Waking from the deep throes of his imagination, he looked up from the page. A slight buzz emanated from his brain, the residual whirring of a machine after it has been switched off. The pen dangled nervously between his fingers, a drop of ink slowly finding its way down and staining his starched, white kurta. He had heard it, that deep rumble of senseless souls.
The day had come. He had known it would happen eventually, but he could not stop his heart from bursting into anxious colours. He was human, after all.
He turned around from his desk and looked longingly at his shelves and yellowed walls. It was a small abode, quaint in its minimalism. It had its own story, a deep meaning to his life. Here is where he had picked up his pen for the first time, rhyming words and stringing fiery pieces. They were bound to agitate, he intended them to.
He could still hear it, getting louder, angrier.
Books and newspapers were strewn around the floor for want of space. He smiled, a wistful feeling flooding him. That home was a treasure chest to him, and what it held was beyond anything money or power could ever achieve.
Closer. He could hear a hollow sound now and then, the hiss of bullets.
It is strange how certain things dawn upon one in a single moment. He remembered that day, not the exact words of that blasphemous proclamation, but his own blood ringing in his ears, thumping loud and clear. That day, that moment, he had decided. His pen shall finally bleed, through the withered pages and the innards of these enslavers.
For ages, he had burned in the shadows, a meek figure questioning his own sanity, writing away,
letter after letter,
word after word,
verse after verse.
That had meant nothing to him then, all those years of struggle. That moment defined a purpose for him, and then, what flowed through the flawed tip was pure gold.
The Underground started resonating almost instantly. The power of words was unimaginable. Youths rallied to the cause, fighters started quoting the fierce realism, and circulation never stopped. A daily was released, openly seditious in nature.
But, all they could see was the tip of the iceberg. There was a fire brewing. They could sense the slow, dangerous warmth. Headquarters were reduced to ashes, people were shot, blatantly and unapologetically.
These lives, with fire in their hearts and murder on their minds, weren’t afraid to die anymore, no, they were willing to.
And he went on, free and emboldened.
Soon, the Underground sea was huge, threatening to force this unrest out as a tsunami.
That’s when they caught on. And they were here. To get him.
He knew what his words had done, and he was proud of it; peaceful for the first time in his life. He knew what this meant. He had stabbed into the heart of it, splattered blood. He had shaken them from the inside. All with the ink that slithered into vicious grooves and burnt their supremacist egos.
The doors burst open with a loud thud. They were screaming, but he never heard them, because he had submitted to himself. He allowed himself to be cuffed and was dragged along. Once outside, he nodded ever so slightly in the general direction of the sky.
He coughed and brought his hands closer to his mouth. The pill killed him almost instantly. He fell in a calm motion and was kicked and beaten blue in his final moments, as if they wanted to deprive him of his final comfort. They couldn’t.
This might be a delusion, but the slight hint of a satisfied smile never left his face.
Hours later, when his house had been searched and documents and writings had been towed away, a boy climbed down from the terrace opposite his home. He had seen it. He quietly slipped into the empty home with a small hammer.
Dust particles sparkled and twinkled in the orange sunlight. The home echoed of ache and loneliness.
A section of the wall was softer than the others, but they hadn’t noticed that. He hit the section a couple of times and it gave away. Inside was his treasure. A thick pile of sheets was wrapped in a red cloth, preventing it from decay. He picked it up. On his way out, he saw a solitary sheet of paper flying about.
On it, in an ornate calligraphic hand, were the words – Inquilab Zindabad.
Some legacies never die.
This is a work of fiction, but it is meant to acknowledge every fighter who decided to let his veins fill with ink and embraced the darkness.
While popular culture connotes the final phrase to radicals like Bhagat Singh, the real face behind it gets lost between the lines. History books barely mention him, even when he was the inspiration for an entire school of ideology.
Maulana Hasrat Mohani (real name: Syed Fazl-ul-Hasan) was a freedom fighter and a poet, although that is not mutually exclusive. A lot of his work centres around romance, but he was the first person to claim complete independence instead of Dominion Status.
It is time to remember the forgotten pages and burnt souls.
Inquilab Zindabad – Long Live the Revolution.
(I do not own the pictures used in this post.)