Abortion of '71
Haripad Datta was born on January 2, 1947, in the village of Khanepur under Polash Upazila in Narshinghdi. The acclaimed writer was awarded the Sada't Ali Akanda Literary prize under the Bangla Academy in 2001, and the Bangla Academy literary Prize 2006.
Have you ever seen such darkness? You have not. The darkness isn't worldly, neither is it from out of this world, it is rather heavenly. Mother is walking with a fetus in her womb; walking on the paths of past orbits of planets in a solar system reduced to skeletons now like the dead constellations in the cosmic darkness reduced to the human form, floating on the sacrificial alter that is no more than a cold, slithery dense blood clot. I don't know where the pregnant woman is taking me. Even the reason why she is taking me is mysterious as something veiled by heavy mist. My home my existence is in her swollen womb.
Is the pregnant woman afraid of some wild animal or of being hunted down? Or is it an arrow dipped in venom shooting towards her like meteors racing against and overtaking time? Is she really going to be torn apart by venomous teeth or arrows? An incomplete human form is hiding within her human form. She is running like the escaping doe with both bodies. Who is that behind her? How am I related to this person? I understand; he is the one responsible of planting me in my mother's womb. I think he is like the ancient caveman on vigilant guard outside the cave in which he has kept someone hidden.
No, time does stand still in the awe-inspiring darkness on the blood stained cold, damp, slippery, sacrificial path within the pregnant woman. The beastly footsteps are closing in slowly. She couldn't hide herself even in this darkness. The pregnant woman is captured in a cage of sharp claws wielded by a savage paw. The caged woman screams on top her lungs to know, “What do you want from me? Why is there such hostility towards my journey of giving birth? Is He going to tolerate such enmity? Look there, He is staring down through the stars!”
The un-answering beast's eyes tear and pierce through the infinite darkness only to see the swollen womb of the pregnant woman. Is that a safe hidden place for explosives during these days of war? Why so much hostility towards her? The pregnant woman collapses to the ground in the silence of the darkness. She goes into a trance of prayers for the swollen womb.
Strike after strike after strike. A sliver of steel keeps on striking at the walls of my safe house. My existence surrounded by the four walls is illuminated with cold light. Yet the sliver was not only striking at the tunneling path, it was spreading embers from a spit into the gaps on the slithery walls. I was hearing each and every scream of my bearer with each and every hit. This was a screaming prayer for just a little sympathy, compassion, forgiveness, and for abounding peace. But to whom? To what sympathetic person? To the one, the soldier, he who was raping her? Or was it to the formless void presiding over the void sky lodged into the infinite void?
I am drowned in other far-from-this-world thoughts. Why is this soldier portraying such pitiless-savagely-worthless hostility towards my tiny little body?
Why does he want to destroy my bearer's womb by tearing it to pieces with his steel sliver and kill me in the process? I am wrong. A thought crosses my mind just that once; he is pleasured by this. It's a serene sense of peace. The godly game both from and out of this world with the sex-organ of a woman is serenely peace filled. The husband to this woman, the one who is in worldly relations my father, had he not himself acted the same with his own sliver of steel to have planted his seed resembling the embers from the spit with every strike into the womb? If such was not the case, how was I then conceived? But even then, I was sleepless and conscious. Was the mother pleading at the time as well? No, she was not. She was overcome with sleep. Sleep without consciousness. Oh, the spreading peace! The unawares joy of the female species.
When the attempt at corruption and annihilation of the fetus was on way, the spherical blood enclosed embryo of mine was clearly observing a sea of blood. Me, the fetus, was floating in that sea. Think of it as me alone and waiting nonchalantly for a sea-faring intercontinental ship to come and pick me up from an uninhabited island. The one who had planted the seed of my being into my bearer's womb, the bullet-riddled body of the father, is now lying by a bush not very far off. The orbs, that are the eyes of the corpse now, are expelling light, the same as the bright stars above, that is sliding down on my mother's sex-organ.
My father is dead, yet the light from his eyes is existent with conviction. Fires of frenzy are raging in that light. It's due to his croplands being taken away from him by one of the Pakistani border guards. My curiosity lay right there. My father was defeated in the battle for the female sex-organ. I am taken over by regret thinking that, a son of Adam didn't hesitate to give up his life even after running away from his own land, where he used to sow his crops, just to save the womb of a woman for which he had developed a sense of ownership and wanted to retain as his only. What cold blooded savagery! Frightening sinless selfishness!
I watched on with amazement as the tired soldier walks away with a bowed head and his rifle slung over his shoulder towards the nearby barrack, as he leaves behind the senseless ravaged beauty behind. Only millions of embryo forming germs expelled, from the steel sliver, remains dead mixed haphazardly with the liquid blood floating my fetus. The impregnating germs had tried to enter into my fetus. But they were unable to find even the slightest passage such as the one used by the death snake to enter Behula's wedding-room. They committed mass suicide finding no other purpose. I felt genuine pity right at that moment. Why could I have not given shelter to one of them, to the least, in my fetus?
I remained the only witness after the soldier had disappeared. A band of escaping refugees end up rescuing my unconscious mother and flee across the border. My mother didn't even know who had taken and carried her off to a refugee camp far-far-away. Blood was trickling down from her body while she was being dragged or carried away on shoulders. I had understood then, this was the blood from the injured walls of the womb. It was exactly at that point that I had screamed out.
How shocking! My unconscious mother was not able to hear my screams. I stared down at the umbilical cord, the one that joined my belly to my mother's womb. It resembled a blood soaked long snake fast asleep. Slight shakes sent waves up and down the cord, as if they were trying to wake it up. I bow with gratitude to my mother, the woman who carried the unborn fetus all the way across the border. Given the circumstances, I was faced down as if in prayer with my hands-head-legs all coming together to have formed the shape, I was in trance just like an ancient being. God does not recognize that being.
The day my mother became aware of the fetus in her womb would not be uprooted like a plant with the flooding blood at the refugee medical center, I was stunned motionless by her spine curling cries. My mother was wailing for her husband only. I couldn't decipher the situation, was it an abortion, or was it childbirth she was hoping for.
It was December 16, the day when she had tagged along with a band of home returning refugees and crossed the border in the darkness of the evening with her one and a half month old daughter grasped to her bosom wrapped in soiled dirty rags. I was that child. Being held tightly to my mother's chest, my disturbed mind raced as I witnessed the engulfing darkness of the evening. I started longing for my safe and secured womb that I came from. I started thinking that I had lost forever the granted protection of the world through the severance of the fetus from the womb. Yet even then I was on a journey crossing borders from a terrorized refugee camp to another unknown part of the world.
I don't feel pain from this dreadful doubt. Even she doesn't know why her child is terrified; why the whole world seems so apprehensive. Was it definite that I was about to be consumed by a formless hurricane of fire embodied in the day that was December 16? But the enemy was defeated-retreated! Was there anyone else left in the newly liberated land, who carried the attributes of the formless god, one who can never be defeated by man? Is my mother aware of him? Maybe not. Why then, is she going on? Or was it possible that she could still hear the thunderstorms of the miserable and desolate cries from the refugee camp still? Was she still thinking that someone was still on her chase to kill or rape her?
My mother didn't know. If she had known, why is it that I cannot recognize the people of this society who are raping me everyday even after 20 years since '71? If I could recognize them, then I would definitely tell them of the story of my secured home, when I was protected as a fetus in '71. I would tell them further how my mother had recognized the person who was raping her, tell them of his identity. Yes, he was a Pakistani soldier.
Yet I am not able to identify any of the ones who are raping me. It was not Urdu, rather Bangla that they were speaking in. I swelled up loathing my mother at that time. Why? Because the steel sliver belonging to the one who had raped my mother failed in tearing apart and destroying the unborn fetus in her womb. If it could, how then could have I remained safe in the womb? But why then is there so much of malice towards me?
Being a daughter of '71 I understand that the windows, the doors and the walls of the fetus in my womb have all crumbled away. The frame is being reduced to dust with each and every quake, one after the other. My child-fetus is screaming. The 39 days old murdered fetus is flowing out with the flood of embryonic blood that resembles the flowing lava of an erupting volcano. I am burning away in fires of the hell created from the flowing blood. And me? I am the fallen fetus of '71; fallen into prayers 20 years after that fateful December 16 for the newly lost fetus, “Oh valiant mystical god, who deserves forgiveness? Is it you, or me?”
Translated by Hasan Ameen Salahuddin
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