ABOUT THE STORY Arif Ayaz Parrey’s achievement in this story is the evocation of an entire climate of fear and suspicion in Kashmir without the use of any characters or events. The story works purely as a text about another text—a torture manual allegedly used in the repression of the insurgency—and through its ironic repetition of the language and categories, at once bureaucratic and sinister, of the manual. The only person whom we know by the name in the story—the “Major Ali” of the title—appears to be fictional twice over. Even his reality as a character in fiction is disturbed by the notion that he may have first been invented by the nameless, shadowy powers whose motives and modus operandi the story describes.
Parrey drops us into a maze of smoke and mirrors, disorienting us in a manner analogous to the “sustainable and ever-widening cycle of distrust” that the torture manual seeks to generate among “the subject population”. It’s not even clear where the narrator himself stands, or which of the manual’s five classes of Kashmiris on the resistor/collaborator axis he inhabits, or—most disturbingly—whether he may himself be “Major Ali” in a new guise, now a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In this way, Parrey renovates the narrative tactic of self-reflexivity—a playful gesture in the work of Laurence Sterne or Beckett or Borges, but here, the default setting of all human activity when subjected to the modern state’s mania for control and power.
The Torture Manual of Major Ali