Pragya, Here I am, Bhopal, December 6, 2006
“Ganda pani saaf Karo!
Bhopal mein insaaf karo!”
It’s not that they were asking for clean drinking water, they were demanding it. Demanding the right to be able to live without waking up every morning and being envious of the thousands that have died, because they don’t have to suffer like you do. They are the lucky ones.
This past weekend made being in Bhopal all too real for me. Yes, Bhopal is known for what happened five past midnight on December 3, 1984, but it is not something that is discussed everyday. You don’t see hundreds of people marching down a dark alley with flaming torches in their hands, shouting their deformed lungs out until they are gasping for the little air that is left in their spongy organs. Hope is the thread that binds us all together. Hope for justice, hope for life without poison, hope that children will be born without missing body parts.
“Awaz do! Hum ek hain!”
We are one- white, black, brown, purple, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Atheist, man, woman, young, old, and in that instant of saying those five words, we are Bhopalis, we are survivors, we are strong and we are loud (really, really loud). We are fearless despite the police that surround us, we are angry that the government is capable of being so unresponsive to the world’s largest industrial disaster. We burn an effigy representing Dow and the Indian government; the quickly roasting limp straw inside them is not as weak as the morals of the officials who choose to make false promises their profession.
“Ladenge! Jeetenge!”
We will fight and we will win. No ifs or buts. It’s a done deal. Wearing masks of crying ghosts, holding the signs that we made till 1 am in the morning, we walk for two hours as the sun shines directly down at us. It is hot, yet the sweat is quenching my fatigue. We walk to the factory where it all began, the cursed ground that has partially blinded the woman next to me. She cries. We hug, but the pain in her tears is more than I can comprehend. How many children has she lost? How many more will she lose? How will she survive on the meager earnings that are quickly dwindling? And the largest question of all, the one that looms over her, refusing to leave our minds. The question that she probably asks herself everyday, hoping that today, yes today she’ll find the answer. Why? I wrote this a few years back, but it is for those who have lost so much and still have more love to give than any one of us.
Why they ask
Does it happen to those
Who already lost all they had
Must it be so
This tragedy of tragedies
This horror story beyond words
The tale of unspeakable sufferings
Why must it be us they ask
Who live this dark, muggy reality
This reality of death and deformity
Of life as a curse
Why must misfortune
Always knock on our doors
Why must this haunting
Stomp on our floors
Is there hope
That I may live this life as you do
Is there a chance
That I may breathe the air without choking
This air thick with poison
Like a thousand needles it stings
This air that enters my being
Not to give me life, oh no
But to strangle every strand of resolution
Every ounce of energy that remains
It slowly and surely drains
After my bones collapse beneath my skin
What is left inside this mortal
Is a slowly beating heart
A pulse which quickens with every victory
With every success my blood rushes to my fingers
And they unite to create this powerful fist
This symbol of my strength
This mark of my resolve
It hails our triumph
Against those that curse our existence
It hails our triumph
Against steps that you thought impossible
It brings us together
With immeasurable persistence
And helps us see
The faint but determined glow ahead
Why they ask
Must it happen to those
Who have already lost it all
Because you never really lost
What was taken from you
The freedom to breathe
The freedom to live
The freedom to act
Regain what is rightfully yours
The time is now
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