EX­CERPT

India Today - - LEISURE -

She had been walk­ing home in the af­ter­noon – no later than four, just as the sun had be­gun to de­scend over the pass. It had a cu­ri­ous ef­fect, burn­ing the gravel and the dirt floors of Mir Ali’s foun­da­tion and warm­ing the ground be­fore the cool evening air ap­peared to dis­tort the tem­per­a­ture. Two cars stopped, one in front of her and one along­side her on the road. They were un­marked, but they did not bother to tint their win­dows. There was no need for such flour­ishes. There was no one the state needed to hide from, not here in Mir Ali. The sol­diers were not the same as the ones who manned the check­points and in­ter­ro­gated driv­ers on the par­tic­u­lars of their iden­tity cards. They were not the same, cer­tainly not the same, as the men sta­tioned at round­abouts and mosques ahead of im­por­tant and in­flam­ma­tory hol­i­days. They were bet­ter. They were stronger. They swooped in on Sa­marra with the del­i­ca­cies of fire­flies. Sa­marra felt their breath be­hind her ears be­fore she heard their foot­steps. Their boots had not dis­turbed the sand on which she stood. Their soles had barely stirred the earth. The car doors were kept open. Be­fore she un­der­stood what was hap­pen­ing, she had been lifted off the ground. The sound of the en­gine start­ing vi­brated against her cheeks. Her hands had been bound and a filthy rag, smelling of sweat and of diesel, had been placed over her like a shroud.

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