my life begins’
(In the Mountains)
Every morning when the gory news of death greets us, these lines of Agha Shahid Ali lamentably reverberate for many of us living amid gloomy mountains. More than a hundred of our young brains got mutilated this year so far. Our daily affairs are moving involuntarily in a direction where it seems as if we are dancing cheek to cheek with bereavement and uncertainty.
The surfeit of troubles clubbed with the onset of coronavirus has piled up the problems. There is no one available to relate the predicament as nobody is evidently around to pay heed to our unending saga. We are completing almost a year of a nasty lockout; incarceration of unfair circumstances. There are no narrators. There are no listeners.
Some old stories, some new pain; some past suffering, some current woes—our narrative is turning into a mosaic of unfinished history that lingers on with nothing but more misfortunes adding on now and then. From a political spat of blood to squabbles over employment opportunities, the agony is just disgraceful. Nothing is unrelated to the turmoil we are in for more than two decades. A consistent effort to devastate our sources of mind, money, and makeup is going unabated. And the tragedy is that we cannot identify and locate the real perpetrators for the offender—a master facilitator—is disguised among our rank and file; covered cunningly beneath the hidden agendas.
Probably, we all have hidden agendas that grow out of our unruly desires. For some, a berth in mainstream politics is the motivation. They want their own Apni Party. For few, power capturing is the dream. For many, the fulfillment of certain ambitions is the force. For others, minting money out of chaos (and even corona!) is the drive. That’s why we all seem to be trading over the long-drawn-out agony we are in. From forums to films, scripts to serials, books to bandhs, passports to visas, and positions to packages—we have muddled up encounters and economy and continued selling our saga and reaping harvest out of it endlessly.
Killings, detentions, disappeared persons, half-widows, orphans, domicile ditch, legal lacerating, bureaucratic baloney, and blah, blah…what a cruel joke we make of all this to accomplish our agendas.
Who are we, by the way? Self-selected groups of ‘civil society’, representing no one but ourselves? A cadre of ‘activists’ without any knowledge of our history? A pack of ‘leaders’ who know everything but leadership? A bunch of ‘academicians’ who are good at everything except for academics? A flock of ‘writers’ inflicted with a disease of self-glorification? A set of self-righteous ‘intellectuals’ who are only compulsive speakers/tweeters? Or a band of bookish ‘thinkers’ who are sheer lotus-eaters?
Else are we a huge crowd of real victims who are not conscious of their apathy? A pool of souls who don’t know how they and their institutions are traded off through discourse, data and dosh? A mass of pain that is misrepresented and misinterpreted in maps and mournings? A swarm of sufferers exhibited for sale? A cloud of grief that is floated by wild winds of travesty? A multitude of people whose right to dignified survival is crushed by disgracing their agonies? And, as Aga Shahid said, whose life begins without them exactly? We have no power over our distress as well as destiny.
So, a vast void of identity crisis shrouds us. Unless we fix it with truthful pieces of reality, it will continue to haunt and harm us. The upsetting uncertainty will stay on. The disgrace of agony will never go. But, resilience and remorse will. In a phased manner. We may be rendered deadalive. Eventually.
Bottomline: A poem ‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World’ by a Polish poet resonates with conflations of beauty in tragedy or reality; highlighting the themes of ease and torment. A kind of traumatic fix that validates us as a witness to everything unjust, and exhorts us to praise the brutally mutilated world around us as a means of coming to terms with the reality of ‘our life beginning without us’……“You must praise the mutilated world / You watched the stylish yachts and ships; / one of them had a long trip ahead of it / while salty oblivion awaited others. / You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere / you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully……Try to praise the mutilated world”