DAY 212: I’M OFF TO RESCUE A BEAR WHILST WEARING MASCARA
The Indian shopkeeper in the underwear and make-up shop in the small town looks at me with some surprise. ‘The mascara is for you?’
‘Yes. I need to look more Indian you see.’
The man next to me who is buying boxer shorts looks over his shoulder. For a moment I worry if I am being racist. ‘I need to rescue a bear’ I explain to him with a smile. Both he and the shopkeeper are silent.
Kartick has allowed me into his inner world.
Kartick has asked me to help with an undercover rescue of a bear cub. I feel both privileged and foolish.
I am in my hotel bathroom dying my hair, wearing eyeliner, black rimmed glasses and brushing my hair back so as to ‘blend in’. This is his request not my idea. I fear I will look like a transgender 6’4″ Buddy Holly. Or Groucho Marx. What am I going to do if I am caught? Play Peggy Sue and crack a one-liner?
“I’ve come to rescue a bear wearing mascara. Any bear that wears make-up needs saving.”
Mounting intelligence from various informers indicates a small bear cub is being kept in a Muslim community some way out of town. The cub was poached from its mothers and is likely to be sold on to Nepal either as a pet or as meat.
Kartick calls me on the phone as I’m mixing black hair sludge in the room’s ash-tray. I’m being picked up tomorrow morning at 5am and I still feel awful from my chest infection.
‘Time is of the essence. We must go now, A man will pick you up tomorrow at 5am, try not to engage in conversation’ he says. ‘I attempted to rescue some bear cubs once and we got there just too late. We were posed as buyers .They had killed the cubs and eaten them. There was just fur on the ground. Since we were undercover we had to pretend to enjoy their laughter at what had happened. Listen, I’d prefer if give me the number of your wife’
‘Sometimes the shit hits the fan. There will plain clothed police there but anyting can go wrong in India. ‘
“What exactly is the risk?’
‘60% of raids go off fine, 40% have repercussions’
‘Of the 40% about half of those are violent. In those situations we run like a bat out of hell. It’s an Islamic community we are targeting and they can really gang together. There can be fights, or knives…sometimes guns. Just keep your wits about you. Try and blend in’
It’s at this point that I notice I’ve got black hair dye on the tips of my ears and all over my palms. It won’t come out.
‘Don’t photograph the women OK? Don’t let anyone know you are working for us.’
‘Are you not coming too?’ I ask
‘I have to be somewhere else. Another raid has come up..’
Ann is not impressed
A few moments later I call my new wife, Ann, back in the UK. I act calm and tell her its all fine but explain I’m putting on makeup. ‘I need to blend in’, I say.
‘You have black hair and are wearing eye-liner?’
I’m upset that she is more concerned by the fact I’ve changed my hair colour than by the risk I’m about to take. It’s hard to explain from so far away that I’m being really manly whilst also admitting I’m wearing eye liner.
‘Look, I need to be a little careful. I don’t want to stand out’
‘So if you get killed I’ll have to identify my husband as the guy who has make-up on and black ears?’
‘And black hands’
She bursts out laughing.
And so do I.
Then we put the phone down. I’m terrified again and spend the rest of the evening cleaning my ear tips.