Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Holy Drone Cometh

In a few hours from now, as I write this, Nobel Peace Prizident and Emperor of Exceptionalistan Barack Obama is landing in India on an official visit.

This is not the first time that NPP&EE Obama has bestowed on us the honour of his presence, incidentally*. The last time was in November 2010, when, apart from glorifying Delhi with his presence, he did Mumbai (Bombay) the honour of spending some time there. On that occasion – I swear I’m not making this up – the stately coconut trees lining Marine Drive, where Obama was to visit a college, were stripped of their fruit in case one fell on his holy head. And then in said college visit he had a “discussion” with college students who asked him “hard” questions.

[*I mean that only semi-sarcastically. American media in the late nineties used to talk about how Bill Clinton shouldn't "reward" India with a presidential visit. Some reward.]

Actually, those college students were carefully selected according to two criteria – their parents’ political loyalty, and their own lack of self-assertiveness and opinion. In other words, anyone who was remotely likely to ask the Holy American Emperor any potentially embarrassing questions (like, for example, “How many kids did you drone today?”) was rigidly excluded.

That was, of course, under an Indian government so slavishly pro-US that it had made the one before that – the Hindunazi regime of Atal Behari Vajpayee, which had ruled from 1998 to 2004 – look positively nationalistic in comparison. That was the regime whose rubber-stamp, unelected, “prime minister” had hugged George W Bush and assured him that the people of India – who had no say in the matter – “loved” him. But this time the equations are a little different, since the current Indian government, though utterly vile in most ways, seems less enamoured of the Empire than either of its predecessors.  

In fact, I doubt very much that there will be much achieved during the visit, if by “achievement” we mean “dragging India into the Empire’s orbit”. What the Nobel Peace Prizident couldn’t achieve in 2010, I doubt he’ll manage now, when India is committed much more strongly to the BRICS and the Shanghai economic grouping. But there will be a lot of nauseating talk of how the “world’s two largest democracies” (a laugh if there ever was one, either of these two countries calling itself a democracy) share ties and are committed to a future together.

The one section that was, and still largely is, helplessly in love with the Empire is the Great Indian Muddle Class, the same people who rushed to visit McDonalds’ restaurants and Starbucks coffee franchises when they opened. The love affair this lot had with the United States has nothing to do with principles – the Great Indian Muddle Class has no principles – but everything to do with its belief that the US is the kind of society you’ll find in Archie Comics. Disillusionment has begun to set in, but is coming slow.

I don’t know if any Indian left-wing groups are going to demonstrate against the visit by this war criminal, whom Noam Chomsky called much worse than his ignoble predecessor. I don’t know if any media but the left-wing Hindu group are going to mention his  arming and funding of cannibal headhunters in Syria, his acting as al Qaeda’s air force in Libya, his open backing to Nazis in Ukraine, and his hypocritical persecution of Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers. There’s a tradition in India that one doesn’t speak ill of a guest, even if said guest is a mass murderer who drone-bombs schools and weddings.

But I’m no believer in tradition, and I don’t think of Barack Hussein Obama as a guest. So here’s my comment on his visit:

You’re welcome.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Woman Much Missed

"Woman much missedhow you call to me, call to me" ~ Thomas Hardy, The Voice 

Title: Woman Much Missed
Material: Acrylic on Plaster of Paris
This is a new technique for me. I poured a sheet of dental plaster, carved it while it was still softish, and then painted it with acrylic. The obverse side, having hardened on a sheet of laminated paper, is glass-smooth and I'll use that too for another painting.
This is a photo of the painting. Because of the uneven surface it did not scan well.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Slaughterhouse Fifteen

It happened one night that I slept, and, sleeping, dreamt.

In this dream I stood in the middle of an immense plain, covered with shattered ruins, on which only the burnt skeletons of trees grew, their branches extended like fingers to the air.

Though it was neither day nor night, the sky was black with smoke, in which sparks of light spiralled and danced, and half-burnt cinders fell like rain.

And I was not alone in the middle of this plain, for around me were those who lived here; hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of them, who stood around me watching, but neither spoke nor moved.

Some were those who had been blown apart by high explosive at Guernica and Shanghai, Hargeisa and Grozny; shattered, lacking arms and heads, feet and faces, their entrails spilling from their eviscerated bodies.

There were black Ethiopians in white shammas, their noses and mouths frothing with blood, skins bubbling away from Mussolini’s poison gas, all in patient lines, waiting.

There were the children of the fields of Vietnam and the streets of Gaza, charred with napalm and white phosphorus, their bodies naked and roasted, staring from their eyeless faces.

There were other children from Vietnam and Cambodia, bent and twisted from the Agent Orange sprayed on their lands in a war the perpetrators would love to forget, because they lost it.

There were children from Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen, their tiny bodies broken by rockets fired at an image on a video screen from half a world away.

There were the Iraqis, soldiers and civilians, blown to fragments in the name of being Shocked and Awed into surrender in a war based on a deliberate and cynical lie.

There were old and young women, school kids and commuters, ripped by shrapnel from bombs dropped by new Nazis winging their way to a new war in Ukraine.

There were the piles of ash in the shapes of men and women, incinerated by firestorms in Dresden and Hamburg, Berlin and Tokyo.

And there were those who were merely lines of shadows, blazed out of existence in the instant of a nuclear flash at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and all these shadows stood there, too, in that field of ruins and smoke.

And I saw that they were all looking at me; for, unlike them, I was alive and I was whole.

Then one of them stepped forward, a man or something burnt, shaped like a man; he stepped out of his burned truck, and on his faceless face there was a smile.

“We greet you,” he said, “for long have we awaited your coming. Our numbers grow by the day, and we awaited you, but still you came not.” And the multitude nodded, those who had heads still to nod, in agreement. And those who had voices murmured assent.

“You awaited my coming?” I asked, astonished. “Why did you await my coming?”

“To tell us what is your purpose,” he said, then. “To tell us why you brought us here, why you made us as we are. To tell us what it is that you wish to do.”

“I?”  And then I saw that not only was I alive and whole, but I was dressed in flying overalls, and on my head I had a flying helmet fitted with all the equipment science could provide. And I remembered flying over them, over all their cities, in my Zeppelin and my Lancaster, my B 29 and my Heinkel 111, my F 16 and my B 52, looking through the bombsight as the load fell; I remembered staring into video screens, pressing down on triggers; I remembered standing back as another V1 took off from rails and vanished over the horizon.

“Tell us,” the dead people said, the people I had killed, the people around me. “Tell us what your purpose is, and make us whole.”

Hobbling on their legs without feet, holding up their arms without hands, speaking from their faces without mouths, they came to me to be told why, and to be healed.

To be healed, or to have their revenge.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Notes to reader

1. The story title is a take on Kurt Vonnegut Jr's classic novel on the firebombing of Dresden, Slaughterhouse Five. The "fifteen", of course, refers to the date.

2. The photo illustration is of an incinerated Iraqi soldier on the Highway of Death, 1991. Photo by Kenneth Jarecke.