“Jai Hind, Sir. Someone wants to meet you. He says his name is Irfan Ahmad Lone and he is from downtown”, said the voice of the guard commander from the main gate. “Jai Hind. Check identification and let him in. He can come to the Officers Mess lawn”, I responded. I was staying in Humhama, which is not far from Srinagar Airport. “Identification checked, Sir. He will reach you in three minutes. He is being escorted”, the soldier’s voice said, ever efficient. Soldiers like to give timelines, even when they are not required.
After what seemed like exactly three minutes, a soldier came to the Officers Mess lawns and with him came my visitor from downtown. Truth be told, downtown is not the nicest part of Srinagar. This is the separatist hub that sees massive stone pelting, suitably adorned with Pakistani and ISIS flags.
My visitor had been calling me for the past few months wanting to know when I will be coming to Srinagar. I don’t know how Irfan got my phone number but he would call me every week from a different phone. Most calls I get from Kashmir are either inquisitive or hostile. This was neither. Irfan was extremely polite and would speak with the “aap-janaab” etiquette of old Lucknow.
He sat down shyly. The soldier saluted and left. Irfan was short and slim and sported a beard, as is the fashion in Kashmir these days. He wore jeans and a brown pullover. I shook hands with Irfan and something seemed to be wrong with his right arm. It was not straight. Irfan saw me looking at his arm and smiled.
“Sir, they broke my arm. The doctor was too scared to treat me, and I guess my arm healed the wrong way”, he said in a very matter of fact voice.
“Who broke your arm, Irfan? And why?” I asked.
“Sir, the Hurriyat’s boys put my elbow between two bricks and someone kicked my elbow downwards. My arm snapped.”
“Why?” I asked perplexed.