Like me, my grandfather used to go by a nom de plume.
He called himself Khan sahib Giraftaar: The captured.
He was into student politics. He was loud and unapologetic. He once got socked in the mouth by a policeman at a pep rally against the Raj. He laughed; blood and spit bubbling in the corner of his mouth. He spat at the policeman and cried
“MUJHE GIRAFTAAR KARO!”
“Come capture me!”
He would routinely get hauled away to dirty urban holding cells. Eventually someone, friend or family, would bail him out shaking their heads and trying to suggest that perhaps resistance was futile. Perhaps the British Raj was there to stay. And he would throw his majestic head back and laugh with all his heart and soul through bruised lips as if he had heard the most delightful joke. And the policemen, desi and gora, would stare as Khan Sahib Giraftaar was released back into the world, full well knowing that, come the next rally, he would return to the station like a hawk to the cliffs yelling
“Mujhe Giraftaar Karo”
Come capture me!
Yet, I never knew that I had inherited my fight from Khan Sahib Giraftaar for I made the mistake of assuming the mild-mannered man behind the myth was all that ever was. At the age of seventy my grandfather, Khan Sahib Giraftraar, lived in a prison of circumstance. His mind turned to mush as dementia whizzed him back and forth between decades and his name took on a different kind of meaning.
“Mein Khan Sahib Giraftaar hoon. Mein Khan Sahib, Giraftaar hoon”
He became Khan Sahib Giraftaar, the arrested.
Living in a prison composed of failing synapses, never to be bailed out from the gaol of the mind.