The Undying Traveller

By Nirjhor Barua
This was an entry for a short story collection type book.
******************************************

Since my unsuccessful attempts to escape from the uncalled-fortress of impending doom that I brought upon myself, I became a new man. I believed in nothing, believed in no one. Love was put to sleep or at least that was the intention. Feeling betrayed by the wolf mother, who took me in her arms, who once nursed me the way she once nursed the great Romulus and Remus, who overnight transferred herself from a supposed-saviour to the greatest enemy, created a hole in me. A hole of indifference, indifference towards the world. She was once the half-goddess of the bountiful loving-care, a seductress to the lecherous of deities, a master of potions, the most knowledgeable of the gifted, the infamous and misunderstood whore of the underworld of Babylon, and most importantly—she was the protector of an unloved. Now, she was nothing as such, she was just an immortal witch amongst the living, and a dead one. She was a widow from Samarkand, who never lived long in one place, who had witnessed history unfold, who had seen prophets come and prophets go, whose late husband’s void was filled by me. I too, accepted such love out of foolishness, accepted it without complaint. I needed a place to stay, food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in. I was taken in as a young abandoned orphan who needed a home, but as years past I became a requirement of a different kind. She would come at night and sleep in my bed, covet me, while I could make no protest; I was helplessly surviving at her mercy. The utter disgust and shame soon was gone, I accepted it as fate and learned to make it a part of my life, I learned to love it, and it became educational. Years had passed and gone, while she was not getting any older and I was becoming more of a man—grown up. She held her beauty, her everlasting youth, through her secret sorcery, I thought, staying young as the day I had first seen her. She never played any of her alchemy tricks on me though, never drunk me any potions, she kept me in the clear. Other than the pleasures of the flesh, there were other lessons I had to learn from her, one of which was that—immortality was a curse. All her previous husbands or lovers were dead and she as evergreen, lived on, it had caused her much pain, a burden I wanted to share. And as soon as I realised that fact that she knew the key to live forever, I got trapped. I stepped into the trap of the lust for eternal life.

‘Why have you never given me the formula of your ever-lasting youth?’ I asked her once, while she was skinning a rat. She smirked while still skilfully separating the skin from the flesh of the rodent. ‘Is there any fountain I put my tongue in? Any spells you could perform? Or would I have to sell my soul to this Devil the Israelites keep talking about?’ I asked a series of questions again, curiosity got the best of me.

She looked up this time and put her knife on the table, after licking her fingers clean, she said, ‘devil? What devil? He does not exist. He is the figment of our imagination, a creation for our weaknesses, escape-goat. Even if he existed, he would not want your soul, he would not care about sacrifice or your appeasement, a character such as him does not suffer from vanity, vanity is for the heroes who wants to be loved’, she paused and exhaled audibly, ‘and I will not let you to be like me, you will do no such thing. I will have you take no such burden. It is for your own good I say.’ She came closer as she spoke and put her hands on my chin, caressing it, her nails slowly and painlessly digging into my face. Strangly enough, despite her activty with the dead on the table, her hands smelled like a flower—jasmine.

‘Do you not want us to stay like this for eternity?’ I retorted. I was restless, I wanted to live for hundreds of years and see everything. See the world. Or so I thought.

‘Eternity? You haven’t seen eternity boy. Eternity is when you hear rumours about a prince of the distant land in the East who sits under a tree, or hear stories about the parting of the Nile. Eternity is when you witness the library of Alexandria torn apart by a mob, or when you see the fall of the mighty Roman Empire in your lifetime. Eternity is when you get cursed by Hera for stealing her husband’s love from her.” She chuckled. “She was still kind with her punishment and did not turn me into a monster.’ She then began whispering in my ear, trying to calm me down. ‘No dear… I cannot bring you to bear such pain. Forgive me.’ A tear rolled down her face. The first time I had seen her show such character.

‘I want to… I want to. Believe me I am ready.’ I pleaded.

And she stopped digging her finger nails into face.

‘Alright then, you leave me no choice’, she said, ‘for this to work you must love me; love me with all your heart. You should want to share my burden and lighten me, with all your heart. Can you?’ her tone changed and it got me excited. My wish was finally being fulfilled.

‘Yes, with all my heart.’ I replied, hastily, holding her hand and closing my eyes. I tried digging out all the fond memories I had of her. It was not difficult; she had been the only light in my life of darkness.

‘Repeat after me’ she instructed, ‘as if it is yours to obey’.

Yes, I nodded.

‘We have been waiting to the counting of its days’, she said.

‘We have been waiting to the counting of its days’, I repeated.

‘For you to live long, this is one of its ways’

‘For I to live long, this is one of its ways’

‘This is the curse you seek and burden you must take’

‘This is the curse I seek and burden I must take’

‘You must relieve me, out of love, for my own sake’

‘I must relieve you, out of love, for your own sake’ Then we kissed. A cold gust swept through my lungs and we broke our kiss. ‘Relieve?’ I finally realised what I may have done.

‘Yes, my love, my fool, you played straight into it.’ She walked into away from me. ‘I have been waiting for this moment for centuries. Still, I never wanted to do this to you. I truely loved you, but you harkened for it, you did this to your self, you lusted for iternal life’, she said, As she walked away her body started to age, she went from being young to being old in a blink of an eye and finally crumbled into a pile of ash.

‘The mother of all Bitches!’ I realised my blunder and I that I was stuck for a very long time. All I could do was to scream and foul-mouth my way into the unending tie with the universe and its existence. Bitch.

 

********

 

My name was not important, it never stayed the same. I was Asgar the fortune-seeker for a century or two and I travelled eastwards. It was the time of a crusade, with the faiths killing each-other for a strip of land. The thoughtlessness of men over such petty reasons sickened me, so I travelled east, across the Hind Kush into the feet of the mighty mountains. I went for silk and spices and to find love. The love that I put to rest was slowly raised at my beck and call. If I was going to live forever, may as well feel the warmth of human-contact. In the delta with its flood-plains, with its fishermen, with its beauty I found myself a bride, but she did not live long, and my sons did not live long. But I lived through it. So I had to go back to where I was from. That was nowhere. I failed to relieve myself of the curse; I had truly loved my bride.

I came back again to the plains, this time not as a merchant but as Keherman the Warrior. I rode with a fierce band of horsemen. I wanted to pillage and burn, I did not know what I wanted from life, so I did as I pleased. And thus, I rode with them. With eighteen riders, we secretly entered into the city of the Senas, disguised as traders and we brought hell down with us. We callously slaughtered the ‘Saffron-army’ and ransacked the ‘fortress of Nalanda’, they offered no resistance and they had no weapons. We burned their books, their paintings, although some escaped into the mountains with their folded papers, other than that, we burned them all. We burned the images of their Idol—An image of a sitting man with a smile on his face, with a tree over him, offering him shade—wherever we found it. Our commander, a flag bearer of the faith, a man who was more to me then my leader, he was a companion. He would force me into to loving him. I could not pass on my curse onto him, he did not love me and neither did I. So I, escaped in the middle of the night, and went back to Persia.

As Shahyamir the Sufi, I entered the fabled land of Bongo again. Being a refined holy man, holy man taught in one of the best of God’s schools, I had to make magic happen, have everyone at awe. My miracle—I never aged. As a man, who never aged, I can be holy, and I was loved and revered, but if I had been a woman, I would have been dubbed a witch no doubt. Maybe I would have been cast into the waters with stones around my neck. Maybe I would have been burned alive, but I did not belong to the motherly race. I, being schooled by the famous Mevlana, the poet, poet Rumi, had become quite a poet myself. Poetry helped holy men, poetry made beautiful words, beautiful words brought in a lot of people, and a lot of people made lots of riches come in, lots of riches made everyone happy. Kings and Sultans would come at my feet, shower me with their weight in gold, wanting my divine intervention. I had the ability all their gold and million kingdoms could not buy. I would live while their skin would wrinkle, eyesight would dim down and their heart would one day stop. In this journey, I could not give away my burden to someone else, for them to have. As a holy man I was required not to love anyone, except the almighty. And the almighty was already burdened. Like me, he would live forever. So after a century or so I forged my own death, built myself a mausoleum for the devotees and I fled, fled to China.
ibn-battuta_1605942c

The silk route was my home, my livelihood for all these years and I knew it at the back of my hand. My heart longed to go back to Bengal. From China to the Island lands of the north-east I went towards and with silk worms I came back. This time I was Khan the Silk Merchant. It was quite different from how I had last seen it. The British had come at last. They had finished the last of the Nawabs. All of those who were left were merely puppets, greedy goons for a king thousands of miles away. I hated it. I could not pass on my problems to the people who were already burdened from high taxes and an insecure life. I went to the west, to Europe this time. It was safe to travel to Europe again, the last end of the mighty silk route. It had left its dark middle ages behind. Its darkness now came from the soot from factory chimneys. It, with its western civilization, was calling me.

************

Like I always did, I came back. As my destiny had pulled the strings time and again, I came back at last. I was Simon the Journalist. Being a former poet, a holy man and a trader, one who spoke several tongues from the ancient times to the modern day, languages dead and alive, I knew my way with words. The land was going through a new swing. A man, a great poet, who was as tall as the Himalayan Mountains, as loved as one’s father, had taken reins, he was being followed. And his countrymen had followed him into their most peril of journeys, and in his name they went to war. I, the undying traveller, never belonged anywhere, I had no loyalties, I forgot my parents, I forgot my birthplace, I never had a home and I had no reasons to love anything selflessly, so I tried distancing myself from the conflict. But I could not do so. I had met a lovely girl, Fatema Das—a secularly-obscure name she took in the spirit of the cause—during the early days of the war, as I was covering it, reporting it to the west. She was my guide to the country I had come after so many years. She became everything, my only weakness, the thorn in my bed of selfishness. She belonged to the side that was fighting for its independence. Her passion towards the cause had rubbed off onto me. We would roam in the jungles of Sundarban, she in her manly trousers and safari-shirt with a 303 in her arms, I, listening to her every word, as we went through the maze laying traps for the enemy. She would boast of her achievement of the number of ‘Bastards’ she had killed and would talk in pride of the things she would do in the new country. In the mangrove forest, where tigers play, life was full of fear, full of challenges. The days turned to night, and the night brought more darkness. In these times, no beast larked in the shadows to pounce on innocent humanity, but a new kind of animal roamed about, an animal that killed brutally and walked on two legs, wearing military uniform. Even in all these danger,  we had enchanted each other, she with her spirit, and I, with my words and stories of the old. I had found the kind of love, I was looking for, at last.

During the last days of the war, the area she fought in finally was rid of enemies. As we sat on the river bed, under a new flag of red, green and yellow, fluttering in the air, she says, ‘you speak of the past as if you have lived them.’

‘I have’, I state, with my sincereest of voices.

‘You funny man, you. I never thought you were one for games.’ She muses.

The sourrounding air became weighty. The moment of truth had come.

‘Do you want to live for centuries to come, to see what would happen to your new country and all?’ I ask.

She looks at me, while stroking my chin, with her left had, occasionally scratching my rough chin, she replies, ‘Why not?’[She laughs at the strangeness of the topic] ‘I would not mind. Are you not going to stay with me, if we live long, for hundreds of years?’ she asks. I had her attention. She was now imagining all the sights she could see if she lived for centuries. Her eyes gleaming.

I was silent for a while, not knowing what to say.  I was having the queerest of feelings, feelings of the old, a memory haunting me, a deja vu so heavy, it hurt. I finally mustered all my courage and spoke again, ‘if you love me, like you say you do, I want you to think of all the things you love about me. Close your eyes and repeat after me. Repeat it like as is if its an oath.’ She laughs and nods as she calms down. She finds my present oddities funny.

‘Alright man. Alright, alright, whatever, Accha accha …..’ She answers and she closes her eyes with a smile on her face.

‘We have been waiting to the counting of its days’, I say, as softly and lovingly as I can.

‘We have been waiting to the counting of its days’, she repeats and obeys my instruction.

‘For you to live long, this is one of its ways’

‘For I to live long, this is one of its ways’

‘This is the curse you seek and burden you must take’

‘This is the curse I seek and burden I must take’

‘You must relieve me, out of love, for my own sake’

‘I must relieve you, out of love, for your own sake’ Then we kiss. I felt a gust of cold chill leave my lungs and enter hers. She suddenly breaks our kiss and stares at me with suspicion. ‘Relieve?’ She did not know the meaning of all this.

‘I am sorry my love, it had to end’, I apologise. As I pass on my millennium long curse onto her, coincidently, in the Race-course Maidan, in the heart of the capital,the khaki enemy had fully surrendered; the land she had fought for was at last free. Maybe she will realise after a lot of years, that there was something wholly different about her.

I was sorry, I had lived long enough. Not a single moment of it I could bear now. Even though I had loved her, she foolishly wanted it. I had tricked her into lusting ceaseless existence.

‘In love you would want live and in love you would wish to come to an end. That, darling, is the curse.’

Fatema Das, the epitome of Bengal herself, the revolutionary, the guerrilla, the intellect, the teacher, the lover and a mother of the future, would live long, as her new born country would, she would be evergreen, ever young. Maybe her shoulders that once her rifle rested on, would one day have a factory-hammer resting on it, maybe it will carry her bag full of university books, and maybe it will carry her sleeping child, who knows. All I knew was that my time making history along the route to the delta had ended, and the time of her new found freedom had begun.

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Ruhee-a character

This is my attempt to start on a new story. Due to writer’s block and much needed time to discover new styles, ‘He who summoned the magpie robin’ story needs to take a rest. Writing female characters have always been a bit of a challenge.

And Happy Independence day everyone. Enjoy!
– Nirjhor Barua
**************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Ruhee was the independent type. Being raised as the only daughter, without a mother, she became the free spirited. She needed no one, except her father of course and that to be very rarely. When she was young she would wear boy clothes and bully the boys in her school. And when she had her first period at the age of eleven, she went up to her father who was reading a V.S Naipal novel, Baba I am bleeding, she said, down there. Her father like always and especially in this case could offer her no help and the neighbour-aunt was summoned to the rescue. Much to everyone else’s annoyance, especially her dead mother’s sister who thought her father was doing a poor job at raising her, she took karate lessons in a local dojo with the name Flying Friends Karate School. She learned the Shotokan Karate style, the most common one around, and when her father asked why she was kicking a sand filled sack around, hung from the empty fan-hooks on the ceiling, this is self defence, she replied, what if someone wants to rape me when you are not there? Her father had no argument to refute her. I keep telling my sensei, I think I should reach black belt soon, she said and the itch-knee-sun-see punches would continue on the poor lifeless sack. She, still in her orange belt, never cared that the style of martial arts Bruce Lee performed in his movies—that she would play during her training sessions—was very different from the one she was learning. All that mattered to her twelve tear old self was the kiba-dachi, punches and the roundhouse kicks. She once spent the entire evening going about the house in a horse stance. The Enter the Dragon tape soon worn out and was replaced with Jackie Chan CDs.
Image

She grew older, blooming into a beautiful woman; her bronze-coloured shiny skin gleamed against the sun, as she went about places, proudly, with a confident walk. Once she reached the age of sixteen she declared she wanted to commute alone. No Baba-escorted rickshaw rides anymore. Her father, who did not know what he was doing wrong all this time, complied. Who wanted to argue with a blue-belt Karateka. She never got to reach her destined black-belt; growing breasts that had a mind of their own and wanting to look feminine had made it difficult for her to pursue her Shotokan-Bruce-Lee-dreams. She in this case admitted defeat. If her mother was alive, she thought, then her mother could have bought her the bras she needed, maybe, maybe then she could continue her flying kicks. As usual, Baba in the growing-girls-department was pretty useless.

While time passed and the seasons came, she soon learnt it was difficult for her travel alone, for any woman for that matter. The harassment and lewd stares were common place. In crowded buses, as the hands would brush against her rear, not the accidents rather the intentional ones, where some stroked lightly, some with impending rigorousness, she would at most times feel disgusted, feel her space being violated, molested. The invasion of hands on her posterior, working their way up her butt-cheeks, sent fight or flight signals to her brain and when she turned around to protest, to knee-kick the groin area or two, the man would be gone it seemed, lost amongst others in the crowd and all the men around could have done it, all of them looked like it was possible for them to grope a woman. Other times though, the strong digits caressing her end sent chills up her spine, exciting her, making her almost wet, invoking feeling she hadn’t felt before. She would push against the hand, push against the quick pinches, push against the thumb digging into the cloth-covered-crevice. And then when she would turn around, this time too the man would be gone, the hand would be already retrieved, and all the men present, pushing against her in the crowd, looked like they would grope a woman. The hungry look on their faces told her so.

Even though with her Karate-chopping-takes-no-shit type attitude, her beauty was not lost on anyone. Her aunt, dead mother’s sister, would roll in with proposals once she hit eighteen—American citizen! Dubai resident! Cholo Cholo! Get your daughter married fast or she will elope with some no good penniless chap! Her father was not ready to lose Ruhee yet. To quieten her aunt she agreed to meet this suitor of hers, but to make it interesting and probably to scare him, she turned up in her old karate uniform, washed and neatly pressed with her precious blue belt tied in the waist. The suitor, a American green-card holder in the mission to pull her in with the American dream, got scared stiff, said sorry for wasting her time and left.    

***************************************************************************************************************26/March/ 2014
photo source: internet, Enter the dragon.

The young Captain and his crisis

An extract from ‘He Who Summoned the Magpie Robin’ by Nirjhor Barua
(Not for the under-aged and the faint of heart)
A work of fiction, inspired from real events. No pictures have been added, as they would be very graphic in nature.
******************************************************************************************

Captain Hamid Persoudi left for East Pakistan Rifles(EPR) headquarter in Pilkhana at around four in the morning. The retaliation by East Pakistan police and EPR Jawans against the Army had died down already, and all major police and EPR compounds and installation were under military control. As Persoudi drove his jeep through the burning city, he noticed the dead bodies lying around, dead bodies being stacked in large heaps, bodies of men, women, many them naked and mutilated. Bodies of police and EPR jawans were dragged through the pavement and loaded into trucks. As he drove through the University, he looked straight towards the road, in his denial and horror, he tried throwing the images he had seen and he was seeing, away. Let it not get to him. He was a soldier and his humanity must be kept locked away when he donned on the uniform; that was the way it was. The famous Dhakeshori Temple was in ruins from being mortar shelled and the floors of Jagganath hall was showered in blood. In the bullets and the bayonet, the students and the teachers, the archenemy, the ones who created all this mess, were treated and dealt with. The university was the spawning ground of all malice; it was here the process of separating Pakistan was planned, harvested and grown into the full-blown fantasy that is Bangla Desh. And in all its vicious wrath, the Pakistan Military Junta had taken revenge on the University.

The Persian-Baloch-Captain-from-Quetta drove into the EPR head quarter, disturbed and in a furious tug-o’-war with himself—No hanky Panky, you are in uniforms!  He set himself straight and got down from the Jeep to find Captain Amir and some other Officer of Major rank, smiling at him welcoming him in. “You are here in right time my favourite commando”, Captain Amir said loudly, cajoling, “I know you are the quiet type, but let’s have some fun before dawn breaks shall we. Loosen up a bit. I heard the ‘scum’ got caught. Did you hear about it? They should have put a bullet in his butt or two.”

“There were strict orders not to harm him,” replied Persoudi, disinterested, not wanting to divulge the fact that he had been personally involved with the capture of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the ‘famous traitor’. He always felt that other officers were suspicious of his achievements, as if he was not worthy of it, as if everything was just the result of the so-called accident of birth. Thus, he avoided any statement that would portray any form of gloating from his part. He himself did not like showing off or feel special. “and anyways I am supposed to take my unit back to Cantonment.” To him duty was important.

“Oh never mind. Never mind. You SSG commando-bastards are always so serious. You had a long day, relax.” Amir spoke as he put his arms around Persoudi’s shoulder and led him into the back of the compound building. In the back was a little garden-like field and a truck was driving in as they walked in. The Unknown-Major followed them outback with lesser steps and over-the-top pelvic movement in his gait.

Persoudi shook Amir’s arm off his shoulders and walked forward for few steps, “what’s all this?” he asked. As the truck-end flap opened, a line of girls were hurried and pushed out into the field by guards. Some of them were wearing saris with blouses torn and some without any. Others were wearing the salwar-qameez with the top or pantaloons missing. Out of the ones that had tops or blouses missing covered their breast with arms folded, while one of them simply let it all out, their faces hung downwards, with faces showing nothing, like the dead. Almost all of them showed signs of severe assault. In total, there were twenty girls, some as young as twelve it seemed, children. As the girls were being lined up in the field-garden by habildar-ranked soldiers, six officers of various ranks from colonel to mere lieutenants came out, howling, some with bottles in their hands, Marhaba! Marhaba! Like dogs, they howled and danced in drunken madness. Then from the line of girls, two girls, who were not very badly bruised and beaten, were chosen and sent into the compound building to the two Brigadiers that were resting inside.

The mix of officers and common jawans became wild, they danced around the line of girls singing an Urdu song, Jab Raat hey aisi matwali—when the night is so intoxicating, they sang. They taunted the girls. Amir came close to the surprised Persian-Baloch-Captain and whispered into his ears, “you are young, I don’t think you know the touch of a woman, you don’t know how to sink your cock into them.” He then walked towards the girls and as soon as he clapped his hands, with highly choreographed military synchronisation, eight of those girls were taken inside to get locked up for later use and the rest were bound in the hand in a single line around a steel horizontal pipe, “Today you can learn something young boy.” Amir called out. Even in the dim porch lights surrounding them, Persoudi could clearly make out his thick-moustached face, wickedly smiling. “These are mostly snotty university and college bitches, our guests; they had been sleeping when we went in. We don’t want to be rude to our guests, now no, no.” He went closer to one of the girls and touched her rear, with her bent forward; she was crying. “Don’t be scared little wretch, you will like us”, he continued scratching her rump, “Persoudi, we will show you in a minute how it is done”. Everyone clapped and hollered. He then tore her pantaloons away from her hip; her already naked breasts were hanging.

Persoudi was frozen; he had never seen anything such as this, before in his life. His knees started shaking. As one of the star pupil of Special Services Group (SSG), as a top achiever, trained to kill in cold blood, it was indeed rare for a commando of his calibre to be in such a state. In a state of anger and fear, fear of the reality that was piercing into him. He was anticipating something that was about to happen.

“We must fuck them. Not for the cunt only, no-no, we will change them completely. We will change their entire biology! These bingo vegetable-eating niggers will be wiped out! Sodomise the boys if need be! We will put salt in their fields, make their women our whore and give them our seed. We will take their damn tongue away, ban it and give them ours. Make their men eunuchs and our slaves they shall be for eternity. Then they will not oppose us ever.” Amir said prophetically, almost rehearsed, prepared for such an occasion and everyone around him stood motionless, watching his demonstration. He then grabbed hold of the girl’s hair. “Look at them,” he pointed at her with his other hand, “all bent like bitches, waiting for us. Look at them, look at them.” By ‘mock salivating’ with his mouth, making a slurping sound, he grinned. He then took out his already half open, hanging belt, bent it like a whip and started hitting the girl. The groans, God-is-great and ‘Marhaba’s (splendid!) by the surrounding men drowned out her muffled cries, cries of pain and shame. He threw the belt away and dropped his trousers. It was like a green signal and everyone joined in. Each taking one girl for themselves, stripping them, and they entered the poor girls in all force. Penetrating the unwilling girls like beasts. The girls, who had already been spot-gang-raped, were being raped again out in the open.

The screams and cry for help filled up the air around the compound. They wailed for Allah to help them, to take them away from this hell, and kill them, save them from the supposed spawn of ‘Iblis’. But, no celestial being intervened. “No one can save you, you cunts!” one of the officers growled, who was carving, mutilating a girl he just finished violating, cutting off her bare breasts with a not-so-sharp knife. Her writhing body soon gave out; her screams died out as blood gushed out into the garden. She died in the process and the officer stabbed the girl in her sex and kept the knife hanging from the flesh.

The young captain after witnessing such horror, horror that cannot be compared to anything in the world, felt sick and vomited right on the ground. His legs gave in as he fell forward onto the grass, regurgitating his last meal. The rolling waves of hatred, revulsion towards his companions were boiling the inside of him. He could not stomach the billowing stench of blood either. This was not the first time he had seen death, he was responsible for many, but this was different, it was like a scene from hell. How in the name of the Lord was he initiated into this perverted institution of death?

Amir walked up to Persoudi, in little steps, holding his trousers up, with his penis still hanging out. With one hand caressing his moustache, “I am done”, he said. “Looks like a lot of us are done this quick.” He continued, somewhat proudly and jokingly. “Couldn’t hold it much longer, they finished before I did though, these fickle impotent chaps.” He laughed, trying to insult the others. As he came closer to the young Captain, he kicked him slightly, keeping his foot hanging, “hey it’s your turn. Have one of our seconds, now!” He commanded rudely. Although Amir was junior to some of the officers present, he seemed to be acting as the leader among the men.

Scores of eyes looked into Persoudi’s face, as he was crouched into the ground. He then shoved Amir’s legs off and got up, while wiping his chin he barked, “Get away from me you sick bastard!” As he walked away he threatened, “I will report this!”

“Are you a faggot? We will get little boys if you want”, Amir laughed as he spoke, looking around at others for some humour appreciation. Others laughed as well. “Come back here! Do you think you are better than we are? Do you think the bloody superiors will care about your report? This is war! These are our prisoners. It is our god-given right to do anything. You don’t know what’s happening you naive little shit!” Amir called out, shouting at the top of his voice, his previous playfulness changing suddenly. He looked back at a Major behind him still fiddling with a girl and said, “Major, order that Baloch bastard to come back.”

Having heard the last few words, the young now-angry Captain came back a couple of steps, a bit closer and in anger thrust his words with his utmost fury, to be heard, his veins popping, threatening everyone present, “Do not fuck with me! I, Iskandar Bin Hamid Ulfa Persoudi, will see to your very end! So do not fuck with me.” He was from a very influential family, few MLAs and ministers came from his family branches. He walked away finally out of site. It was the first time he said his full name out aloud in public.

“Get out then, you rich rascal! Go suck your daddy’s tits! You spoiled shit!” Captain Amir Gul of the Punjab regiment called out, swearing, shouting profanities at the hurrying young Captain. “You are spoiling the fun anyway,” he murmured the last words under his breath, trying to recover from his rejection, caressing his moustache with his fingers, still holding up his trousers. It was true; one word from Persoudi’s family, Amir could end up sweeping blood and semen off cantonment floors all his life, and he knew it.

**************************************************************************************************************

The General and his eyebrows

This is an extract from ‘He who summoned the Magpie Robin’ by Nirjhor Barua.
*****************************************************************************************

The month of March had been going rather weirdly. The political situation was a bit off-putting for some; they did not want trouble of-course.

Messing with an army government always meant a bullet up the arse; the army did not know a different language or response. A lot of these men as top-ranking officials had horrible childhoods from being sent to boarding or military schools by parents not bothering to take care of them. And then being mercilessly flogged on the bum for being evil delinquents, so putting things up other’s bum seemed to be their way of getting back at the world. Be it the boots, bullets, barrel of a gun, a penis or a finger, anything and everything worked; some had homo-erotic tendencies of course. The men in khaki shirts had a straightforward attitude about the whole East-Pakistan situation, the economic and political disparity issues are all bullshit. Shit. A la mierda.

The ‘bingo dogs’ create too much trouble. They so did with the Mughals, they so did with the British, the same with the west Pakis. The thing that troubled them was the disappearance of the word ‘East-Pakistan’ from East-Pakistan itself. Bengali dogs are referring to it as Bangla-Desh now. Bangla-Desh! B-A-N-G-L-A D-E-S-H! The official name simply disappearing in thin air, the beautiful moon-crescent flag being replaced in homes and shops with the new flag with a map crudely stitched in the middle. Another tragedy: The song, the great song, the great Paki anthem being slowly replaced by an ugly song made by the Hindu-Tagore dog. The song made no reference to the Al-mighty; it was expected from a ‘Hindu’ so-called poet. People cared too much of this Tagore guy and the song. Song speaking of land as mother, and golden as well, golden! Such malarkey, such pussies! The Bengalis called themselves Muslims? Namesake piss-shit is what they are, living under the shadows of the Hindu-agents. A good-old-Punjabi-Baton-up-their-arse should do the trick. General Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan while thinking these thoughts was fiddling with his pen, a Dun-hill fountain pen, recent gift from a friend. He did not want to use it, but wanted to fiddle around with it, wanted to see how it felt in his fingers. He was not feeling great; a bit hung-over as a matter of fact; the whisky was a bit too much, single malt scotch-whisky that should be drank with class and moderation. Who cares about class and moderation when you have two beautiful sixteen year olds on one’s lap? Oh the soft skin … younger ones next time, the younger the better. He had to fix his mood soon. The press would arrive tomorrow to talk about the current situation about handing over power. Something he did not want to deal with after a heavy night that would ensue. Why can’t both Bhutto and Mujib piss-off and rot somewhere else? The current situation was a concern, it made him look incompetent. Even the presidential cooks would not cook for him in protest; he could not have his breakfast. The Bengalis were known for their hospitality. Where is the hospitality now? He was Grimy this morning when he woke up, felt the same during the talks with Mujib. He still felt ill and foul. He had never been so hung-over before, hangover almost stretching the full day. It couldn’t be helped, he was the President; he had to get on with it. Before the press arrived tomorrow, he reminded himself to make sure to check if his eyebrows were pointy enough. Rani Akhleem once said that it made him look sharp, so from then on he had his thick brows oiled to stand out like a British military moustache. Oh! Women….. It made him feel loved.   

A knock on the door and a very young man in his mid-twenties entered. Captain Persoudi, the youngest Captain in Pakistan’s Military history. After his customary military hand salute, to which he got no response, he set a package down on the table with his two hands. The Marshal Law administrator had sent him with the package, top-level secret, even he, the carrier of such secret, was not allowed to gain the knowledge. The young Captain had a reputation of being honest and hardworking, a commando from the ‘Special service group’ or SSG. He came here to get orders on what to do with the influx of army personnel flying in and dealing with MV SWAT situation, Mittha and Tikka both wanted answers. But he was handed the package and ordered to personally deliver it as well.

‘When did you become Tikka’s lackey?’ Yahya asked while tearing the seal on the top of the package. The young Captain remained silent. ‘Do you know what this is?’ the General again asked.

‘No sir’, Captain Persoudi replied.

‘Good. You’ll be briefed soon. Do not worry [chuckles]. Tikka has few tricks up his sleeves.’

‘Ok sir’

‘We did not have a war or anything for a while now. Young men like should are impatient, always wanting to do something. Do not worry you will get some targets to practise shooting on. Sixty-five seems like a long time now.’ Yayha spoke as he now looked up, trying to read into the thoughts of this young soldier of few words. A phone rang and the General picked up.

‘Sir, the National Security adviser is on the line to speak to you. It’s Mr. Kis…’ A woman on the other end of the line spoke, a secretary of some sort, but she was cut off shortly and interrupted.

‘….Ok ok put him through’, ordered the general, annoyed. If he ever knew being the president one had to handle so many things, he would have thought twice about being one. He signalled the Captain in his room to leave at once, shooing him away. He can come again later, now is not the time to speak about other things.

Richard Nixon Posing with Agha Yahya Khan

‘Mr President… did you like the pen I sent you? Yes I thought you wanted to speak to me about the assurances about Peking…’ the man on the other end nattered without going into many pleasantries, straight to point. The General could not have been any less interested then he already was, for the fact that the man on the other end of the phone was a Jew! However, it was important matters regarding the state, he must, he must listen on. All he wanted to do was go back to his smooth-skinned sixteen year olds and a new bottle of scotch whiskey, single malt.

*

****************************************************************************************     02/06/2013

Beloved from Arakan

I have taken a break from ‘He Who Summoned the Magpie Robin’ , so I am ending up writing poems only. Writers block has been harsh on me. I want to go back to working on the story. But for now this is a new piece I wrote. Inspired from Anne Briggs and her folk renditions.
*************************************************************************************************
Arakanes/Rakhine women

O my Beloved,
My maiden from Arakan
Will you come with me?
No pearls in my belongings
but rice and salt for thee

With a house on Lushai we will dwell
And in skies and valleys we can stay
Down the river to o’er to where you are calling
But there are no boatmen today

We will make babes with skin smooth as yours
And name them you can in tongue of thine
No of my kin will ever slight you
For you are the love of mine

In the lowlands we can lay and play
And see the paddys fill
We can sing to the winter birds my love
It will be a promise still

Weep no more, it will not be long
Though one thing I would say,
To none I would lie my dear
Wait till the wedding day

**********************Photo source: Internet
*************************** 29/05/2013

There, Dear Guerrilla

A poem in ‘He Who Summoned the Magpie Robin’ by Nirjhor Barua
***************************************************************************

There, dear guerrilla
Where are you going to?
Bird calls in branches and dream,
Is what you do.

Your heartbroken mother
At the door, waiting for you.
Your daddy rotting in the swamp,
And he is waiting too.

Your sisters been looking at the sky
Prays that you are safe.
She, the slave in the enemy camp
For her you be brave.

Your Brothers are all lost
And taken in the war.
The village is all empty now,
Empty and too far.

Your son with his swollen belly
Hungry, he wants to eat the moon
Your daughters never seen her father’s face
Please, be back soon

Your dear wife is carrying another’s child,
Ravaged and left for dead
You, is whats on her mind
Not gold and not bread

There, dear friend,
In the ground you used to roam,
Your loved ones wait for you,
Will you walk or be carried home?
A Mukti Bahini fighter carries a comrade injured in the fight against the Pakistani army-
******************************************** 26/05/2013

Kaiser’s first love

An extract from “He who summoned the Magpie Robin” by Nirjhor Barua
**********************************************************************************************

Then after two years another telegram had come were his father had expressed his wish for Kaiser to study in London. His mother wrote back saying: ‘Kaiser will go to England to study. But, he is not staying with you; not with you… I repeat… Not with you. He will go to a boarding school of my choice. I don’t want him to live with you and anywhere near your wife’. Thus, he went back to England and completed his A-Levels from Wellington College, Berkshire, in the year 1968, the year of the emergence of the great Led Zeppelin and the premier of 2001: The space odyssey. His time after that was spent in shuffling between home-made wine, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, and a young girl of twenty-four–older than him– his first love. The girl, although spoilt with money, was educated and classy, and acted more mature than her age, some years or more, a girl with some trans-Atlantic American accent, an East coast one, not that it mattered. As lot of Americans did, she also went on the Europe trek, and ended up in Kings cross, to start from England. Where she posted an advertisement on the newsstand for a tour guide to take her places- All expenses paid.

With Kaiser stumbling upon the advertisement, having nothing to do, he applied; only a formal interview was taken in a Hotel-room in Camden town. With the girl, sitting primped-up and proper, business suit and skirt set, with reading glasses eyeing him and his resume in her hand. She put down the piece of paper and told him she would call and let him know, and called out ‘Next!’ as he was on his way out; there was no queue outside, he was the only applicant. He had waited by the phone the whole night, and she called, ‘Congrawhatevertulations kiddo, you got it.’ letting him know about his win amongst fierce competition. On enquiry or assurance about the payment and the method, she laughed and replied, ‘At the end of the month man, Cash. I keep my word you know. Daddy has the big bucks; I can do whatever I want.’ He could not say no to her, even if he wanted to. He did not need the money. He would have done it for free.

The girl had the pinkest of lips with the darkest of hairs and wore the jazziest of clothes, American style, flashy printed mini, large collared shirts tucked in with the collars unfolded, covering the bottom half of her ears. Her nose rings were similar to that of the Rajasthani water bearer or one of those East African tribes with a nose ring that dangled in front of the mouth. Her attire was loud, nothing close to a freak show, but it still was loud; it screamed for attention and got it as such. She looked like a new-age wizard, all gay and colourful. She on occasions could pass for a show-gypsy medicine woman that read palms and sold pregnancy charms on the streets of Soho. The girl, along with her tour guide went places, from Buckingham to the spooky columns of Stonehenge, she drank in it, drank in the bizarre that was England trying to put its prudish past behind, each swig quenching her thirst, wanting a little more. From spending copious amount of time together, the ‘professional’ relation had drifted towards intimacy. On one fateful train journey with her hands nonchalantly resting on his sleeping buttocks, as they slept in a compartment spooning each other, led to them having a session on the art of ‘making out’. Over the course of time, they would be in endless sessions of poem recitation, each poem ended with a kiss, then a wet smooch on each other’s neck. Shelley, Keats, Arnold and so on dribbled from their lips. After roaming around England, they took their duo-entourage down to France, France, l’exquise, France, the exquisite, France, the rainbow nation of the west. From Southampton to Normandy, they crossed the English Channel into France. They wanted to re-enact the Normandy invasion that had taken place some twenty-two odd years ago. This time they had no numbers, but only two of them. They did not land on a beach, but a port and had no guns, but love in their heart. It was no allied forces this time, but a duo for a fictive country called The ‘United Kingdom of Bengali America’, UKBA for short.

From Normandy to Rouen and finally they ended up in Paris, the cultural Capital of the world, the city for bohemian love. Paris soon became a slight disappointment. The city was overhyped, hyped to such a level that the beautiful city with its dirty right-side-driving roads, rude-cheese-eating inhabitants, cramped alleys of the immigrant-ghettos, boisterous cafes and the colourless Eiffel Tower could not save it from the disappointment it became. The city was expected more of. There was something less of in Paris, they did not know what of was it for sure, je ne sais quoi, he said,there was ‘something’ missing. By July the protests against the Gaulle had dimmed down and the city had come back to normal. They blamed their luck to be a little late for the ‘party’; it was not every day one experienced revolution and civil disobedience at hand. The hand-holding walks on the posh street of Champs-Elysees— just like the French resistance army marching after the liberation of Paris, they marched hand in hand, no Parisians to welcome them—, ‘French-kissing’ by the bank of Seine river, starting an argument with nearly getting stabbed on the city metro, were some of the things she crossed of first from her list one by one as they went along. On one fine evening the young male with his slightly older female lover sat on a hotel balcony with a bed sheet wrapped around them, looking up to the full-moon blurred amongst the clouds and city-smog, began telling each other stories of sexual escapades; she wanted to try new things, new ways to tickle the libido, telling stories was one way. He hadn’t had many tales to tell, he was a younger man and a virgin not long ago. She on the other hand told him of the ways she courted the many boys she had been with. With some she was the gentlest of all, like caressing a flower, with others, she had yanked at them, tearing them from the branches with no mercy. With him though, she was different, she felt a connection, a connection on the intellectual level. He was not some thick headed good-for-nothing; he had a level of intellect her past lovers lacked, and most importantly he was exotic, caramel from the East. She wanted to be cruel to him though, so desperately wanted to leave him writhing in a hotel-room by leaving without saying a word. Attachment was a luxury a rich tourist like her could not afford. But for now, to hell with it, she said, Amour, l’amour au clair de lune de Paris—- Love, love in the moonlight of Paris. French-language had rubbed-off on to them. Paris did that to people. Only maybe the gondolas on the mucky Venetian waters could top the romance of this place.

Life of poetic English summers, French cafe existentialist intellectualism, and pebbled Brighton beaches with mixed-race lovemaking soon ended. Her plan to bathe in the river Danube never materialised. In an act of defiance and young angst, the American girl had mailed her father some pictures, pictures of her, bikini-clad in the beach, with a topless Mowgli, out of the Jungle Book, in her arms. America was still in a state of hangover, still trying to hold on to its drunken times of mad racism; Martin Luther king’s untimely death had not been very long ago. Her father was far from happy, even if his daughter had the ‘Godlike-Groovy-Ghandi’ in her arms, he said, it was not for his baby girl, brown as a colour was still too dark. As a result the father froze his daughter’s cash flow by not sending her money anymore, forcing her to return. No money, no Europe, no ‘Aladdin’ in her arms. It was a summer fling, after which she was gone, back to the US of A.

As for Kaiser, it was not for him either; his love life amongst the fading beat generation had drained him off the English experience. For him, it was Bengal calling. Like the romantic poet Jibanananda Das had said, he would say to his mother on the eve of his return.

                               I have seen the face of Bengal, so I refrained from searching the beauty of the world. 

**********************************************************************************************************