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                        Wake! Asia! Wake!

                 

                                   Part One

                                                                           T.Wignesan                                                                                               

 

It is night yet in the West

   and the planes land between listlessly burning tarmac lamps

   stealthy fingers scurrying through diadems of neons  halogens and amber

                                        Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

The cowherds’ bare blistered feet already trample yesterday’s dust into mud

    and cartwheels strain in crusted fissures where rains only once or twice fell

    while dreams fester in cosy centrally-heated silken beds in luxury flats

                                        Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

                 

Tomorrow is yesteryear’s planned strikes

     buses trains taxis office machines lie soundlessly asleep

     and will not wake until the battle over psychic comfort comes to an end

                                         Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

For You there is no respite  no pause

      no tea-breaks with cheese biscuits or croissants

      there’s only the last container to crane over the dock in unpaid overtime

                                          Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Your eyes will hurt in the twilight’s hazy glimmer

      no time to brush your teeth nor shave in hot and cold running water

      nor the right to flush a toilet nor heedlessly course through in cosy tubes to work

                                           Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

The sirens rave through boulevards in broad night-light

       rushing hypertensic cardiac cases from their delight-full beds

       cholestrol and diabetic cane sugar within reach of every child in supermarkets

                                            Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Let those who succeeded their former masters

       sip their sweet sweatless porto before the hors-d’oeuvres

       and flap their tabliers hiding their secret shame under cabalistic arms

                                            Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Wake! there’s little time left for your own bickering differences to fester

        the dawn signals the tasks that lie ahead unfinished

        and the carrion hunters trained in their old master’s image club together

                                             Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Wake! and see the extent to which you’re still enslaved

        enslaved by your own kind who hanker after conditioning platitudes

        the clubby comfort of secretly oath-taking power cliques

                                              Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Remember! Remember Haidar Ali  his son Tipu  and Akbar

         remember Sivaji and Chandra Bose and Kattapomman and Asoka

         remember O! remember the one and only Mahatma

                                               Wake India! O! Wake! 

        

Wake! India! Wake! and see how your destitute generations are shunned aside

         in infested villages sans drains sans potable water sans hope        

         see how they’re bound in mantric incantating castiron caste strictures

                                                Wake! O! India! Wake!

 

No where else in the world are humans so in-humane-ly stratified

          what proof have the Brahmins to issue forth from Brahma’s head

          who proclaimed them the chosen elite on top of the Indian pile of castes

                                                 Wake! O! India! Wake!

 

Wake! and see how your northern brethren have cast off their spiritual shackles

           even if they had abjured the path of the just to yoke their bodies

           yet for each child a vaccine  a soja-filled stomach to keep slavers away

                                                   Wake! O! India! Wake!

 

Wake! O! India! Wake before it’s too late!

            for your own kind are about to enslave you once all over again

            and the old master needs hardly despatch troops to proclaim his divine law

                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

Wake and watch how your elite ape and espouse the ways of the old master

            how for an air-ticket a stipend  per diem they would do you in without compunction

            how for some lions memberships in select clubs they’d betray your own true kind

                                                     Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Wake! O! Indonesia! Wake and see how the G.N.P. in Singapore

            far outweighs that of the former papal Portugal now

            how the four fiery Eastern Dragons no more parade in papier maché garb

                                                      Wake! Indonesia! Wake!

 

No wisdom more canny than the folksome pantun’s peasant proverbials

            Wake! Monde Malais! Wake and note no Sultan whirls as a Sufi

             Nor  no Sage of Singapore pouting platitudes can make you wake 

                                                        Wake! Malay! Wake!

 

And settle your differences with neighbours over the bamboo fences

            for as long as you chain produce Kalashnikovs and cartridges

            others far-off will pride themselves on their need to divide et impera

                                                       Wake! China! O! Wake!

 

Give your less mighty neighbours not so much the helping hand

            as the glory of an example of standing upright free on equal feet

            you who had over the ages exported suzerain panaceas and no conquests

                                                        Wake! O! China! Wake!

 

Remember again Asoka the masterful Mauryas  the golden era of the artful Guptas

            Kalidasa’s Shakuntala Tulsi Das  Pannini’s grammar Bharatha’s Natya Sastra

            The Tolkappiyam  the Cilappatikaram Manimekalai Ramayana Maha Bharatha

                                                          Wake! India! Wake!

 

Remember Lao Tse! Master Kung! and the all-doubt dispelling future perfect Yijing!

           Remember the finest mind-embroidered silk flowing down the ages

           in Wu’s Monkey  skeins of thought calligraphed in the Buddhist mean!

                                                            Wake! O! China! Wake!

 

All is not full-figures  all not burgeoning percentage growth

            if glory can be reduced to mere Middle Kingdom might!

            then bound feet will drag on  face-down in seven kowtows

                                           Wake! O! Mighty China! Wake!     

 

And set your legions marching not to win wars or quell rebellions

            but to unclog your drains canals marshes and rivers

            let your lifeblood circulate nourished in lifegiving oxygen

                                                     Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Whose art the better glints down the ages   the gilded Samurai swords

            or those of Bashô and Issa in the carved rocky sands of the combed garden

            or those of Lady Murasaki in Genji Monogatari and Chikamatsu

                                                      Wake! Sleepless Rising Sun! Wake!

 

  And remember the sun never really sets only on covetousness

            no greater co-prosperity sphere is there than inner contentment

            here the sun only rises and spreads its eyes in constant kindness

                                                       Wake! Japan! Wake!

 

O! Where have they all gone who drank deep and late Old Khayyam’s wine

            while with compass and rule he measured the rhymes of the skies

            and found the tulip-cheeked maiden wrapped round his earthen cup

                                                        Wake! Old Persia! Wake!

 

And still the venomous thunders flooding in the Tigris-Euphrates veins

            every minority has a right to his pride of place   every dog his manger

            no monster bomb worth the sweetness of the four-stringed ruba’i        

                                                         Wake! Saddam! Wake! 

                               

Let not the dust from streets settle on the rags of the by-standing beggar

            batten down the mud with stones and gravel with those very hands

            that culled the Ajanta Caves from the rocks of  teeming wilderness

                                                       Wake! O! India! Wake!

 

See not how the chiselled rocks of Fathepur Sikri lie chipped in negligence

            nor how the hordes of monkeys romp on the fortifications in disdain

            see only the vision that shaped the mind of Akbar’s masons

                                                        Wake! O! India! Wake!

 

Scorn not the erstwhile brother now behind a frontier wall

            if your ways were just   no brother would have sought cover

            siblings are no higher or lower born of the same mother

                                                   Wake! Now India! Wake!

 

Receive the bounteous waters that descend from the heavens

            confine and clean them in reservoirs in troughs or in buckets

            and make them pour forth in joy onto your children’s faces

                                                         Wake! O! Asia! Wake!

 

Wake!  wake your neighbours also from the gonepast Rip-van-Winkle millennium

            it’s hardly enough just to keep going from day to day

            nor rely on the idea that no matter what  It works   India works

                                                          Wake! O! India! Wake!

 

And take the tasks in your own hands  the tasks of your own fate

            do not let the helper from elsewhere tell you what is best

            what is best for you in his words is always infinitely better for him

                                                           Wake! Wake! Asia! Now!

 

The poor   the misguided in streets and villages weigh on consciences

            for you have always let them be in their ignominious plight

            show them how   share with them your superior knowledge

                                                            Wake! India! Wake!

 

Differences only persist because you want them to

            it is enough to show them what causes their bodies to weaken

            it is enough to feed their minds with that little which will grow in time

                                                             Wake! India! Wake!

 

If you give them no running water and the drains and pipes of evacuation

            if the rubbish that piles up behind huts and mansions heaves and breathes

            if you dung and spray in the open air to feed legions of flies and insects

                                                              Wake! O! India! Wake!

 

The food that they serve you will be from unclean hands

            and the tourist will bypass the hotel and soon the sub-continent

            and there’d be little use in saying  we the upper castes we live in godly-cleanliness

                                                               Wake! India! Wake!

 

And shatter the dream of the purity of untarnished blood

             there are just those who are born with blood and bones legs hands eyes

             and those who think they are twice-born with more than just that

                                                                Wake! India! Wake!

 

We have all but one mother  over that great eastern divide of the Black Continent

              in the nuit des temps our dreams stood up on hind legs

              and uttered the words we now mouth in Babelic tongues

                                                                  Wake! O Asia! Wake!

 

And take upon yourselves the task of showing those who falter in spent spurious dreams

             that the age of conquerors is an age brought to a standstill in history books

             that buying and selling is all the commerce conquerors can peddle nowadays

                                                                 Wake! Asia! Wake!

 

Show them that a fair deal is still one to be honoured in your shores

             no one will take more than what is his earned share

             and none will seek to shortchange his honour for luxury

                                                                  Wake! India! Wake!

 

And let the Wheel of the Law turn your fortunes to steadfast mettle

             and he that abjured gold and palace to roam the streets and forests

             has long since won the hearts of nations beyond your continent

                                                                   Wake! India! Wake!

 

And learn from his example the simplicity of forsaking futile ambition

             of forsaking all that crippled your body and mind

             of letting them alone in their Vedic mystic glorification

                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

For he has woken up those peer nations   they who woke up before you

             and have put their fellowmen in a state of equal plenitude 

             with nothing to envy those who conquered and humiliated you

                                                                     Wake! India! Wake!

 

And think not  nor devise how you may emulate your past masters

             envy not them their lives nor their wealth in times to come

             your future is no more   never more  tied to their apron strings

                                                                   Wake! O! Asia! Wake!                                                              

 

And let your heart beat to the rhythm of thriving hives

             let no one tell you where to put your feet next

             when you pull your weight together  there your feet will prop you up straight

                                                                       Wake! Asia! Wake!

 

And let those who enslaved your body and mind for so long

             let them learn from your willingness to forgive

             that they too have a place in your heart as guests

                                                                        Wake! Asia! Wake!

 

Do not crush the children of those whose ancestors sought to humiliate you

             children grow conditioned to the ways which you accepted for ages

             as you accepted the conditioning of your children by their fathers

                                                                        Wake! India! Wake!

 

And shake off the mantric spells ringing in your conditioned minds

            but remember and preserve the great sanskrit treatises

            those that refined aesthetics in dance music drama poetry  in sculpted architecture

                                                                          Wake! Artful India! Wake!

 

And see how all is not bad in the horrendous past

            see how Akbar the Great lavished learning in between dangling his sabre

            see how the Moghuls wrought lasting mausoleums in the name of love

                                                                           Wake! O! Suffering India! Wake!

 

See how the British-planned railways brought you closer than ever before

            see the I.C.S. examination as the equaliser   the Confucian meritocracy

            see how the Western savants discovered your own glorious past for you

                                                                           Wake! O! India! Awake!

 

Recognize the truth of your enslavers’ contribution to the sub-continent

            heed not those who would poison your minds with chauvinistic lust

            accept the historical fact as a truth that cannot recede into wishful oblivion

                                                                            Wake! Now! India! Wake!

 

There is no shame in being taught the truth of your present or past plight

            the accidents of history have reaped their toll on your memory

            but now you are master of your own fate  of your own history to come

                                                                             Wake! India! Wake!

 

Wake! and show the way to a better understanding for the less fortunate

            the maimed in mind  the thwarted by birth  those  the abject  shunned from sight

            let them also claim descent from your Himalayan heights

                                                                              Wake! India! O! Wake!

 

Before it’s too late! Before your own kind enslave you again

            victim to your former masters’ machinations

            slave to your own listless traditions

                                                                               Alas! Wake! India! Wake! 

 

 Where is that all-embracing self-negating self

           You who have turned upon yourself

           once too often to shed your precious blood and repent

                                                                               Wake! India! Wake!

 

Wake not to feel that all is maya  all futile all cyclic dust

           even if it were so the pain lingers   pain is cantankerous

           in the beggar’s strife-torn eyes  in the child’s fly-infested blown belly

                                                                                Wake! India! Wake!

 

All is not illusion   all is not fake   all is not a passing phase

          the hurt lingers on in the memory of those who died in pain

          forsaken  forbidden  trodden on  and driven under

                                                                                Wake! India! Wake!

 

To lose even a day   no   to lose even an hour

         is to put millions on the block

         is to set them back by aeons

                                                                                 Wake! India! Wake!

 

Rise with the sun   rise fresh from yesterday’s toil

         from poisoning TV commercials and commercials’ mightily airy-fairy movies

         from jingling song and bill-cooing in gardens   from worshipfuls of Bollywood idols

                                                                                 Wake! India! Wake!

 

 Lull not your finely-tuned senses in lilting goose-pimply melodies

         let not your far-sighted perceptions become dulled in spurious imitations

         here in the West they marvel at the speechless facial rhythms of a Satyajit Ray

                                                                                 Wake! India! Wake!

 

How do you manage to listen day in and day out to the sentimental romantic quatrains

         set to rumba and samba cinematic background less-than-roaring forties’ dance music

         under a decor of piped sky-lancing and prancing tinny gushy melodramatics

                                                                                  Wake! India! Wake!

 

Before your children grow up thinking reality is a coloured film-strip in hot gasping halls

         where plumpy heavily mascara-ed curly moustachio-ed pot-bellied half-men

         chase blown-up versions of the eternal Sita  oozing midrift flesh heaving in rosy gardens

                                                                                   Wake! India! Wake!

 

Wake and take the future by the horns   it’s no toro that will gore you into the past

         you need no muleta for a faena with the dark and terrifying future

         the future’s just a bull raised on cow’s milk in green pastures

                                                                                   Wake! India! Wake!

 

Make haste to befriend the toro meanly reared away from spectator eyes

         by dread alone the bull is nurtured and prodded to terrify

         and when at last the ranchero’s silhouette appears in the arena   it charges

                                                                                   Wake! India! Wake!

 

There are no greater mysteries than those your scientists can unravel

         the only mysteries that persist are those drummed by priests into your brains

         even a helpless Stephen Hawking can pierce the Aryan mystery by silent reflection

                                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

Let those who seek power in the polls seek it for their own sakes

         sooner or later   sooner than later   they too will pass away

         their power gnawing at their bones will feed the etherising flames of their pyres

                                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

Let those who seek to challenge their power challenge it for their own sakes

         they too will rot in the chains they have willingly chained themselves in

         for they too seek power for the sake of power  and for theirs and their own comfort

                                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

And let them all pass over you    you who have borne in quiet pain

         mauling   under the pretext of mournful migrations and the Mughal might

         Mohenjodaro and Harrappa   notwithstanding Vijayanagar and Kaveripumpattinam 

                                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

Do not for a moment think your sons have deserted you

         nor your daughters gone to spawn with other spouses under other suns

         your needs are their needs  your tears   their blood coursing in their veins

                                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

If you had woken up earlier to tend to your shores  to tend to the marauders at the border

         letting only the lone Kshatriya exert his martial art  abused by fine courtly comfort

         you would not now wonder how a Rajput court at Mewar drove Akbar to such lengths

                                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

 Your bombs and canons come late  far too late now to put together your sundered arms

         no use crying robber in Kashmir when the poor hunger for a bowl of dusty gruel

         nor stretch your mighty legs over the Palk Straits to proclaim your integral faith

                                                                                    Wake! India! Wake!

 

There are no borders to the staunchly raised in unbending respect and unrelenting loyalty

         there is no need for police-ed borders for those who are tied to you by blood

         there’re only stretches of unfathomable water so much un-scaleable mountainous frights

                                                                                     Wake! Asia! Wake!

 

 

 

And draw your sons and daughters about you   they who inherit your fate

         tell them not when they may act or how   just let them gather around you

         with time  if you wake up in time   they’ll hoist you to Himalayan heights

                                                  Wake! Now! Asia! Wake! Before It’s Too Late!

 

 

 

© T.Wignesan 1996/2001  

(Written between April 7th and 20th, 1996; revised February 2001 and published in The Asianists’ Asia, Vol. II, March 2001, an on-line journal: URL – http://members.aol.com/wignesh/; “Part Two” in Volume III.)

 

[from the “original version” in the collection: longhand notes (a binding of poems), 1999]