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The Useless Gun

No sooner did I come out of Bandra station than it started pouring. I hate to carry umbrella; that black taffeta cloth just puts me off. My seasoned eyes quickly took stock of the situation. Eliminating a few smelling restaurants, they spotted a newly constructed police beat. Before I knew I was in the cabin. A hawaldar with a glass of tea was the sole occupant. Rain had drenched me. Excusing myself, I sat on a make shift yet cushioned bench. '.... Only till it stops.' I said. 'No problem, no problem.' He spoke in vernacular and pointing at his glass, added to my surprise '.... like to have!' And without waiting for me to speak threw water from one glass and with the dexterity of a canteen boy halved his tea. 'Who likes full....cutting is better, philosophized he. I nodded. Tea was certainly welcome. Sipping it I asked his name. 'What's in the name?' smiled he. The Shakespearean touch wobbled my glass. 'Correct sir,' he asked. I agreed and turned towards the now warm tea. He had finished his.

'Tea and xxxx (you know what I mean) taste good only when they are hot. 'Right sir', he laughed. He was now getting bolder. When I did not nod this time, his expressions changed. He got up and asked 'Did I say something wrong?' His movement exposed an AK-47 gun that was hitherto hidden behind his frail frame. It was resting on the bench like a feigning crocodile. The small droplets after ricocheting from the makeshift window rendered the steel a chilling look. Not that I had not seen AK gun before. The big screen as well as the small always carried it abundantly. Arnold, Bruce Willis & co. and our desi clones wielded it like a toy. Even my child had seen it on cartoon network. But this was real, live experience. I was in a trance. He saw me eyeing it and without warning or giving me sufficient time to recover, placed it in my hands like somebody presents a bouquet on birthday. The cold metal, almost immediately, brought sweat on the nape of my neck. I least expected this. I looked at him in askance. 'AK-47 it is....' he said. 'See it. See it. Now a days we have this - very light. You know. Not like the old 303.'

I agreed immediately remembering my NCC days. 'But useless.... nevertheless.' Taking the monster out of my hands he sat down. 'Why useless? Isn't it working?' I asked. ' It is! It is working all right. But you see sir, it is very difficult to operate....' His gesticulations suggested that he was struggling for appropriate words. '.... I mean.... to kill. Sorry, I am not finding the correct words sir. Wait.. wait. I got it. I mean to kill with this gun, or for that matter any weapon, you have to be cruel.' He still perhaps was not able to convey. It was now drizzling and I was getting to know the other side. The real one.

'---I mean it. Sir, what I mean is that one must have certain ruthlessness to kill ruthlessly.' 'I completely agreed with him. 'Unfortunately we don't have it and they possess it.... rather unfortunately. They? Yes, the troublemakers, smugglers, shooters, terrorists.... All of them have it in abundance. 'But they have sophisticated weapons.' I wanted to defend him and at the same time show my up to date knowledge. 'So, what is this then'---he almost jumped and pointed the gun at me. I was scared to my butts. 'Is it not sophisticated? It may not be the latest model but it is very capable.' 'Shall I tell you sir, he continued, 'sophistication does make a difference. But not very much. Agreed, they have sophisticated and better weapons than us. But the thing that makes the real difference is that... I was awestruck by a hawaldar's philosophy. .... ruthlessness for killing. And we just can't have that.' 'Why? I almost stood up in anger. 'Because sir, he said calmly 'we are trained to defend. And not trained to attack. Do you get me? To defend (sic!) not to attack and kill.

Our training too, like them, starts with killing. But we kill a dummy--a stuffed one that does not attack. We empty our guns on the lifeless and defenceless dummy and clap. Sir, I will tell you, ruthlessness doesn't come by shooting dummies.' 'Then!' I asked like an obedient pupil. 'It comes by killing the goddamn living being like us: Full of flesh and blood. Damn it!' 'And what about them.' I readied myself for the blast. 'They--- all of them are ruthless. Not one of them gets an easy entry in to the gang---the only qualification required is one kill. Not dummy sir, not dummy but a breathing human being of flesh and blood. One kill and you are in.' 'You know sir, I have this AK-47 but I cannot kill anybody. Do you know why?' 'Why? 'Because, I have never killed anybody in my life. No killing experience you see. I too need only one kill of flesh and blood. Like them. We are victims of our culture and philosophy. And that is why the finger on the trigger you know sir, just goes limp.' He was almost screaming. Then he slumped down resignedly and totally exhausted. Sipping water from a bottle, he continued in calmer tone. 'This is the basic difference sir, the basic difference. Only if somebody understands us. And as for me, believe me, I have stopped using mirror.' It was then that I noticed his unshaven face. This time he was not struggling for words. Very sure and confident of what he was saying. The rain had stopped. Shaking his hands and glancing at the useless gun I took leave of him and walked away.  


More by :  Prakash Pathre

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