I run through the news channels impatiently to know the proceedings of a court case in relation to the verdict of a drug selling racket in India. It’s been nine years since this case -this case that shook an entire nation and changed my whole life. The report that might be on the judge’s desk right now has my name and a whole lot of papers that support my identity as a journalist assistant from Norway who has contributed significantly to the investigations. I could have been inside the court today waiting for a life imprisonment or crueller verdict- but no, I am here -sitting in my home in front of the television as a completely different person. Isn’t that what I had asked for in return for my favour?
Over these years my hair has turned from black to grey. I am now a middle aged woman working with a government bank and my name is Agnes Brekke. I have two children, a husband and none of them know anything about my connection with the biggest Norwegian drug import to the Indian sub continent in the 1990s.
I had been to India with my then boyfriend in the February of 1991.I had befriended him through a university exercise on cultural journalism. He used to work with a magazine that published articles on various civilizations and life in different countries across different continents. Each student was assigned a journalist. And I had thanked my stars when I was assigned to the green eyed, unusually handsome man, Ethan. Ethan was in his mid thirties, usually dressed in his typical khakis and linen shirts. He had sported a beard that made him look intellectual. We continued seeing each other even long after I had graduated from my college and was interning with a local newspaper. Over my seventeen months of courtship with this man I never had a single moment of discomfort. Had the situation in India been little different I would have even sworn on my life that this man was innocent. I had really thought I knew everything about him. He had been travelling a lot around that time for different assignments in Africa, Canada and Cuba. So, when he mentioned that his magazine can sponsor an assistant for his new assignment in India – “Indian Fisherman-Their life at the borders” I jumped at the opportunity. I was to realise much later that this single decision was going to throw me spiralling down into the dark underworld of India and had it not been one opportune moment I would be there today in the Indian court listed as one of the accused facing potential life imprisonment in a foreign land.
“Breaking news: Ethan Aspen, the Norwegian journalist to serve life imprisonment over drug import and peddling charges in a nine year old case”
I am not sure if it is Ethan who is being walked out of the court into a police van. His face is covered with a bag. He looks much thinner, weaker and older. The news channel displays the quick facts about the case for the viewers.
· Ethan Aspen – a Norwegian journalist assisted seven major drug imports into the Indian subcontinent.
· The Nether dope was stuffed into waterproofed and gas filled barrels underneath cargo ships. These barrels would be dropped at a specific location by letting the gas out before the cargos reached the port. These barrels would then be picked up by an Indian fisherman who would coordinate the whole activity by a local drug peddler. Ethan interacted with these fishermen on the account of article coverage for a Norwegian Magazine and passed on critical information about the import. He communicated the Nether Dope sea hide spot destinations to random drug dealers operating through small unnoticeable retail kiosks only identifiable by a specific pattern of coca-cola advertisements painted in a coded fashion on their walls. The peddlers would in turn get in touch with the fishermen. Over 17 such outlets on Indian Highways were shutdown and the owners were prosecuted in connection with the most intelligent drug scandal. The information communicated was usually the nautical miles into the sea from the border and address of the fishermen who would assist in fishing out the Nether Dope barrels from the sea hide spots. He had aided three such imports from South Goa, Gokarna and Kovalam before the CBI was tipped off by an internal resource of the Norwegian Govt. Over 1500kgs of raw Nether – Dope was collected from various spots along the Indian Border during the course of the investigation.Af ter long drawn political and underworld conspiracy Ethan is finally sentenced for life along with 13 other key accused.
After this summary they flash a photo of him at an outlet with coco cola painted on its walls. And highlight the coca- cola ads to display the pattern. I shiver because I was sitting right there about four feet away from Ethan when this shot was taken. I look at a photograph I had pulled out just hours ago. A photograph of me resting my head on a board painted with the coca-cola logo. A photograph that was the logical extension of the area photographed in the image that was being shown in the news. I light a cigarette to calm my nerves and continue to watch the news as the sweat drenches my t-shirt. I switch to multiple news channels covering the same news- they all show the same photograph, display the same pieces of information and like the first channel they too don’t mention a Linda Schwartz in association with this case. The photograph on my table fails to appear in the news. I let out a sigh of relief and switch off the television. My body is still shaking with disbelief. I light one more cigarette and draw the smoke deep in till every inch of my lung is filled with it. I breathe the smoke out slowly realising for the first time that my worst nightmare is over. I flip the photograph on my table. It reads
Name: Agnes Brekke
Norwegian Govt. Internal Resource ID: 8080NGZP
Cover: Linda Schwartz
Cover Profession: Assistant Journalist
Case ID: INDNDPO190383
My real identity had been made my cover and a new identity had been given to me.