the absence quartet with a little more: acid, alkali, bulb and filament by parnab mukherjee

One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings

Franklin Thomas

Acid attack has been one of the regular features of both India and Bangladesh. For a myriad of reasons, social, socio-political, political and casteist reasons.

 

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Prologue:

My name is Haseena Hussain

My father is a civilian working with defence services

I completed my Class XII from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Bangalore

When the jar of sulphuric acid was poured on me

My flesh became

Rotten,

Mangled

My clothes and self-belief was reduced to ashes

I was lying on the road

naked

the masks are off

I was literally and figuratively unmasked, exhumed, eaten, spat out

Acid:

I am sorry Haseena,

I did it

I threw this on you

Yes,

I

Did it

Let me categorically explain myself: I did it

During such

Jilted times….dicey times…..I did not know that my

Progeny

Belonged to a pedigree of the King Cobras that walk on the street

With sting in the tip of their trifurcated tongue

Each end of the tongue

Carries the venom

That pours itself

Over

Your stark naked body

Naked

Stark naked

Bare bones

Bare back

Bare hands

Bared conscience

Bare legs

Bare buttocks

Bare flesh

So,

When I shove my lust inside you

Your mind does not matter any more

It is only my maleness between your thighs trying to dig deep

It is a ritual

I am a possessed programmed robot

Who will come in, come out

When I am satisfied with all that is white, all that is black

And all that is black tangled up with white

I will then mould you into a re-usable doormat

A kind of a installation in the gallery of voyeurs

All waiting to lap you up for a price

You are just incidental

Your suffering is cool, sexy and jazzy

Alkali:

I’m sorry Haseena

I’m the generation that is on the buyout spree

I am into mergers, de-mergers, acquisitions of all things that are lusty

So, you don’t have a choice

Even before a syllable gets formed in your tongue

I know what I’ll do

I’ll twist your arm

Your back will arch

Kick you at the buttock

Bend my conscience

Slap you using a backhand flourish

And while you are making your first decisive move towards self-defence

I will pour you a bucketful of sulphuric acid

And drench you

With a sensation of burn

That will be permanent

And deadly

27 plastic surgeries later

Haseena you will be sure what skin means

How peeling skin like peeling onion

Disentangles

One by one

One by one

One by one

The surface comes off

Gets yanked out

Ripped open brazenly

Your face is mine

Your back is mine

Your bare skin is mine

Your desire is even mine

Identities, formations

Reasons, dreams

Idioms, nightmares

Presence of the absence

Lost in a avalanche of stories

When funds dry up and the donation tree has shed it’s last leaves’

And the dark-toned sun is deserted as yet another source of light

Becomes cut, camera, action

Bulb:

I am sorry Haseena

It isn’t that some Joseph Rodriguez

But I did this

Me

Me

I am that son-of-a-bitch

Product of such vulgar times

Uncouth horizon

That I think in terms of

Magic mushrooms

Magic bulbs

Magic acid

Magic powder

Manic darkness

I am sorry Haseena

I am so full of mock pity for doing this

I won’t change

I will grab the course of future

And will show off my false machismo

How can I feel remorseful

For something so constructive

Me buying

Me buying

Shopping for all this and all that

And all those

I am shopping for faces

In multiplex, malls, arcades

Those faces don’t have a choice

If you say yes

I will skin you to the bare bone

Sexily

And if you say no

Then I will see to it that your skin is unpeeled

Look at you Haseena

Have I not cracked you up?

And the battle between

Vision

Blur

Blur

Vision

Vision

Blur

Blurred

All with a jug of acid

A pitcher of acid

A bucket of acid

A drum of acid

A mug of acid

A container of acid

Haseena,

It is like killing two birds with one stone

Face loss and loss of face

All happening simultaneously

I get this primitive kick

This sado-masochist drive

This kinky high

To see the skin falling apart

Like unpeeling the red layer that hugs the apple with a knife

You kind of unpeel it with a sense of morbidity

Tone by tone

Texture by texture

Later by layer

Strata by strata

Each peeling off; each falling apart

Each disintegrating

Each diminishing

Each ripped apart

Each aberration must be

Dutifully

Drenched

A million birds will fly wingless in a truncated sky

A sky dotted with wingless birds falling off and wanting to hold on to the gravity

Darkness

Now,

I am a little happy

Over these crocodile tears

A zillion sounds that will never be able to drown your dirge

Your regular deep down soundless lament

Paper boats will still float on the Hiroshima water

But the time will not heal these permanent scars

April 20, 1999, 8.30am

A jug of sulphuric acid was poured on you by an ex-boss

Of a computer company called Neta Computer Services

A place

Where you worked briefly as a data entry operator

In 1997

Before the company closed down

The boss kept chasing you

Kept issuing threats

Kept re-assuring that bodily and only bodily harm, he will inflict

Reason:

You did not give in to his one-sided advance

And lofty claims of love

And even dismissed his suggestion of marriage as impractical

Haseena,

Now even the dogs run away from you

The vicinity children are scared to talk

So called close friends long disappeared

Your dream to become a fashion designer lie in

Shambles

Haseena,

I am sorry. I did it.

I am these times, your times

I am sorry for your parents

Haseena,

They allowed you to study B.Com through correspondence so that you can chase your fashion designing dream

Ignoring family diktat

Of marrying you off

I feel sorry Haseena for your younger sister,

She does not know

That

In these manicure-pedicure-steam bath days

All verbal aberrations must be treated with acid

Epilogue

Haseena says:

I need maybe a 15 more surgeries

I cannot see

I am unemployed

Yes,

I am disfigured

I was 20 when this happened

I am now 27-years old and broke

To put it accurately, I am a 27-year old visionless, penniless piece of shit

She adds:

The Karnataka High Court has sentenced Joseph Rodriguez

To life imprisonment

He has been allowed to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Out of Rs 5 lakhs, he was asked to pay-up, he has deposited Rs 3 lakh

The remaining Rs 2 lakhs nobody knows

She reads a poem by Wislawa Syzmborska called People on a Bridge(translated by Adam Czerniawski):

……..how many have jumped off the speeding time

And are disappeared into mounting melancholy

If perspective’s to be believed-

How may, if the question makes sense,

If one can reach the final sum

Before he who counts include himself, have fallen into

this deepest sleep

if there is no deeper-

Filament:

She continues:

By, the way

During moments of loneliness

With my black glasses covering my blindness

And blank mind

I think

Why me?

Why me?

Yes, I am a little better and a little worse than the vegetable you spit

If it it is not cooked well

In short

I am the spit

Meanwhile, the macho-mafia plot their next hurl

The next throw of the acid dice

Parnab Mukherjee

Please write to parnab@culturemonks.in with your feedback and comments.

Postscript

This piece of writing is based on the acid attack on Haseena Hussain in 1999 by her ex boss Joseph Rodrigues. Joseph Rodriques in now serving life imprisonment and Haseena Hussain now works for a NGO called Make Love Not Scars, helping victims of acid attack.

Instances of Acid attacks are becoming more frequent in India. The reported and recorded cases have risen from 83 in 2011 to 349 in 2015. Indian has seems to have the India has the ¨highest number of acid attacks in the world, but the worst conviction rates¨.

Much has been done and more will be done for sure. The cultural values of the leadership in politics and society goes a long way in curbing this trend. But sadly we see in the current climate that this has failed abysmally and in fact a leadership has emerged which actually encourages such acts as retribution, domination or for political gains. No doubt the recent rise in lynchings are indicators of this malice. The growing violence in the Indian society aggravated by irresponsible media is churning a discourse which is very frightening.

But yet we should read deeper into this text to remember what is actually meant on the day acid was used on a woman as a means to wield power over her- the power to destroy, which remains one of the most fundamentally abused powers which mankind continues to nurture and herald as a mode of claiming supremacy. – Sudipta Dawn

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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