The Way It Is, at International Times today.
We can’t sing certain songs
that speak of our glorious past or our
identity. We are shamed. Tunes
hummed softly to walls that sometimes listen but
don’t record words barely coherent they
brush cheeks against hard surfaces
and sigh to winds passing outside. We
can’t be proud of our
history, the long winding road
of deeds that made us who we
are, those many, many years of development,
love for humanity and the land we
live in, the great strides we
took into the future that brought us
here where we are, right now. We
are ridiculed, made to feel stupid, those years
slowly erased from memory one word at a time,
dissected, analyzed and thrown away as
not being worth a cent. Our
history. My history that sleeps crammed tight
inside cupboards, imprisoned behind glass
walls in a white man’s home, forgotten, yearning to
return but held back by words agreed with
forced signatures while mothers watched
their infants balanced on swords. We
aren’t allowed to practice our beliefs, our
religion of non-violence. We
are looked down as being inferior practicing an
ancient wisdom they claim has no place
in this new world order rolling in. Everything is being
re-written to suit the white man
are forced to accept the white man’s ways
and beliefs, his lifestyle, his food filled with things
that harm our bodies. We
are persuaded to sell our values, our businesses,
infrastructure, money making properties that are
made to look as disasters, failures in our
incapable hands, handed over to foreigners with
no idea of their true worth, to appease
buffoons in political power. We watch helpless as our
lands, those many tufts of earth that make up
this place we call home, nurtured with the blood of
warriors that died to save it for a future,
are torn up, lines drawn for
ownership claimed from foreign shores.
Slowly, slowly we
change, turn once again to become slaves to
whiteness this time not controlled with
guns held against us
but through agreements signed in cold climes
behind hushed doors. We
are compelled to obey the rules
follow the oil man’s religion. Shroud our
women in darkness. Our
words are twisted like vines, tied up,
strangled. Simple meanings deconstructed, what we
meant is portrayed as something negative, ugly,
best left unsaid thrown into the gutter. We
become nothing. Beaten up our
backs curved in surrender aged beyond our
into submission to the white master
oil master coming in different clothes, speaking
through different tongues sliced in two, sugar
coated to please
controlling through regional bullies,
political prophets and
religious puppets, money exercising utmost
authority while debauchery reigns,
reigns, reigns and thugs party with not a care in
the world and the police cheer and the public
cry foul and no one listens for ears
hide inside potholes and words roll in the dirt
desperately waiting for the rains.
© 2016 Shirani Rajapakse
This is Home is a short story I wrote last year about a Palestinian woman stuck in the middle of the conflict. Check it out here.
2014 is a significant year for anniversaries of disasters. While all attention seems to be on the centenary of World War I this year is also significant as it the anniversary of several natural catastrophes that took place around the world. It’s the 30th anniversary of Bhopal Gas Disaster in India, the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, and the 10th anniversary of the South Asian tsunami.
Several events to commemorate the anniversaries of the natural disasters are being held in Leeds, UK in November.
- “Reframing Disaster” a conference connected to an AHRC-funded research project led by Dr Anthony Carrigan, entitled ‘Representing Postcolonial Disaster’ will be organised in November as part of a week-long series of activities designed to coincide directly with the anniversaries of the Bhopal and South Asian tsunami disasters.
- It will include an exhibition by world-renowned Indian photographer Raghu Rai (the first photographer to document the Bhopal disaster), to be held at the Tetley Gallery (http://thetetley.org/).
- Launch of the Tsunami anthology by Moving Worlds.
Those interested in participating in the “Reframing Disaster” or presenting papers go here. Note the last date to submit is September 7. You may query at the site. For details on the project Representing Post Colonial Disaster go here.
The trees are falling,
falling down along the avenue
flanked by the law, the arts
and the house of the intellectuals.
Helpless we watch the machines hum as a piece
of history is cut down to the ground.
Fallen sentinels of the past struck
down by the follies of the present that no
one dares oppose while
beauty is destroyed and the earth torn
apart. Green gives way to concrete.
Planted by an ancient they spread themselves far
and wide. Up above, the branches swelled
to cover the skies. A canopy
of green for the people to walk
through. Hugging the earth below them
stretching their roots to take hold of their home.
“Old roots,” the men sniffed in disdain, “old
roots decay and bring danger to
all,” they claimed. The machines marched in,
the people protested, banners in hand to no avail.
The birds added their songs of alarm
beseeching, beseeching for the trees to stay,
homeland in the skies tumbling to dust.
Their high-rises groaned in anguish as the machines cut
them down. Tears in the skies stopped,
stunned at the affront. Darkness
wasteland they will raise. Twinned with the desert
what more can you hope?
© 2012 Shirani Rajapakse
Photograph courtesy Stand Up for Colombo’s Trees on Facebook. For more information visit http://www.facebook.com/groups/116812511815589/?fref=ts
Terror Nadu’s eunuchs huddle in the Lok
Sabha impotent to the cries of a thousand and one
voices in the valley up north. They dance
to the tune of the nautch girl
from the south now too old to lift a foot, an arm
in dance so she wags her tongue instead.
Terror Lalitha the fat wields her truncheon and a few
hundred innocent tourists are molested
by her mob. It doesn’t matter
that some are Tamil, the kind she is trying to save.
She has no cares for the likes of anyone
from her neighbour. The vote is all she lives
for, has been doing so for the past
several years. She is nothing and everyone knows it,
an old actress with naught to show her worth,
except a widening waistline, millions
plundered from the citizens, yet few want to
voice it. The battles in Terror
Nadu are fought over political fault lines
Lalitha vs. Nidhi the corrupt
who hides his shame behind sun shades
and goes into battle to rule with no care for
the people on the street. Refugees
raped and killed in camps
in his own home while Delhi’s old men
blinded by power and hate bend in supplication to
the false Gods from the south.
© 2012 Shirani Rajapakse