Mansoor15 mins 186 15 mins 186
The first night Mansoor didn't come home his mother and two sisters Farah and Shazia sat huddled on his single bed while their father went out looking for him with two of their neighbors. Farah bit her nails in anxiety while Shazia set and upset the hair of the blanket on their legs. Their mother recited the Aytul Kursi and prayed for her son's safe and quick return.
Earlier that day their old city neighbourhood had been rent asunder with the slogans of the revolution. Hordes of men women and children had gathered at the cross road, occupied every inch of the road and the steps of shuttered down shops and vented their disapproval of the Citizenship Amandemnet Bill passed by the legislature a week ago. They had sung the national anthem, hailed the Bharat Mata, hoisted the Indian tricolour and waved copies of the constitution in their hands. When darkness fell theyilluminated the surrounding with the torches of their cell phones. Seen from a height it appered as if thousands of stars had descended at the spot.
Someone forwarded Farah one such picture on WhatApp the next morning. Farah brought the phone close to her face, meeched her eyes and scanned the photo for her brother's face. There was nothing except the lights. She googled day time pictures of the protests. The search engine obediently threw up the results. Mansoor was no where to be seen in the ground shots in which people's facial features were discernable. Then she looked at the ariel shots and scanned them closely. If her brother was there in that sea of people there was no way to tell. She threw the phone on the bed exasperated.
Their father had returned unsuccessful, tired and limping. The biting cold had worsened his arthiritis. Shazia brought him a cup of tea and a hot water bag. The tea he refused but the bag he allowed to be placed on his troublesome left knee.
'They detained about thirty people after the protests ended last night. But they are not letting anyone inside the thana so there is no way to tell if Mansoor is among the detained,' he said.
The three women could not zero in on an appropriate emotional response to that bit of information. Should they wish for Mansoor to be among the detained? Detained was better than missing of course. Some people never overcome their missing status. The university student for example was never found despite his case hitting the headlines and students taking to the road for him.
But to be detained in the police station whose incharge was well known misanthrope was a different matter altogether. D. Singh the SHO was known for his viciousness, impatience, and cruelty. Last year he had run over a beggar's two-year-old child with his speeding on duty vehicle and booked his parents for negligence. Another time he had nabbed two lower caste boys on charges of theft and suspended them upside down in his thana. One of them suffered a stroke died in that position. Singh later went on record to say that neech jaatis must be a lesson or two from time to time. It was his close ties to the ruling party that gave him the impunity to commit the excesses he did. He was married to the daughter of
the current MLA from their constituency. There were rumors abound that she was his second wife. Some said that she was the third.
'May my child not be in the clutches of that monster!' Mansoor's mother said wiping off beads of sweat that had emerged on her forehead with the corner of her shawl.
'Amma's BP is getting low,' Farah said, alarmed, 'get some sugar Shazia', she instructed her sister as she helped her mother lie down.
Later in the day Mansoor's father once again limped to the police station. This time there were lawyers, social workers, journalists along with the relatives of people whose kin had not returned last night. The vibrant sight gave hope to his tired heart. He wasn't alone afterall. It was here that he learnt about a scuffle between the protestors and some lathi wielding men last night. Some people had been injured and were admitted to the City Hospital. He immediately hailed and auto and although he quoted an exorbitant fare he hired immediately without even attempting a bargain.
He rushed inside the hospital and asked about his son by name at the reception. The receptionist a middle-aged, heavy built woman gave him a cold stare then denied the knowledge of any patient by that name. Look in the records atleast, he insisted.
Told you there is no Mansoor over here How can you tell without checking in the system. You will tell us how to do our job.
See he is my son. He is missing for eighteen hours. Go to the police then. Madam, please try to understand. He might be here. If you kindly check in the computer once. Told you there is none by this name! the nurse barked this time.
He was not a man used to confrontation. Arguments made him nervous and high-pitched arguments made him alpitate. He didn't remember the last time he had a raised his voice. He had never hit his children, never shouted at them. His children had never heard him argue loudly with their mother. But today Mansoor's father thumped his right fist on the reception table so hard that it shook and shouted
at the top of his lungs,'Check for my son's name in the records now!'. No one deciphered the quiver in his voice and no one came to know that his bones had begun to shake from the impact of his outburst.
The nurse who had not anticipated such a comeback from a slightly built meek-looking man was completely taken aback. No one deciphered the quiver in his voice and no one came to know that his bones had begun to shake from the impact of his outburst.
'Don't shout sir. Why are you shouting? Just give me a minute.'
She quickly typed in Mansoor's name. The system threw up two matching results. Excitement and relief dashed through his body. Then he looked at the details. One was a 58-year-old Muhammad Mansoor and the other was a 13-year olf Mansoor Shiekh. His 19-year-old Mansoor was still missing.
'Why did you say there was no one by this name when there actually are two patients of the name?' he asked.
'None of your business now that your patient is not here,' she said triumphantly.
'Haramkhor,' he muttered under his breath and walked away.
At the police station the crowd had swelled and people were now raising slogans against the government, against the administration. There were more black coats now and a prominent news cahnnel's vehicle was parked a few meters from the entrance of the police station. The high octane drama went on for three hours before a uniformed policeman appeared with a paper in his hand. The paper contained the names of the people currently detained at the police station.
Of late father had begun to suspect his hearing powers.
'How much do you make me shout old man!' his wife would say whenever he failed to respond to her calls from the terrace.
How can I hear when you were calling out from the terrace?
How you used to hear me earlier? Get your hearing checked.
Father had also stopped hearing the azaan from the Ahle-Hadees masjid three kilometers away. It was a low decible but clear call of prayers father would earlier hear before any of the other mosques gave their calls. Then one day he asked Farah if the Ahl-e-Hadees masjid had stopped giving the Azaan.
They give it as usual. Let me take you to the ENT after my exams.
It was difficult to make out in the din what the man with the paper in his hand was saying. Then he signalled everyone to be silent and raised his voice.
People who think that their kin here can come forward. This list will not be read again. No inquiries will be entertained afterwards.
Father panicked and jostled his way towards the front. Ears strained he limped forward asking people to move and make way. Some moved immediately sensing the old man's urgency. Other's were too preoccupied and took longer to make way.
When Mansoor was two he had been left behind on the bus the rest of the family had alighted. By the time Mansoor's mother sensed his absence and raised an alam the bus had moved. Father ran after the bus boarding it after it had attatined the speed of at least 25 kmph. Now when the hearing had become challenged and the legs uncooperative was no time for a son to go missing. Suddenly a young man held him by the arm, stepped before him, and started to make way ahead as he gently pulled father along.
Father never got to thank the young man for his kindness for he been too occupied listening out to the names being read out. He had long lost the ability to attend to two tasks at the same time. He didn't
even realise it when he reached the front row and the young man left him.
'This is all,' the policeman said and father's heart lurched. Mansoor's name had not fallen on his ears.
'Kindly read the names again sahab,' father urged and the policeman unexpectedly obliged. He readout thirty names but Mansoor's was not one of them.
'My son is missing sahab. I need to lodge a missing person's report. Please let me go inside the police
'We are not here to go looking for wayward people,'
'My son is not wayward. He is a diligent student. He scored....'
'Leave! Just leave!! Don't show your face again here,' the policeman barked.
Tired, hungry, hopeless, and now humiliated, father didn't know how not to cry. Unrestrained tears welled up in his eyes and began to stroll down his wrinkled cheek. He wiped them with the back of his hand, made a futile attempt to compose himself and begged the policeman for help.
'Sahab please help me find my child. Please,' he said once again controlling an urge to fold his hands before the policeman. The man who had now become busy with a reporter halted his conversation midway and addressed father calmly.
How many sons do you have?
Do one thing.
Go home and procreate.
Immensely pleased at his joke he let out a hearty laugh. Knowing the futility of trying to melt a heart that did not exist he turned around and started on his homeward journey. On the way he washed his face, shed his dejected countenance and steeled his heart to witness the dance of agony in his wife's eyes. What would he tell his wife? I have again come back without your son.Without even so much as a hint about him.
Back home neighbours and relatives had shown up. They had brought with them kindness, support, and food. The family ate for the first time in twenty hours because it was no longer possible to go without food. The body doesn't care for tragedies outside its realm for too long. Its simple demand of food and rest appear ruthless when the mind is busy negotationg unbearable pain. However repulsive the demands may seem there is no escaping them. Soon after offereing his Isha namaaz father dozd off on the chair itself. Mansoor's mother covered him with a blanket and then gently plucked away the pansoorah from Shazia hand who had been sitting, supporting her back with the elevated head rest
of the bed , her eyes closed and the pansoorah open in her hands. At last she signaled Farah to join her and Shazia under the blanket. They stayed that way for sometime- protected from the bone-chilling cold in the air but without any recourse from the cold fears snapping at their souls.
Father woke up in the middle of the night dazed and confused. In his dream he had been holding a new born baby in his arms whose identity he was unsure of. One moment the baby was Mansoor but the very next moment he wasn't.
Whn he rose the drag of his chair woke up the ladies.
'Mansoor! Have you come? Mansoor's mother buttered emerging out of her slumber.
'Ammi,' Shazia said gently, 'Go back to sleep.'
'It felt as if Mansoor had come,' she said as she set aside the blanket and placed herself at the edge of the bed.
'He will Ammi. He will.' said Farah stroking her mother's head.
Mansoor's mother got up.
'Where are you going?' Farah asked. Let me make wazu and offer tahajjud.
'Wait I will heat the water.'
'Tap water is ice. You will be congested like anything. Don't do anything ridiculous please Ammi'.
Ammi sat on the edge of the bed as Farah and Shazia went to warm the water and make tea for their
parents. Mansoor's father went to relieve himself in the loo across the verandha.
When Shazia returned to the room with warm water ten minutes later she found her mother face down
on the floor, her limbs splayed as if lifeless.
Aghast she turned her mother over and called out to her sister. Seeing her mother's bloodied face Shazia felt faint. There gash on her forehead was not long but deep enough to let out considerable amount of blood. Farah had the presence of mind to bolt the wound with her cotton dupatta. Then with their father's help they lifted up their unconscious mother and placed her on the bed. Blood permeated the layers of cotton and a red patch appeared on the dupatta. Farah pressed the wound harder and then for the first time in thirty six hours she cried. Seeing her cry her sister could not control her own tears and the three of them- Mansoor's father and his two daughters held onto each other and sobbed.
In the morning when they returned from the local pharmacy having got Mansoor's mother gash stitched
and bandaged a young man was waiting for them at their doorstep.
'I am Amit. I was there when you were talking to Inspector Ravi about your missing son. I followed you home last evening. There were too many people around.
'Are you a detective,' father asked.
'I am an investigative journalist,'
Well no. Tell me about your son. Any clue of his whereabouts?
No. Not yet. Come inside. Father said as he unlocked, unlatched and pushed back the old wooden door of his humble dwelling.
Did he take part in the protests? Amit asked as he crossed over the threshold taking care not to bump his head against the door frame.
Most probably. We are not sure though.
There had been a scuffle between the protestors and some other men. Did you check at the hospital. I did.
Give me all his details.
Mansoor's father gave Amit all the details he sought. He assured them every help including the promise of seeking intervention of a resourceful and senior journalist to get the FIR lodged. For the family Amit's arrival and his calm and compassionate dispesation was like a cool breeze on a scorching afternoon. For the first time in two days Mansoor's parents less lonely and less helpless.
'What a well bred young man!' Mansoor's mother commented after Amit left. 'Ya Allah make him the coolness of his parents' eyes and return to me the coolness of my eyes,' she said.
There had been six minors among the people detained the day before. As they emerged from the lock up they narrated harrific details of police conduct in the lockup. The reports of police brutality circulated quickly on social media. Boys as young as thirteen had been stripped naked and beaten with belts and batons. Others had been burnt with cigratttes and kicked in the stomach. To Farah and Nazia it seemed thatthe torture had been personally inflicted on them and just when they thought they could read no more in popped another messageabout some ofthe boys who had suffered rectal bleeding. Farah quickly deleted the messages from her phone lest one her parents chanced upon it.
Hope these are just rumors.
When journalist Amit called an hour later Nazia picked up the phone. He asked for their father to make it to the police station immediately. Before hanging up Nazia asked him if there was any truth to the reports of police brutality on minors in the lock-up. Amit confirmed them.
The state is against us. We can no more allow ourselves the luxury of denying this fact, said Nazia to her sister.
Amit met Mansoor's father outside the police station and asked if Mansoor's jacket had Nike written
'Yes, it did have Nike written on it!' Mansoor's father exclaimed with a momentary glint that soon transformed and settled in his eyes like a permanent film of fear. Why are they asking about the jacket though?' he asked as both of them walked into the police station.
'Inspector Ravi says he found someone wearing such a jacket,' Amit said.
'Someone who couldn't speak for himself? father asked even more alarmed.
'Maybe he is in hospital. Some other hospital perhaps than the one you went to,' Amit came up with the best conjecture he could as they approached Inspector Amit.
'Come with me,' Inspector Amit commanded them to follow him as he walked to his jeep. 'Where is the Nike boy?' Amit asked inspector Ravi. 'We are going where he is.'
So Amit had guessed it right. He was in some other hospital. How will he ever pay back Amit's kindness, thought Mansoor's father as he followed Amit into the jeep? The jeep spurred to life. They drove for about three kilometers, aggressively negotiating the narrow lanes and crowded streets. As they drove on the crowds and houses thinned out and a vast expanse of residential plots came in sight. Mansoor's father was familiar with the area. One of his better off relatives had purchased a plot here. Which hospital had come up in this wilderness and how did Mansoor reach there. Father wondered not daring to address any questions to Inspector Ravi.
At a distance, he spotted another police jeep and two uniformed men. Their jeep approached the men with so much speed that Mansoor's father thought they would be passing by them. Then suddenly they came to a screeching halt. Mansoor's father fell forward even as a strong stench hit his nostrils. He looked up at Amit whose face had turned stone.
'Why are we here and what is the smell?' Amit asked.
Inspector Ravi hopped out of his jeep and signaled Amit to follow. Amit descended the jeep and came around to help Mansoor's father out whose shaking legs refused to comply but he dragged himself out anyways. With Amit's support, he walked over to the edge of the newly laid tar road from where they
could see a shallow pit snaking along with the road.
A tall and sleek young man with a bloodied neck lay sprawled face down in the pit.
'Turn it around for the old man to see and confirm,' Inspector Amit barked at his constables.
'I don't have to see my son's face to recognize him,' Mansoor's father said with surprising calmness.
Witnesses said that a group of men with lathis and knives had chased him from the venue of protest.