Life & Style

Cut them down

  • This is the story of a massacre—a mass slaughter that no one prevented and no one spoke of
- Umesh Bajagain, Kathmandu

Apr 13, 2019-

To which bearing witness is not easy—I will.

There was a massacre in our neighbourhood. We witnessed a mass slaughter and kept silent. Most of us chose to live with it. We still don’t talk about it—I have never heard anyone invoke this tragedy since then.

Back then, time was a matter of pride for everyone in our neighbourhood. As children, we witnessed our guardians confront ‘them’. A day before the incident, everyone was discussing it. They were recruiting and planning meticulously. They were teaching who ‘we’ were and who ‘they’ had been. We were to kill all those that had stood in our path to development. It was indeed a political battle.

They, our guardians, agreed to start with the elderly and then, ones with strong sturdy arms and health, vigour and stamina. No mercy was bestowed upon them. The weaker ones were taught not to get involved in the gallantry because it was not in their repertoire. Weapons were sharpened. They got together everything they had. We were told that anything that can inflict ‘great pain’ would do.

The day came. Everyone was united. They were motivated. They wore rage and anger; our guardians were unstoppable. No one on the battleground was to be spared. “Start with the sturdier ones but leave no younger heads unchopped”. Everyone was to be maimed. “Hit them hard, let them bleed; leave them mutilated and cut off their extremities. Be brutal”—everyone was told. I knew they were weaker and we were stronger. It was an easy win.

Early in the morning, the team set out to the battleground. We were organised. Children were to by stand and bear witness to the adults’ performance. When we reached there, they were waiting for us. I still wonder how they could not defend themselves. I bet they sensed our strength. If I had been them, I’d surely protest, arm and defend myself to my last breath. But they surrendered.

We picked their leaders, kicked them and hit them hard, thrashing them to the floor one by one. We severed their veins, scarred their tissue, and chopped off their extremities, spilling their blood violently into the flowing canal. The canal refused to change its colour. Its unmitigated indifference bought us more courage and we went for more blood. The passers-by watched us in amazement. Some couldn’t maintain their composure and walked off in disgust; some booed us while others counted our strikes and pushing us to go harder. Hundreds were martyred that day, none from our side.

Their remnants were dragged through our streets, past our homes. I was surprised. I still am surprised—by the absence of blood on the path. What happened to their blood? Did we collect every drop as we do with our goats, with clinical perfection, when we chop their heads off? Were they equivalent to goats in the pursuit of our happiness?

When our parents brought them home, it was a matter of pride for everyone. Happiness was all around, except for us, the children, who remained puzzled for they were our spiritual friends. We were told we had to be happy. But we weren’t convinced. We thought maybe they were logical tropes that we children were not supposed to understand. Everyone was happy. We cooked food. We ate. In our front yard, we lay the mutilated remnants of those beings and slept inside our homes unharmed.

No one was mourning the next morning. We, the children, went to the crime scene to see what was left of them. There were no bodies, they were gone. The river was flowing, the colour unchanged. The wind was blowing, but we couldn’t see it. We had to look into the fluttering in the distance to sense the wind blowing against our proud chests and aside our brilliant brains.

That day, countless trees were martyred. Their death gives me peace. We do not talk about them anymore. I wonder why we shouldn’t talk about such human bravery, as if we’ve committed a crime. We have broken no law. If there is no one to punish us, we have nothing to fear. And as far as the trees are concerned, humans are not to fear those non-humans, for they are lesser than us. What difference does it make if we use them to feed ourselves?  

Some people say we’re brutal. They say, “to murder something living, we call sustenance”. These people are unaware of our silent sophisticated euphemistic language. For them to choose: chopping, utilisation, conservation, beautification, collateral damage, you choose. We fed on those trees, the same ones that fed us with cool air during the summer.

But, things are different. Now we have built them into our rooms. We can now change the speed of the wind inside our homes and not require them to be fed on. Trees have become useless now. Anything and everything that is useless has to face the same fate at our hands.

I often visit that battlefield and imagine how those trees attained salvation at our hands. A bridge sits over the canal on both sides of which those tall trees used to stand. When, at times, I stand on that bridge, I can see far off into the highway, where vehicles run leaving beautiful trails of smoke. I see the recently built processing plant far off in the distance. I cannot say for sure, what it does, for I do not know exactly what projects such mighty black smoke hundreds of metres into the sky.

Those trees were blocking the way to the beautiful highway and the silent industry far away in the horizon—both of which are striving for development in my world. Trees are awful—they block scenery, they impede human development, and they are a hindrance to the beauty of the journey of blackness from our chimneys to the relentless sky. They block our view and make us blind. Their absence enables us to enjoy the setting sun. I, by now, have realised that we gave redemption to those trees and helped humanity. We must. Our man behind the axe is unstoppable and no one has the right to strip off development from his backyard. We have every right to see things. We must cut anything that comes on our path. Then, we were ambushed; now is different. We must act. We have to see. Nothing can blind us, not even the trees.

Published: 13-04-2019 09:11

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