Repression, Repression

“Abid?”

“What?”

We sat on the greenest and tallest hill. “How long has Darpana Existed?”

“Ever since you were in High school.” he answered with a straw dangling from his mouth.

“Means this is not real, you said you’re not going to help me and here you are dropping hints.” I said without looking at him, I was too busy enjoying the ‘figments’ of my imaginations.

“That is still irrelevent, the reality bit, I mean.” he smiled, obnoxiously.

“If this is my dark side, what will my happy side be like. ” I was curious.

“You mean to say you don’t remember Her?” he spat the straw, feigning surprise I’d imagine.

“Who?” I was genuinely surprised.

“I hate repressed memories. ” he shrugged.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————

“Don’t you think having a knowledgable guide in my own imagined world a bit of a cliche?” I ask as we moved across one of the micro creek systems.

“The fodder for your imagination is self loathing and a ton of cliches so I am not entirely surprised.” he replied.

“You said something about a ‘Her’, pity I can’t remember.”

“Pity she can’t forget you. ” he answered.

I felt nothing. It was hard feeling anything when there was no memory to back up the whole discussion.

The two moons rose high into the starry sky. Their orbit was so wrong, in the real world I would expect them to fizzle out of orbit but this was my world, physics could take a back seat. The micro streams teamed with shimmering points of thousand colours. It was hard to say if they were fish or gemstones. I wanted to reach down and touch them but the thought of the fragility of my woven world kept me from doing so.  I noticed time ran faster, we had entered deep into the night in what seemed to be a few moments. It was like being stuck in a RPG being run on all the supercomputers of the world combined. The experience was overwhelming.

I was going to like Darpana a lot.

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DARPANA

The forest was behind us and so was the reality I knew.

“You are a very unwise man. You didn’t even care to ask what my name was. So let me spare you the trouble. My name is Abid. You may be thinking that I am a figment of your imagination. Well the answer is that I may and I may not. You have had enough breaks from reality with out knowing in the past few days. I don’t expect you to arrive at the answer so soon and I am not going to help you with the answer either. ”

“Why are we here, wherever here is.” I asked, finally composure returned. It was surprising to know that despite being emotionally bland, fear still found a way to creep into my situations. I got the worst deal in the package.

“Are you listening? The answers to those questions await us here. And ‘here’ is called DARPANA. Remember the name of this place other wise the natives will mind.”

“Natives? We have natives?”

“Of course how can such a beautiful place be left uninhabited? That is downright unfair. Well this is Darpana. This is the city that manifests from your repressed side. It has created some of the most beautiful imagery possible. I wanted to bring you here to let you know what a beautiful mind that you have and what you have been missing out thanks to your whining.” He ended his speech as he pointed to the grassy green hills ahead of us. They reminded me a lot of the Chocolate Hills of the Philippines, only these were greener. “You may want to hold your breath for the things to come. ”

Most of me was in denial. A part of me was in a bliss. That part of me was obviously the creator of this universe. The sky was the bluest shade (of, well, blue) that I had ever seen. The undulating horizon with two fading moons and the impeding dusk caught my heart. I wanted to reach out to the sky and to get some of the brilliant blue on my hands. The green around me was superb, small creeks that spread like a network in between the micro valleys between the hills created the most serene piece of melody that I had ever heard.

“Did you notice? Tell me you noticed!” he smiled again. I was growing tired of his smiling face but I was too happy to notice that.

“What?” I turned back to ask.

“Tears! Did you notice that you’re crying?”

“Shut up!” I sobbed.

13- The Professor and Khwaja

 

The blood showered from his nascent wound. The bullet broke the sound barrier just before it hit his chest. Just before he died he also felt the searing pain from the hot oils issuing from the stubby muzzle of the modified .50 cal handgun. The crimson mist dissipated into the damp office quarters of Kundan Chamanwala. The heavier drops of blood spattered on the files and the leather implements on his mahogany desk. Little drops pointing towards their origin, a tell the tale for the blood spatter expert and a warning for The Consortium. The killer jumped out of the window.

 

The identity of the killer was not important in this case. Well on an individual level, this was cold blooded murder, on a much higher level thing were different. The consortium had committed suicide the moment they denied the workers their rights. The masses had finally vented their frustration and were making efforts to bring change that was denied to them through the ballots and referendums. The murder of Kundan Chamanwala sent shock waves across every one in the city. The business men feared for their lives. The revelers went quiet for a minute, realizing what monsters they had become. They also realized that they were also beyond the point of no return. No transgression mattered hence forth, they realized that they were going to see change no matter what. The processions resumed as the cloud leadership issued the green signal to storm the smoke stacks.

 

The Professor and Khwaja Abidi walked carefully to avoid the wrath of the masses. Dressing formally could gather unwanted attention. The “dusas” (the “chadar” for men) did a lot to hide most of their garb. They could not, however, cloak their fears as they scrambled into a burning building that used to house a local bank.

Not a good idea Khwaja.” The Professor said as he tried to get his breath back.

Neither was staying int The Café. I have to know what is happening. I can’t trust the newspaper anymore than I can trust the Consortium.” Khwaja tried to cough the breathlessness out of himself.

I heard Kundan was killed in the morning. The people say that this was done by the consortium itself so that they could discredit the revolution. The consortium laughs at these allegations. To them Kundan was a rising star in the industry. Now the revolution has been converted into a war.” The Professor said as he cleared the smoldering debris to make a place to sit.

What is the difference?” Khwaja inquired.

In a revolution you choose ideology over power and generally the masses are with you. In a war you’re supposed to pick a side. No matter on which side you are and no matter what the outcome is, you always lose.” The Professor completed the sentence and began to cry.

Khwaja hated when grown men cried, but this was not the time to interrupt. The Professor was not the only man crying on that day. The loved ones of all who died during the processions and the family of Kundan were all in mourning. To that extent there was a common ground. That and vengeance.

This world struggles with reconciliation. It’s tenants on the other hand struggle with vengeance. The Professor and Khwaja were not sure what they were doing. There wasn’t a hint on what could be done. Whatever motives they had in mind before they walked out of the cafe were changed. Their souls and intellect were scarred by the happenings around them. They only wished they could tell their family they were OK before the networks went down. The safest place, now that it had seen one explosion, was The Cafe, or what was left of it. They hurried back to the place.

I am tired of this. We should do something about it.” Khwaja said as he paced across the hall with the upturned chairs.

OK we will but I think we should try to get away from here. Food is going to go scarce soon. We will have fewer reasons to stay here.” The Professor gasped. He might have cried but Khwaja didn’t care to notice.

This is my town. I am going to stay.” Khwaja waved his fist.

“That WAS a good idea. Look out of the windows now… the fire, the smoke, the people. It’s not a spectator sport anymore.”

I won’t give up. I am curious. I wonder where the government is in this fight between the classes.”Khwaja continued to wave his hand. The Professor noted that this was a nervous tic. Khwaja wasn’t the nervous kind but there are always limits.

I heard that they are about to send in the military. The military is not willing to bear the brunt of the public opinion just yet and they have refused. Besides, the government is happy that they aren’t revolting against them…”

Yet!” Khwaja interrupted The Professor’s statement.

Yes, I think the government is going to keep its distance, it’s going to treat it as a civil war. It’s going to send diplomats to both sides and attempts at back door diplomacy will be made.” The Professor  took out his diary and wrote the idea. He might have gotten the opportunity to understand the anatomy of a revolution.

But there is one problem… who is going to lead the talks on part of the people on the streets.” Khwaja pointed out.

Until this thing is decided, the issue is going to be very frustrating to the government.” The Professor agreed.

You don’t suppose the Colonel from the Cafe might assume that role?” Khwaja got up and peered through the blinds.

He may. That is something for later. Now this is my final call. WE MUST LEAVE!” The Professor pointed to the floor with every syllable, a pedagogic gesture in fact.

Not me. I am not leaving. I am going to find The Colonel and see what he is up to.” Khwaja let go the blinds and came back to the seats.

You know I am not the one to leave you old friend, as much as I continue to insist that we leave.” The Professor held Khwaja’s arm in a grip exuding fraternal warmth.

I hope you know what you are doing because I certainly don’t.” Khwaja said with a frown on his forehead.

 

12-Peeling Onions With Amir Mehdi

You get used to it, no matter how bad the situation is, no matter how much you have to pay for it, you have to in the end. It’s nothing new to us humans. You have to get used to it to survive.

My journey with the comrades was taking a turn towards the point. Too many surprises were already in queue for my delicate digestive system. I knew more were on the way. It was time to steer into the flow. Amir Mehdi struck me as the odd one out. He was the only one who hadn’t had a fling with communism. In fact he was the only one who openly denounced the system. I sat with Amir in the back of the Jeep. I still couldn’t understand how Trauer could have come up with this car with custom right hand steering.

“Sabir told me all about the way he duped you.” I tried to start a conversation with him. I had learned that he was not the one who would be bothered by such intimate transgressions.

“So he did. It means he trusts you. Don’t you like it when some one considers you worthy of trust?” he was still trying desperately to make me feel important. That was his trick, his only social skill, to make the other guy feel important and wanted. He was succeeding by the way.

“I don’t know, I would think twice about telling a secret of a friend to a person I barely know.” I was still on the defensive. To me privacy was as important to a person as the oxygen he or she breathes.

“Oh he knows plenty about you, plenty to decide to talk about his life choices.”

“How can one decide to make such decisions so fast?” I asked.

“Do you realize you’re asking the same question again and again?” Amir reversed my question.

“Maybe I am. Then again, there isn’t much to talk about.” I scratched my head.

“OK. Let me tell you another story then.” he smiled.

“Is it any more shocking than Sabir’s revelation?” I asked.

“That my friend, is a perspective thing. Well lets fast forward, a few months after Sabir told me that he was Lady Moon Lake, I got worried for him. I mean, the thing that stuck in my head was the efeminate nature of the chat. The person I was chatting with was sweet and sensitive, Sabir was sweet but in a much different way.

“It got me thinking. What could have been the reason for Sabir to befriend me like this. It made no sense. I could be a random prey, but the reason he preyed upon me could not be random. I don’t believe in coincidences when it comes to human nature.

“I sat on his computer and started sifting through his inbox and social networking accounts. The guy trusted me with his password and I took the liberty of going through his laundry. I was in for a surprise. There was girl who had the nick of Lady Moon Lake. All the mails sent by her were in the junk folder but they hadn’t been cleaned. It was as if he didn’t have the guts to delete them wholly. Something in your inbox is just one click away. Something in your recycle bin takes only two clicks, if you know what I mean.

“I stared at the e-mails. I mean they were hundreds of them. My hands trembled and I clicked on one of them. I was shocked. At first I thought that these were the mails he had sent me, then I noticed that the dates and places had been changed. Just to be clear, Lady Moon Lake was the nick Sabir had used to chat with me. This other Lady Moon Lake was the nick of some one Sabir had been talking to a month before he contacted me. On close inspection I found a few replies from Sabir. Things were making sense. Maybe Moon Lake was the nick of some one who had fooled Sabir, just the way he fooled me. But this original “Moon Lake” was different in some way I could not understand. It turned out that after finishing the affair with the real Moon Lake, Sabir got bonkers in his head and used her e-mails to shatter other weaklings like myself. Almost psychopathic, this attitude, but by the time he cooled down he realized he had hurt someone all for nothing. That is when he asked The Russian to be his body guard as he set me free.

I racked my brains with the correspondence. They were definitely original. They numbered in the hundreds and spanned all human emotions known. Happiness, grief, anger, disappointment, fear and jealousy. At some point Sabir’s point of view changed. When the correspondence started, he was confident and imposing. Later on he assumed the role of a heart broken lover. A sort of lover who is not liked or tolerated because of his lack of self esteem. A person who sinks in the quick sand of self loathing with every rejection. The persona of the globe trotting Sabir, who was so experienced with politics and technology, melted down to an insecure wreck as I read more of his replies.”

“Then what did you do?” I asked.

“I went after Lady Moon Lake. I wanted to know how a women can change a man so much.” he smiled.

“Don’t tell me her address was there in the hard drive, waiting to be found?” The stories didn’t add up for me.

“No, I found references to a restaurant and a telephone company office. Their frequent use was anomalous. I had one of my drug reps canvass the addresses.”

“How were you sure that the Moon Lake would still go to the same restaurant?” I asked.

“Simple, the office and the restaurant were close by, the time they met were during office hours and the first mention of the restaurant was in Moon Lakes emails. Obviously this meant that she was the first one to suggest the place. He canvassed, and spare me for sounding creepy but by canvass I mean he followed employees who visited the restaurant regularly. He came up with a hand full of leads. 4 to be exact.”

“Interesting! How did you narrow them down?” I was genuinely impressed. Even if he wasn’t a professional spy, he sure thought like one.

“Simple, 3 of them always went to lunch together. One always went alone and dressed soberly. I went to the restaurant a couple of times and she matched the description in the e-mails. In fact she was exactly how I pictured her to be.” he took a deep sigh.

“Then what?” I insisted. I wasn’t going to let up on a good story.

His smile broadened his gaze fell to the floor, I imagined he’d be blushing too but it was too dark was to tell.

“Then I fell in love, again.” he said in an almost inaudible whisper.

11- Mutiny

“I am getting used to it. Thank you so very much for asking.” I thanked Rakh when he inquired about my headache.

“You need any Panadol?” he asked as he opened his leather “Inquelab” bag. It used to be a staple for students and journalist in the Old and New Republic.

“I am the Doc here and I request for preventive medicine.” I said and got into the Jeep.

“What is the prevention for your head-ache then?” He asked.

“Some peace and quiet is just what the doctor ordered.” I tried not to sound too sarcastic.

“Don’t pull that one on me kid, I had nothing to do with this.” Rakh continued, “Do you think its anything easier for me? You think you should know everything? I like these guys, they are a lot better than the boys I used to hang out with. What about you, have you tried comparing them with the previous lot?”

“Well I didn’t have many friends back then.” I scratched my head.

“Then you wouldn’t know how to blend or how to put up a compromise. I am enjoying myself, even if I don’t know Trauer very well.That’s all, I am usually at the receiving end of the advice.” he started munching on the sandwich he bought.

“You know, if you throw away that corny sense of humor, people may take you seriously.”

“Now why would I want do something like that?” he laughed.

The team got together again and the car started.

“We are going to take a detour.” Trauer said as we got on the road.

“Why?” Amir was assuming the role of the ‘opposition’ now that I had decided to pipe down.

“The road ahead reminds me of th Autobahn that led out of Berlin.” he answered.

“Is that where you lost your wife?” Ami asked. Rakh listened to the exchange with a childish curiosity as he munched on his potato chips.

“Stop it Trauer, stop it right there.” interfered Sabir.

“Now its your turn is it?” Trauer said as he bit his lip.

“Maybe it is,” Sabir continued,” the doctor gave me the idea. We stand by you man, for everything you do, but sometimes you do get carried away. I mean she’s dead. She has been dead all this time. You’ve run all your life and ended up in a place which you claim to hate. I mean all of this guilt and self loathing. Please don’t do it Trauer. For a minute snap out of it.”

I was amazed at Sabir’s intervention. The Russian began to fidget nervously as Amir’s mouth fell open with surprise.

“You don’t know how I feel.” I would have added an exclamation mark but that is how the sentence came out of Trauer’s mouth; devoid of emotion.

“I know because I haven’t seen my parents for the last 15 years. I live everyday of my life knowing that there is no way for my parents to know where I am right now. They don’t even know if I am alive. I know suffering all right. Not the way you do of course but I do!” Sabir pointed angrily at Trauer as he made his point. He wasn’t quite done. “And you ever undermine my feelings!”

Sabir had a point. With all the mud we have flung at us in our lifetimes, we think we have suffered the worst. Someone with a lot of guts and tolerance may walk out of Dresden on the day of the Dresden Bombing and may even stumble into Nagasaki on the day of the atomic explosion and still act out to be the happiest person on earth. The only reason being that he has either learnt the art of staying happy by choice or he is forced to block out all the gruesome memories around him. In stark contrast, though I think you don’t need me to elaborate it any further, a person who meets a waiter who doesn’t get his order right may burst into tears because it reminds how he is always on the back seat while life drives him through the lumps and bumps of existence. No man deserves his fears and sorrows to be undermined. There is always a hierarchy of sorrow in these circumstances. there is always the guy who wants acknowledgment that he is the saddest man alive. It may not give him happiness but it does provide a continuous state of condolence. Apparently some people never make out of the funeral in one piece. A part of them, the happiness, dies and is buried with the buried. They make do with the condolences and they turn out to be his oxygen. These condolences may be voiced concerns or silent stares of awkwardness.

Trauer didn’t say anything. He wasn’t going to make an apology only an hour into the previous one. Sabir understood and didn’t press it any further. Trauer symbolically changed the gears; applying more force than what was usually required and the wheels revved as the Jeep moved on the reminiscent of the Autobahn.

“For a group of people who are supposed to help a friend who is running from a tragedy, we aren’t exactly helpful are we?” Rakh asked as he rolled his eyes.

“Maybe, but there are limits you know.” Sabir whispered back.

Tarnuba was still a few hours ahead and we had nothing to talk about, so the next best thing had be done; falling asleep.

10-A Saint In Our Midst


“Khwabnagar? Where is Khwabnagar.” He then searched the map frantically. “Is this it?” He asked as he pointed to a point on the map.

We’re going to Khwabnagr?” The Preacher’s voice was shrill with excitement.

Khwabnagar? Is it anything like the Urals? I miss them sometimes.” The Russian weighed in.

Trauer kept quiet.

Trauer I appreciate your diving into your past. I am sorry for prying into it.” I apologized.

Twice in one day. You did it once at Sabir’s office, that I understood, but in the truck again and you had to wake me up for it? Don’t you see? You’re my friend. All of this will come to you gradually when the times OK.” He shot at me.

Sorry.” I mumbled.

Don’t you see?” he was not letting down, “someday you will have to know all this. You will be the heir to all of my stories. You will propagate my life’s work and mistakes so no one makes them in the future.” On finishing his sentence, he inhaled deeply and held his breath. After a few seconds he exhaled and repeated the cycle; Trauer was busy in relaxation exercises.

Don’t worry Comrade!” shrieked The Russian. “It’s not you. He is upset that you had pressed him so hard for something he was already willing to give to you. I mean he would have told you all of this eventually.”

The awkwardness in the Jeep lingered on for more than an hour. The country side around us was teeming with life. The blue of the sky had returned. It was almost sinful having all of the guys shut up because of me.

I don’t believe the Doc did anything wrong.” Amir whispered into Trauer’s ear. “Cut him some slack, he is not even arguing when he should be protesting for his good intentions. He was curious that’s all. He also needs an apology Trauer, give it to him.”

Amir’s arbitration was assuring.

Sorry.” Trauer said carefully as he made a sharp turn.

Well done Amir, by the way, shouldn’t we be debating where we are going right now and why?” Sabir said as he turned the map around once again.

Well its the most beautiful place in the New Republic. We might relax for a few days.” Trauer replied.

A few days?” Rakh asked gradually.

It could be a few weeks.” The Russian almost jumped with joy.

What man?” I felt too weak to protest. “ I haven’t packed that sort of money.”

Don’t worry, we will think of something Doc.” Sabir turned from the front passengers seat.

All of us high earning bachelors can spare some money for a good time, can’t we?” Amir insisted. Every one in the Jeep agreed. It was as if Trauer had been waiting for an opportunity to leave town at the earliest. He couldn’t rely entirely on national holidays for long trips into the mountains. Maybe his panic attacks were a genuine issue. Maybe it was a bit of both. The important thing was that as enjoyable as the things were turning out to be, the resentment and self loathing was growing inside me. The reason was that I felt being pushed around and I was not being trusted with the facts. I wanted to push back, I wanted to bargain a bit, show some stubbornness in other words.

I always wanted to go to Khwabnagar. I even wrote a poem about it, its called well what do you know, ‘Khwabnagar’. Care to listen?” Rakh was excited.

No, not now.” insisted Sabir.

Its really good, you’ve got to listen.” Rakh was clearly upset.

We will when we get there.”Sabir shot back.

Whats wrong? This is a long journey. Someone has to say something.” Rakh’s face was growing redder.

Come to think of it,” Sabir ignored Rakh, “How far is this Khwabnagar of yours? Eh Trauer?”

About 4 hours to Tarnuba. 4 hours after that to Pinha, and 10 hours beyond that to Khwabnagar. 17-18 hours I think.” Trauer answered.

Ahm ahm, my poem?” Rakh asked again.

OK, lets here it.” Sabir resigned.

The poem was well written. The troubling thing was that his comedy contrasted his serious stuff. Sure, a lot of famous poets had a fling with humor but Rakh’s humor was different. It was cheesy,cliched and often very harsh. I could understand Sabir’s trouble with taking such a guy’s poem seriously.

OK, I am stopping for fuel. Washroom and eatables, now. Don’t cram too many snacks though, we can shop in Tarnuba all we want and Khwabnagar is not a wasteland either so keep that in mind.” Trauer signaled us all to get going.

The filling station was all empty. There was only worker, as it turned out, he was a personal guard to the filling station’s owner. The owner was running the shop himself. The workers’ revolt was spreading out of FarAwayDowns. We were about 130 KM from where we had started. The good news was that the commotions was limited. The bad news was that if this would be the state up in the mountains then we would rather stay home.

I sat at the restaurant sipping tea when Sabir came and sat in front me.
The Preacher went to the mosque. I smiled and turned to Sabir.

Quite a man, The Russian told me about the time he was duped on the internet.” I tried to start the conversation.

He told you everything?” Sabir’s forehead was terribly furrowed.

What was there to tell, it happens all the time.” I sipped tea casually.

How casual can you be? Are you for real?” now the squint appeared in his right eye. It usually meant that he was Sabir was not “processing” this. I didn’t know why.

Did he tell you who sent those emails to Amir?” he asked, apparently the guessing game was too much.

You mean you know who was doing all this? You could have told him, a bit of revenge could have eased his pain. He would’ve hurt himself, did that ever occur to you?” This was unbelievable.

We couldn’t tell him so we did the next best thing, we became friends with him. Surprising to see how you’re his best friend all of a sudden. Don’t blame you, he  has this ability to make allies almost immediately.” Sabir was apologetic, to the wrong guy in my opinion.

Wait wait, how did you know who was pestering Amir? I know you know a lot about computing, but there is no simple way to know who it was back then. ” What he was saying was making less and less sense.

“Well I know because we did it, The Russian and me.” by now all of his facial muscles had tensed. His lips curled, both of his eyes were squinting, he was about to blow up.

I stood up and ran towards the jeep. Sabir couldn’t run after me, he called my name.

What?” I yelled back at him.

Stop! It’s not as bad as you think.” he pleaded.

Are you people crazy? You are as mad as The Russian himself.” I yelled back.

He stumbled out of the chair.

We were having a bit of fun when I started feeling bad for the guy. He was sweet and sincere. I didn’t sleep for days trying to figure out what to do for him. The Russian had all sort of dirty tricks up his sleeves but I refused all of them. There is a bit of irony in this but The Russian came up with the plan of befriending him.” He was almost pleading.

Now you are going to ask me not to tell Amir anything.” I said.

What do you mean by telling him?” his facial muscles relaxed all of a sudden. “He knows everything, we told him a few months after we became friends.”

I was starting to get a headache. The Preacher was returning from the Masjid. He waved at us. I waved back at him. Sabir was tensed up not because he thought I was going to tell Amir everything. He was troubled by my opinion for him. In a very twisted way, I thought it was very nice of him.

Amir is a Saint compared to us guys.” I turned and informed Sabir what I made of all of this.

A saint indeed.” he said smiling.

9-Spies, Lies and Sighs

Mehdi was at peace. Apart from the little hitch early in the discussion, he handled pretty well. How many skeletons were there in the closet? Where ever I poked, I got blood and tears. Improbable and sad stories. Was I rushing my acquanitece? Was I doing this to feel secure when I clearly was not. These men were products of FarAwayDowns, even if they weren’t born there. Their gloom and doom was forged from every breath they took of that city.

But why were they running? Why was Trauer so fidgety and why did the rest of the gang follow his judgment without question? I felt left out again, only this time I intended to go with the flow. I had to learn to enjoy the situation. This idea was short lived. I was not OK with not-knowing.

Amir was awake, The Russian stood up and peered out of the railings. The rest of the gang was still asleep. It was time for a confrontation, I had to wake up Trauer.

“What is it?” Trauer was startled when I shook his shoulder.

“Why are you so paranoid?” I asked him.

“I’m not usually awakened in my sleep.” he replied.

“I meant us being smuggled out on a truck full of manure when we could have just drove in a car. We could have even stayed at home damn it.” I was a gesture short of yanking him by the collar.

“Control yourself.” he insisted.

“And why did you insist on my coming along? You needed a medic for your rag tag group of commandos? And that story? Do you expect me to believe that there would be parents who didn’t approve of their children getting married, IN GERMANY?” I had honestly never used so many questions in one go.

“Revolutions scare me.” he replied, the rest of the gang was awake by the commotion. “I was born during the cold war. I grew up in some very tough times. That thing about my marriage?  She was from the West and I was from the East.”

“East and West what?” I sat back again.

“East and West Berlin. Back then the distinction was real. The reason our parents finally agreed was that there was no wall in between Berlin anymore.”

“You still give a damn about your parents in the  West?” I sneered.

“I did. You don’t know what my family went through. My father was a manic-depressive. I think his time with the Gestapo and the SS did that to him. I had to take care for him. His happiness meant something to me. He didn’t know who to hate? He chose the communists over the Allies as his overlords, and that is the way it stayed till the wall broke down.  I was a proud communist myself until I met her. I was in the MfS at the time. The KGB later recruited me. I spent some time with the propaganda specialists. The whole world wanted to align with the USSR and they had little knowledge on what really went on behind the Red Curtain. I was in Moscow when I met Iskandar. He was an ex-KGB agent at the time. They were holding him for providing intel and logistics to Dagestani dissidents. I was supposed to break into his head. He had stuff stashed all the way from East Germany to Siberia. The stories of the dissolution of the Soviet Republic had already started. My friends in the KGB were organized into two blocks. One of them was willing to overthrow Gorbachev. The good news was that they got caught. In all the quagmire I managed to get Iskandarov and myself back to Germany. I got married. Much of what we did back then was still required by the new governments. I was wanted by the Germans and the Russians, just for questioning. I was on one of those debriefings when she died in a car accidents. I was distraught. After that I was in the air. I met Sabir in Turkey. He was a student back then in the Turkish Workers and Peasants Socialist Party. Our meeting was arranged through Iskandar. The rest of the story you know.

“I still remember Afghanistan, my cousins being shot at the Wall of Berlin, the hell holes of the KGB and the monsters that populated its ranks. I am afraid of war now, all forms of human conflict send chills down my spine. I have killed and tortured many people. Not in the field, not like a soldier who has nothing personal against the man at the recieving end of the bullet. there was no dignity in the wars I fought. The ends my victims or “assignments” was anything but dignified. We were the factions of Germany that continued the barbaric legacy of our predecesors. When she died I thought it was Karmic Justice. The things I held dear were taken away from me because of what I had done all my adult life. I even spent time in a mental institution for my frequent “dissociative” states. Even today I start having panic attacks whenever I hear loud noises. Sometimes I can’t because my “assignments” haunt me all night. I don’t want to be a part of it. Any of it. I want to go some where there is peace that is the only thing I want at this time.” Trauer finally stopped.

I had goose bumps because 2 of my “friends” were ex-KGB. I was starting to piece together Trauer’s paranoia.

“Doc, look up and listen to me.” he held me by my chin and continued, ” These men follow my whims and put up with my insecurities because that is what they are, MY FRIENDS, MY COMRADES! And I think the same of you.”

There was a morbid silence in the truck. The silence lingered on for the next hour when the truck came to a gradual stop. A stack of fertilizer bags almost fell on Rakh. The Russian began to giggle, followed by Sabir and Amir, I joined in but Trauer kept a solemn face. He looked out of the truck and signaled into the dark with his torch. From the side of the road green flashes of light came as a response and we got off the truck, carefully pushing the bags aside. I was feeling sorry for pulling Rakh into this mess.

“Our ride is here. It’s Cherokee Jeep with custom Left hand steering. We will take turns at driving, and we will follow the Red Route to China.

“Where are we going exactly?” Amir inquired. I was relieved by the fact that I didn’t have to ask the question myself.

8- Mehdi’s Confession

I got acquainted with Amir Mehdi through Sabir and The Russian. The fact remained that I knew so little about him. Sabir was friendly, The Russian was hard to go by and Amir, well Amir was terribly introverted (or so  he was as far I was concerned).

“Why are you even friends with them you’re nothing alike. ” I asked him as the rest of the gang was asleep in a truck full of manure.

“Why are you? I heard you even had a fight with Trauer. Why did you still come?” he answered with a question, this was irritating.

“That is deflection.” I mumbled.

“The fact is that your answer is linked with your own question.” he replied, calm as ever. If there was someone who could pretend to be high on marijuana, it was him.

“Well, I don’t know.” I said after I struggled a while for a better answer.

“You don’t know but you want to hang on anyway.” he improved on my statement. This meant that this was HIS statement as well. We had a lot more common than we think.

“They are good men. Men fallen from grace at some points in their lives, now they have no one but each other. ” he whispered when he saw Sabir moving in his sleep.

“How is that?” I asked.

“They’re not like every one else. They think differently, there is even something childish about the way they do things. Before you ask how and why I put up with the Russian, let me tell you he is the most sincere person of the lot.” he even laughed in whispers.

“What about you. Where are you from?” I asked him. Apparently both of us were having a hard time going to sleep.

“Well I am from a town that is somewhere South in the New Republic. Where people don’t speak the tongue you’re so accustomed to. I left medicine and started work with a pharmaceutical company as a consultant…”

“Wait!” I interrupted. “You a Doctor? I thought you were a B.Pharm or something.”

“No, I am pretty much a Doctor like yourself. That is the problem with you, you assume so much, you start profiling people when asking them is the simplest and best strategy.” He combed his beard with his fingers.

“Also, why do they call you a preacher?” I asked.

“Because I preach.” He replied in a disappointed tone. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“What do you preach?” I asked him again.

“Nothing much at the moment, I am busy practicing what I am going to preach, soon.” he replied with out eye contact this time.

What was it? Shame, disappointment or dislike to my cross-questioning, I was willing to let the issue slide for the time being.

“Did he tell you about the time when he was in love?” came a voice from the other side of the truck. It was The Russian and he was awake. I was not sure how much of the conversation he had overheard.

“Iskandar, this is not the time for these things.” Amir tried to quiet him, he could have tried harder but he knew that you could not stop The Russian once he sets his mind to something. It appeared that he wanted him to talk about it.

“Well dear Doctor, it was around the time we met.  He was in this terrible heart break state.” The Russian enjoyed the narrative, maybe he was a  descendent of Tolstoy. “He sat at the coffee-house all day. We would go there often back then, Sabir and me, and we would find his body language and demeanor and lack of personal hygiene intriguing. Depression, I mean, we knew the signs. We chatted up and talked him out of depression.”

“Wait, you mean you chatted a guy to sanity?” I laughed, but it came out as a sneer. Part of my disliking to the antics of The Russian.

“Well he wasn’t exactly depressed and he needed support. Thats the only thing that was wrong with them.” he laughed.

In Mehdi’s eyes I noticed a strange appreciation for The Russian. I didn’t understand their complex chemistry but they were best friends never the less.

“Who was the lucky lady?” I asked Mehdi.

“I’d rather not say.” His face become grave, for the first time. Amir Mehdi was really upset at her mention.

“Well who was the lady?” this time I turned to The Russian for an answer.

Then something happened that shed new light on their relationship. The Russian opened his mouth reluctantly and with out uttering a word closed it. He looked at Mehdi, ashamed in some way. It was the first time I’d seen The Russian shy away from a topic. The big man who would intimidate Sabir Bey regularly was afraid of saying some thing that Mehdi might disaprove.

“You tell him, if you want.” he said to Amir.

“She didn’t exist.” he turned to me.

“What does that mean?” I asked him again.

“She wasn’t there, there was no real person. It was a hoax or something, there was no girl on the other side.” he clarified.

“You mean to tell me that you fell in love in a person who wasn’t there?” It made no sense to me.

“Yes, there was no such lady. I fell in love when I chatted with her on a social networking website. I was meticulous, I made sure that she was for real.” he smiled.

“This is not the States man, women who are on social networking sites keep their privacy setting on full. If some appear to be free game then its more likely a joke.” I sympathized.

“Well, the ‘joke’ was elaborate, complete with pictures, voice messages and above all sensitivity which I would expect from a real khatun. I was duped and I admit to it but that was cruel. So anyway, she called me to The Cafe and stood me up. I went to The Cafe for a whole month but she never came. I showed them the picture and no one recognized her. When she called me to The Cafe that was also the last time we had contact. I was devastated. I loathed myself for being such a fool. Then I met these guys in The Cafe, they helped me through those difficult times and turned to religion. I am a very happy man now.” he sounded cool.

“You sound relieved.” I added.

“I am, as horrid as this event was, I turned to God and I was not disappointed, I’ve never been happier since.” he replied, grinning ear to ear.

“He’s a real survivor.” laughed The Russian nervously.

The trust the honor, I understood, the part of their relationship that confused me was how did they go along. Mehdi was a strictly religious man, The Russian and Sabir were not. More over The Russian was dominant in personality, so was Sabir, how a mild mannered man like Mehdi not only fit in but also had some influence on them. How could this be possible, I did not know at the time.

The answer to this question was one of the biggest surprises awaiting me. Now is apparently not the time to talk about it.