The Waste Land of May

The Waste Land of May
by Prashanta Tripura

(With apologies to T. S. Eliot)

April is no longer the cruelest month, at least
Not for me,
Not in the hills of Chittagong
Where May is the new month of maximum cruelty, mixing
Memories of despair and desolation,
And desires for freedom and liberty, breeding
Hatred out of the scorched land, stirring
Deep roots of sorrow, pain and longing.

The month of May brings up place names, like
Bhushanchara, Panchari, and Matiranga,
Taindong, Comilla Tila and Longodu, places
That once evoked idylls, which in time had to give way to
Chronologies of death, destruction and dislocation

In Bhushanchara, in May of 1984
Scores of Bengalis were killed
And so were Paharis, in hundreds
Or do we dare say
Humans were killed,
By fellow humans?

Then came May of 1986, to see
Panchari, Matiranga, Comilla Tila,
And Taindong, go up in
Flames, one after the other, or
Longodu, suffering similar fate,
In May of 1989

And now this –
A little girl called Sujata in Longodu,
Another, an even younger girl, named Sagori in Naogaon
Both lay dead,
Leaving behind enough reasons for us to feel
Collective grief and shame
At our impotence,
For not having been there to shield the little ones when
Evil descended upon them.

Once, a young woman called Sujata,
Helped save the life of a starving Siddhartha, and
Thus helped the world be enlightened by the Buddha.

Did fate sacrifice Sujata of Longodu
So that people in the hills of Chittagong
Will search for lights in their darkened hearts?

And what about Sagori of Naogaon,
Who was just a seven year old
Looking for work!
What was her death meant to tell us?
That this delta has turned into
A vast waste land where
Demons roam freely
Devouring all signs of innocence, dreams and hopes?

We had barely started looking for answers,
When the demons of terror struck again
At the very heart of Rangamati (রাঙা মাটি)
As if to give new meaning to the name of the place
As if the hills of Chittagong have not already seen enough blood

And the prayers of so many
Could not save a fine youth named Mong Sa Ching,
Who left us, men and women old enough to have been his parents
To carry the heaviest of burdens on this earth
To walk with our heads held low, in ritual processions
To make us utter
Dead words

We are in the month of May
A month that starts with red flags waved around the world
A month that brings us memories, of
Bhushanchara, of
Taindong, of
Panchari …
A month that brings us desires, for
Justice, for
Freedom from oppression, as when
In the 21st of May in the year 1989,
Young men and women from the hills,
Made history, as they
Marched in silent procession
To protest a massacre,
Their hearts full of resolve and determination
Their minds full of ideas and words, which were
Fully alive with hopes and conviction

But time has taken its toll.
Ideas that once promised to change the world
Now seem devoid of spirit.
Words that were once alive,
Now sound hollow like empty shells.

A lone wolf
Prowls the desolate landscape of memory
In search for pages marked May in ash-laden chronicles
And watches, from far afar
What the packs that he left are up to,
And listens for signs of life and conviction
As words and images flutter around
In this waste land

Words like
Shanti শান্তি
Shanti শান্তি
Shanti শান্তি

2012: Sujata Chakma’s stupa, where she was cremated after her rape & murder.

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