A balmy Sunday noon in Delhi. A fortnight later it shall be oven hot. Bus conductors shall misbehave with all and sundry as mercury inches further north. Fat policemen will get more temperamental over the next two weeks. Mosquitoes will drink middle-class blood and plump out. Some scandal will surface. But that is for later!
This weekend Peahens prance about P Chidambaram’s 19-Safdarjang villa. Two white ambassador cars pull up. A journalist and a peacenik step out and walk towards the bottle-green lawn. The maalis [gardeners], caressing pansies and Icelandic poppies suddenly jump on their feet and bark: Salaam mem saab, salaam saab. [Greetings]. Saar waha chaun mein bêthe hai [The boss is sitting in the shade, over there].
PC, 65, has dyed his hair charcoal black in stark contrast to the elegant Radha Kumar’s coiffure which is muted silver. Dilip wears peppery hair. He is 67. Women don’t age. In any case it is ungentlemanly. The twain shake hands with PC and sink in cane chairs. A thirteen-lined squirrel scurries past.
It makes a chittering squeak.
Radha: Lovely creatures. Squirrels.
PC: Sharp teeth, madam, they can bite.
Dilip: They have red squirrels in France. Mostly active in mornings.
PC: Ah! Your French ways, Dilip. Did you know there is a Kashmir flying squirrel?
Dilip gesticulates in negative.
Radha: I think the Kashmir squirrel is under threat from loss of habitat.
PC: Everything is under threat up there.
Dilip: Knock on wood, Sire, I foresee long queues in Kashmir.
Radha: We read hope in between the lines.
PC: Panchayat polls are around the corner. May there be lines and queues on all hill tops.
Dilip: The Azadi gang may break the formation.
PC: Heck, why can’t you get them talking?
Radha: I emailed Geelani.
PC: Hope he checks his mails, regularly. Does he have an email?
Dilip: Yes. Stones.firstname.lastname@example.org
Radha: Yasin is yet to get back to my mail.
PC: He is the mildest of them all. Get him to chat atleast.
Dilip: Apparently he is preparing to stop eating for a day.
PC: Oh, what happened to him now? Is he upset?
PC: Impossible blokes. They will drive us nuts, I swear.
Radha: But why have you barred Geelani from exiting Delhi?
PC: Our snoops saw him writing something in furious Urdu in a garden bench in Delhi. Who knows he might read the riot act in Kashmir. So we decided to extend his holiday here.
Dilip: Fantastic idea. Hyderpora is no Tahrir, after all.
Radha: Farooq was helpful. He made an appeal.
PC: Appeal to?
Dilip: To the Azadi bandwagon. To unzip their mouths.
PC: Well, the grapevine is that no one takes him seriously in Kashmir, not the least separatists.
Radha: We made some serious recommendations. Did you have a look?
PC: Enjoy the winter noon, Radha. What is the squirrel-like hurry?