A Spy Tale That May or May Not be Real
John Matthews was a young man from Uttar Pradesh. He was 21. If one looked at him he would look a very ordinary person but he was a highly intelligent man who was on the lookout for adventure. He saw an innocuous advertisement in the local newspaper asking for a volunteer to do an 'exciting job.' He applied and that was his first brush with the job which was to take him over the border into enemy land.
Unknown to Mathews the advertisement was by Indian intelligence to send an agent into the enemy country disguised as a Muslim so that he could give the necessary feedback as and when required. He was supposed to be the hibernating mole in the enemy territory. This was in the early 50s of the last century and after any number of interviews and tests, Mathews had his last interview with a man in a dark room. Mathews did not know who this man was but he could make out that he was very important. During the interview, the man asked him, "are you game to play a game? A deadly game?"
"Fine, our tests and vetting have approved your induction. You will now get yourself circumcised and learn the essence of Islam. You will remain a Muslim in disguise and even if you start behaving as a Muslim I have no objection. The job entails crossing the border into the enemy land and setting up home in the province of Sindh. We shall give you sufficient money for you to be a success there. Also, we will try and send you money off and on when required. Your job will be to get integrated with the society there and as and when required pass sensitive information to us. From what I see, you like an adventure. Are you game for it? You will carry a small transmitter with you and will talk in code with one of our officers. You will not know any name from our side but at the same time this is an adventurous job and from what I see you like an adventure. Are you game for it?
Mathews readily agreed and for the next six months, he was attached to a mosque and learned all the customs, the language, and religion which he was to adopt.
Mathews had the last meeting with the shady man, who had interviewed him earlier. It was again in a dark room and he could not see the face of the man. He told Matthews "I am going to give you Rs.50,000 and help you cross the border into Sind. You will select a medium-sized town and settle down there and start some business. You will contact us by code once a week and pass information to us but before you do that see that you are integrated with society. I would advise you to marry a local girl also."
The die was cast and Mathews was thrilled. He was given a new identity as Mohammad Akram and he also received a large sum of money. He caught the train from Lucknow to Jodhpur and thence to Barmer. From Barmer, he changed trains and reached the border outpost of Munna Bao. There an Indian intelligence man met him and together the two of them began to cross the dunes. Rajasthan is the Indian state that borders Sind and has one of the largest deserts in the world namely the Thar Desert. The border is amorphous and after some time the agent left him. He told Mathews, "ÿou can now enter. The border guards will not interfere. From there you are on your own and my last request to you is to be loyal to the person who has given you so much money."
In the Heart of the Enemy
Mathews was only 21 and was young and fit. He was able to cross the border and enter the enemy land. He was not afraid and looked forward to the thrill of a great adventure.
He walked a few miles till he came to a dusty bus stop. Two other people were standing at the bus stop but seeing his attire and demeanor they were not inquisitive. Matthews waited for the bus which soon came, a ramshackle contraption with dirt and dust all over. He climbed into the bus and when asked by the conductor told him he wanted to go to the village of Mirpur some 50 miles short of Hyderabad.
There was no suspicion as the bus moved forward and soon Matthews had reached his destination. He had been well briefed and straightaway went to the local mosque and like a devout Muslim made his ablutions and began to pray. After some time he came out and sat in the courtyard. The night was now falling and the Imam came up to him and asked him what he was going to do.
"Nothing," replied Matthews, "I am looking for a place to stay the night because tomorrow I would like to start some business here"
"Have you come from one of the big towns nearby?" asked the imam.
"Yes," replied Matthews, "I like this place and if necessary will start my work tomorrow."
"What will you do?"
"I will set up a trading shop."
"Do you have money as people in this region are very poor"
"Yes that is why I have come because I believe in Allah and I desire to help the poor and destitute people here but now let me pray because it is the time of prayer and remembrance to Allah."
The Imam shook his head and went away suitably impressed with the young man.
The next day Matthew's selected a small shop on the outskirts of the village paid for it in hard cash. He told the few people who had gathered that he would go to the big town nearby and bring some essential goods so that he could sell them cheap to the villagers.
Needless to say, the villagers were delighted as nobody had made any investment in their area for many years since the division of the country. Mathews also selected a small two-room house and paid a year's rent to the owner. He was delighted at this bounty and promised to help Mathews for whatever he wanted. In the dead of the night, Matthew buried the small transmitter under the mud but before that, he sent a transmission, "number 931 here, have reached and getting going."
Mathews also went to the local police station which was manned by a constable and invited him to his shop for a cup of Tea. The constable – made it a habit to have a cup of tea with Matthews at the shop whenever he passed by. Mathew's was now getting firmly in entrenched and his business began to prosper.
Two years elapsed and Mathews would regularly send a message to his bosses but after that, his messages became few and far between. Somehow he began to feel more like a son of the soil.
One day the imam came to Mathews and said: "Akram, is it not time that you married?"
"I do not know any girl or family here"
The imam chuckled his hands and said, "I have a 17-year-old daughter. Would you like to be my son-in-law? Mathews had seen the girl a number of times and liked her. He just nodded his head and within the next three days, the Nikah ceremony was performed.
Mathews was delighted with his wife named Nasreen and his first night was a great experience as he undressed Nasreen and made love to her. He became so much enmeshed in the love of his wife and his business and the respect of the villagers that he stopped communicating with his bosses completely.
Back in headquarters, the chief of the intelligence when told that no message was coming from Matthews just smiled and said, " I had expected it, because of nine men I launch into enemy countries seven turn renegade and never come back. They take the money and live their life happily with their women. But two of the nine remain loyal and they are a real investment. I don't mind losing seven men because even if two remain loyal my purpose is served."
He continued, " if Mathews has forgotten us so be it. it is just an investment that has gone bad."
Many years elapsed and soon it was 1965 and Mathews went up to the Imam and told him, "Huzoor, I would like to take another wife."
He had seen a girl in the village near the well and he was keen to make her his wife. The Imam felt happy, "you are a man with money and position and as such you are entitled to another three women. If you like the girl which you have mentioned, I will approach her parents and do the Nikah.
Mathews married again and the young girl as per the custom in the region gave herself to Matthews whom she knew as Mohammad Akram. Getting a younger wife delighted Mathews and despite the surly behavior of his first wife, he carried her to the nuptial bed and made ferocious love. He already had two children from his first wife and as he launched into his younger wife he whispered to her that he would like a gift from her body. Shyly she hid her face in his shoulder.
The Final Denouement
1965 cam and war crowds were gathering. The policeman came on his cycle to Akram Khan's shop and told him, " Huzoor war has broken out between us and India and God willing we will capture Delhi and Amritsar. Maybe our army will also reach Jodhpur.
Mathews kept quiet but his old loyalty to his bosses and his belief in Jesus Christ came to the fore. He wanted to be truthful and he asked what is happening.
"Huzoor I have just learned that within two days the Army is going to launch an attack in the desert to try and capture Barmer".
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Huzoor I have seen the army formations massing about 20 miles away from our village.
Mathew was perturbed. His old loyalty to his bosses who had given him so much money and Jesus came to the fore. He wanted to be truthful. He went inside his house and saw his beautiful young wife. He was aroused and though he made love to her at the back of his mind was that whatever he should do should be the right thing.
That night when it was well past 1 AM he went into the backyard and took out the small transmitter. He carried it some distance away and then tried to start it. He had earlier brought a fresh battery and the transmitter came to life with one crank. He passed the message, " the enemy is massing forces to enter Rajasthan in another two days beware."
After passing the message he broke the transmitter and scattered it away and he knew he was not going to pass any more messages. He felt he had paid his debt to his benefactors.
The news was like a catalyst in the headquarters and the chief just smiled. He said "my investment has paid off. We don't want anything more from him. Pass the message to the C-in-C Southern Command immediately. The C-in-C Southern Command received the message and as per instructions of the government mounted an assault much earlier than the enemy. The Indian forces drove into Sindh and after the ceasefire, they had almost reached Gadra Road. The enemy was nonplussed. How could the Indians know that they were going to invade the region?
Mathews came down to his house and lay down by the side of his young wife and began to fondle her. As he made love his mind was in a bit of turmoil. What was he supposed to do? should he go back home where his mother and father were who he had not seen for over a decade or should he stay put here where he had two wives and children and was well established. As he made love he wondered if the chief would understand his predicament. What Mathews did, whether he went back home or stayed on is another story. There is a third part, the enemy was searching for who passed the information that blunted their attack. Did they get to him?