The Young Man



The Young Man



“Papa. Is killing someone bad?” my son asked when I was cleaning my revolver.

I pretended as if I hadn’t heard him. My thoughts went back to that young man. He should not have tried to run away. That was the mistake he made. It wasn’t my mistake. If he didn’t have anything to hide, why did he try to run? That too, with his back towards me. No, he.. umm they can’t blame me.

“Papa. Did you hear me?” my son raised his head from his book and looked at me.

“Yes, I did,” I said, trying to brush him aside.

My information was correct. My informer never goes wrong. He had never gone wrong till that day. The portrait artist had given me the sketch. I knew I was on the right track. Till I was not? But then, can anyone expect a cool decision in the heat of the moment? I had orders. Get him, dead or alive. By hook or by crook. I had full authority from my seniors. To pull the trigger.

“So, tell me then,” my son said. “Is killing someone ok?” he persisted. I blew into the empty holes of my revolver. I peered through them to see they were clean. I loaded them with the new bullets.

“No, it is not ok. Not ok at all,” I replied, but I didn’t look at him.

That young man deserved to die. Not that young man, exactly. But the other young man like him. The one who looked like him, was like him, but was not him. Even if killing someone wasn’t good, killing him was. Look at what he had done. Extortion. Murder. Molestation. Rape. Drugs. There was nothing left. He was planning to get into infiltration, terrorism. A menace to civil society.

“But what about the army?” my son continued asking his questions. “Don’t they kill the enemy?”

I looked up at him in surprise. I don’t know what books he was reading. He had started reading all kinds of things after he turned thirteen a year back.

“Yes, they do, but that’s because it is the enemy,” I replied. “In a war, they don’t kill civilians.”

This was no lesser than a war. The police also fight a war with crime. Everyday. The criminals are the enemy. That young man was a criminal, a hardened one. An intelligent one. A foxy one. He had given us the miss many times before. This time I was not going to let him go. But it was not him. But in a war, how does one know? Is it the enemy or the civilian? What business does a civilian have to be in a war zone? In the middle of the dark night? Policing wasn’t any easier than the army.

“You are right, Papa. But tell me, what about people like the police?” he continued.

The revolver slipped out of my hand and fell on the floor. I picked it up and stole a glance at my son. My heart pumped with anxiety. What was he going to ask me next? I felt some sweat on my palm.

“What about them?” I retorted.

Why should the rules be any different for the police? Were they not fighting the enemy? Very often, it was the internal enemy. More lethal. Tougher to find. Arduous to track. Difficult to face. Most of all, impossible to nab in the heat of the moment. There is no time for verification. Mistakes happen. Is the warrior to blame if the enemy was not the enemy, but a civilian?

“Is it ok for the police to kill someone?” my son was relentless. I felt a lump in my throat. I gulped it.

“Why are you asking me so many questions today?” I posed a counter question. 

I put on my uniform, tightened the belt, loaded the revolver. I sat on my chair to wear my shoes. “I need to go to the police station now,” I said. I turned my gaze to the shoe polish in the shelf.

It is ok, isn’t it? For the police to kill someone? I didn’t know. I didn’t have an answer. Black or white. Everything was perfect last night. The information was right. The location was right. The description was right. The timing was right. My shot was right. I was right. Only the young man wasn’t right.

Pity, he was the wrong one.

I stood up after wearing my shoes and asked my son to get my patrol stick. He rushed to my wardrobe and got it. I took it from him and got ready to leave.

“Papa. You are looking good,” he said, looking at me all dressed up and set to go.

I smiled at him. Good that he had changed the topic, I thought in relief. But I was wrong.

“But tell me Papa. Have you killed any enemy?” he asked me, placing his palm on my revolver.

“Don’t touch it,” I shouted at him. “It is loaded.” My lips quivered.

“Sorry, Papa,” the boy whimpered and backed off. “Have you killed anyone?” he ploughed on.

I stopped in my steps, looked him in his eyes. With a tone of self-assurance, I said, “No.”

I could see his lips curl into a smile as I stepped out. “Bye, Papa,” he said, and I waved back.

The memory of the dying young man lying in a pool of blood last night didn’t go out of my mind. I sat in my jeep waiting downstairs. I asked the orderly to drive me to the funeral.




Ranjit Kulkarni


Ranjit Kulkarni is a writer of short stories, articles, and novels. His work has appeared in Literary Yard, Indian Periodical, Academy of the Heart and Mind, Potato Soup Journal, Setu Journal, CC&D Scars, Ariel Chart, Active Muse, Anti-Heroin Chic, Grey Thoughts, Kathmandu Tribune, Café Lit, Muse India, Misery Tourism, Scarlet Leaf Review and Writer’s Egg Magazine. More details about his work can be accessed at He lives in Bangalore India and is reachable at


Previous Post Next Post