I’m a Mukhbir you know, but not some lowly, local Mukhbir, who wears “civil dress” but forgets to remove his sarkari khaki socks, a dead give-away.
I didn’t start life as a Mukhbir. I was pushed in to Mukhbiri, by people who accused me of being a Mukhbir, till I got tired and said, “OK, I am a Mukhbir, what do I have to lose? I have lost everything, what goes of my father?”
In the late eighties, we used to play “spot the CID” at a crowded Halwai shop, opposite Late Abdul Ghani Lone’s house in Rawalpora.
Two guys would come in “civil dress” but with khaki socks and order samosas, and Polo Mir would laugh and say, there come the bumbling Double OOs: Jawahar aka Jaw CID, and Muzzaffar aka Muzz CID.
Jawwa and Muzza bumbled and mumbled about their “mission,” even to perpetually heart-broken Ishqiya-martyrs like Polo Mir, and absent minded, useless Djinns like Ajoy’a.
Their mission was to convince the neighborhood barber to spy on Lone Sahib when he was called over for a haircut. Polo would chuckle, “maybe they want the barber to plant a bug in his hair.”
In that era, I was quite fond of wearing olive green and khaki socks, because of my belief that I was Che Guevara-in-his-next-life, destined to lead a true revolution of Khalkh-e-Kashmir, a revolution that would not grind to a halt at Gupkar Road.
But when Kashmiri Pandits, the chalak, makkar, hanguls of Kashmir, started being hunted down and killed by by Hitta Fart’ade, a flunky of I-seen Money-lick; I got my Aunt in Amrika to send me red Mickey mouse socks, in an attempt to prove my non-Mukhbir status.
I would wear the red Mickey mouse socks during the day, wash them and dry them on my Kangri at night, and wear them again the next day, like they were a bullet-proof vest, that would deflect rumours of me being a Mukhbir, and possibly even Hitta’s bullets, but alas, that was not to be.
In the mid-eighties, Muzz CID and Jaww CID got away with wearing Khaki socks, and in 1989, I did manage to escape alive in my red Mickey mouse socks, but the game today is just too on-the-Track-II-edge: you can’t afford sartorial goof ups.
I witnessed Maulvi Tee Tee, alias Thesis Choor (“Thesis-Thief” for the benefit of Convent-hawees) the other day, in flesh and blood, whining and dining at a Kashmir confabulation, and boy did he look like a brand ambassador for Kashmir Handicrafts?
In fact, Vanderbilt Boba’a suggested that instead of selling worn out ideas, he could make more money as an upscale carfet salesman. But then she has a slightly fertile imagination, helped in some measure by premium Kashmiri weed stolen from her Abbu Jaan’s silver locker.
What you wear is important both in politics as well as Mukhbiri.
Doing Mukhbiri in the guise of a TV cameraman, I saw I-seen Money-Lick abuse cops, wearing déclassé Sarojini Nagar export-surplus maal.
(And you thought he shops only in tony Khan Market.)
Tch. Tch. No amount of shampoo and soap brought by our English-medium Babhi Jaan, from Walmart in Amrika, can wash off bad taste and wash the stains off your soul.
Later, I went to Gandhi Peace Foundation’s library, browsed through all the hundred volumes, searching for the word dog. My neck “broke,“ or so a doctor told me, when I was lifting the 97th volume.
It is late evening, and then a hand touches my shoulder. It is the spirit of the Mahatma. He says, “Son, are you searching for Dog or God?”
In the good old days, I would do standard, regulation Mukhbiri; what the Americans call “human int.”
So, once when I was digging for dirt on a politician, I arranged to have his security incharge, Gaffar, invited to a wazwan, and seated next to me. I let Gaffar pack everything in his doggy-bag, and after the meal, I took Gaffar outside the tent and offered him a cigar.
Gaffar accepted the cigar, lit it and started exhaling a blend of smoke and gossip.
“Jenab, what to say, very nice, this neymat: that new medamji also got Sahib Ji a big big box of big big cigars. She then told him these are rolled on the thighs of beautiful Cuban women. Sahib Ji started laughing, and winked. Is that true Jenab, this beautiful Cuban woman story?”
“Yes, indeed Gaffara, so are they, your Sahib and the new “medam,” hum-haw, setting things on fire, if you know what I mean?”
Gaffar held the wazwan doggy-bag up in the air, and swore theatrically, “ I swear by this neymet, this blessing of wazwan, that I have always seen them sitting only in the lawn. At least, when I am on duty. After that, By Mothere, only my Khoda knows.”
What a sad waste of neymat-e-Cuba.
My evolution into the super-Mukhbir league happened when I was roped in to solve one of the most puzzling mysteries, an incident so baffling that even RAW and ISI were forced to come together and collaborate.
So, one fine day, ISI made a weird request to RAW. Guess what? ISI wanted RAW to spy on their Prime Minister. A rather Sharif kind of person by day, but by night, the Prime Minister would turn in to a telephone-karaoke champion.
He would dial a number in Kashmir, and croon old Dilip Kumar songs all night to the lady. The object of his affections would gush and say “wahwah Omar.” The phone bills of the Pakistani Prime Minister’s household were threatening to exceed the quantum of American aid.
I was assigned the job of figuring out who this lady was and why she would say “Wah Wah Omar,” and not “Wah Wah Nawaz.”
I hung on top of many telephone poles, all night that winter, in posh neighbourhoods, and by a process of hit and trial, figured out who the Boba’a was.
I have signed a no-disclosure agreement so I can’t tell you who she was, but she was a truly beautiful Boba’a, so beautiful that Djinns would fight for the honour of getting entangled in her hair.
There was just one little-mittle flaw in her, that got the Mukhbiri community in to a tizzy. Her “General Knowledge” was really poor. When the Prime Minister called and said, “Adaab, this is Sharif,” she thought it was Omar Sharif. I figured this out the second I got to know she was from Convent.
Such is the world of Mukhbiri. As my Jannati Nani Jaan would say, “Dug deep the mountain, but came out only Micky mouse.”
Then as today, Mukhbiri is a challenging business. You have to get there, and ferret out the truth, before Arnab Goswami goes live on News Hour at 9 pm.
I was there, before Arnab.
Ajoy’a the Djinn, Kashmir’s Mukhbir-e-Chief was there, long before Arnab Goswami told a grateful nationthat RehamBoba’a has decided to divorce Immy Jaan.
Don’t go by what you are told; that little-mittle ,62-year old, Immy’s sisters did not like Reham’s salsa video.
I was perched on Reham’s slender shoulder, your little-mittle Djinn, trying to get entangled in her hair, disregarding an in-boxed message from a lovely, insecure Kashmiri Boba’a , a message that smelt of jalansy as much as it did of her signature Christian Dior Poison, Eu de Toilette.
” Ajoy’a, stay away from Reham Baji, doesn’t she look like a wax statue that ran away from Madam Tussads last night. I swear, she is a wax rantas.”
I’m just a little-mittle teenage Djinn. I don’t know much about women, wax-women or waxed women, all I know is that when Reham shashayed in a silk gown into Immy’s Baithakin their 40-acre hill-side home in Islamabad: from my perch on her shoulder, I saw what she saw.
It was a shocking sight, I must confess. Reham’s homophobic Belgian shepherd dog, Hugo Maximus, barked in anger, but no sound came out.
Immy was hugging some men with long beards and short pants, his beardy-wierdy Taliban friends, and they were planting slurpy, wet-wet kisses; wet obahs on each others cheeks, à la Silli Prah Barfani.
Both Reham, and I were shocked when we overheard that Immy and the LBSPs (long beards, short pants) were rejoicing because apparently one Saudi worthy, Shiekh Abdul Aziz, a Mufti of some sort, had passed a fatwa allowing married men to eat their wives or parts of her body if they were afflicted with severe hunger.
Reham’s moon-like visage waxed and waned with expressions ranging from Haw to Haww to Hawww to Hawwww, which made me wonder if she had gone to the Presentation Convent in Muree, a “cousin-sister” or “co-sister-in-law” of our own distinguished Convent, whose alumini have raised humming and hawwing in to a fine art.
(I once asked a Convent Monalisa what she would like to drink, and she just smiled enigmatically and said, “Kuch Nahi.”)
Now Reham liked it when 62-year old Immy took his sister’s permission to put on his dentures and bite her playfully, but eating her up if he was hungry, no baba ji no.
She knew that after retiring as the playboy of the East, he was now happy being a toy boy of the Pakistani Army, and when it came to power he was quite hungry.
Immy’s 126-day, Army-backed protest did not in any way satiate his hunger for power, and his 279-day marriage also seemed to have become a roadblock in this noble hunger.
So Immy did it metaphorically.
“Eating up” a woman’s reputation, tearing it to shreds is so easy. You don’t need Shiekh Abdul Aziz to tell you how.
A man can be interested in politics, a man can be ambitious, a man can be anything, and it is great. But if a woman wants the same, if a woman doesn’t want to “stay at home,” it is sacrilege.
A man can claim to be staging “democratic protests” against a lawfully held election, run with the Taliban and hunt with the Generals, and still be regarded as a hero.
In the ideology called “Immynism,” a woman gets “eaten up” at the starting point.
Think about it.
Stop living in your little-mittle bubble. Come out of your bubble, and do something.
Things that seem to be happening faraway, are actually happening very close to your door-step.
Sending your children out is easy. The point is will they ever come back, and to what?
They are close to your doorstep. They are getting close to your breathing space. And soon, if you don’t rise up, they will tell you how to breathe, and how often.
This is not the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This is not the Immydom of Pakistan.
This is the Boba’adom of Kashmir.
Over to you.
Ajoy Bhan is a communications consultant based in Delhi. He is a Kashmiri and insists that he is not a Kashmir expert. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org