• Friday, November 28, 2014

GROUND REALITIES

Of April, of God in heaven

IN April, you remember TS Eliot. Memory and desire come together in something of a volatile mix. Lilacs sprout from the dead land. Nostalgia as also remembrance of old horror takes over. And you watch the skies in the night, wondering where all the other nights you have known have flown.
In April 1971, for the very first time in their history, Bengalis convinced the world that they were capable of giving to themselves a government that would lead them to liberty. For the first time on foreign soil, in Calcutta, Bengali diplomats raised the Bangladesh flag. It would flutter, beyond April, beyond decades.
It was in April 1975 that Vietnam became one whole nation again, through the fall of Saigon and the departure of foreigners obsessed with thoughts of halting the march of communism. In April 1930, all those long years ago, Masterda Surjya Sen drove fear into the British colonial power through his armoury raid in Chittagong. He would fail, but in failing he would set in motion an inexorable march to Indian freedom.
April 1978 was once a beautiful time in Afghanistan, for it brought in the Saur Revolution and saw the rise of the cerebral Nur Mohammad Taraki as the country's first communist leader. In Pakistan, April is the season when its first elected leader is remembered, in intense love as well as undying hate. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto went to the gallows in April 1979.
In distant America, on a day in April 1968, Martin Luther King Jr was murdered by men uncomfortable with his struggle for the dignity of the black man. Seven years earlier, on an April dawn in 1961, Cuban exiles supported by the Kennedy administration emerged on the beach at the Bay of Pigs, dreaming of an overthrow of the Castro regime in Cuba with American help. They ended up dead at the hands of Castro's men, who were waiting for them.
Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest of men in history, was silenced forever by a gunman on an April evening in Washington. The year was 1865. His successor Andrew Johnson would nearly be impeached by the Senate a few years later. Many years later, in April 1945, it would be the turn of another American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to die in harness. Harry Truman succeeded him in office. Good old Richard Nixon passed into the ages in April 1994, almost twenty years after Watergate had driven him from the White House.
April 1994 was also that season of bloodletting when Rwanda's Hutus went on a rampage, leaving no fewer than 800,000 Tutsis dead in a matter of days. It was the world's embarrassment when the United Nations or the European powers proved themselves not up to the job of saving the Tutsis. It would remain for Paul Kagame to march into Kigali with his forces and restore order in the country.


William Shakespeare opened his eyes to life and fame in April 1564. And the poet-philosopher Muhammad Iqbal went to his grave in April 1938. In April 1974, an ageing former self-styled field marshal named Ayub Khan died nearly forgotten in Pakistan. Unhappy with the result of a referendum on changes he thought were needed in the French constitution in April 1969, Charles de Gaulle bade farewell to the Elysee Palace and walked away into the sunset. More than a year later, he would die, leaving France impoverished with his passing.
A once dynamic Sher-e-Bangla A.K. Fazlul Huq died on an April day, in 1962, bringing to an end a life lived intensely and mulled over endlessly. Tragedy struck Bangladesh in a recent April, with scores of the poor and the hardworking experiencing the end of life in a tragedy that will forever be remembered in infamy. We speak of those the Rana Plaza pushed to death, of the helpless families they left behind.
The French philosopher-statesman Andre Malraux, who stood ready to fight for Bangladesh in 1971, travelled to the new country in April 1973, told Bengalis Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would lead them into light and dreams, only if they did not kill him. They killed him. Darkness and nightmare took over.
Through the horror of genocide, Pakistan's soldiers killed cheerfully in Bangladesh in 1971. In April of that year, they abducted the venerable Dhirendranath Dutta and murdered him without shame, without the fear of God in their hearts. Adolf Hitler killed without pity, destroyed countries and then destroyed himself. He died, or vanished without trace, in April 1945. Did you know that he was born on an earlier April, in 1889?
In April 1970, three astronauts lifted off into space, intending to be a fresh batch of travellers to the moon. Their spacecraft failed them. With a world nearly giving up hope of the men returning home to earth alive, they came back, miraculously, in their crippled machine. Everyone knew there was a God somewhere.
The stars shone bright, their brilliance reflected in the waters of the Pacific, as the Titanic, with 2,224 people on board, sank in an icy Atlantic off Newfoundland in April 1912.
God was in His heaven; and nothing was right with the world.

The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star.
E-mail: ahsan.syedbadrul@gmail.com

Published: 12:01 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Last modified: 3:52 pm Wednesday, April 23, 2014

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