I hated my mom. I thought to myself ‘I would never do this if I were in her place.’ Whatever reasons she had for whatever her decision was that day, I truly hated her at that very moment.
So I said ‘Dad, I’ll come with you.’
The year must have been 2005 or 2006 I’m not so sure. My dad had received an anonymous call on his official number some two three weeks back. This group of people we refer to as ”Naharol” – the gunmen often came barging into our homes when we were kids, taking away our belongings, driving away our vehicles – something they were particularly very much keen about, on the pretext of borrowing them and promising to return the vehicles – a promise they seldom kept, and asking for a place to hide for the night in our homes reassuring us that they would leave our homes before dawn without a trace, to which our parents would politely tell them ‘ Nupi angang yaobanina nungaidou mande.’ (There are girls and kids in the family so it wouldn’t be so convenient.)
They would sometimes be empathetic towards us and leave. At other times, they would just be way too persistent and we would eventually have to give in to their requests and demands. The real trouble was – we the common people were always stuck in the middle. There was always a risk we took by letting them in our homes at nights. They could do horrible things to us – anything could go wrong in that one night. The police or other military groups after such men could come hunting for them and accuse us of sheltering these men, often accusing us of some sort of connection with these armed men. We often knew of the risks. And yet, we had to give in more than often lest they shed some blood. ‘Çause there’s very little choice left with you at gunpoint. And in those nights, we never got a wink of sleep.
On short cold winter days, when dusk fell well before we were done with our evening household chores, we would finish our home-work, have our meals and go to sleep very early, all the while maintaining the silence lest the ‘NAHAROL’ heard us talking. We were supposed to whisper and not talk in normal tone. We were to read in silence and not read out our poems and lessons loud. As kids, we found it very intriguing and petrifying at the same time. Still, we quietly followed the orders at nights for these men were of imminent danger to us. ‘SHHHHH… ‘ our parents would warn us when we sometimes let our lessons take control of us and our voices take over.
My dad rubbished the phone call as he was neither a famous politician nor a wealthy well known person in our locality. For him, he meant only one thing to the society – an honest simple person who served the society as best he could and he was only an electrical engineer. ‘I cannot be targeted’ he told us.
Over the next few days, the caller by the name ‘James’ kept calling my dad a number of times listing and repeating his demands over and over again. According to him, his demands were very simple and straightforward, something he insisted my dad give in to or the whole family would bear the consequences. This so called James demanded that my dad hand him about 40 odd Nokia N75 (I’m not sure if it was N75 or N71 but it had just been launched those days) and some more amount of cash along with the cell phones.
My dad grew irate each day and as days passed by, that turned into a state of perturbation. All of a sudden out of nowhere, some one comes asking you to hand over your hard earned money. I could feel him. And I understand that now more than ever. Somebody was trying to play foul with us we knew but with the little choices we had – going to the police or other genuine groups and bearing the consequences of whatever may happen later to any of us family members especially dad or giving in to their demands, dad started negotiating. The ‘gun’ and a ‘name’ had so much power I thought.
The day finally came when the name ‘James’ was finally announced in one of the leading news channels in the state as the head of a group operating actively in the north east. Somebody was either using his name or we were being targeted by someone from the locality – the only two conclusions we could come to. Yes it’s very common there.Even common people get targeted.
The next day after so much of pleading and negotiation and after agreeing to reduce the number to twenty something, he asked my dad to come at Moirang Leirak bus parking area, a place hardly 15-20 minutes by walk from my place. My dad had asked my mum to accompany him to which she said ‘No’. She wanted my dad to take someone else along with him, my uncle. My first reaction was that of hatred. I couldn’t understand why she would say such a thing.I told myself that day ‘If someday, I ever find myself in a situation like this, I won’t let my daughter hate me’ and for whatever reasons she refused that day, I was young and angry and I just hated her for it all the same. For what I wanted her to say was ‘ I’ll go with you. Aren’t moms always supposed to be by dad’s sides in times of troubles?
We went to Moirang Leirak bus parking area in our old Maruti 800 (my dad’s first car which he still treasures like a dear son. It got stolen but dad loved it so much that I guess it found its way back) carrying the box containing the phones and cash wrapped in a huge white sheet of paper at the backseat of the car. I saw some men dressed in plain clothes with what looked like guns in their hands concealed skillfully to receive their so called demands in broad daylight. There were his other ally at different positions across him. I tried to concentrate on their faces or to watch the man closely who took the box and the cash from my dad’s hand but it happened all so quickly that all I remember now is what he wore and not how he looked like. We drove back home feeling resentful.
I stared at my old Nokia 1100 that I owned back then with mixed feelings as my mind was clouded with images of the man taking those fancy phones from my dad. I calmed myself down and thought ‘ WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND’. There’s KARMA. Someday, they will all have to give their dues. There’s always a payback time 🙂
I read an article today. ‘Confessions of a killer policeman’. It somehow reminded me of days when we grew up facing these ‘naharol’ every other day or night. And though it may not be something I planned on writing about my hometown where I grew up (it’s just an impromptu write), I still wanted to write this. It’s something many of us back home my age or older would relate to. Though these encounters have lessened in the recent times, they still do exist very much at large.
PS – This is not a travel post. It’s an experience. A story from my side of the world. A story from my childhood days.