-Amitabh Kumar Das
Dan Morrison is a world famous journalist who traveled down the length of the White Nile, from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea, through the entirely of Uganda, Sudan and Egypt. He is author of The Black Nile. Amitabh Kumar Das, an IPS Officer from Bihar describes how he met him and became best pals…..
I am fortunate in having some wonderful friends. My buddies cut across communal, caste and racial lines. I have got a rainbow circle of friends. Among my best friends, I count Dan Morrison or Dan as I call him. He calls me Das. And Dan and Das are two great pals. Separated by the seven seas. He, a white American. I, a brown Indian. I came to know him in 2012. I was posted at Jamalpur in Munger (Bihar). One fine morning, I received a call from my friend Ramashankar, then a senior reporter with the Telegraph. Rama told me that an American journalist was doing a report on the Ranveer Sena, an outlawed private militia of landlords. He wanted to see me because I had crossed sword with the Sena goons. I agreed readily. I was also curious to see an American journalist touring the badlands of Bihar to report on Bihar’s home-grown terrorists! He could have sat at an air-conditioned New York office, downloaded facts from the Internet and filed an “exclusive” report. Most reporters use such shortcuts. And here I was going to see an American reporter in the scorching May at a God-forsaken place like Jamalpur!
I am sure most of the Biharis will fail to find Jamalpur in the atlas! So, I sent my bodyguard to fetch Dan Morrison from the Jamalpur railway station. I was sure that Dan would be the only foreigner to deboard the train in Jamalpur. I, therefore, instructed the bodyguard to bring whoever firangi he saw at the station. And within an hour, Dan Morrison was sitting with me, sipping coffee. (Though later I came to know that he preferred black tea!) The first thing that struck me was his appearance. He looked exactly like Jesus Christ. His emaciated frame and stubble made him a photo-copy of Jesus. We talked non-stop. He told me that his mother came from Cuba. It excited me because my childhood heroes Fidel Castro and Che Guevara were Cuban revolutionaries. I was startled to see his breadth of knowledge.
Dan is a globe-trotter. He has reported on the Sudanese civil war from the blood-soaked city of Darfur. He has broken bread with the black-turbaned Taliban in Afghan hills! He has travelled in the River Nile through Uganda, Sudan and Egypt. A modern day Ibn Batuttah. Always on the move.
The trees in my Jamalpur garden were laden with ripe mangoes. Dan savoured those Kings of Fruits. I told him about the Ranveer Sena terrorists. How these terrorists killed innocent infants saying that they would grow up as Naxalites. How these terrorists raped Dalit women claiming that these women gave birth to Naxals. And how in an Islamophobic world, only Muslims are seen as terrorists. Upper caste Hindus can butcher hundreds of Dalits and nobody utters the T word! They are only misguided youths.
Dan listened to me carefully with a schoolboy like curiosity. Like all scholars, he is a good listener. After seeing me, he went to interview Barmeshwar Mukhiya, the dreaded supremo of the Ranveer Sena. With the help of an interpreter, he interviewed Mukhiya. This proved to be Mukhiya’s last interview because some days later, on the 1st June 2012, Barmeshwar Mukhiya was gunned down when he was taking his morning stroll.
Dan Morrison ‘s wife is an American diplomat. In 2012, she was posted in Dhaka, Bangladesh. And she is very fond of Urdu shayari! Dan was searching for an Urdu typewriter for her. I told him about a shop in Calcutta which sold Urdu typewriters. He went to Calcutta, purchased an Urdu typewriter and presented to his dear wife, Chacha Ghalib ‘s true niece.
Yesterday, we had lunch together at my New Pataliputra Colony apartment NUTSHELL. Dan is a small eater, unlike me. But he loved home-cooked parathas and matar-paneer. Of course, he took black tea also. These days, Dan Morrison is obsessed with a murder that took place way back in the 1930s. Two brothers lived in Pakur (now in Jharkhand). They had some dispute over properly. When the younger brother visited Calcutta, he felt a prick on his body. Some days later, he fell ill and died soon after. Her aunt suspected foul play. She had his blood sample preserved before cremation. When the blood was tested in a laboratory, plague virus was detected. Calcutta was free from plague for decades. So, the mystery deepened. Finally, the police caught hold of the elder brother and his accomplice, a microbiologist who was responsible for bringing plague virus from Bombay. The two were sentenced for life. When India became independent in 1947, the elder brother was freed under a general amnesty. But when he went back to his family, his behaviour was abnormal. He threatened everyone with his rifle. His wife approached the police, who surrounded his palatial house and asked him to surrender. The psychopath was alone in his haveli but he gave the police an impression that several armed men were inside the house. Finally, the police blew up the haveli with explosives and the outlaw was killed. When Dan Morrison told me this story, I recalled that Babooji was very fond of telling this story when I was a kid! The murder and its aftermath caught the fancy of an entire nation. A silent Bengali movie was made on these hair-raising incidents. As I write these lines, Dan Morrison is in Pakur unravelling mysteries of the murder and the police action. I hope he writes a book on the whole affair. I will read the murder mystery while eating hot noodles. Good luck, Dan !
PS: Dan Morrison has changed his hair style. Now he doesn’t resemble Jesus Christ. Now he looks like singer Sonu Nigam’s long- lost brother!