“Why did you do it?” asked a policeman.

Khogen kept silent. He has been arrested for General Habib’s murder. As stated in the case report, he broke into Chairman Habib’s residence in the middle of the night and had him inhale an anesthetic, tying his two hands up to the cot. And then with a boti, slit his throat. The said murder weapon was nowhere to be found, but the plaintiffs, the chairman’s two sons, had claimed thus.

Khogen’s shack stood right adjacent to the chairman’s mansion. His boundary wall had devoured almost the entire yard that seemingly belonged to Khogen. With just one more push, the last piece of his land to lean his head on would collapse down into a pit. It hadn’t been a long since his grandfather was alive, Khogen had owned a fair share of the chairman’s homestead. Some distant memories were still fresh in his mind. He sharpened and polished up this small bunch of memories the way a farmer hones up his sickle.

Shooting an array of expletives at the chairman was how he started his day, every day. Then, with a stick under his armpit and a sack over his shoulders, he’d go out.

Today upon returning home, he did not chide the chairman and just wept over the lost family and his unborn child. Until almost midnight, people heard the sound of his weeping, but at the break of dawn, Khogen transformed and hurled abuses at the chairman as usual. In the meantime, he also expressed his intent on killing him. The night the chairman was murdered, Khogen had declared loudly, “I won’t sleep tonight without killing you.” Multiple witnesses heard. Thus in the early morning when the chairman’s corpse, with a slit throat, was found in an empty room, everyone was certain that it was Khogen’s doing.

The chairman’s sons didn’t have to think twice to file a case against him, it turned out rather easy for them. Khogen himself didn’t protest. The police came over and inquired if he was Khogen. They could recognise him, although, at first sight, they had doubted if he really was Khogen. Getting over to the police all by himself, he said, “You can’t tie me up. Better help me get on the van. I am not gonna run.” Without much ado, they detained Khogen and transported him to the police station.

Khogen knew he had been zeroing in on this murder for 40 years. Even in his dreams, he had killed him several times, but every time waking up in the morning, he felt sorry for his incapability. Thus today when he came to know that the chairman had really been killed, not even once did he think of someone else to have committed the act. But he just couldn’t recall how he did it though. As a matter of fact, when the policeman asked him if he had murdered the chairman, he only muttered, “Yes, maybe.” He couldn’t say clearly if he really had carried out the act of killing.

“Maybe?” the policeman marveled. “Are you not sure?”

“Indeed, I was supposed to kill him for sure,” Khogen shrugged, “but I can’t recall anything at this moment. I did go out to take a leak but it was pitch dark outside and. the chairman’s two sons were scuffling over their share of land. So, I came back to my bed. I couldn’t even do what I went to do. A cold breeze blew so when I hit the bed, sleep gripped me in the blink of an eye. I woke up early in the morning to the ruckus at the chairman’s. I can’t remember what really happened at midnight, Sir.”

“Try to remember. Later that night, you went out again to answer the call of nature with a water-filled mug, right.”

“Maybe, because in the morning, I found my stomach completely empty. What did I do next, Sir?” Khogen inquired.

“By the time you were done,” the policeman went on, “you returned to your room. Then you picked up the boti.”

“Yes, I remember now,” Khogen nodded. “But I don’t have any boti at my house. Maybe, it was a sickle.”

“The case report mentions boti, so don’t say otherwise. Since you committed the killing, it doesn’t really matter whether it was a boti or a sickle. In no way can you fend off punishment.”

“Then boti is better. Actually, I wanted to buy one, because, with a sickle, it’s difficult to cut vegetables.” Khogen said.

“At that point with the boti in your hand, you got into Chairman sahib’s house, right? Can you recall now?”

“Yes, you’re right. I had a dream just like this one.”

“You placed a chloroformed handkerchief over the chairman’s nose and got him unconscious, didn’t you?”

“Yes, sir,” Khogen nodded. And then after a pause, he abruptly inquired, “What’s chloroform, Sir?”

“That which makes someone unconscious. You needn’t know more.”

“Yes, sir. What’s the use of knowing more if a little knowledge serves the purpose?”

“When Chairman sahib turned unconscious, you quickly tied his two hands up with a goat-binding rope. As an old man, you didn’t want to take a risk – am I right?”

“Yes, you’re right. At this age, I shouldn’t take a risk in anything.”

“After tying his hands up, you ran the boti down his throat, didn’t you?”

“Yes, as you and many people of the village are saying, I must have done that.”

“Then you confess that last night you killed Chairman as planned, don’t you?”

“It was a plan hatched out long ago, sir,” Khogen piped up in a cold voice.

Before shoving him inside the lockup, the policeman ordered his colleagues to have Khogen’s thumb imprint on the deposition paper.

“But Sir, he doesn’t have hands,” the constable pointed out.

“How can he use fingers when he doesn’t have even elbows?”

“Oh I see!” the policeman wondered. “Then leave it, and throw him in.” Now he looked a bit cheerful.

While pushing him into the lockup, the constable asked Khogen, “How did you lose your hands? Did you get caught red-handed as a thief? Or as a robber? And people cut off your hands, isn’t it?”

Khogen didn’t respond. For a moment he thought of blowing the lid off: During the Liberation War, the chairman, a young man then, had helped tie up his legs as the Pakistani soldiers severed his hands. Just as the words were about to spill from his mouth, Khogen held back and muttered brusquely; such a piece of information wouldn’t change his punishment at all.

Excerpted with permission from “Confession To A Killing”, translated from the Bengali by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam in Meet Human Meat, Mojaffor Hossain, Antonym.