Light The Fire

(An english ghazal)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heroes lie on funeral pyres, awaiting a ritual severance by fire,

But none remain to scatter their ashes, no one to light the farewell fire.

 

The stench of decaying flesh stills the sandalwood notes,

Over this lonely battlefield the heavens weep tears of fire.

 

Crying is all that is left to do when virtue has departed,

And evil rears its head from the phoenix’s fire.

 

Evil wreaks not its havoc in a blazing spectacle,

It lives in the silence of cowards; in the absence of fire.

 

It lurks in the dark caverns of ignorant minds,

Thwarting illumination, chasing away lightning and fire.

 

Out of the scorched earth grow a new breed of men,

An unholy offspring sired in the womb of hell fire.

 

He kills in God’s name and his sins he washes away

By an ablution in the flames of sacrificial fire.

 

Cattle, forever in quest of pastures greener,

Deserter of comrades at the first sound of gun fire.

 

Apathy his only inheritance, his gift, his curse,

Not for this ignoble creature did Prometheus steal fire.

 

In this bleak land hope is a wretched refugee,

Wandering in hunger, in search of a stove fire.

 

A few good men splutter like dying embers.

Weep for the brave, for them in store is a trial by fire.

 

And yet the dead shriek to you from their graves,

‘Lost as the cause may be, light the fire!’

A Letter To The Easily Offended

 

Dear Assorted Paranoids and Eggshell Skulls,

As I sit down to type this letter I am choked with emotion. Because I cannot clap loud enough for you to hear my applause, I choose the written word to express my admiration for your persistent efforts to protect our minds from the corrupting influences of offensive art and literature.  It is a testament to your power of persuasion and the presence of truth on your side that you have managed to convince the State to be a warrior in your fight against the liberal nonsense that threatens to plunge our society into a swirling vortex of cosmic disorder. I only wish I had your strength and courage of conviction to ceaselessly persecute those who hold views that are different from mine. But I am a no-gooder who leads a silent life of shame and dissatisfaction in your well ordered and just system.  You see, I am agnostic. Since words are capable of many interpretations when I use the word agnostic I mean that I do not give a damn about the existence or non-existence of man/men/woman/women/animals/spirits in the sky who may or may not control whether I did or did not eat dosas for breakfast. But even though I do not possess your evolved intellect or belief system I feel compelled to tell you how highly I hold you in esteem.

My beliefs have been severely compromised and my sentiments deeply hurt by the constant insistence of the State and society in imposing a religious identity upon me. My fellow agnostics and I cannot fill up an application form without in some way choosing a religious affiliation nor can we claim any benefits that we may be entitled to under the reservation system or other State sponsored schemes if we do not manage to fit ourselves into the narrow confines of religion and caste so as to prove our eligibility. We recognise that for the majority of the population, disadvantages are tied to the social constructs of caste and religion and we respect that and it is out of that respect that we hold our peace. Or it would seem so! Maybe we are just too scared of the mighty likes of you to air our dissent. As much as I would like a uniform civil code as tantalisingly held out in the directive principles of state policy, in life I must be governed by religious law and in death, were I to die intestate all the wealth that I accumulate in my soulless disregard for an afterlife will be distributed in a manner sanctified by religion with no respect for my personal convictions. The secular State always seems to anoint me. I am consistently ignored by politicians in their campaigns and never targeted as part of a vote bank. Not to mention the social disapprobation that I am greeted with when I announce my lack of faith. But do I complain? No sir! I do not. I silently bear the barbs of disapproval and the prayers for my soul that are thrown my way. Such a lack of spine surely stems from not having the smug, self-righteous sanctimony of your belief system.

Apparently due to the tireless efforts of you my faithful brethren, some painter named M.F. Husain had to die a hounded man in a strange land that gave him sanctuary and a writer named Salman Rushdie is not allowed to enter the country of his birth. Am sure they offended you my honourable friends very gravely. Why else would broad minded citizens such as yourselves trample over the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Constitution? Why else would the wise machinery of the State aid you in your noble endeavour? Surely Justice stands with a flaming sword on your side of the battlefield. Some argue that you can simply close a book that you do not like or not watch a movie that offends you, but i pity them for they are slaves to their ignorance. If the government bans a book or film or some other medium of creative expression, surely that work is puke-inducing in its vitriolic offensiveness! Unquestioning obedience is our duty as sheep herded by the good shepherds whom we elect. But in the midst of this I must point out that your religious texts and interpretations of them promise me the darkest crevices of hell for not being a believer. They go on to illustrate in gory detail the gruesome and bloody punishment that awaits me for my godless ways on earth. It offends me beyond words. Such an attack on my beliefs and the intimidation I am subject to is not suitable for my delicate nerves and yet I am powerless in the shadow of the brooding omnipresence that is religion. I cry into my pillow every night scared by the stories of hell fire burning my flesh into a gourmet meal for netherworld beasts. I feel like my sentiments ought to be protected by the government. Tell me! How do I become like you so that I may bully the State into acceding to my demands?

I laud the strength that your easily offended convictions give you. I hear whispered tales of how some of you make huge donations to your places of worship out of ill begotten gains. But I scoff at them! Can you hear my derisive snort? For I know they are all fanciful stretches of imagination spun by blasphemous and seditious people who are jealous of the strength of character that you possess. It is illogical to even think that you who so faithfully follow your religion – religion that commands you to lead honest lives of virtue, shunning greed and following the path of duty – are capable of such acts. I know it, because I read your texts. Even though the hell bit was off-putting, I found much good in all your texts. There is no way you can reconcile your faith to shameful practices like corruption, theft and murder! Surely the karmic burden is deterrence enough. Your value system is not so easily compromised, is it?

Also, I deeply admire your single minded devotion to your cause. The way you expend your energy and resources and determinedly flood the Courts with serious petitions to muzzle democracy and take up valuable print space to express your feelings is awe-inspiring. Our Courts have been spending too much time dispensing justice and trying to make the country a slightly more equal place to live in. Such frivolity must be discouraged as you have rightly decided to do so by forcing the Court to partition disputed sites of worship and decide whether jobless trolls on the internet are a serious threat to the integrity of the nation and preservation of communal harmony. Some misguided querulous people are saying that you are the real threat to communal harmony. Please disregard them for the road of heroes is paved with thorns. There are some who have drawn inspiration from religion and have decided to dedicate their lives to the uplift of the poor and downtrodden and generally try to lessen the misery of the victims of your social order. But I have nothing but contempt for them. They don’t hold a candle to your virtue. You must not spend your considerable resources on education or healthcare. It must all go into guarding the souls of those who will eventually die of hunger or malnourishment or lack of access to healthcare. Oh! How attractive your brand of spirituality is! How ruthlessly you have defended your caste and community against pollution. Apparently there is a law commission report on honour killings and a Supreme Court ruling bringing it into the rarest of rare category. I am just going to twiddle my thumbs and ignore it as will you.

And finally I must also mention the commendable efforts of the State in censoring the social media, banning books, films, art and allowing the use of State machinery to vilify and harass the riff-raff whose minds created such despicable works. Twitter is for bird-brains! The wise know that censorship is the true sign of a healthy democracy. Dissent is dangerous and is a threat to the peace and security of the nation and it must be crushed at all costs. Any criticism of the wonderful people of unimpeachable integrity who grace the hallowed halls of our legislatures is unwarranted and must be nipped in the bud. Without you, how else would we have realised that! We certainly cannot have obscenity and sacrilege polluting the sanitised blank space of our collective consciousness. Hail Censorship! Ban everything I say!

I hope to soon learn your finely honed manipulation strategies and utilise them to launch a crusade on behalf of those who are disinterested in religion and/or feel that religion ought to play no role in the public sphere in a secular nation while demanding that the personal be made political.

Sincerely,

A coward who writes vaguely so as not to attract libel charges

P.S. I left out those of you who base their activism on language/race/gender/other miscellaneous prejudices and addressed only the religious. It is not due to a lack of admiration or respect but because of laziness. I really swoon over all of you..