ARGUS UNDER ANAESTHESIA | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 26, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 26, 2016

INDEPENDENCE DAY SPECIAL 2016

ARGUS UNDER ANAESTHESIA

The march of the hunted across a land 
No longer their own began
At a haunted dawn 
Yet only last summer, the last ever 
Flowering March, golds and emeralds
Quivered in lush orchards— 
Now burnt; scattered ashes enveloped
The moving column
In a thin safety of silence;
The least noise was suicidal;
A mother frenzied by the roar of mortars
Throttled her whining infant:
Its life for the life of millions.
Bruised feet, bleeding hands;
Dilated eyes enacting the frenzy of Oedipus.
Corroding thirst dulled 
The sense of loss of violated wives, mothers,
Sisters, butchered babies. 
Worst the burden of survival in a den
Beyond the reach of bipeds 
Set loose by madmen with moron-eyes
Spurting martial orders 
Between bouts of drunkenness.
The lull left by sudden
Departures lay heavy over the fields.
The mourning corn

Bent with grief; impossible phantasmagoria
Haunting the eyes
Of deserted dogs and cattle; incredible
Whiteness of human flesh, pigment
Peeled off by blind bayonets;
Crouching figures of raped 
Infants making the earth red.
What shapes of space will 
Shelter them? Unused pipes, fragile
Palm-leaf huts? 
Those who died on the way, will
Never come to their heritage 
Of a bowl of rice— and cholera.
Roofless even in death 
Their buried dreams float in the air. 
Stifled sighs echo through eloquent 
Trees; unlike Duncan's their humble blood
Dried ungolden on hungry bones; 
Their names unwritten in the annals
Of freedom—again and again
A trampled bud—its elusive fragrance
Wafted to eager nostrils by words
And promises 
Minutes and manifestoes.

2
While the guinea-pigs trudge
Towards some meagre shelter
Sleek men sweat in winter clothes
Seated at polished tables.
The conference proceeds; pencil strokes confer
Life and death on millions.
When bony arms stretch for proferred 
Morsels global motives
Are espied; new slogans coined to deter 
Feeding hands.

3
In a golden island far beyond
The reach of these 
Marching millions, Eve in the shape
Of a voluptuous politico 
Twitters in girlish glee—just returned
From the holy land: 
“Genocide? No!— Only banquets,
Lovely roses, bushy eye-brows, 
Exotic charm— a little brutal perhaps”,
(But how an English rose 
Would love to be crushed in hairy arms!)
As for happy triggers— 
To keep the colonies —why  that's
No novelty to us! 
Be a sport—do let us dance!
If he made Black Princes 
Glow all over the highways
Of a maudlin land 
Where such roses are unheard of, that's
All the more glory! 
“Contrary to common talk— said
My charming host— 
The stumpy race is far from anaemic;
Rich haemoglobin,
Beneath pigmented skin”—so he launched 
This second crusade
Between the opulent and the half-fed
In Allah's name.

4
The demonic delta now wears a strange look! 
As the battle cry is sounded 
By a spray of machine-guns
A true post-ablution
Beauty bathes the ones sprawled
In streets and promenades….. 
The vultures shall come
Cheap scavengers—to supplement
The economy of bayonets—in a protracted
And sacred war 
A bullet is worth more than the feeble
Heart-beat of a heathen. 
And behold! Now begins the miracle:
The crowning glory of Jihad 
The holy feat of tearing rich pigmented
skin open—to create 
Stupendous roses in a moist plain!
Horticultural experiment; 
" Conquest of climate; call it what you will;
And here Jill 
Is a rose for you and a rose for me
As we dance to a waltz 
In this soft green malachite hall,
Counting our victories!
A few thousand dead! Heil Adolf! 
Eye-brows matching moustache!
Swinging in katabolistic glee
As I watch the friendly
Banner coo assurances—my heart thaws!
The Dialectics—no monopoly
Of the Russians— do not exclude elimination 
Before new creation!” 

5
Far, far away from the velvet-sweep
The shot silk softness 
Of the tender waltz there are quivering raintrees
Planted by romantic colonists.
Beneath their cool breeze sleeps Selim,
Physics undergrad; 3rd Year Honours
Equal master of a seven-stringed Sitar
His eyes—before they got erased
By a bull-dozer—reflected for 
The fraction of a moment the sapphire
March-sky of a land
About to die out of the atlas.
And there was Jyoti—the suave conversationalist
Who kept the smile on his lips 
Till they became amorphous flesh in the mass-grave,
Which also houses Modhu 
The varsity canteen-keeper for four decades:
He grossly mispronounced 
The Kalimah hoping to survive by the incantation.
Oh Gabriel, do not 
Call out to the Enshrouded One;
He is only human— 
They are all gone, the men and the women
Leaving this faith
Not meant for mortals, to supermen; 
Dreamers of great concepts,
Dynamic heroes the fabric of whose dreams
Is often woven 
With the torn-down veins of unknowing men,
Every now and then 
These high-priests of deception gather roses
From common gardens 
To adorn the putrid shrine of their super-egoes.
The roses, hence, 
We consecrate to them. 
What if these livid plants which 
Bore the roses should awake in a terrible
Resurrection 
Armed like Argus with a myriad eyes;
And with their 
Omniscient, cruel light burn the hypnotic
Tongue of demagogues, 
Scald inept ringers glued to the reins
And demand back
Their broken lives, theirs
To live or sacrifice?

Mittelweg, Hamburg
12. 11. 1971

Notes—The first two sections describe the exodus from Bangladesh to India of refugees in 1971. The third states the reactions of a woman Parliamentarian back from Pakistan to her native England to Yahya Khan's action in Bangladesh. The fourth is a kind of reverie undergone by Yahya. The fifth section shifts back from England and Pakistan to Bangladesh.

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