State of Play

A mildewed life – The migrant is trapped between the home and the world

In a succession of thousands of years,/ In years of poverty and disaster,/ What existed was not a person,/ But countless disfigured cripples.

One spent his whole life as a cobbler/ Formed no judgements higher than his boot tree./ Another turned two millstones all his days:/ Behind their pointless turning he turned grey./ A third man plowed the soil from childhood on/ And never visited the nearby town...

... And in the villages, emptied of people/ Where brutish fear of the city prevailed/ A mildewed life, barbarically wretched,/ Limped from one hut’s doorway to another,/ Like a blind old nag, ribs sticking out,

Walking in its sleep around/ The same old pile of manure:/ The wooden plow, the tavern, the priests...”

“Fragments and the Whole” — Nikolai Bukharin

We can all now sigh in relief and feel a little pleased too, why not? We are sending the workers home. They are not having to walk any more, we are sending them back in chartered buses and special trains, never mind who paid for tickets, who didn’t, at least they are going home. Washing comes highly recommended these days, we can give our collective conscience a collective wash. Very soon we will stop being haunted. We will no longer see images of our countrymen and countrywomen trudging thousand-mile routes through the heat of day and the darkness of night, often smacked or whipped along the way, often forced to frogleap, sometimes sprayed with chemicals, sometimes tear-gassed. But no longer that ghoulish everywhere spectacle of them dragging their trussed worldly goods, their bewildered kids, hungry, thirsty, hapless, exhausted, and yet so tormented by their present that it had to be fled and a future chased. A future that lay in most of their pasts, their homes, those homes that they had had to forsake to arrive here, from where they are now being driven, hither-thither, in panicked tens of thousands, like frantic wildebeest droves in crocodile-ridden waters.

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LazyEye

Come now, please fall prey to me

There is no escape. None. Not from me. I am Karuna, Karuna, the Virus. There is no running away from me. I’ll get you. You shall have to seek Karuna, and Karuna alone can save you. What did they say in the movie you never stop to rave about? What was it about that man who was at the centre of it? Haan. Gabbar ke taap se tumko sirf ek aadmi bachaa saktaa hai, khud Gabbar. I am that. Renamed. Karuna. Seek me out. Pray. Piss. Prostrate. Enact this or that or all acts of pusillanimity. Maybe you have a chance. Maybe you will earn a bit of Karuna. Karuna is an essential virus. No Karuna, no you. Kaput. So seek it. Remember those who did not. Or would not be bothered. Remember Justice Khoya. You lost him; kho diya. Remember, ah well, the list is too long and this place too short, a column on a single page in a single newspaper. Never mind.

Ask for Karuna and you shall find it. Don’t ask for Karuna and it shall find you. Can’t you see? All across you? Karuna. Karuna. Karuna. The spiking numbers, the plunging lives. The fear, blotting this planet like darkness, people fleeing from it and getting consumed. The darkness taking them and turning them into darkness, into itself. When you are taken by darkness you become so dark you are no longer visible. Please listen to me while there is still time. Please ask for Karuna. Pray for it. Plead for it. Prostrate for it. Say please. Please, please grant me Karuna.

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State of Play, Telegraph Calcutta

Ruled by decree (April 3, 2020)

Where we all are today has left us deeply shaken and worried, but this will pass. We do not yet know when or how, but the Corona shadow will pass. We will still have those clouds to contend with that the pandemic swept over and temporarily shunted from our attentions and apprehensions. 

Where we all are today has left us deeply shaken and worried, but this will pass. We do not yet know when or how, but the Corona shadow will pass. We will still have those clouds to contend with that the pandemic swept over and temporarily shunted from our attentions and apprehensions. 

Continue reading “Ruled by decree (April 3, 2020)”