Kabir translates a famous soliloquy of a slave from the play Kritodash in Bengali. Crossing the barriers of time and place, the slave talks of the human consciousness from the beginning of time. A Different Truths exclusive.
“Who am I, how old am I, and where I was born I do not know,” said an old Virginian farmer. Falling over the boots of Lincoln, like a prisoner, came a white-skinned chap. Lincoln asked holding his hand, “Who are you?” Old Henry stammered, “I do not know.”
We also ask the same question, ‘Who am I, how old am I, where was I born’. Nobody has any idea. We only know that the day we were born, Buddha didn’t attain Nirvana, during our adolescence we didn’t hear about Jesus even in Jerusalem, Julius Caesar didn’t storm to rule the world, the Pyramids were not fully built. We know only that, when we were young chaps, Babar didn’t step his foot in India, Santa Maria didn’t leave Spain to discover the new world, French Revolution’s beacon was not given the touch of fire, William Wilberforce’s name was not heard in England. When we were young, it was the childhood of civilisation. Leaving Copper and Bronze, Iron started to hover over the human beings. Humans started thinking of the shackles of the arrow.
I have been breathing from that morning. We are a wonderful part of civilisation. When Aryan civilisation saw the birth of humans, we were busy cultivating rubber. On the banks of Nile, from the advent of Pharaohs, we are busy growing cotton. Mohenjo-Daro was built with our hands. We built Parthenon and the Pyramids. We poured wine into Saki’s glass. We witnessed Alexander’s battle in Thebes. During Homer’s rule, we worked naked in the coal mines. In Byzantine, for feeding the souls of rulers, we fell into the lion’s den. We took swords in our hand for the Roman senators and fought with our brothers and threw our wives to the crocodiles.
We are the sportsman in Amphitheatre, Hoori in Haroon-Ul-Rashid’s court, while we are the soldiers in Delhi and Lahore. We are tolerant men in some places, while in some other places, we are jealous women. Wandering from land to land, we are flying. Packed in gift boxes, we are taken from one capital to another. Sometimes we are working farmers, sometimes dancers for the king, sometimes poet, at times, we are the King of India and the Roman senator. When we cry, Aristotle laughs. When we break the shackles and stand on our feet, Haiti is just a small colony, even the Roman Empire is shaken. Hearing our voices, Elizabeth cries, and Plato starts to think.
Still, even after thousand years, the Governor of Georgia sail the ships to import us from our land, Africa. William IV initiates his East India Company. Kolkata’s newspaper seeks for a cheap African girl. We are a wonderful creature. Civilisation’s surprise package. I don’t know whether shackled, we were always there or not, but the marks on the back of our bodies are the witnesses of history.
Look they are of different colours, written in multiple languages – humans’ surprising stories. We are sold as slaves. Most probably we are still alive. I am alive in this 21st century. “Who I am, how old am I, and where was I born… I do not know.”
©Kabir Deb for translating Kritodash from Bengali
Photos from the Internet
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