Beware the Ides of August I say to you, just like the soothsayer cried to Caesar, and I shudder at the bad omens that arise in my brain, at this time of the year. It bring memories of the partition of a homeland, on religious lines, in what was called the Independence for Pakistan and India. 10 million refugees migrated between secular India and Muslim Pakistan in the partition, and what is worse, a million died during the largest migration recorded in modern times. They were burnt, looted or killed at home or in the course of their forced migration. It is recorded that four and a half million Hindus and Sikhs left their homes in Pakistan and six million Muslims left their homes in India, and were forced to move, and actual displacement was still higher. Nehru and Jinnah carved out their homelands at a great cost, to the ordinary citizens of their country. What are nine members of my family, amongst such vast numbers, I often wonder. In the face of such huge carnage, rape, looting, pillage and crimes against humanity, what is this little guilt I carry, that somehow I am not equal and have been left incomplete? My life is stable and yet the trauma of separation of my people, from their ancestral homes lives on, even though I was born after the fact.
It is in our psyche learnt from the tear in a mother’s eyes at a memory, or the words of a father who never complained, yet was always incomplete somehow, no matter how successful he became. Who will complete my story, when I myself have been left incomplete as in this chasm of human suffering, I seek solace from a land, which is no longer mine? I have moved on in this world, but my DNA remembers a land of five rivers, where the wheat grew tall, and the city life was elegant, and we had a culture of enlightenment. That time has passed into history, and now the day has come to move on, but yet the heart still mourns those values that died in that partition. We are all refugees now in this world, and yet the story must not be told, as it may hurt someone’s feeling. Turn our heads and do not see, as what is another orphan in the chaos of our life, as humanity is lessened every day. I hope to see a time in the future when all of this will matter, and we will be aware of the tragedy, and rise to find our lost humanity, and finally be at peace.
Today new refugees are being created as homelands are being destroyed all over the world, and people turn their eyes from these strangers. Humanity dies a little more every day, as orphans and widows, fill refugee camps, and men raise war cries and mayhem. Sunni fights Shia and the Jews and Christians rise to protect their own, Hindus rise to Hindutva and Buddhists seek vengeance upon non-believers, and no place is safe. Mothers fear when their sons and daughters step out of the home, and fathers are silent in mourning, as their children die an untimely death. I am lost in this vengeance, as who could be right, when everyone is wrong? I meditate on sending waves of compassion out to all, but who is feeling the love? I pray for the best in humanity, and fear the worst. My vessel has been emptied of love, and there is no one who will part with even a drop of kindness, as I am only a refugee in this world. Woe be on this humanity as incomplete strangers roam the earth now, and whoever claims to be true in thought, is false in action.
‘The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.’ -Wole Soyinka, playwright, poet, Nobel laureate (b. 13 Jul 1934)