Voices are heard in the North, weeping. A thousand women weeping for their children, refusing to be comforted, for they do not know if they live or have died. The earth at and around their feet is soaked, layers deep, with the blood of people whose bodies we can’t even dignify with an accurate number.
As enough time passes, the blood will seep deeper into the ground. Fear not, the only red rivers that will touch your feet are the monsoon flows of red dust turned to mud, staining your soles like henna on the feet of a dancer. It will be absorbed by the roots of the new palmyrah. As their dry fronds rustle like thunder in the wind, as the fiery liquid drawn from its fruit burns our throats, they will ensure that we do not forget, that pain still lives with and in us. Maybe now, we will finally understand.
An Eastern playground beckons in blue, white and more blue. It matches the logos on the dirty tarpaulin that counts as the roof of their homes. Even a tent counts as home when home itself has been razed to the ground by someone you did no wrong to. But to gaze upon where home once stood, only to find that someone else has now claimed its contours and crevices as their own, is more of an insult than seeing it torn to rubble.
Then there’s that one place further up the coast. The one everyone knows, but doesn’t speak of. They know the name from the gritty footage and glaring headlines, though they cannot spell or pronounce it. Blue horizon meets blue sky in a seamless union. The white sand is so fine that as the ocean breeze sweeps it onto your feet, it coats them in a near-glittering sheen. The place on which you are standing is unholy ground.
There are the signs of life that are strewn on its periphery, hidden enough that you could easily miss it, jarring enough to make you acknowledge. Clothes, shoes, a handkerchief, half-covered in the almost-blessed sand, in craters close to the forest line. Sweep inward from here to a still, dark lagoon – from monsoon to scorching sun, its colour remains the same deep murky green, the shade you’d get if you mixed all the colours on a paint palette together. The snaking bridge that cuts through it has collapsed in a few places, the physical reflecting the emotional of those who live in its vicinity. It has seen and borne too much, more in one month than the hundred that have passed since, more than anywhere should witness even in seven decades.
Two centuries they have lived as children of an adoptive mother who could never quite care for them in the way that she did for her own. Does she see then, when blood runs in rivulets, mimicking the abundant mountain springs, through the cracks on their thumbs and index fingers? Does she feel indignation at the denial of home, identity and a voice that they have borne since? Instead she ensures that the cup of tea you sip, you who call yourselves her real children, bears no mark of their aching hands. After the machines have been at the leaves that they plucked all day in the biting cold, it erases all traces of them from the process, just like she guided you to erased them from your collective memory.
Strange, isn’t it, how a beautiful-enough ‘bigger picture’ is all we ever need to be convinced that everything is normal. But like the pieces of plastic rubbish caught in between the rocks of a waterfall, like the leeches that lurk in the sweeping forest foliage, so does suffering lie in places so seemingly-beautiful that we don’t want to think of them as troubled.
So we build empires to shield our bloodshot eyes and stubborn minds. Giants of steel, concrete and glass break through the tree-lined avenues of the familiar metropolis. The earth shakes – literally and metaphorically – with the force of machines drilling layers deep, altering our foundations physically and otherwise. A kingdom is being built around us, and you could swear that we are shrinking as it rises daily, to a place almost beyond the clouds. But like haunted houses being turned into palaces, or mansions erected on the ruins of graveyards, the colourful tinge on the rubble call out to remind us. The cracks in the walls where homes once stood, like lips parted in a rasping whisper – we are building the future over the present, rewriting over stories that are still being told.
Three hundred years you toiled for a land that you didn’t recognise, broke your bones and poured out your tears but she was still not yours. You watched from afar, with despair and greed, as someone else made her home. They changed her form, made indelible marks on her beautiful face, and drove spokes through her body that still hold, seventy years later.
And suddenly she was yours. Freedom like a rush of blood to your head, or like a knife through the heart.
Her mountains, plains and oceans have run with blood and tears for half of the seventy that has passed. For forty years you too walked in the wilderness, and for the next thirty you ravaged paradise in search of a promised land. Her core shakes as it absorbs the heartache of her children, the ones she longed to protect, the ones who spurned her and each other in search of another kind of victory. That pain now reverberates in every grain of sand, every palm leaf, every ripple, and lives on.
Where you once lived under the Other’s watchful hand, so you’ve kept Each Other under your heel.
Still you pray with the fervour of someone naïve enough to think that their inhuman actions towards their fellow human beings affords them any form of divine grace, that any god is even listening anymore. Where your prayers should rise to the skies, they fall as curses to the ground. Flowers wilt in shaking hands and the smoke from the incense sticks draws blood from your lungs. Every lime you cut falls into the water upwards, a blood red. You go without food, and it is not enough. Blood flows from where the metal hooks pierce your skin, pain multiplied in every centimetre of their surface area that touches your nerves.
Punishment maybe, for the original sin that was the copulation of woman and lion, the first gross indecency. A union that bred a mutant that was neither human nor animal. You are yet to realise that the supposedly majestic creature that you staked your pride and identity on is a beast so unnatural that it is unfit to roam the earth. Its blood closer to poison than bodily fluid, contaminated, scorching the earth wherever it falls.
Do you deserve independence?