I

In Summer 2015, I met Outer Delhi while chasing Rolex Kumar, who

on live TV claimed he used to go into a trance after booze and porn,

and trawl the forsaken landscape for children

Police said he murdered and raped over thirty

The Investigating Officer assumed we’d put him on the cover, and I

let him

La femme editor said it was unethical

The IO WhatsApped us a fresh studio photograph in uniform, with

airbrushed skin and pink lips

Later, he sent us thirty more

 

Headline:

How Many Cases Does It Take To Make A Serial Killer

 

When I finally met Rolex at the court — hand-in-hand with a cop,

face covered in pink dupatta — he denied everything, said the cops

had bullied him for the earlier statement

His eyes gave nothing

Later, his father screamed conspiracy outside a lonely hut in the

middle of a field

Apparently, his wife was raped by the guy who framed Rolex

Nearby, another father took me to the abandoned three-storey house

where his six-year-old girl’s naked body was found

Rubber gloves from the investigation stood out amid the debris

 

A sweaty afternoon at Rohini court, when the only surviving victim

was being questioned in a closed hearing

The doors opened, and out came a three-foot tall child sipping on a

juice box while holding his mother’s hand

News flash: seven years old... throat cut open... brick-pieces in

rectum... dumped in gutter

The scar running across the neck did it:

he wasn’t a statistic anymore

And I could not venture the essential question,

later answered in the court transcript:

Beta, fir usne kya kiya?

Usne apna nunnu mere pichhu mein daal diya

 

 

II

Around the same time, a WhatsApping DCP began a programme

whereby cops went around telling schoolchildren about sexual

harassment, maintaining complaint boxes in each school

 

A fifteen-year-old girl wrote that her father had been doing gandi

cheezein to her for the past two years, and that her mother would say,

jaise main sehti hoon, waise hi tum saho

The cops arrested the father, and left the struggling, three-daughter

family to struggle a bit more

 

A week later,

I found her in a forsaken colony in undeveloped Ghaziabad

Her sister opened the door; the mother brought water

She — four-and-a-half feet, full of fear, clear eyes and rusted hair

Mother: ghar pe thodi ladai ho gayi thi ek raat, bewakoof ladki kya-kya

bol gayi

She wept:

maine aise hi jhooth bola tha, please mere papa ko chhudwa do

Then, they all wept

 

A year later,

the girl called, asking for a job — or dedh lakh

She kept calling, and I kept ignoring the unsaved number that lit up

each time

Eventually, the guilt won — I made enquiries, gave her the number

of an NGO veteran and asked her to never call again

She didn’t

 

Serial Killer copy

 

III

July 2015

I entered Money Collecting School after nine years

Sterile white building, and familiar faces grown older

like the ex-air-force, always-in-safari-suit, protestant owner and

principal — or our first taste of fundamentalism

Times were different back then: Mas and Pas didn’t care if you were

whacked in school

They made you watch Hollywood,

but switched channels at each kiss

Everyone wanted to rear upright, English-speaking engineers and

doctors — the 90s middle-class nerve that the principal had clamped

between his teeth

USP of the school?

Rs 500 fine or expulsion if caught speaking Hindi

 

And other fines for sundry things

like not carrying a hymn-book

Plus, an inch-thick, gold-varnished and rubber-gripped stick to

warm young flesh on winter mornings, when not-so-long hair was

cut on stage during assemblies that apart from inspections, forced

PT, prayer and gospel singing gave us our daily bread of dogma

The principal would turn to a Sikh boy and scream:

You think you’ll find god by growing your hair long?

Jesus is the only true and living god!

In summers, kids dropped from heatstrokes...

Pray to Jesus now, ask the lord to come into your heart

Someone would puke, and others would follow...

Eternal hellfire, my children!

 

Meanwhile, the principal bought new Skodas in different colours,

built another branch and business school, and survived several heart

attacks

Each time, the teachers would announce the next day that the overcompensating

zealot was stable, and that we must pray for him

Those prayers are still to be answered

 

IV

In 2005, cops caught my classmate Vicky Boner

drinking near MCS

The school did a Pilate,

and expelled him before he could say hallelujah

 

A decade later, the latest batch had its farewell on 28 May

That night, Rocky Bambam and two others had some drinks

to celebrate, and were found outside/inside the school around

midnight/3 am, with the motive of clicking selfies/robbery

As Gunty the editor put it, depending on whom you ask, the details

tend to vary

Basically, the boys ran into cops, had an argument, and before they

knew it, were at a police station being tortured all night

The charge: Rocky and friends were trying to burgle the school

They got bail after three nights in Tihar

Later, the police claimed Rocky was a criminal prodigy, addicted to

the high life, robbing schools across Delhi

On 13 July, he was back in Tihar

Newspapers carried his photograph along with a lurid police version

Two weeks later, I met the boy at Patiala House — out of place in

the packed chaos of a district courtroom, fingers entwined with a

constable

Standing before the judge, waiting for Rocky’s turn,

we mumbled

An hour earlier, two cops had requested me to vacate the lone bench

outside the courtroom for them and their hand-held undertrial

Ten minutes later, they had cajoled and threatened the weeping

young man into signing a slew of papers

Good-cop, bad-cop — just like in the movies

 

Rocky finally got bail on 6 August after a bit of activism, noise and

name-calling

He then returned East, far from shit-city

(It’s nice to see his Facebook updates now and then)

The case goes on though, for cops never retract —

even when it’s a coming-of-age moment gone nightmarish, courtesy...

Dilliii Puliss!

Dilliii Puliss!

Dilliii Puliss!

* * *

This poem is excerpted from Exit One, written by Ishan Marvel, published by Red River in May 2018

 

— Illustration courtesy Amrai Dua

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