Epicedium of Soil – by Suleman Akhtar

He is standing by the window in this particular instant of time, trying to see through its blurry glass. Outside the window, autumn of Nordic Europe is descending down the pale, yellowish Aspen trees in the suburbs of Stockholm. Suddenly, disturbing noise of phone bell breaks the silence and……

No, wait!!  Let’s travel through the time and space. Let’s go back to our own soil.

Here we are. Winter of 261 BC and this is Kalinga, a coast on the Bay of Bengal in eastern India. War of Kalinga, waged by Ashok The Great has just come to an end. Waters of River Daya are contaminated with red human flesh and blood. Look! Someone’s crying like an infant in the middle of battlefield, amid hundreds of thousands of corpses. Who’s this man of gods’ Grandeur! Ashok The Great, himself. First emperor on this planet earth who has the privilege to reign over the whole subcontinent. But why is he crying now ! Does he smell that particular fragrance of blood arising from this soil being the sole master of her !! And a monk passes by reciting Shakyamuni Buddha “Open are the doors to the deathless to those with ears. Let them show their conviction.

Bank of River Yamuna, another cruel summer noon in Delhi, 1659 CE.Delhi, the city of emperors. Strangledin chains, he’s being paraded through the streets of Delhi on a filthy elephant. Dara Shikoh he is, eldest son of great Mughal emperor Shah Jahan,brother of present emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir, follower of Lahore’s famous Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir. What is he thinking now!! He has been wandering throughout the central India to take sanctuary in the lap of his soil for months. But in the end, she throws him out in the feet of Aurangzeb. Look! Inter-faith harmony is smiling on him, for which he has been striving throughout his life. Naked Sarmad kashani passes by the elephant saying “Like a candle I was melted in this assembly. By being burnt in the divine mysteries I was initiated”

October, 1947. We’re in the Bikaner district of Rajputana, located in the heart of desert Rohi. The Rohi, where mighty Sarasvati used to flow. The Rohi, who is the witness of one of the most splendid civilizations on this planet Earth. They have torn the Rohi into parts some days ago. There he is, an old man. No wait, let’s correct ourselves. He is an old Muslim with his wife and two daugters heading towards the Bahawalpur as someone has told him that now Bahwalpur is part of that land of pure . Why is he standing still, before a building which has been set to ablaze !! He tries to recognize if it were a mosque or temple, but in vain. Some decayed bodies are scattered here and there. But he’s unable to conclude if these were of Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims. Ashes of some book are drifting with the air. But he doesn’t know if the book was Geeta, Quran or Communist Menifesto. Only thing he recognizes is his soil, which is same from both ends with all of her cruelty. Amrita Pritam cries “ajj aakha’n Waras Shah nu kitu’n qabraa’n wichun bol, te ajj kitab e ishq da koi agla warqa phol”

At the feet of Ganges, there lies Sundarbans,the dark forest. This is district Khulna, south western part of East Pakistan where Sundarbans embraces the Bay of Begal. A rainy night of cruellest month of April, 1971. Operation Searchlight is underway for some days. They have tied him with the stem of a tree. Brave, faithful soldiers of one of the most professional and skilled Armies in the world are ready for this ignominious act. It’s too dark in the Forest to speculate if the womanis his daughter, sister or mother who’s being raped on this naked soil in front of his eyes. He’s the man who has loved this soil more than anything through out his life. Don’t look there, they’re cutting off her breasts from her body. Finally, she cries with pain so do Sahir Ludhianvi “Sanaa-khawan-e-taqdees-e-Mashriq kahan hain!”

The mighty Indus, river of the rivers, creator of the glorious civilizations. So, we’re here where The Indus touches the premises of Hydearabad. Hyderabad, the heart of Mehran, where all the glory of Mehran concentrates. Fatal summer of 1990, In the shadows of mystic Pakka Qila which is looking pale and shabby now. Look at the crowd !! What are they carrying upon their heads ! Oh, Holy Quran. They’re voilating the shoot-on-sight curfew imposed a day before. What do they want ! Oh, I see. But how the hell are they “Muhajirs” on their own soil ! Isn’t it the same soil they had been promised for ! “FIRE !” is the order and outrageous dance of death begins with the enchanting music of gunshots. Where are those “Paasban-e-Haram” !! Someone go and find Iqbal. He must be sitting on “Neil ka Saahil” or somewhere in “Tabkhak-e-Kashghar”

Are we dreaming !! NO, she’s really a WOMAN controlling the nerves of this mighty crowd. Who’s this exceptional lady in blue gown ! Ah, The Princess.Long time ago she was the daughter of her “Shaheed Baba” but now they call her “Daughter of East”. Daughter of this soil, hope of this soil. Punjab warmly welcomes her in this winter evening of 2007. Land of five rivers Punjab, who is too stubborn to embrace others. But He owes her and her family. They are chanting slogans “Zinda hai Bhutto Zinda hai”. She responds “You will save this soil with me, I will save this soil with you”. Rejoice everywhere. Look! She’s coming down the stage with smile on her face, looking unbelievably beautiful. Ah, what’s going on ! why’s eveything turning into red ! We can’t see anymore. Let’s get out of here. No No, your thinking is wrong. She would have been spared, definitely. Afterall she’s the daughter of this soil. We don’t need Bhullay Shah here who says everytime “Gor Pya Koi Hor”

He is standing by the window in this particular instant of time, trying to see through it’s blurry glass. Outside the window autumn of Nordic Europe is descending down the pale, yellowish Aspen trees in the suburbs of Stockholm. Suddenly, disturbing noise of phone bell breaks the silence and he picks up the phone half heartedly. Syed is speaking from the other side. He doesn’t get a single word being said to him . Perhaps, he doesn’t want to. All he knows is that trace of blood needs him back on his soil now.



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  1. Humza Ikram