself as a police informer, Christine had written to him long back.

Thus, immediately after landing at Dimapur, as he was joined by a former police officer, Limatoshi – the first thing Capt Dev wanted to know was about Dadiram. Some how he thought, to hit upon any discussion all of a sudden about a local woman would not go too well.

Limatoshi was the local representative of Capt Dev’s NGO in Nagaland. He had planned for a week-long tour of interiors of Nagaland where in army operations had been carried out recently even as there have been fierce armed group clashes.

But the talk about Dadiram had left Limatoshi surprised. Personally, he did not know much about Capt Dev. They had interacted twice during seminars and conferences in Delhi. Limatoshi had offered to carry the NGO’s flag in Nagaland and was easily accommodated as regional coordinator.

Limatoshi had heard about Dadiram as a police informer but did not have any information off hand. He requested Capt Dev for sometime and promised to get back to the hotel room with some information by evening.

In his hotel room, Capt Dev dragged out his survey papers from the suitcase, gave them a quick glance and ran through the list of questionnaire quickly.
He also glanced through local news papers and did some stray surfing over his laptop on the internet.

By evening Limatoshi came along into his room with a lanky young man.

He is Dadiram, you were looking for, said Limatoshi thinking he has able to please Capt Dev.

The young man was still giving a curious look at Capt Dev. “I am just an informer Sir …… I don’t know these guys much,” he seemed to cry fearing the stranger but a well-built officer like man could be an intelligence sleuth and could apprehend him.

“Calm down” – ordered Capt Dev and then he turned towards Limatoshi and thanked him profusely for doing a quick job.

To his utter surprise, Capt Dev glanced towards Dadiram yet again and strangely felt the spark of connections with Christine. Nothing is permanent except transition, he read somewhere and that’s the life. Minutes before he was sad, clueless on how to find his lost friend Christine, but the sight of Dadiram gave him hopes.

He was unmindful and even clueless to an extent about what was going on in the minds of Dadiram and even Limatoshi.


To squeeze out some moments of privacy with Dadiram, Capt Dev than handed over his survey related papers to Limatoshi and also a dairy. “Please study these papers carefully; we have to start some interviews by tomorrow morning itself. I want you to be well versed with our project,” he told Limatoshi.

Within minutes, Capt Dev was alone in the room with Dadiram even as the latter was extremely baffled and looked clueless.

Capt Dev looked healthier and obviously better-fed and more happy than Dadiram though the Captain knew he had nothing much to cheer about in personal life. Dadiram was apparently in one of his best outfits – a neatly ironed pair of jeans and a brown open-necked shirt. But his shoes were dusty and the material a bad substitute for leather. Informers, as everywhere, must not be paid well, Capt Dev thought for a while.
From his vast experience, he knew that life for most police and military informers was often dreadful and how they still discharged their duties and generally remained law abiding.


“So Dadiram….,” Capt Dev threw up his right hand to shake hands with him.

“Yes sir,” he said rather sheepishly shaking the hands with the shy of a timid man still not sure of himself.

“Kab sey yeh kar rahe ho (Since when you are providing information to police)? asked Capt Dev.

“Quite a few years now sir,” he chuckled.

“What about Ramola Christine? Where’s she?” the question came a shocker for Dadiram. He was virtually sweating, more in surprise than fear – thought Capt Dev.

He repeated the question again.
The reply had left Capt Dev shell-shocked.

It is for last 6 years, Christine is in jail convicted of indiscipline while in uniform and also a co-accused in murder of two senior police officers.

“How could she do it ….,” he screamed.

“You are right sir…. She has been framed,” asserted Dadiram, a more confident man now as if for long he has been wanting for someone who too would believe that Ramola Christine was innocent and say it openly.

Dadiram then said he could arrange a meeting for Capt Dev with Christine. She would like it; he said adding that Christine has not met many friends for long.
“I have heard a lot about you from her,” Dadiram said before leaving the room and promising to arrange the meeting at the earliest.

The next morning Capt Dev woke up to rural fresh air, cocks crowing and birds chirping. He loved the birds in these hills. These flying creatures elucidate life’s desire for freedom – eternal freedom.
Suddenly the thought about last night’s meeting with Dadiram made him happy. He remembered the reason of the meeting and felt the excitement about his possible meeting with Christine.
Guided by Dadiram, Capt Dev walked towards the designated place in the prison where he could meet Christine.
It was a small room with few wooden benches and roughly maintained tables. A tiny counter was cut out signifying that it was probably a canteen for the lower ranking prison staff. The green paint on the walls was peeling.




Christine was sitting in one corner with a naked bulb in the cob web hanging overhead. The atmosphere was dark, enough to give a vibration of depression.

“Do you recognize me?” Capt Dev asked modestly.

Christine gave a vague smile, trying to brave through the circumstances she was today.
The contrast was palpable. Capt Dev pictured the past days - her powerful breasts above a firm abdomen. All that beauty is lost somewhere. But she still drew Capt Dev’s attention, he presumed.

“I did not know all these …. Not that I could have helped much. But may be I could have tried,” he said trying to give her a few words of assurance that all is still not lost.

Christine gave a blank look and slowly extended her hand towards Capt Dev’s right palm resting casually on the table. She wanted to say something but a pal of gloom had already descended in the room. Her eyes were doing all the talking but the lips were shut and dried. No tears rolled by and rather Capt Dev for a while thought his own eyes were more moist than her.

But then without his knowing, Capt Dev pulled back his hand. The gesture did not miss Christine’s eyes. She knew her friend was hesitant to even touch her. After all, she is a prisoner behind the bars.

The thick air seemed to have blown over.

A lot has changed everywhere. Human life is run more by practical considerations than the emotions. Emotions are only lived momentarily. A few years means a lot of time space. Each year – 365 days and a few 366.

“You must go back to Delhi…,” she said. “You are also grown old and have a responsible life”.
Capt Dev wanted to say something. Christine waved her shivering hand preventing him from doing so. “I always longed for some arms of comfort Captain but you do not live by wishes alone”.

Her natural aggression and stubbornness, something Capt Dev knew well, surged and she set focused on her goal to go back to her cell. She gazed out towards the prison main gate as if she was directing the Captain to conduct a ‘quick march’ outside the prison walls.

(ends)