It cannot be that the very institution founded for the general welfare and safety of society turns out to be the oppressive baton slamming down upon innocent students exercising their right of expression. It cannot be that the police oppress the very tenets they were created to protect. This simply cannot be.
But it has become so – because we have allowed it to be. And it has happened over and over again, in shantytowns and school buildings, in Jadavpur University and the Colony Arms Building. An epidemic of institutional abuse has transcended borders and oceans, continents and governmental paradigms.
A police force must only operate to protect the rights of citizens. Any police action that inhibits, suppresses and abuses citizens’ rights and dignities violates that very purpose. And in that instant it loses its credibility, its moral, populace-based authority. And it must be upended and recalibrated.
I asked a friend why and how this can be; he aptly said, ‘because they can.’ The responsibility falls upon each of us to say, ‘no, they cannot.’ No they must not – because if they do, the society we faithfully call civilized will be humanity’s biggest fallacy. No, they cannot stampede our God-given right to be free.
Death is easier than life – but easy things bring less satisfaction. I welcome death; I am burdened by life – but I keep living, I keep trying. Every breath I take may be labored, in lament I may soak my entire life. But even this – as hard as it is – life I cherish, I nourish, I fill to the fullest with my dreams and hopes.
Yes, death is easier than life – but I refuse to be easy.
If I could lay outstretched, my every atom laid side by side, from Kashba to the doorstep of the Carbide Building – if I could only, it would be my most glorious existence. But I can only imagine and dream of that time and space. So, unsettled, my heart string rings – my mind wanders from place to place.
My body is my prison. My happiness I carry within me, I use this ration sparingly – in momentary bliss I thrive, revive my dichotomous identity. I belong neither here nor there; I am an outsider everywhere. I am familiar and a stranger all at once. But this, my omnipresent discontent, is my singular solace.
Between two worlds, engrained with myriad forms and functions, I am the rainbow – and the rain.
A physical propulsion
A chemical emulsion
Subliminal adrenaline rush
With radical eruption
A magical reduction
Tomorrow’s foddering lush
A farmer beckons
The morning’s sun
His bread and butter
On eve, becomes
From grain to grain
To stomach and brain
A subliminal magical foddering rush.
The Bengal sun shines and hides through gray monsoon clouds. A damp air surrounds me – enveloping my senses, it sticks to my nose a faint smell of wild jasmine. Plants bloom from cracks of old walls, or wherever seeds find silt. And here I sit in this garden, drenched in a yearning for its rise.
This will be my first post-2001 September 11th outside America. A few days ago I came across an article about this solemn American day – and the floodgates to my memories rushed open. When it happened, I was not officially American; but we loved one another just the same. We had adopted each other. So the fact that that Tuesday still makes me indescribably sad comes as no surprise.
When it happened all Americans felt a moment’s pause. Everything stopped. For days following the massacre a certain numbness descended into every walk of life. A somberness overcame classrooms; a concoction of melancholy and rage infused into bars and restaurants. Few could see beyond vengeance.
Thirteen years later, through memory lanes of retributions and mistakes, America continues to rebuild its pursuit of happiness. Each year it mourns the murder of innocence; it remembers the fragility of life and the strength of conviction – and then it picks itself up by its bootstraps and goes back to work.
For this, with each passing year, with each memorial and life-story, I become a prouder American. 9-11 did not keep us down; it saddened us beyond repair and enraged us beyond justifiability – but it did not keep us down. We find strength in the memories of those we lost; we find reason to better ourselves.
Sitting beneath the roots of trees, it occurred to me: I am never who I used to be. I cannot be defined as the boy I once was – I am a whole new me. Only memories connect me to my former selves – and in that capacity memories prick like a crown of thorns.
This illusory life I left behind years ago has come back to haunt my solitary peace. To those around me I am nothing more than that selfish creature who bore my name, my skin. They see me purely as the boy who incessantly abused and desired, who knew little but created mountains out of his molehill.
I am not him.
The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.
Love is an attraction – the oxygen of oxygen.
Hate attaches – onto fear, it latches.
And indifference is an independent being.
I live on that intersection – a living contradiction – and though this body will one day die.
Death isn’t a dead end – it starts other beginnings. I’ll just become another intersecting life.
This world is full of misunderstood people. Tributes lay endlessly at their side, for their fathers and husbands, their children and siblings – but real iron-clad humanity gets lost in their magnanimity. My grandmother is one such woman. She was born at the peak of her father’s career. Her parents died when she was eight; raised by less loving relatives, hers is the Cinderella story of Kolkata.
Despite hardships, despite daily chores, despite being a woman born before World War II, she finished college. She married my grandfather after graduating and mothered four children. She raised them firmly but with a kind of love I have never otherwise seen. Alongside, she tended to her husband, his career and meteoric rise from a corporate executive to the chairman of India’s jute corporation.
She sacrificed her aspirations and devoted her life to his dreams and their children. In midlife she suffered the unimaginable trauma of losing her only son. Still, she continued relentlessly, pouring her love and devotion into her three girls. With her husband constantly out of the country on business, she single-handedly raised them. Today her legacy speaks in the chamber of the Indian Parliament; another proudly discusses her vanguard dissertation on urban gentrification.
Through all this Dimma has always taken the back seat. She has always hidden from the limelight – except for her harsh and abrasive exterior that continues to famously terrorize Kolkata’s police force, no one has seen and nor has anyone spoken of her endless bounty – her unconditional love and devotion.
I am lucky to be her grandson. I am fortunate to be under the shadow of a Bodhi tree so expansive, its breadth cannot be seen, nor understood. No matter where I have lived in the last thirty years, I have felt the blessing of her love – it cannot be escaped, nor seen; but I feel it as surely as the ocean’s breeze.
She has been there through it all, for us all, doing everything for what she loves most – her family.
I am lucky.
I ask myself why
Barbarity has passed the sky
At first I find no answer
Only body of a young dancer.
I ask myself why
A soldier would kill a child
I am always confounded
No reason I feel is rounded.
Then I look within myself
At my anger, rage and hate
And in the midst of these
I find the killer of peace.
But I refuse to let this be
My legacy is hatred, I see
So I begin chanting peace
Under my breath, into the breeze.
I ask myself why
My brother, my sister, your child.