Waiting For the Dawn

First published in SETU. Click here to read.

As I watch the setting rays smear the sky with hues of gold, red and mauve, the orange sun moves towards the darkness of night. I have been reading about another sky that had lit up with strange vibrant colours under a mushroom cloud to collapse into blackness, wrecking cities and destroying generations of humans. It had happened more than seventy-five years ago, but the residues impact the world and humans to this date. That fateful day, the Little Boy fell from Enola Gay’s womb to bring “peace”. Then, a couple of days later, there was the Fat Man…
I look at the river ripple reflecting shades of the sky and wonder why people miss out on the beauty of life and nature… Were the sky and the water any different that August in 1945? Why would we need nuclear warheads to maintain peace on Earth? Their toxicity destroyed both nature and humans. Was this the ‘peace’ that the last century leadership had brokered for us? 
Long ago there lived a man who tried to get justice as a citizen of the British empire for the unjust treatment meted out to Indians in South Africa. He was incredibly spirited. He wanted justice and he had faith in British fair-play. He returned to his own home country, India, with much fanfare for the young barrister had become a politician. 
That was in 1915. I read his biography. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was an ordinary man who became extraordinary to meet his need for a just world, a society where people were treated as equals. He said some good things. But was nationalism one of them? I think he wanted freedom from abuse and exploitation for all mankind.
He popularised Satyagraha. Satyagraha, to my limited understanding, is using truth to overcome violence with non-violence, through peaceful resistance and non-cooperation towards abusive laws.
An exhausted man, unhappy with the use to which his ideas were being misconstrued after his return to India, Gandhi wrote that he had made a “Himalayan miscalculation” in his autobiography, My Experiments with Truth.  This is how he described his “Himalayan miscalculation”: “A Satyagrahi obeys the laws of society intelligently and of his own free will, because he considers it to be his second duty to do so. It is only when a person has thus obeyed the laws of society scrupulously that he is in a position to judge as to which particular rules are good and just which are unjust and iniquitous. Only then does the right accrue to him to the civil disobedience of certain laws in well-defined circumstances. My error lay in my failure to observe this necessary limitation. I had called on the people to launch upon civil disobedience before they had qualified themselves for it, and this mistake seems to me to be of Himalayan magnitude.” Can this view be that of a nationalist? 
In any case, I do not understand this word – nationalist — or too many like it for ‘ists’ and ‘isms’ confuse me. I do not know much about Gandhi really or anything else. I am not a specialist….

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Future

First published in Countercurrents.org. Click here to read

The tree, shimmering in a puddle,

ripples as a bird pauses for a drink.

The sun peeps from behind

the grey lined with silver.

 

The river mirrors the sky replete

with clouds and sunshine.

Water drifts over a lifetime

spanning your story and mine —

 

narratives of our Times, of an

eon that sweeps the Earth,

mankind’s own hearth.

Long ago, dinosaurs died.

 

Now, in this new age of greats,

fires burn kangaroo meat.

Flames that devour forests are

put to rest by ice that freezes

 

blood and bones. Breath chills

to lifelessness in a refrigerator...
(Click here to read the rest)

Different Worlds — An Immigrant’s Story

(Published in Daily Star Bangladesh)

 

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The cloud saw the girl sitting in her balcony and reading. Peace and harmony — thought the cloud and smiled. The feathery white cloud wafted on an unconcerned blue sky till it reached a mountain. It cast mobile patterns of shadows on the mountain top. The mountain was green, and the shadows that played on its slopes were fleeting patches of a deeper shade. The cloud crossed the mountain — there was a river… a thin silver sliver of water flowing in the middle of an abandoned rocky bed.

Scrawny cattle roamed and fed the sparse grass on the dry bed. Two children in patched clothes with snot flowing from their noses and bare feet tried to manage the cattle with thin switches made of sticks from the tall trees whose leaves looked muddy due to lack of rain. At a distance were some hutments. That is where lived the families of the children, thought the cloud. It looked on with concern but could not give rain as it was too young and feathery.

As the cloud floated, it gathered some more dust and shifted towards a mild grey. There were bright fields of mustard — yellow and green — and brick kilns as the cloud journeyed deeper into the land. Sometimes, there were cities with dust and vehicles. The landscape was dotted every now and then with little figures in colourful clothes who went about their daily business — a part of the larger Universe, part of the whole. The cloud could have appreciated the differences in culture, language, religion, ethnicity and nationality if it understood a little more of man, understood finer poetries and philosophies. But it was very primal in its instincts and had no time to read as it rolled on forward to complete its cyclic destiny.

A strong gust of wind blew the cloud over to a dark portion of the Earth, which slowly sank to slumber. The land twinkled with pinpricks of light as the sky turned starry that night. The cloud could not see much except some more of its own kind at a distance. It floated and attached itself to them… an instinct that makes us find safety in numbers.

As the cloud was touched by the golden rays of the rising sun, it turned a peachy pink, despite the touch of grey. It saw well-fed children neatly dressed in school uniform standing around … some were playing hopscotch; others were talking in groups. There were waves of laughter floating in the air. The cloud shimmered with light and contentment. It loved happiness.

Daytime with the sun shining and birds singing was always a happy time for the little cloud as it grew bigger by mingling with others of its kind. The clouds drifted over a dark patch on the ground… darker than darkness itself, a blackness that seemed to permeate from the very bowels of the Earth. The young cloud shed a tear when it saw a bare backed little boy in a torn shirt the colour of poverty tug at his mother’s heart and cry of hunger. The mother gave him a dry chapati from the day before. The child smiled with victory and fulfilment. As the water dropped from the cloud’s eye, the child looked up and said in an excited voice: “Mother look a drop of rain! Maybe it will rain. The rain water is nice to drink …” for they had no running water or electricity. Their ground water sources were black with coal dust.

The cloud contained itself with an effort and drifted over the coal slurry. Soon merging and maturing with the larger collective of its kind, the cloud came to a tributary… rich fertile land — but what was that? A fence with barbed wire and men standing with guns on two sides?

The cloud floated over the fence. It had never understood humans or their ways… for the cloud, there was the open blue sky that connected the lands and seas. It went everywhere undaunted by wires and boundaries. It changed colours with the rise and fall of the sun. As it grew older, it deepened and learned to call out with a thundering voice. It would use a flash of lightening to announced the advent of the next cycle. It would empty itself and merge into the infinite eternity. Then, like a phoenix, it would start to rebuild itself again… but its memory stayed as a collective in the Universe — a part of the sky, stars, moon, sun and the wind that facilitated its movement. The rainbow heralded the start of a new cycle.

The cloud was reaching its full potential…

 

 

 

Read the rest in Daily Star by clicking here.

Debris…

Published in Countercurrent.org

 

Oh, how weeps Mother Earth!

Near her toes, the forests burn.
Animals in death throes churn.
Sumatran anacondas die.
Smoke blinds the eye.
Hazy skies, poison air
People choke.
Life comes to a halt.

Brazil, her lungs they say,
Now fiery flames breathe.
With so much smoke,
Will Mother Earth choke?

Oh, how weeps Mother Earth!

Young blood is spilt as
Fire and
Water injure and
Kill.
The elements that give us life
Have now been weaponized.

‘People fight for their rights.’

When will they stop the hate?
This endless fight?
This endless stress

Click here to read the rest

The Story of a Doe-eyed Jinn

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Thousands of years ago, when mankind was still young and believed in magic, there was a tiny green island peopled by simple, god-fearing fisher folk. In the little village by the seaside, there lived a beautiful girl with pale white skin, pomegranate red lips, jet-black hair. She flit from home to home through the day, bringing happiness with her good nature and helpful attitude. She would play with the children and do little tricks that kept their tears at bay. She would climb tall trees and pluck fruit for the little ones. She would help mothers and wives with household chores and she would listen to the old folks’ tales of glory till they were filled with blessings for her kind heart. She was a winsome little soul and everyone agreed that the man who won her heart would be a lucky one.

One day, a great magician came to the village in a fabulous flying carpet made of gold and silver. He glowed with a magical aura and no one could touch him. He wore a strange robe made of glistening orange and black. He had a long beard and long hair and spoke in a deep, drowning voice. He was like a king from heaven. No one in the village had seen anyone like him. No one knew why he had come to their village and no one asked. He went to the village elder and demanded shelter. The village elder fell under his spell and gave him what he wanted without any questions. In fact, the whole village fell under his spell.

They were stunned by the magic he performed for them. He could stop the rain from wetting the village. It would fall all around but not into the village. It seemed like he had built a dome to keep off the thunder and lightening. He could extend night and day for the village.

The young doe-eyed girl watched him with fascination. The magician saw her from the corner of his eyes and followed her with interest. It would be nice for him to have someone like her around, he thought to himself. In any case, he was tiring off the village and the time had come for him to move on…

The magician came from beyond the stars and the moon. He had travelled around the world in quest of a special magic that would make him more powerful than the men who ruled his home. He wanted to be a king. He was a man who loved power and lived for only his own needs. This young girl could ward away his loneliness and help him find the magic. The magician approached the village elder and asked for the girl’s hand. The village elder was totally under the magician’s mind spell. He would do whatever the magician asked. He agreed. The young girl agreed. Only her mother worried. But the magician put a spell on her mouth so that she could not utter her protests.

The girl went off with the magician on his flying carpet…

For the first few days, the girl lived as if in a dream. They soared among the stars and the moon. From the carpet, which turned invisible and became like a big home, she could see the aurora borealis, fabulous sunrises and sunsets, even the whole Earth as she flew further towards the moon with her magician. Oh! How the girl loved the magician as she saw the wonders of the universe soar past her…the fabulous nebulae, the distant suns, the stars with their swirls of gas and fire…oh! She was fascinated!

At last, they landed on the snowbound ice-cap of the polar region. The magician said, “Now, I will train you and then will begin our real work.”

First, he created a home for them under a warm glowing dome where the temperature was as warm as that of the doe-eyed damsel’s island. It was like a little oasis of warmth in the cold desert of ice and snow. There, he started training her. Sometimes, they would step out into the cold and create a fire with a powder. Sometimes, they would create illusory landscapes, like a volcano or a flower garden. The magician taught the maiden how to keep her body temperature constant in cold and warm weather. He taught her to change into a bird and soar the skies. He taught her how to control her and others’ minds, how to move objects from a distance. She learned fast.

After six months of intensive training, the magician told her it was time to start work…to look for a new magic…

They set sail on the magic carpet and soared the world, visiting deep caverns, river and sea-beds for ancient magic. And the doe-eyed winsome girl became an expert magician. She could turn to dust a predator lurking in the deeps of the sea, swim like a mermaid into underwater caverns, create light and darkness…just like her magician. In addition she had a pure heart, a necessity that the bearded magician for all his charm lacked. It was with the echoes of her heart that she would be able to feel the pure magic. Unfortunately for the magician, his heart was tainted by personal ambition and greed. It could not sense the echoes of magic that needed a pure heart. He had searched everywhere on Earth for the magic but it was lost to him.

Another six months passed. The magic was still concealed from them. Then, one day as they delved deep into a dark cave on a mountainside, they found the magic in a rock. It echoed in the doe eyed girl’s heart. She heard the echoes and told her magician. The magician took out a ring and put a halo around the rock. It floated up, became tiny and swept into an empty socket of the ring. It was strange magic. The magician was very happy. He said, “I know this is the right magic because it responded to the call of the ring.” That day they went to a nearby village and partied with the villagers. They had visited the village earlier and the villagers knew them as a devoted couple. They had fireworks and fancy food. They sang and danced late into he night.

That night they all went to bed late.

The sun caressed the doe-eyed damsel with its morning rays. The doe-eyed damsel woke up to an empty bed. Her magician had left with the ancient magic, ring and carpet. He left a note bidding her farewell forever. The doe-eyed damsel wept till her eyes were swollen and red.

When the villagers heard of her plight, they condemned her as an abandoned woman. Her husband left her because she was flawed, they said. The doe-eyed girl cried and cried and then decided to return home. She took to the skies like a swallow, alighted at her village and returned to her original form. When she returned without the magician and wept out her tale, people turned their faces away. Her mother hung her head in shame for an abandoned wife was considered a valueless and shameless commodity in the world of men. Her mother could not take in the shame and died of a broken heart. The doe-eyed one no longer brought smiles to the villagers but, in their opinion, only bad luck.

She lived in the outskirts of the village and perfected her magic. One day, embittered by a sense of rejection, she took the form of a black crane and flew all the way to the desert sands. There she haunted caravanserais for a few years hoping her magician would return at some point and find her. When the bearded one did not return and men jeered at her and wounded her self-respect, she started turning them into lizards and cockroaches. People began to regard her as a woman with a black heart. Only the wicked came to her for magical help and she obliged. She was a woman who had lost her senses in a battle to survive with honour.

Sometimes, she would turn herself into a whirlwind and baffle men who had jeered at her. Sometimes, she descended like black smoke on unsuspecting wayfarers and frightened them with ugly faces.

One day when she descended on a group of travellers as a whirlwind and started making frightening faces at them, a clever trader outwitted her. He said, he did not believe that she was a powerful magician. The doe-eyed one wanted to convince him. She asked, “What can I do to convince you? Should I turn you into a worm?”

He replied,“ I will believe you are a really powerful magician if you can get into this tiny jar” and he waved an empty wine bottle under her nose.

“Oh that is easy,” she replied and turned into black smoke and entered the jar. The trader promptly closed the jar. However much she shouted, he would not let her out. He took the jar to the next caravanserai and threw it among all the empty bottles that littered the garbage area.

The doe-eyed one waited patiently for someone to open the bottle. She turned herself invisible and made a home in the old wine jar, waiting for more than ten centuries to be let out…

 

 

Stretch

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Firmament

Today,

I brought home a bit of the sky with me.
Vast, blue, translucent, with feathery white clouds
It stretched infinitely out,
Beckoning me, to look beyond the sea
To the far horizon where it starts
Beyond all of mankind’s arts.
A canvas of stars at night ,
Dotted with distant lights.
Was it here when sound started to sing?
Was it here when the world came to being?
Did it stand eternal, at all times,
There for us to be, beyond rhymes,
Rhythm and all words?
Did it hear the first verse?
Did it sing to the first man as it does to me,
Songs of harmony that are heard
By the yearning, searching heart,
Of peace, calm and the right to be?

O sky, did the maker of mankind make thee?