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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 42, October 11, 2014

What the Water Said

Saturday 11 October 2014, by Badri Raina

When the water came, sprawling

Underred at its own

Even intent, it said, “I am come

To remind you that rich, poor, man

Woman, or child, old or young,

Literate or illiterate, Sunni or

Shia or Ahmedia, low caste or high,

Tantric, Vaishnav, or Trika, living

Upstream or downstream, or by

Hillside resort, nationalist or

Separatist, you are all the same.

Do see that the rich man’s, the

God-man’s, the beggar man’s bone

Bloats without distinction

In the waters of extinction.”


Those that believe, or believed,

That not a leaf turns without that

Nod from God, sighed and said, “it

Is He sent the waters, as He sends

Everything else; and since everything

He sends is ever for some good,

The coming of the flood must also

Be understood as a benighn

Catastrophe, reminiscent of times

When similarly He destroyed by flood

His own creation and saved the sound

Of all species in Noah’s Ark, gifting

Us our present world from that heavy

Day’s good work. Thus, bemoan

Not the failures of this government or that,

Since God’s alone is the governance

And God’s the State. Pick up the pieces,

Give thanks for what is left us,

Learn the lesson of oneness,

Sent form above, and turn

From ignorant hate to love.”


But others, believing little of what

They preach, snarled, ”such

Annihilation cannot come from 

God, even if we say no leaf turns

Without His nod; when our incomes

Burgeon, or the causes we blare

Flourish, we know that comes from

God; but, it is clear the government

Is to blame when our purposeful aim

Is thwarted and our comfort flawed.

Know that the waters that have thus

Leveled us beyond remedy were sent

Not by God but a sinister agency

That draws its manifest at our

Enemy’s repressive behest. Renew,

Therefore, your intransigence

And the stridency of cause; 

Let not the waters give pause

To our uncompromising alienation

And ineluctable refusal of assimilation.

And even if God did indeed send

The flood, misconstruing our love,

Remember that wars have been

Fought in Heaven before now.”


A third in the conclave gave

Voice to thoughts only whispered

Before in safe confines: “If you

Indeed have faith, then look not

For cause or redress beyond God’s

Will; but if you merely fake upon

Convenience, then go a step further,

And make bold to sense the truth

That the cause and the redress

Lie here with us alwlays, if only

We cease to equivocate; we make

The suffering, and we make the fate.

The chosen may not just be the ones

Who share our faith; among those

We call of ‘infidel’ birth are men

And women of great and noble worth.

Why else would God have sent them

To inhabit the very same earth?

The waters came because, sunk

In our greeds, we never once looked

To the needs of cloud and sky,

Forest and glacier, sun and the sea,

But ravaged all these endlessly.

God is not some faraway finger

Turning our wheels from season

To season. God resides in the best

Of human reason. And reason thinks

If God indeed created all there is,

Why should any faith, any race, any

Breed of the human species be

At greater or lesser ease, sisters

And brothers, from those we call ‘others’?

The truth is we make the loves

And the hates, the friends and the

Enemies, the droughts and the floods,

The good times and the bad; instead

Of faulting this or that for the flood,

Know that it came from the ignorant

Refusals of our own inflated head.

If you listen carefully, that is

What the waters said. Thus, even

As we mourn our kith and kin,

Our sunken paradise, let us, when

We rise again, learn from the wise

Of our legends who were neither Hindus

Nor Muslims but sages how to reject

The syllables of hate and turn new

Pages. Let our rebirth show the way

Again not just to the sub-continent

But to a world that rages in ill intent.

Doing so, we would have put the flood

To good use. Let us turn our back

On what we chose before,

And afresh choose.”

September 15, 2014

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