Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger

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a sip of water

"I passed a sleepless night on the train, for those old cars, dating back to colonial times, shook, hurled you about, rumbled, and you were pelted with rain, which came in through windows that could not be shut. It was a gray, overcast day by the time we pulled into Sealdah Station. On every square inch of the enormous terminal, on its long platforms, its dead-end tracks, the swamp fields nearby, sat or lay tens of thousands of emaciated people-under streams of rain, in the water and the mud; it was the rainy season, and the heavy tropical downpour did not abate for a moment. I was struck at once by the poverty of these soaked skeletons, their untold numbers, and perhaps most of all, their immobility. They seemed a lifeless component of this dismal landscape, whose sole kinetic element was the sheets of water pouring from the sky. There was of course a certain, albeit desperate, logic and rationality in the utter passivity of these unfortunates: they sought no shelter from the downpour because they had nowhere to go-this was the end of the road-and they made no exertion to cover themselves because they had nothing to cover themselves with.

They were refugees from a civil war, which ended but a few years earlier, between Hindus and Muslims, a war which saw the birth of independent India and Pakistan and which resulted in hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dead and many millions of refugees. The latter wandered about for a long time, unable to find succor, left to their own fate, vegetating for a while in places like Sealdah Station before eventually dying there of hunger and disease. But there was more to this. These columns of postwar vagabonds encountered throngs of others along the way-the legions of flood victims evicted from villages and small towns by the waters of India's powerful and unbridled rivers. And so millions of homeless, indifferent people shuffled along the roads, dropping from exhaustion, often never to rise. Others tried to reach the cities hoping to get a sip of water there, and perhaps a handful of rice." pg. 28 "Travels With Herodotus" by Ryszard Kapuscinski

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