Freedom at Midnight

FIRST-PAGE-OF-STATESMAN-AUGUST-15-1947It was after 12 in the night. It was now 15 August, 2015. As I lay on my bed, waiting for sleep to creep up, the ceiling fan overhead whirled the air around me. As I had the time, I started talking to the air.

“It’s post-midnight,” I said into the dark room, “It’s been exactly 68 years since the night we are said to have made our tryst with destiny.”

Continuing her playful whirl along the fan, she replied, unconcerned, “Yeah, it was quite a speech, and quite a celebration after that in this city. But then I’ve seen many speeches and many celebrations”

Then she gave a sarcastic laugh, “Delhi didn’t know what it would see in the coming months. Not that others did.”

I was curious now. “Why? What was it like here  in the coming months?” I asked. “Uggh,” she said, sounding disgusted. “So many people! Do you know the number of sweaty, blooded and tired people I had to flow over. They settled wherever they could find a space. And then I had to flow over their camps and those tents. I could feel the desolation riding with me. Good thing I don’t stay in a place for long,” she huffed.

“Well they had a tough time in Punjab and Bengal! They had just lost everything…”

“Don’t even remind me about Punjab and Bengal,” she said, now sounding a little scared. “Do you know how much blood I had to flow over in those places? Those scents stick to me, you know. All those celebrating just a little while after that speech were now scattered. The wells were filled with women who had jumped in. The only men who followed were the ones who came out with the women who had jumped in last. It was the same in Bengal an year earlier. Blood, mud, muck, shining swords and daggers. I was smelling of rust for days!”

“Yeah. It was so hard for YOU. Perhaps you should have taken a vacation,” I snarled.

She didn’t get the sarcasm. “Oh really! Where? Gone with the sahibs to the ‘vale of Kashmir’ perhaps? I saw the same thing there. More betrayal by neighbours, more bloodshed, more looting and more rapes. I could smell the testosterone in me!” she said. She sounded like she would retch now; I felt the same too.

Perhaps she had finally sensed my mood. Still not sounding entirely concerned, she said, “You are usually asleep by now.”  I finally snapped. “You think I can sleep after you telling me all that!”

I had finally made her laugh. It was a bitter laugh though. “Oh honey, you have no idea of humans’ capability to sleep, no matter what happens. Do you think all the people I told you about stayed awake at night, thinking about what they had done? You might see me as cavalier and unconcerned, but what I saw then is not something I hadn’t seen before or haven’t seen since then around the world. The bunch who were victims once become the perpetrators when they get their hands on the daggers! It will keep happening, mark my words”

I had heard enough now. I turned to my side in a huff and closed my eyes. It was not going to be a good night’s sleep. A daag daag ujala awaited me too.

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2 thoughts on “Freedom at Midnight

  1. Brilliant idea, the theme was timely. I could get it, really, really get it! Reminded me of Death as a character in Markus Zusak’ The Book Thief.

    Keep writing and reflecting! Its an education for me.

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