THESE ARID DAYS

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The nights are wintry still but spring is here. The long nights are shortening and, in a month, the days’ hours will outnumber those of nights. Even if one can feel the beautifully soothing breeze of early spring, nature remains parched. The city losing its greenery, what’s left of it, every day, the top soil has come loose and when one breathes, one takes in part of that erstwhile top soil as dust, a desert-like carpet on the already suffering collective lungs of the people. Add to that the incessant road works, construction clash-bang-clamour, the exhaust fumes from running engines that are going nowhere in a hurry. A ‘dustbowl’ is the sprawling metropolis where quick locomotion is a distant mirage and the eventual slow progress is hard-fought and only gained after long and sapping battles, every goddamned day.

My eyes look up at the sky, searching and searching for a harbinger of the first rain of spring. The daytime sky is too blue with some hints of wispy whites to give any hope of relief to the thirsting heart and there are too many stars on display at night for there to be hope of a blackened sky, rumbling clouds, a nor’wester, maybe, in the coming day. A downpour at the culmination of a severe wind dance? Rain washing away the dirt? Too much to expect? At least a measly shower then.

If it rains tomorrow or in a few days’ time, it’ll be the first rain of spring. The streets will be wet, albeit a brown muddy film but still a watery grave for all the dust floating about. Even if for a few hours, the dusty terrain that seemed eternal till the last rays of the sun before the clouds gathered, will get respite from the choking aridity, the all-consuming dust, the trees that still remain, will breathe and sigh in relief, not knowing the ephemeral nature of rain during springtime. Nature will be shivering in her watery cloak like a woman clad in a wet sari after a dip in the pond.

When it finally rains, nature will have ‘a touch of grey’, it’ll be a time to pause and look at things that were invisible in the sun.

People will have to go to work still; they will, and with the initial euphoria over, with a look of melancholy. Like me, they would wish they were someplace else.

Dhaka
16th February 2017

© S M Shahrukh and Traces of Orange, 2017

FUMES

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Fascism is capitalism in decay said Vladimir Ilyich.

People thought of him as

The second coming of Christ;

He was not: no miracles, no walking on water.

Fascism does not come deliberately, always,

It materializes, not always with intent but from compulsion.

It comes when the power holders get nervous

Even when all opposition is removed,

The fear of the unknown grips them.

When the monsters all want the loot

Internecine battles become commonplace

Battles that exact a heavy toll from the common people

Their lives are often thrown into total disarray.

Democracy turns to fascism when

People are disenfranchised,

History is warped, political correctness emphasized,

It has no grace, treats people like infants,

Telling them what and how to think,

The Orwellian idea of ‘thought police’ comes into being

Everyone is forced to toe the designated line,

It’s a natural progression of events.

And the hopes and dreams of the powerless are dashed,

They are burned to cinders and they fly away with the fumes.

But cinders still have some fire left in them,

The golden glow of freedom breaks through,

And one day, maybe not too far in the future,

The glow becomes a wildfire and

A small group is born with that fire in the belly

And lead the rest to renounce the rule of the few.

And the cycle begins again.

 

Dhaka

4th February 2017

 

© S M Shahrukh and Traces of Orange, 2017

 

 

 

Untitled

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Our worlds were going their merry ways

On their axes when they merged and

Yours entered mine and you embedded within me.

The doors of my world opened

Moonlight gushed in through them

As the night deepened the moonlight spread like wildfire.

Burnt I became, from within and without.

 

Dhaka

16th January 2017

(The photograph is a still from Satyajit Ray’s Charulata based on a story by Rabindranath Tagore)

© S M Shahrukh and Traces of Orange, 2017

 

REM, Interrupted

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As I laid my body down
On a bed or inside a crypt?
I do not know.
The eyelids felt heavy and
My mind shut down
Only to open the dark passages: warrens of damnation.

A massive quake in the brain, a world of dreams
Scarier than the nightmares
Of the grim fairy tales mothers tell their children.
Snakes swarm me, wriggling about
And I failed to run away, a struggle….
Only plunged me deeper into the pit.

I heard sounds of
Black flowing river of hair, under my foot
I jumped and the vixen grew taller taking human form.
Screamed she in anguish, foul oaths of betrayal and ruin; where was love?
I sat up on my bed of not roses, thorny more like;
What was in that dream-nightmare cocktail, I thought – Reality?

Dhaka
25th October 2016

© S M Shahrukh and Traces of Orange, 2016

A LAND OF GREEN AND GOLD

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A land of green and gold
A land made red by the flowing blood,
The poor toil in the sun to grow golden sheaves
On a soil made rich by the yearly flood.

Workers labor day and night relentless
In conditions that make them feel Lucifer’s hell,
They go home still with mere pittance
The treasure of the land they do help swell.

Then there are men sitting pretty in ivory towers
Plotting and intriguing to grab the exchequer,
The treasure of the land is pilfered at will
The stolen wealth alas! make no poor man poorer.

Dhaka
27th July 2016

© S M Shahrukh and Traces of Orange, 2016

(Photograph collected from Photoghor)

DEEP DARK DUNGEONS

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A green field in the middle of nowhere –
Sparkling green of a luxuriant growth of new grass.
Far away the man sees a wood
More green of trees, looking rather dark in the distance
As the sun stoops in the west
Creating an orange burst of madness as it sinks.
Enough burning for a day soon to end,
The slanted rays of the dying sun
Brightens one side of the man
The other side in near darkness
The creeping gloom ready to engulf the whole of him
Taking him, gradually, to the black hole of destiny.
The man was there to get his own darkness;
He starts to dig out earth from the heartless expanse.
Enough of all this living business he thought
Enough of this lonely existence while breathing –
He digs on feverishly, at a hectic pace.
He hears sounds approaching from all sides,
Spectral beings have emerged from the wood
And they want to help him find his loneliness
In the deep dark dungeons of a cruel world,
That’s where the malady of loneliness can be cured
As the ghosts of the world’s past had already found.

Dhaka
17th August 2016

© S M Shahrukh and Traces of Orange, 2016

On A Cloudy Day

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The sky in a tricky mood,
ready to bestow
blessings or give a wash-out.
Clouds ready to
fragment into droplets,
water ready to come down in sheets,
swelling rivers,
the swell overruns dams
drowns young paddy sheaves
the cattle, the ramshackle abodes,
islands appear where
hitherto there were uninterrupted land.
In the incessant deluge
from the sky and the merciless rivers
people scream out for what there once was
for the loss of lives lived somehow
now made impossible even that.
Time goes its merry way.

 

(Photo Courtesy of Tiger Bangladesh)

Dhaka
1st August’2016