Friends, presidents, captains
The pulse of popular opinion can be gauged at the city’s cafes and teahouses; whether it’s the ‘absconding’ president or the swelling ranks of Kaptaan’s party.
Now that most, save the absolute haters, have reconciled with the fact that the president is here to live, the question debated is where he will live. He’s not coming back, says the self-assured one. His days are counted; the khakis have had it, he adds, with a sense of smugness inversely proportional to his political insight.
Maybe he’s just really ill and that’s about it, I hurl, as a conspiracy spoiler. Bah, I’m dismissed. He’s a master-planner, says the smug one. It can’t be that deceptively simple, he says, with a slow, theatric sideways head shake, eyes squinted.
So maybe it’s all orchestrated, I interject. Maybe he’s trying to one-up the khakis and put them on a back foot – it’ll be quite sneaky, and not befitting the jawans, I daresay, to take over in a coup when the president is ill and away, I conjecture. Hmmm. Pensive glances. And that argument dithers away.
Kaptaan’s in the game, one abruptly exclaims! The party is maturing, cronies add. Politicians from the big two are defecting to Kaptaan’s party, they squeal. You forget artists and designers, I interject. Yes, them too … but [name dropping starts here]. The humour is lost on young jingoes. They hail blocking Nato supply routes. They say they’ll bring the superpower down to its knees. General cheers.
I remind them of a recently-published story on the Kaptaan wooing the imperialists, behind the screens. The Kaptaan has spoken, they say: Friends, not slaves! I remind them he plagiarized it off a military general, Ayub Khan, who said the same four decades ago, albeit in a more masculine rendition, with a poetic flourish: Friends, not masters!
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.
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