Bah Sten was standing outside his shop, when suddenly he saw hurried downing of shutters in the neighbouring shops. Some people were hurrying home, some were running by the side of the main roads, perhaps home wards. He did not understand what exactly happened, but there was fear, excitement.
There are stones pelted in Bara Bazar, someone said. They found a body in Ward's lake. Curfew will be declared. These were a medley of voices, saying different things at different times. Suddenly a van full of uniformed men whizzed by. The main road was a bedlam of chaos.
Better remain cool, Bah Sten thought. His neighbour, the proprietor of a grocery shop, a Bengali gentleman just scoffed at the news. Some people are spreading rumours he said, but half downed his shutters.
What has happened to Shillong? Bah Sten thought.
A stone is thrown, and everyone is running, office goers coming out in streams, but school children were not on the scene, he thought. Two bodies have been found someone said. Nonsense said the gentleman with the wig. He was a portly figure and opened his shop from eight in the morning till eight in the late evening.
Suddenly a group of young men, came to Bah Sten.
Close the shop they demanded.
Why? he asked.
There is trouble, don't you know?
Do, as we ask.
The gentleman with the wig promptly downed his shutters.
Looks like its true he said.
Suddenly a posse of policeman, came and instructed to down shutters... Curfew will be declared. Then the school children, with parents, invaded the road, the main road and sidewalks. Something is happening, he thought, but what. He heard some people saying there was firing in Iewduh, that is the main market called Bara Bazar, by the non tribals.
Bah Sten became nostalgic. Shillong is no longer the same. The public are restless, there is militancy and confrontationist elements. Ethnic riots, bandhs, curfews have become the order of the day. Politicians are as corrupt as ever.
He reminisced on the peaceful agitation for a hill state, when this area was part of Assam. His wistful thinking was rudely interrupted.
A young man came panting.
Give me shelter in your shop he pleaded.
They are chasing me, the man said in Khasi.
Who? he asked.
The police he replied.
Alright he mumbled unwillingly.
Let me go and wash my hands the man said.
Bah Sten nodded.
After twenty minutes or so, when curfew was announced the young said that it was 'safe' to leave.
Bah Sten nodded.
You go, he said, I will close the shop.
He went to the toilet to switch off the light.
There, on the wash basin were stains of red.