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    Volume 8 Issue 76 | July 3, 2009 |

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Musings of an Unborn

Saad Adnan Khan

'Even an emperor, denied water, would swiftly turn to dust. Water is the real monarch and we are all its slaves'.
- The Enchantress of Florence
--Salman Rushdie

I am an unborn infant. I was supposed to take birth at a riverbank, but devoid of luck and clean water, I was hushed inside my Amma's womb. When water stood out to be an element of life for others, in my case it decided to be a little deceptive. Unaware and swaddled in the lukewarm bliss inside Amma's amniotic cavity, I slowly floated my way towards doom. It was the seventh week and I had developed my mouth and nose. It all started with receiving a whiff of a rancid stench and taste of something sticky. Moments later I was choking on the very water Amma continued to drink till the time I drained out from her uterus as a disfigured lump of purple meat only to be covered in paper and discarded in the sewage.

Amma, along with my father lived in one of the miasmic slums that bordered one of the banks of the Shitalakkhya River. What I have collated is that the epoch acquiesced to an ominous spell, because the scrawny swarthy people who walked on the land of that bank came across a quagmire of helplessness and hopelessness. The river, that was our very soul, in which the people took baths and from which water was used for daily purposes like drinking, cleaning and cooking, had suddenly transformed into something monstrous. The soothsayer of the slum, who was an old man, voluntarily kept himself blindfolded with a white cloth, and who most of the time was taken to be a rogue, broke into a garrulous outpour of words about the necromancers who have clutched the land on the other side of our river and how their curses and black magic have metamorphosised the water to frothy viscous and purple (the very shade I had acquired when I tumbled out). The evil magicians resided in black blocks called 'factories' that remained unreachable for us. However the only part of these factories that made us aware of its presence were the orifices that bit the sky to burp out black smoke and sprouted out from earth to vomit out afterbirths of the reproduction of black magic in the water. The afterbirths: poisonous potions and sludge (the increasing human excreta that apparently had nowhere to be disposed also got dumped in our water). In a few days, plastic cans and human faeces replaced the chital and bowal of Shitlakkhya.

So under occult eyes, the aqua bubbled and churned into an obnoxious being, bringing the morning forth when Amma felt the first and the last insurmountable pang of an unexpected labour. Her willfully blind optimism about the water, even when it drained viscous and virulent (despite continuous boiling) down her throat, made the middle woman of the slum, Durga Bibi, rush inside our squalid hut and undergo the damnation of hearing agonised wails and cries, and pull out a dead body wrapped in a bloody loin cloth. I do not blame Amma, because she neither knew any better nor had any other choice.

Amma survived merely. I however, sprouted wings and flew up to the land of clouds and harps. What preceded was a hiatus, because I do not remember anything before I started flying and what followed is my rendezvous with the halo clad clan called 'Martyrs'. They look very human, except they glow. The Martyrs, men and women, most of the time remain poker-faced and sullen whenever they conjure up images of a land called Bangladesh in a crystal ball. They refer to this land as their Amma and that is apparently my death (or birth?) place too. They had called this land to being, but of course not that simply, because they toiled and fought, displaying a gory gaiety of blood and pride to shape and own the land. However, they cage up deep sorrow in the tissue of their heart because their Amma, once green and golden, is now abused with spit, shit and hatred. Their

Amma has undergone a process of self-denial and is lost. I of course do not understand them and instead continue to be grateful to them, when they provide me with accounts of my Amma, who carried an inextinguishable wrath and fury in her heart and got down to a war against the necromancers who killed her baby. Moved and inspired by ebullient words of elite mortals, she had motivated the whole slum to congregate boats from the moors to align them over the purple water as an expression of fury and protest. They hoped that their shouts would turn out to be an antidote of the dark sorcery.

The war lasted long, because the fight for rights and nature got dirtier. A bunch of 'gobblers', (the title donned by our soothsayer) who also according to our soothsayer, looked like goblins, and who did not possess any kind of magical power, but an imperious superiority over others, swindled and stole our land to demolish the slum to erect concrete structures, that looked very much like 'factories'. So mornings of Shitalakkhya did not poise the serene silence and simple greenery anymore, but instead a clangorous outbreak of brick and metal. My people, now feeling defeated started to leave the debilitating land (now a mere mould of diabolic dirt, with tidbits of memories trapped in its deepest core) in an exodus. They inevitabley disappeared in the horizon in a flash like something very insignificant and indeed they did disappear, because now when I coax the Martyrs, to show me my people and Amma in their orb, only wisps of gray smoke circle within. The gray smoke: not only enchantment but also the flying ash emitted by factories

The Martyrs seem to be pensive because the Land of Rivers, another name for their Amma was dying, turning all its rivers, like Shitalakkhya, lifeless. The gobblers spread malignantly all over and continued to feast upon land and sand. This all continued in the presence of an omnipotent being called 'The State', who till now remained quite oblivious to all the happening. Finally when the screams and pleas from all over the Land of Rivers got registered, they subjugated the necromancers and gobblers by gorging them out of sight and putting a stop to their evil deeds. However, the evil continues to lurk in the dark, and wait for a right moment to start their malice once again. Suffice to say that they have already started behind the State's back.

The Martyrs remain tentative about the fate of their Amma, and along with them I remain a little agitated because everything might have followed a better course of nature if this State would have foreseen the outbreak of such destructive anarchy, and stopped it with the power of its 'omnipotence' (which is still in question). It did not and I died. The river, like the other rivers, is barely alive and strives to breathe every minute. My Amma is lost too, like the Martyrs. Thus, it has become easier for me to relate to the Martyrs and understand them after all.

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