AQUARTER CENTURY AGO I met a man who calmly told me how he had organised the massacre of a family. He wasn’t confessing out of a sense of remorse; he was bragging about it, grinning as he spoke to me.
I was a young reporter on assignment in Dhaka, trying to figure out what had gone wrong with Bangladesh, which had emerged as an independent nation after a bloody war of liberation 15 years earlier, in 1971. The man I was interviewing lived in a well-appointed home. Soldiers protected his house, checking the bags and identification of all visitors. A week earlier he had been a presidential candidate, losing by a huge margin.
He wore a Pathani outfit that looked out of place in a country where civilian politicians wore white kurtas and black vests, and men on the streets went about in lungis. He had a thin moustache. He stared at me eagerly as we spoke, curious about the notes I was taking, trying to read what I was writing in my notepad. He sat straight on a sofa, his chest thrust forward, as if he was still in uniform. He looked like a man playing a high stakes game, assured that he would win, because he knew someone important who held all the cards.