“Kill those outsiders!” “Bash the non-believers!”—the riot between the Hindus and Muslims had begun anew. At first, it was mere bickering, then it grew into hitting one another, and in the end it turned into breaking of skulls. In defending the honour of their respective deities, the Hindus and the Muslims screamed and yelled in a drunken stupor, but as they fell on to the ground after being wounded, I noticed that neither called upon Kali or Allah; they cried for their respective mothers instead.
I also noticed that their screams failed to affect the mosques or the effigies in the temples. Only the blood of such fools stained the stones of the sacred edifice.
Yet, one can sense the approach of the Great Spirit, the infinite being who will destroy the meeting places of these religious fanatics. He will demolish the temples and the mosques and bring together all human beings beneath the single dome of the sky.
I am aware that the self-proclaimed “private secretaries” of the Creator with various head dresses and shikhas will try to chase after me in full vigour and yet they are the ones that will fall. They are fanatics who have not imbibed the light of truth.
Those who hit Muhammad and those that killed Jesus, have risen again and are in the act of abusing humanity—hurting people like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Those prophets came to save human beings, and today it is their depraved disciples who are causing so much offence to the world.
At one place, I saw a total of fifty-nine Hindus beating up a lean, emaciated Muslim. At another, the same number of Muslims thrashed a weak specimen of Hindu. Their way of killing a fellow human could easily be compared to barbarians hunting wild boars. I scrutinized the faces of these murderers and realized that their faces were more ferocious than the devil's, uglier than the boar's. They were filled with jealousy and hatred and hence reeked of hell.
The leaders of both parties were the same and his name is Satan. At times, he joins the Muslims wearing a beard and a cap, and on other occasions, sports a shikha and works with the Hindus. This same fellow also leads the British soldiers to shoot both the Hindus and the Muslims. His long tail dips into the sea and his face is red as the wild monkey beyond the ocean.
Amidst all this turmoil, a few young fellows appeared and carried away the clean Shaved Khairu Miah to the burning ghat uttering “Hari bol” at the top of their voices. Some other boys took the body of the bearded Sadananda Babu chanting “La ilaha illallah,” to the Muslim burial ground. The mistaken identities were assumed on the basis of these men having or not having beards.
Suddenly, I saw a skeletal, wasted beggar-woman begging in the streets with a new-born child at her breast. It was wailing in a thin voice as if protesting against its birth. The woman said, “I can't even give him milk and he has just arrived. I have no milk at my breast.” I heard the voice of the world's mother in hers. A man at my side sneered, “And you had to have a male child at this hour too?”
The woman just looked at him without batting her eye-lashes once. Her eyes were burning like stars as if she was saying, “We have to sell our bodies because of hunger. And we sell it to people like you.” Yes, this man could very well be the father of this child. If it's not him, it must be his friend or brother.
Three days later, I saw the same beggar-woman on the street again. She had no child at her breast, and her eyes were vacant. The other day, when she had the child with her, I had seen the love of the universe in her eyes and her voice was earnest. But today, the mother in her was dead and she was begging for the sake of begging.
However, she recognized me. I had given her the six paisas I had for the tram fare. Her eyes suddenly welled up. I asked, “Where's your son?” She pointed to the sky and said, “Will you come with me, Sir?”
I followed her to a dustbin by the Krishnachura trees. I shuddered when she dug out a small bundle of rags from beneath the rubbish. She hugged and kissed it saying, “My darling, my sweet.”
She sat there quietly for some time and then threw the body into the dustbin again and said, “I bought a tin of barley with the money you gave me the other day. I fed that barley to my son. I had some myself with the hope of having some milk at my breast. But no, it did not happen. My darling could not have a drop of milk in these three days. And he left me just today. It's good that he left. I hope in his next life he is born to some well-to-do people. At least, he'll have some milk.”
The woman went off to beg and I took her child and walked toward the cemetery.
On my way, I saw the Hindus and the Muslims fighting with stones and bricks. I stood and watched them with the child's corpse in my hands. But these zealously religious people had no time to look at a dead child, or notice the mother of the universe passing them by with millions of her emaciated children. They were the worshippers of bricks and boulders.
Weren't those houses of deities created for the welfare of humanity? Since when have human beings become sacrificial animals for those rubbles? If that's the reason behind the existence of those buildings, demolish them. Let all humanity gather together under the starlit night sky. Human beings built the temple and the mosque with their own hands. Now just because two bricks have fallen from the structures, should the innocent victims be punished?
Oh, where are you, the youths of our times? You are the only ones that can overcome such adversities. O my fearless brothers playing with fire, the millions of hapless people stand at your door; they seek your help. You are not part of the team of vultures; you are the roaring fire. You belong to no race, no creed. You belong with light, with songs, with integrity. Emerge and help in chasing those vultures away.
Sohana Manzoor is Assistant Professor at the Department of English & Humanities at ULAB. She is also the Editor of The Daily Star Literature and Reviews Pages.