Rahman, a young man on the doorstep of thirty, falls to the ground as the knife plunges deep into his back; piercing his muscles to almost reach his heart but, missing it by a hair's breadth hits his ribs. It was a long bladed knife. His head was already spinning from being hit by a bamboo stick, a latthi, made to order for fights and not for fooling around. As he lies dying, a pool of blood forming about where his torso has landed, he sighs at the death of conscience in his beloved motherland, a land where his unborn child will have to grapple with the difficulties of a fatherless child.
Rahman used to live in the outskirts of Dhaka, a lower middle class suburb called Demra. He worked at the offices of the local municipal office, a clerk; he was never suited for a higher paying job. His wife Sokhina became pregnant after three years of a happy marriage. She was barely twenty.
Rahman's office work, of late, involved hardly any work as the country was sinking deeper and deeper into political mire. With agitation programmes all over the country, his colleagues at the office had been involved in heated political debates, their numbers equal on both sides of the political aisle. Rahman's stand was in favour of the opposition who had called the agitation but he had been aghast at the terrorism adopted by the affiliates of the party he supported. He was constantly in a harried state defending the party he supported in the face of its wanton use of arson against the innocent public. The happiness he felt at the prospect of becoming a father faded when he turned on the television and saw the gut-wrenching scenes of mayhem. He looked to the heavens for an end to his exasperation but the sky was always empty.
At the initial stages of the current movement, Rahman had joined some activists of the opposition party who got together at a clubhouse. He even joined them in processions screaming against a government he thought was depriving people of their democratic rights. As the movement precipitated to a never ending impasse and atrocities began to be perpetrated by his fellow activists, Rahman tried to distance himself from the clubhouse, its occupants and their nefarious plans to cause terror. Rahman always believed, some would say foolishly, that to attain demands did not necessitate violence of such gruesome nature – people burned to charcoal while travelling in a bus.
As the agitation worsened and more burn victims took up the pages of newspapers and became constant breaking news on TV crawls, Rahman's position at the office political scene became untenable and he faced verbal abuse for his political beliefs. One day he was even accused by a colleague as an agitator of the worst kind and threatened with a possible report to the law enforcers, albeit without any proof that his hands were bloody. He was advised to watch his back. A cold shiver ran down his spine as he thought of a heavily pregnant Sokhina and the yet unborn baby, to be named Zia if a boy or Ayesha if a girl.
Around this time, Shujon – a firebrand of the clubhouse with virulence flowing in his veins, asked Rahman to keep a few Molotov cocktails at his house. He said he would retrieve them the next day to use in a planned attack on goods-laden trucks that regularly plied on the highway adjoining Demra on their way to the capital city.
Rahman lost his head and screamed at Shujon, "I don't like the way the government has been going about things and would like nothing better than to see its back but killing innocent people is something I would never condone. If this is what you do in order to achieve the goals of our party then damn the party, damn the leaders, damn you all to hell!"
Shujon warned him of dire consequences as he left with his bag of 'toxic' load.
Two days later. Rahman lies wondering which side got him. He breathes his last thinking once again about Zia or Ayesha and how an almost illiterate Sokhina would cope with a life of uncertainty.
Caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, Rahman is a man with some semblance of a conscience still fluttering like a candle flame in the tumult of a country falling apart. Political awareness or activism has moved far from belief in an ideology. Politics has become the ladder of success for the rapacious, the avaricious, the greedy, the hoodlum, the godfathers, the coteries that surround 'leaders'. Politics is no longer aimed at the greater good; personal good is far more profitable and desirable. Politicians are not at the level of the general masses anymore; they are now in the class of the rich and they are not willing to relinquish the comforts of easy money any time soon. The leftists do not dream of emancipation of the working class anymore, they would rather move to the upper echelon too.
Warren Buffett put the current class war very poignantly, "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."
When hell fire engulfs, the angels of heaven are scarred to a dark hue and the angelic white becomes a distant dream; God remains silent, as usual.
S M Shahrukh is a freelance contributor. Read more of him at tracesoforange.wordpress.com