Bengali, cry, not because of the 40-year-old death of a great man, but because the ideals he had once stood for lay buried in the same ground he was. Cry, because his booming voice, carrying the will of an entire people on its back, now, though loudly emanates, on repeat, from mounted speakers on ramshackle bamboo pandals of artifice, is a mere whisper amongst the despairing screams of his children.
Weep, Bengali, because the same screams, though thunderous, though begging, fall on deaf ears. And these ears are sometimes yours, as you walk by on the street, and their hands reach out to you, beseeching, their hollowed out eyes, their sun-burnt skin, remnants of a life that they were forced into. Their empty stomachs and ragged clothes cling on to your conscience, and on your shoulders like the weight that you can’t quite shake off.
Weep, because the hunger you see in those faces and the filth that you see falling off like dead skin flakes from their bodies now are just things you’ve gotten used to. They lie dormant like a malignant tumour at the back of your head, while their size blooms desolately to an understated 26%. The poverty line, though you trample alongside it, curse at it, see it as the horizon you will never cross, it’s always there, waiting to take you into its fold.
Weep, because you know that there is no alternative; you live in a nation devoid of choice. This is the result of a system, where the poor feed the rich, where they are employees of an organised syndicate, because, even if you offered help in whatever form, it would be divided and shared amongst their owners and the policemen who patrol their streets. Cry, too, because you’re an orphan without brothers and sisters, without uncles and aunts, without friends. Your neighbours trample you, as they are to be trampled. Your fellow country-men and women elbow you in the belly and knee you in the groin to move one pace ahead, not realising the futility of their struggle.
And your mother? She lays raped and defiled by her inhabitants. Her lands erode into barren waste-lands, her seas evaporate into the air to mingle with the carbon-dioxide, her forests rust to dust, and her children lie dead on her receding shores. Her majestic animals, her royal entourage, are poached and sold off like worthless chunks of meat.
Cry, also, at the rape of her daughters. They are no different than her animals. Their bodies are pawed at; their clothes torn to shreds. You see them, sometimes cowering in the streets, sometimes courageously walking with their heads held high, and sometimes, too young and too married. Their souls, like dead invisible carcasses, they hang up with their clothes on the line, or on their walls, or inside themselves.
Weep because your children are uneducated. Their noses are buried in books they don’t understand, in classes which are run by incompetent teachers with little to no training, who are not qualified enough to be raising our youths. Weep because they memorise everything and understand nothing. Weep because they know the intricacies of their smart-phones, but not of their own history.
Mourn the death of your thoughts. Your words are to be monitored and controlled and censored, so that all you’re left with is but a rhetoric that spews propaganda, the same propaganda that embraces you like a prison and follows you around.
And cry at the blood that you shed in ink, to expose the truth, to fight for a cause, only to have your throat bleed the blood of your forefathers, who lay dead and silent in their graves. Cry because, when Neel and Avijit and all the others bleed, so do you, though you may not know it.
Bengali, weep, because the language of love and compassion in your country is a dead language. The official language is not Bangla, the one that countless great men and women gave their lives for, but it is greed. It is the greed for money and power, for the few to rule over the many, for you to rule over who you’re not.
Weep because your country is a country ruled by despots. Because your people cannot tolerate the infinite nature of power. You are less than the ant at the bottom of their feet, as they walk all over the nation, destroying everything in their way just so that they can cling on to the throne for the tiniest bit longer.
And your city, the second least liveable in the world? Do you hear it whimpering in the dead of the night, when all is quiet, and you are left alone, the orphan that you are? Weep because your city is a shameful husk of what it once was, of its rivers and ports, of the veritable amount of empty space it could once boast. And its streets, like clogged arteries, pave the way to its heart, bit by bit, person by person, as you watch unmoved, unknowing when it might simply implode.
Weep, Bengali, because you wax poetic over how to celebrate a birthday that coincides with a death anniversary, because you’ve taken residence in the past, because what matters is what religion you are, and what that other person is wearing, how you perform in cricket, what the correct way is to greet your younger sister’s husband’s elder brother, as you lay divided over the pettiest squabbles, not realising that these are but distractions from the millions of tragedies encompassed in a single second.
Cry, Bengali, cry, most of all, at your silence and your apathy. For these words, much like our history, will wash away into the gutter clogged with rain water. Cry, truly, because you realise you cannot cry at all, because all this chaos and misery is not surprising to you, because you say: “This isn’t that bad,” when, in fact, this is much, much worse.
Cry, Bengali, knowing, surely, that we may have reached a point of no return, that change is now a foreign concept and revolution a muted television, and all we can do now is hold our heads in our hands and shed useless tears, far too late.