Love, Fear, Pain and Death

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

My Childhood

I come from a very small town in Himachal Pradesh. Most of the population at the time I grew up were farmers. Three newspapers — Akashvani (in Hindi) Hind Samachar (in Urdu) and Punjab Keshari (in Hindi), were widely read by people in the Hindi speaking areas. My mother had worked as a sewing teacher. She taught the farmer’s wives how to sew. Every day my mother had to walk through the treacherous rough mountain road to reach the villages where she would teach sewing. This was when I was very little. 

She took a sewing job at my school. At that time we usually walked this rough mountain terrain to reach the villages. People used to revere her as a teacher and called her “Mastrani Ji.” They would seek guidance with their sewing crafts from her. I do not remember mother ever charging them money. In return for her sewing they would give us flour, corn, fruits and vegetables. Sometimes the women would come home to get stitching done when they had a wedding. We were usually invited to their weddings. My mother used to stich a small cloth purse for the newlywed brides. I fondly remember those beautiful days. People usually married young. The girls were very innocent and beautiful. There was lot of love between the communities.

As these newspapers were reporting about Punjab; we were all getting hurt. Slowly these conversations became common. My parents were also getting old. Walking on these rough roads was getting hard for them. Few people were visiting us too. At times, we only went going for special occasions. The situation in Punjab was getting more tense, it had started hurting Sikhs living everywhere especially in the small towns. At the time I thought, “Why? Where has all our love gone?” People were not respecting Sikhs. Some of the Sikhs were getting their hairs cut. Not out of fear, but because they did not like the dirty politics. 

Hate Crimes

We all want to live in peace and love and it has been proved that diversity brings prosperity and progress. It is probably the human psyche itself. But these days many Americans fear us Sikhs. They name us: terrorists, alien, rag head, diaper head, etc. They are jealous of us, thinking that we are taking away their jobs; taking away their homes. This fear is what leads to hate crimes. 

VIOLENCE

The sound of the bugle pierced through my ears.
The firing of the bullets awoke me from my sleep,
Followed by the chanting of last rites.

Today’s sleep is not for us,
We shall remain awake.
The terror strikes and we stare at the burning pyre.

There are no tears in our eyes,
No words to express our agony.
The sun sets
Filling the whole sky with a crimson dirt

When the pyre of a close relative,
Be it a brother, a sister, a mother or a son is lit.

It seems that the deep blue color of the sky
Which is reflected in the depth of the sea is lost.
The whole earth is filled with moans:

A mother crying for a son,
A brother crying for his younger sister,
A father crying for a daughter.

As the fruit is plucked before it ripens,
A flower droops before it blossoms.
Honey is lost before the nectarines open for reception,
When the ways of fate, destiny and death are changed.

When life rots, and struggles within the shell of life
To free itself and to surrender to death
For the penance and injustice done
In the name of religion, caste, color or creed.

When death and bloodshed become tools in the hands of the ruler
Who uses it as it pleases him.
When he becomes mightier
Than the Supreme Power that rules our destiny,
And the laws that govern nature are flouted
At the expense of man for his own benefit.
…The heart bleeds!

I saw death approach me,
For a moment, I closed my eyes
To receive the blow.
I surrendered. It embraced me, and then passed off.

The mob was fierce,
Blood spurt in their eyes,
I was ready to give up and lie safe in the arms of death,
But it turned away.

I closed my eyes; not that I prayed for mercy,
But wanted to live life in human dignity.
And if death may have enveloped me,
Death perhaps would have been more peaceful
Than the fierce battle.

Death approached, it came closer, embraced me in affection.
But before it could grip me
It turned away.

…O mother carrying a dead son,
…O daughter carrying a dead father,
Why do you hide your tears?

The silence shattered
Like the waves that bring floating dead bodies
To dash them against the rocks lining the sea
When life is blown to pieces.

“…Oh, what a night it has been,
When sleeping we never knew
That the day shall end to
The darkest night ever.”

Oh, tell me who do you cremate
In this moonlit night
Under the cool sky of the winter?

“We burn the half burnt
For we are alive to perform the last rites.
We cremate them now for who knows,
Tomorrow may not be for us too.

The breath we breathe is silent,
We moan as silent spectators
And hide our faces in shame
For these are the injuries of a brother to a brother
A sister to a sister?

I looked amused at the silent faces
Till truth revealed itself.
Terror, death, bloodshed had taken
The whole earth by a storm.
And I speak why am I alive to write this agony
And to what use?

The winter air leapt to crush life,
Under the cruel feet of fire,
When tires were tied mercilessly
To the neck to burn.

When wood being scarce
Men were sprinkled with petrol and chemicals
To burn them till they perished.

Who do we kill
When there is neither any army, nor enemy?
Why do we spread hatred
And loot innocent people?

What answer will we have for our children
If our country is tattered into bits?

O men, hear me,
For I speak the truth.
Never shall Lord Rama be born on our lands,
Nor Lord Gobind.
Never shall a brother trust Lakshman,
Nor believe Goddess Sita,

Never would the Epistle be considered sacred
Nor a life precious
For all that Lord Rama and Lord Gobind taught
Has been forgotten by the disciples.

“When a big tree falls tremors are heard !”
Your tree had fallen and you came to uproot me.

In a night were our relations ruined.
In a night was our love broken.
You did not care for our longlasting friendship,
But came out with your daggers to kill.

One can save oneself from an enemy,
From the firing of a shot,
But O my neighbor, when you came to kill me,
It seemed as if phantom had taken birth in you.

Within a night I saw a blood bath.
Life paralyzed in agonies,
Children heads were smashed against the walls,
While hundreds became orphans.

Women were forced to tremble under cruel feet
As they helplessly watched their
Husbands and children bleeding before their eyes.

The end of brotherhood, love, understanding, seemed to approach.
Communal riots… or was it political?

…And on this day we lost our faith,
And drank the venom that flowed from the eyes
Of widows and orphans.

Separation has its roots in the hatred that has been sown.
And years from now it shall be remembered
That a neighbor went in for a neighbor’s blood.
We abuse our scriptures if we do not follow them.
The concept of love engraved in our Holy Granth
Has left a bleeding scar.

Kill Lord Rama. Kill Lord Gobind.
Their works have been interpolated.
Our knowledge is too meagre to understand them.
Burn their works for they stand as hindrance
To our love and our relations.
Their revolt against caste, color or language
Has reaped for us separation and hatred.

And all that Lord Rama and Lord Gobind lived for,
Has died in the disciples.

The above poem was published in “The Veil” by Sarab J. Singh, a book of poems published in 1988.©

Photo: Copyright: hideto111 / 123RF Stock Photo

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