(i) You don’t know me, but in the summer of 2019, you met my friend— she couldn’t stop talking about you: a man who knew how to listen, a leader who spent more time working out of the spotlight than in it; a scholar who’d learned the art of switching autos mid-journey— They trail me everywhere, you told her, smiling, Why should I bring them to you? I was envious I hadn’t been there: for months, I kept hearing your name spoken alongside words like hero and hope. When they put you inside, those words were joined by rougher ones, but don’t worry; we have not forgotten. (ii) I thought of you yesterday morning as I passed by the PM’s residence on the way to CP. The wind was cool and smelled like a green living thing; the Delhi sky was more blue than gray, and clouds of bright yellow leaves rose from a sweeper’s broom. I thought: it’s springtime today, but how long will it last? My phone said Tihar Jail was just 12 kms away; at that moment I prayed that you were near an open window. (iii) Alone at night, or on Delhi’s borders we say your name when we pray or shout; we have not forgotten you or the others, we’ll welcome you all, when you come out. I wish we could talk, under a tree, I’d ask what you’d read, how did you cope? I’d buy you a cup of special hot tea, I’d ask what you think of heroes and hope.
Three Postcards to Umar Khalid