08.1 Dhekunu Mala
Footloose Habib rolled through the arch over the stone path and parked by the front door. Habib heard a sound like wet towel slapped on stone during wash. He reached the window and summarily patched his back on the wall like a soldier wearing a beret. It was 27th October and a Full Moon night.
He glanced into the room. In the dim light of a kerosene lamp, Savari Shakir was making all this noise. A girl lay on her elbows on the mattress inside the mosquito net and Shakir stood behind. Loud slapping noises escaped through the door and windows left open of a vacant house in the middle of the night in nowhere.
An almost expressionless Habib turned to crack a grin on his face. A jaw dropped in a grimace. A grin that could not be noticed by anyone in a haunted place. Habib returned to his bicycle and patched up his face to wear his normal expressionlessness.
He rang the bicycle bell, “Shakir! It’s Habib!”
The noises stopped. In a while Shakir poked his head out from the window and the girl appeared behind. “I wasn’t expecting you so early!” uttered Shakir.
“They sent me back,” Habib said, “I came today. We need to talk.”
“Now you can cut that polite speech, Habib. Take a seat on the patio. I will join you.”
Seated on the patio behind the house, they were engaged in serious talk. Samara served tea. “Things have changed. The capital is boiling,” said Habib, “they are not happy with the way things are going with the English. No side could agree on anything. They sent me to get things started now,” and when Samara was out of earshot, Habib continued, “radio is installed in the capital. I will come in the morning to unpack and install the setup here. Other gadgets too. We use one empty room for a studio.
“I want you to meet somebody important whom you have to carry on your motorcycle from time to time to secret locations.”
“Shall I get the bike?” asked Shakir.
“Yes, I prefer a ride.”
“I haven’t tried but I can ride.”
Savari Shakir entered the annex and pulled out the Moto Guzzi to the foreground. Habib stood watching him. He kicked the lever and it wouldn’t start the engine. Habib reached and pulled a few valves and gave it a try. The motor fired into life turning its rear wheel instantly. It was louder than the tractor Shakir arrived – the wrong idea to go to secret places. Habib shoved a hand to turn the gears to neutral.
“We’ll be back soon,” Shakir told Samara.
Habib drove out of the arch with Shakir seated on the rear fairing backseat. Headlight hit the vegetation in the foreground. The roads were full of puddles due to falling rains. They passed the roads in no time to arrive in Mamendu at a house called Fanas.
“Don Raha,” Habib introduced, “Shakir is here to meet you. He’s the representative.”
“You are the son of Savari Osman! How are you?” greeted Don Raha in polite speech, “How is your father? I met him four years ago.”
“He’s doing very well,” returned Shakir.
“He must be proud of you,” said the little man, “Do please convey my regards.”
Don Raha was five feet or so tall, a thin frail man, wearing a sarong and a coif, dressed in a traditional style with a folded scarf tied around his collar to point the tip to the flipside. He was forty-eight years old and belonged to Vado in the Suvadives. He married an Adduan and resided in Hittadu with his family.
Habib entered into the woods and drove through a lane, turned into a narrow trail and arrived at Medarre Klee – a vast body of water in the middle of the jungle; wetland and an open airy space. The moon shown bright and light reflected on the lake. A vista of trees in the distance and antennas over a mile.
“Have you noticed the road called Areyfé?”
“Yes, I have. Didn’t go in,” replied Shakir.
“There’s Fehelé Klee to the north and Arre Klee to the south inside thick jungle. When we approach RAF, we will be in Arre Klee wetland much like this. I will show you in the morning how to get there. And there is a path to climb Areyfé through the undergrowth. Unfortunately, we have to take the long route. Take extra precaution to cross the road because nobody goes beyond and two hundred metres to the clearing. Again, six hundred metres to the main units.”
“I have seen pictures from Saeed of the clearing from the rear side,” said Shakir.
“That’s where we are going.”
A day later he came with three pieces of 20 feet long bamboo poles with tenons driven into the ends to join them together.
Floors of the house was wood finished on top of a concrete layer. It appeared black however cool. Habib and Shakir unwrapped the items inside the wooden box. Some he carried in the luggage. They took the processing kits and accessories to the room standing opposite.
Habib assembled an antenna and screwed up the rods. Shakir carried a cable roll on his shoulder and a tool kit in his hand. They crossed the brook in hip deep water to the other side.
Again, in this space where the underbrush was cleared, there stood a hut thirty yards from the bank. A hut built of timber. A nice wooden door in the middle and grey painted windows on the sides. The roof covered of moss and an overhang build around a tree in a blocking position to the door. Tall trees gave shade and the ground covered of grass.
Habib looked for a tree ten yards away from the hut. “Start digging a trough six inches deep to the hut to lay the cable. I climb this tree. Show me the pole.”
He climbed up the tree and fixed the antenna on the pole and the cable. Raised it high as it could go above the foliage. He tied the pole firmly to the tree and climbed down nailing clips to fasten the cable securely to the tree trunk. They bedded the cable in earth and pulled the line into the house through a closet in one of the two rooms. Key to the closet kept on a nail driven under a table. They returned to Etherevari to dry up and have lunch.
“We have to fix this radio setup,” said Habib, “A very expensive piece and a recent model. Collins KMW-1 transceiver, speaker, console and power supply. This is a type they use in American spy planes.”
They installed the modules and fixed the cables before sundown. Power connected and the setup hidden in the closet. He pulled a chair beside the open closet and sat down to listen to its beeps. He began to call, “Dhekunu Mala calling Malikurva!”
And there was a response, “Malikurva receiving you loud and clear!”
“Don’t you take a break?”
“I was about to leave. How are things?”
“Going well. Do you suggest fine tuning?”
“How high did you raise the antenna?”
“Not 100 but guessingly 90 feet.”
“Leave it at that. How do you receive?”
“Reception is very good,” replied Habib.
“In that case you are good to go.”
“I have work. I call on schedule. If there’s no new update, I suggest shutdown.”
“Okay. Bye, Thirty-One!”
Habib said to Shakir, “Here is how you turn off. Bring down the volume and switch off the set. Never leave it on. And with practice, alter the channel.”
He turned to face him, “I am talking to Saeed. He is on twenty-four-hour watch. We cannot use names. You will be Thirty-Three. I am Thirty-One. He’s Malikurva and we are Dhekunu. You cannot use words like ‘English’ or ‘British’ or ‘RAF’ or ‘Addu’ or ‘Gan’. I’ll give you a list of things you cannot say instead we use codes. We also have a glossary of RAF terms. I don’t know a thing about it but there is someone who knows.”
“Who is it?” asked Shakir.
“Thirty-Two. I’ll tell you later,” responded Habib, “Now we set up our studio tomorrow.”
By the end of October, they set the studio. A lot of work done in the room by the northeast corner on the floor level. A corner blocked by cardboard to create a tiny darkroom. Interior of this room was dark enough when the windows were closed. They set up the apparatus and several tanks, chemicals, stock of photography products and accessories. They fixed two batteries to supply power to the developing equipment and finally a padlock on the door.
“What are these gadgets?” Shakir pointed.
“The thing…listening devices,” simplified Habib, “now we bug the magistrate’s office.”