Srinagar is a busy outpost this autumn. The interlocutors have just wrapped up their maiden visit and promised to be back next month. In Delhi, sources confirm, they told Palaniappan Chidambaram (PC), India’s sharp-as-a-tact home minister, that he requires to arm himself with just one thing before flying into the valley: A topcoat. PC nodded gravely. In the autumn of 1964 Nehru’s chief troubleshooter Shastri landed at the Srinagar airport without a coat, clad in a Kurta-pajama. The shivering gentleman was immediately given a military coat by the army top brass at the tarmac. History. Such a mindful mistress.
October 30 afternoon. Srinagar is a ghost town. Omar, in a two-day stubble, is waiting for PC to descend at the airport. He has had recurring nightmares in the last few days. An old man in green Karakul appears in his dreams. The figure attempts to snatch the plough from Omar. The young CM doesn’t let it go. He calls out for Devender in his sleep. There is no response. Devender is a heavy sleeper. Omar sees stones chasing locks and hummingbirds dropping bird-shit all over the boulevard. He lets a sleep-scream out: Papa. Farooq is raising the roof in Delhi: freedom of expression is dangerous.
The ivory-color Air India [again renamed, I hear. Indian airlines to Indian to Air India again] touches down. PC appears on the door. Fresh. That discerning look in the eye. Omar quickly gets on his feet. He looks at his Swatch. There are firm hand-shakes and condensed pleasantries. They disappear into Omar’s waiting SUV. A million sirens blaring. Lights blazing. The security detail jumps in their respective cars. The cavalcade takes off.
PC to Omar: You don’t look good. What happened?
Omar: Nothing, just having these nightmares.
PC: What do you see?
Omar: Geelani trying to snatch my plough.
PC: OMG. Terrifying.
Omar: In another dream he appeared with a key around his neck.
Omar: All locks open with that key here.
PC: Ah, yes yes. Such a sad story.
Omar: No one listens to me. It looks like a joke now.
PC: We didn’t book him for that speech.
Omar: No point, Sir. He has been saying that since ages.
PC: Do you think we can gag him with tax threats?
Omar: I don’t think so.
PC: You know Nalini is a tax lawyer.
Omar: You mean Mrs PC.
Omar: We are asking shopkeepers to vacate government property?
PC: You will be unpopular.
Omar: How popular do you think I am?
PC: Don’t loose hope, please.
Omar: Arundhati Roy is not helpful.
PC: We are concerned.
Omar: Concern too is not helpful.
PC: Before we could even think of what to do about her, international media got interested.
Omar: Ah, autumn makes me gloomy.
PC: Put some Kashmiri music on.
Omar: You want to listen.
PC: Music is moonlight in the gloomy night of life. Was it Sartre?