He comes wearing a blue jeans shirt, the color of which is too dull to match the glistening sky above him. He has purposefully kept the shirt unbuttoned to attract eyes towards the Aviator shades stylishly held by his pitch black tee. He resembles the man he idolizes, a certain pot-bellied police official who he once introduced to me. He walks the walk of a man whose size of behind is proportional to his persona. Larger the behind, bigger a personality.
He has just arrived from Indian plains, ‘rusted and dusted’, as my irascible friend puts it. He is a careerist, a man who swears that the first word he uttered after being born was ‘Civil Services’. His name is Duddu, a modernized addition to the trenchant koshur word dedde (dumb), suiting his ‘high-rung, elitist tastes.’
According to Duddu, Azadi is an opinion which he rejected to give way to a more ‘adjustable view’ (whatever that means) of living peaceably on a chair and signing documents which sometimes decide the fate of so many young boys in Kashmir. To be or not be a Kashmiri, or an Indian or even a Pakistani, is also a matter of opinion to him.
The following conversation took place in the ‘soul-freshening’ campus of University of Kashmir, as Duddu likes to describe it.
Duddu: Lots of bumble bees here. Man, you are blessed.”
Me: You call yourself ‘Ronge manz kong phol’ because you are the only IAS aspirant from your village. What inspired you?
Duddu: As the eminent poet of political skullduggery, Zareef Ahmad Zareef, says, “Yus ni log kunni, suu baneyov journalist…” I read these lines in 2008. It inspired me and I told myself, ‘What are these good for nothing journalists doing in Kashmir by reporting death of young men allegedly by Indian security forces?’ Alleged is a funny word, isn’t it? (winks).
Nobody was talking about the development of our village. Our literacy rate had shot up by 200 percent in last six years. All 200 people in the village had voted in the previous election. They still have ink on their index fingers. I want to highlight this, by becoming the first IAS officer from my village. This is my honest opinion. We should respect everyone’s honest opinion.
Me: Why did you choose to pursue Indian A(ss)dministrative Services?
Duddu: There are no alternatives in Kashmir. You either throw stones or you become an IAS officer. I chose the latter. I was sick of the system, so I decided to become the system and be insulted from within. I have no grand ambitions. I will not indulge in any high-brow talk about changing the system because I have read Kafka. In my opinion, revolting against the system is futile because the system pays us. Jis thaali main khana, usi me chhed karna kahan ka insaaf hai.
Me: If, by any chance (this is Duddu’s second attempt), you pass the IAS exam this time around, what will be your plan of action once in high office?
Duddu: (Smiles wryly) Inshallah, this year I will crack it. And I promise I will let things be as they are. In my honest opinion, I am not a liar. I promise no break in the trends set by bureaucracy in Kashmir. To occupy high chair is in itself a huge breakthrough. What more do you expect of a boy from a far-off village in Kashmir where electricity is more important than Azadi?
Me: What is your vision for Kashmir?
Duddu: In my opinion, we should all surrender to India like I am doing. There is beauty in surrender. Religion also calls for surrender, doesn’t it? And like we all know, surrender can reap tremendous rewards. Look at Gupkar!
Originally published here — https://archive.authintmail.com/article/reporters-journal/brief-conversation-mr-ias