Friday, December 28, 2007

Mingled in Dust

Sab kahan kuch laala-o-gul mein numaaya ho gayii
khaak mein, kya suratein hongi jo pinhaa ho gayii
~Assadulla Khan Ghalib

Not everything recurs as colorful buds and flowers
Many beautiful faces lie mingled in dust

Benazir Bhutto has been interred. She was buried right next to [right hand side of her dad] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s grave. News anchors commenting live on TV -- as her coffin, draped in green, was being led to the Bhutto tomb -- say it is the exact spot where Benazir used to recite from the Holy Qu’ran, whenever she visited her father’s eternal space. In an ironical twist of fate, she now rests there, forever.

No words can express the extent of outrage this despicable political murder has spawn. Hours after she was buried and the cameras turned off, reports say, thousands of ordinary people [who had come from far-flung villages on foot] stood still and somber. They say death ends a life, not a relationship.

People, seen wailing, lined the roads to Ghadi Khuda Bux, Bhutto’s ancestral graveyard since the wee hours of morning. BBC says there was a sea of humanity, all eyes moist, mourning their favorite leader. An outrage marked the occasion. Tempers ran high, as Benazir’s funeral began.

The high priestess of fashion, always clad in Guy Laroche petty coats and designer attire, lay wrapped in a simple rag of white cloth, as per Islamic traditions. Voice of America says that the Imam [priest] leading the Jinaza [funeral prayers] choked with emotion as he read aloud that supreme rallying cry: Allah-u-Akbar [God is Great]. Those in the first row were slowly sobbing and then row after row of people let out a deep, collective sigh. Everyone broke down. It was an adieu none wanted to say.

As I blog, it is around evening time in Pakistan. Al-Jazeera’s coverage, as usual has been outstanding. TV images show an eerie quiet has descended over major Pakistan cities. People, it appears, are coming out in droves on the huge boulevards of Islamabad to offer ‘Gaaiebana Jinaza’ [funeral prayers in absentia]. It is said that the real character of a nation is often tested in times of adversity. Leaders cutting across party lines are paying homage. Political adversaries like Nawaz Sharif offered rich tributes while Qazi Hussain has called for a nation-wide strike as a mark of respect. Yet something seems amiss. There is an odd sense of dejection, like that of losing something precious.

Sometimes, when one person is missing, the whole world seems depopulated. Pakistan soul is badly bruised. Her most darling daughter has been slaughtered at the cross-roads of history.

Grief is palpable in such an unspeakable tragedy. Everyone I spoke with in Delhi, including my well-to-do dentist early this morning, expressed anguish and shock. Inherently people are good at heart and Miss Bhutto was immensely popular.

Much has been said on Benazir’s style of politics and her personality. Every newspaper, magazine and news channel is inundated with obituaries. Even in death the exegesis is perhaps going to continue. However Mohtarma has left behind a huge void, which I reckon, will be difficult to fill. The subcontinent may have to wait for a very long time to have another charismatic, controversial and captivating leader like Benazir.

Ghalib, the old man, perhaps got it right. The beautiful face lies mingled in dust.