My neighbor, Ali Kaak, the man who never misses a chance to mouth his opinion on anything under the sun, billowed out monstrous smoke of Hukah from his wide nostrils, looked gravely towards me and like a man who did not fear the consequences of what he is about to say just yelled,
"These Americans, look who they elected as their president? It's the death of their democracy, ".
"Yes it is so strangely true," I muttered in a half-amazed, half-scared voice.
For a man whose East Coast is his friend Gulle Kaak's house on the eastern end of the Muhalla and West Coast is his estranged cousin Sulle Kaak's house on the western end of Muhalla, Ali Kaak's interference in the internal, posterior and external affairs of America has a long ignoble history. You remember some years ago when the Muhalla president of Baikalpora in civil lines area of Srinagar had come to Buzdil Square and smashing his Kangri in one of the huge potholes on the road had threatened the then President of USA George Bush against invading Iraq. It was my neighbor Ali Kaak. One newspaper had even covered his feet and Ali Kak still has the cutting from the newspaper pasted on his gate where in the headline proudly reads "ALI KAAK THREATENS AMERICA". Not many in the Muhalla know that the news was in "The Most Weird News" column of the Newspaper. Or when on the Masjid Hamam he had conveyed his displeasure of the Nobel Peace prize being awarded to Barack Obama saying Obama would be spoiled by the award and start thinking 'too high' of himself.
"Don't you think it was rigged? I am doubly sure it was. I am thinking about the poor Hillburry. What state must she be in?" said Ali Kaak bending forward and letting the long sighs get drowned in his cupped hands. Hillbury, needless to say, is Hillary Clinton, the long time crush of our well-into-60's Ali Kak.
To the question 'What state must she be in?' I would have other day and occasion satirically answered 'she must be in Montenegro, Florida, Alabama, Uttar Pradesh or Punjab' but for the seething emotions of Ali Kak and for the red-hot embers in the Kangri underneath his pheran which could like our Education Minister Nayeem Akhter's disorderly orders fall on anyone, anytime I retained what our Chief Minister Mehbuuba Mufti retained for the five months of turmoil—–SILENCE.
The secret crush for Hillbury had prompted Kak to egg on his bespectacled and incurably gullible brother-in-law GaashaTarukh(Morning Star)into crafting the best designer shawl possible. "It is for Jaana your sister who remained loyal to me for forty years. Keep it a secret. I would pay you a handsome amount," the wily Ali Kak had told him. He did not pay his brother-in-law any amount but could not help bring him a fresh set of fat-brimmed bi-focal. He later cycled all the way to Nigeen Lake banks at BRINJAL ART DEALERS, a regular seller of handicrafts to Hillary Clinton. "Please promise me it would reach her," Ali Kak pleaded with boyish impatience. "I would try my best" said Mr.Brinjal Kashmiriwala. Ali Kak had had etched on the border of the shawl, "With Love from Ali Kak".
The news of his crush on Hillary could have proven scandalous for him and he could have been forced to shelve his post as president of the Muhalla Committee. When I made a tongue-in-cheek reference about it Ali Kak puffed his cheeks, raised his right bushy eye-brow and grabbed the collar of my shirt. Leaving out a putrid, smoky gasp of breath he whispered to my ear.
"Be Quiet! Never a word of it again!If Talukh Paeth Times comes to know about it they would swoop down on me like eagles over unwary chicken ," .
"It is between you and me. I won't tell a soul," I reiterated with the emotions of the captive bunny being toyed by dabs of the falcon.
Ali Kak had had usurped the throne of the previous president of Muhalla Committee by paying a hefty amount to the editor-in-chief of Talukh-Paeth Times. The editor donning menacingly gaudy all-yellow attire had prevailed upon Ali Kak to wear a yellow pheran on the day of the shady deal. Next day we had read in newspapers that how the previous president had emptied the chest of Baitul Maal (Community fund) and how he had been hand-in-glove with the Masjid Hamaami in smuggling the community firewood into their private property. Since that day the editor had been hounding Ali Kak for more money and trying his level best to blackmail him.
"As someone who trounced his predecessor should know how guarded he should be against a coup d'état. Especially when there are journalists in yellow khan dress hovering around," he had villainously conveyed to Ali Kak once.
Pestered at the mere mention of the editor's words Ali Kak squatted on the ground and pointing his index finger to his brain repeatedly in the air of the man who is incurable labor pain of an idea tells me," If she had consulted me, she would have won the election. I would have given her the important tips to beat Donald Trump,"
"These women of today do not listen to the men of letters and ideas," I replied while trying my level best to suppress the giggle.
Ali Kak watched CNN all these days. Even from scaffoldings where he worked his masonry shift he asked the neighbors to tilt their Television sets so that he could glance at it in between work. At baker's shop in the morning, on mobile phone of his good-for-nothing son and even on the medieval Black and White Television of his brother-in law of Gaasha Tarukh he watched CNN- CNN and only CNN. She appeared every day on TV wearing all kinds of weird dresses but never ever wore the shawl he gifted her.
"She ought not to scrap people's gifts like that. Certainly not of a wise man like you," I played the acolyte tune ephemerally.
"Even then I would have wished her to counter Trump's hatred of ethnic minorities and immigrants with cries of love for them. She should have shouted from the rooftops the call for love and freedom."
"Love and freedom, I mean what exactly?" I inquired.
"She should have shouted Freedom," said Ali Kak with an animated expression. Ali Kak cleared his throat and forgetting that it was curfew in our part of the city yelled "Yes Freedom for Mexicans and Freedom for immigrants. And Freedom for all and sundry,". Then as if possessed by a ghost Ali Kak burst into a staccato of "Freedom, Freedom, Freedom and only thing worth in the world is freedom".
Just then a fat policeman came romping in to the roundabout and with the bread crumbs of the breakfast tea still in his mouth stuttered "Who wants freedom in curfew? Whose bones would my cane fracture this freezing morning? Is it you young man?" I wondering why the policeman did not mention 'graying man' alongside young man looked around and found out that Ali Kak had taken to heels long ago and while running the embers from his Kangri had formed a decipherable trail for police to find out later. As the policemen pounced on me, I could, in the upside down visions see that from somewhere inside the pheran of Ali Kak a bundle of newspaper cuttings fell on the muddied road. It contained the pictures of the golden-haired American woman whom my neighbor Ali Kak -who etherized at the sight of a policeman-wanted to be the President of the United States of America.