By Aminah Sheikh
Ladakh district — a bikers’ paradise and the dream destination of travel junkies — prides itself in not only the gigantic mountains of the Himalayan range and its enchanting sceneries, but also in a historic place — Kargil. Kargil lies in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and stands witness to infiltrations, the Indian armed forces guarding the borders and the lives of locals that are mired in politics. Lives that come under the scanner for merely having homes in sensitive regions; the mysterious deaths of locals that get swept under the carpet as deaths caused by “suspicious activities”; images that echo across media channels, if headline worthy.
Praveen Swami’s short story “Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation” published by Juggernaut Books is thought-provoking. An expert on Islamist terrorism, Praveen is known for his skilled investigative journalism in conflicted regions of India. “Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation” draws upon various dimensions from his years of award-winning reportage, and provides a fresh perspective on grave and sensitive issues with non-intrusive slap-stick humour.
The story is written as a personal account, or rather, a narration by the protagonist Farooq Reshi, Kargil’s Superintendent of Police, as he is pushed out of his lazy chair to investigate the case of four dead “Buddhist” shepherds, assumed to have been killed by Lashkar terrorists. Infamous among peers for his obnoxious behavior when drunk, Farooq’s demeanor reminds the reader of Sherlock Holmes, as he goes about solving the case.
“Nothing happened in Kargil. Nothing that concerned the police, anyway. Every once in a while, someone would get drunk and beat up someone else, or someone would run off with someone else’s wife, and there would be a bit of a to-do about it, and somebody or the other would disappear, never to be heard of again. No one troubled us for assistance on that sort of thing, though: they’d realized it’s faster, and a lot cheaper, not to involve the police in their problem.”
…This sets the tone of a story that is gripping in its revelations. It mocks the hypocrisy of authorities with simplicity in expression – an underground bedroom, reserved for newly married officers to protect them from Pakistani troop’s artillery, bears “loud-red Tibetan kitsch dragons, playfully curled around mirrors…”