ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Myth of Rashidun

A researcher reflects on his friendship with a down-on-luck adulterer–cattle smuggler—his primary contact in the field.

For my doctoral research, I spent a year studying local communities in the north Bengal borderland. During this time, I became friends with Rashidun who eventually became my primary contact and a gateway to my experiences there. As we peeled back the layers of our pasts, it revealed traces of a friendship that would come to be tested during my stay in his village. It took less than a week for us to open our lives to each other, although mine paled in comparison to his experiences.

Before becoming a cattle smuggler, Rashidun tried his best to stay on the straight and narrow path of limited opportunities available in that area. From what I could tell, the underlying risks of an illegal occupation contributed to its temptation for him. Over a short—yet profitable—stint in smuggling bovines, Rashidun claimed control of his life and destiny. He said he felt like a “hero” from a movie when he ventured out in his rickety van, under the dense cover of the winter fog. Emboldened, he had begun an extramarital affair with a woman whose father rented out their home as a halfway house for smugglers. Rashidun’s refusal to promise marriage to her prompted the father to file a complaint against him in the local thana. Since they could not press charges of illegal smuggling, fearing self-incrimination, Rashidun only served time for his “lesser” misdemeanours. Following his arrest, residents of the village grew cautious of interacting with Rashidun, labelling him “bad company.”

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