when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
her twin arms were made of white topaz.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
and suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back she swam again
swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.
That is what her name means, Benazir. One whose looks have no parallel.
Gagan, Michelle, Benazir
Gagan was the top student leader during Nepal's April Revolution. I got to meet him in NYC months before the revolution.
An Open Letter To Gagan Thapa
Gagan Thapa's Right To Free Speech
Gagan's Talk In New York
A Day In The Life Of Gagan Thapa
The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Gagan Thapa
Gagan Thapa October 22 Saturday 2 PM Columbia University
About a week before Benazir's cold murder, I woke up after having had a very bad dream. Gagan had been assassinated and noone really knew who did it. He was there, and then he was not there anymore. In my dream I had to live through the knowledge of the aftermath.
A day or two later Dipta showed up on my Gmail chat. Dipta was a few years junior to me at high school. I talked to him more than to any other Nepali in the US during my two intense years for Nepal's democracy and social justice movements. Dipta lives and works in DC. But he was in Kathmandu when he showed up in a chat window. I told him about the dream. I said tell Gagan to be extra careful on personal safety issues.
But something kept tugging at me still.
I Stand With Michelle: Iowa Must And Can Be Won
Michelle Obama Is Just Fabulous
Wife Won't Do, Got To Court Women With Policy And Outreach
I remembered reading a line in some news item online from one of Michelle's recent Iowa appearances. She seemed to be bragging about how she was still a normal woman with a normal life. "I still go to Target. I still pump my own gas." A cold shiver ran down my spine.
Long months back, on national TV, a reporter had asked her if she worried about her husband's safety, now that he was running for president. The tigress got agitated, her cub husband sitting next to her. "As a black man, Barack could get shot walking down to the gas station!"
Memories of when a motorbike hit her vehicle in Iowa months back flashed.
And so I blogged about it, hoping to get picked up by the people in Chicago. Obama 2008 must make sure Michelle is not an everyday woman no more. Her everyday woman persona has to end by January 3. She does not get to pump her own gas anymore. She must only move around in a motorcade of three, one in the front, another in the back. Obama 2008 must hire bodyguards. That is a legitimate campaign expense. If she gets into another car crash, Obama 2008 pays a political price. You end up looking like you can't even take care of the candidate's wife.
But something kept tugging at me still. And I thought maybe because I did not get picked up. Maybe Michelle would still be pumping her own gas on January 5.
I logged onto BarackObama.com where I am now the 25th volunteer in ranking. And the dashboard took minutes to load. Obviously they did not pick up my urgent suggestion from days back. (Warning Sign: BarackObama.com Is Melting Down) At this rate, BarackObama.com is going to crash on January 4.
But something kept tugging at me still.
Benazir Bhutto: No American Stooge
Benazir Should Address Many Mass Rallies, Hold No Street Events, Keep Tight Security Around Her House, Office
Benazir And Islamofascism
I was not thinking of Benazir. After the attempt on her life immediately after arrival in Pakistan after a decade in exile, I had this naive feeling that she was now immunized. Sure, those wanting to kill her are still out there, but now it is very well known that she is a target, and so those whose job it is to protect her will now work extra hard. You can't keep her from holding rallies, that is her lifeblood, but you can make sure you whisk her safely to and from the stage. I tuned her out. It might have been denial on my part. I tuned her out. I was going to tune back in after she is elected and is ready to be sworn in as Prime Minister. Then I was going to follow her in news.
Usually I wake up, hit the button to turn the computer on, and head to the restroom. By the time I am back, the computer has booted up. Usually I like to glance at the headlines at NepalNews.com first thing. Then I like to glance at my customized page for Google News. I like to follow Barack and Google.
But this day two things were unusual. I just had had a few weird days when my hours of sleeping and staying awake had been totally thrown out of whack. I would be up until five in the morning, and then go to sleep. I was not liking it. Then I even fell kind of sick. I blamed it on the cold outside, the walks I had taken, the beer at that party. A few times I felt like throwing up.
So I wake up and it is afternoon. As if I were trying to avoid the news. It was three in the afternoon. I hit the button. But instead of heading to the restroom, I proceeded to NepalNews.com. I had broken the routine.
The first news item on top of the page was about Benazir.
Pakistan's oppn leader Bhutto killed in suicide attack NepalNews
I immediately went into denial. Perhaps I was not fully awake. Maybe I should take the restroom trip first like I usually do. When was the last time foreign news was top of the page at NepalNews.com? Never. Maybe I was seeing things. Perhaps I should go wash my face first. It was not an active thinking process of denial. It was a feeling of daze, disbelief, and denial.
So I slumbered into the restroom, as if wanting to tell myself, see, you are practically asleep, you can't walk straight. I sat for a long time on the commode, unfeeling, unthinking. I pulled on the flush, washed my hands, washed my face. Okay, now I am awake, let's see what NepalNews.com has on Nepal today.
The headline was still there.
Pakistan's oppn leader Bhutto killed in suicide attack NepalNews
It was there, loud and clear. I became unfeeling. I was alone in my three bedroom apartment. Usually my two Estonina roomies would be out working at this hour, but this time they were not even in town, they were out for Christmas. I was alone, I could afford to not feel. Usually when something big shows up in the news, like bomb explosions in India, I immediately open up 20 different news sources online, tabs, to get a clear picture of what really happened. With Benazir, it was a long time before I even clicked on this one link. I just looked at it.
Then a small part of my mind got a little clinical. Who did it? The headline itself showed there was Al Qaeda's signature all over it. But Pakistan's ground realities are different. Pakistans' intelligence agency gave birth to the Taliban's rise in Afghanistan. If your loyalty is to God, would you swap that for a loyalty to Musharraf, let alone Bush? Indira's Sikh guards made a choice, their loyalty was to God, and they fried her up with their machine guns. Musharraf could claim the Al Qaeda has not penetrated the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency known as a state within a state, and he might not even be lying, he might just be in denial.
A few months back there was a newspaper ad by a unit of the Pakistani army about some stolen nuclear material. Please help us track it if you can. To them it was probably funny. But it is not funny. The ad came and went like a mirage, it was taken down. That gives rise to a technical question. Could some people guarding Pakistani nuclear material claim some of it got stolen but instead have had it passed on to some of their Islamist allies? What if they did that out of Islamist pride? What if they did that for God? For money? Out of hubris? Because they are stupid? All of the above?
Stepping into Bin Laden's shoes, a dirty bomb in a major American city would be his idea of outdoing 9/11. It could be Dallas. You could move the material from Pakistan to Africa on over to Mexico, cross the border, and explode it in Dallas. The fear generated in the national population would be crippling in ways 9/11 was not.
I proceeded to read the news item. Then I had to blog the pain before I did my usual thing of opening up 20 tabs. I wanted a clear picture of those four seconds.
Since I have gone for two very long walks across Brooklyn. I went for a very long one today. This time I cried. I was walking, noone saw me cry, but I cried. I wanted the numbness and the disbelief to go away. I cried and then I started feeling. Tender sadness. Loss.
Since her death, her image has become even more vivid in my mind. More so than ever before. This smiling, brave, eloquent woman who insists she has not gone anywhere. She is still here.
Her eloquence I have wished were mine. Her eloquence I have wished upon world leaders on all continents. Her eloquence whose echo I hear in Barack when he speaks.
Benazir, Last Month
Thursday, January 3
DL21C's Iowa Caucus Night Party!!
Live Returns on the Big Screen, Interviews from Iowa, Special Guests and much more!
Coverage begins at 8:00pm
O'Lunney's Pub (upstairs bar/lounge)
145 W 45th St (between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY
1/2/3/N/R/S to Times Square
B/D/F/V to 42nd Street
A Bhutto Successor? Time the slain former prime minister's 19-year-old son, Bilawal, will likely be named as her political heir and the new party leader on Sunday. PPP members are due to meet to discuss the party's future and to give Bilawal, a student at Oxford, a chance to read his mother's last will and testament. ....... accorded with Benazir Bhutto's wishes. If confirmed, the teenager will become the third leader of the 40-year-old center-left party ......... Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who founded the PPP in 1967 ...... The quick anointment of a Bhutto to head the PPP will help rally party members ....... The party hopes to ride a wave of sympathy in parliamentary elections that are set for Jan. 8 ...... PPP officials say their party intends to participate. ....... Bilawal was born in September 1988, nearly three months before his mother was elected Prime Minister for the first time. ....... Dubai, where Bilawal attended the Rashid School for Boys, serving as vice president of the school's student council. In Fall 2007 he enrolled at Oxford ........ A 2004 profile of Bilawal in the respected Pakistani daily newspaper Dawn said the teenager liked target-shooting, swimming, horseback riding and squash, and regretted being away from Pakistan in part because it meant he played less cricket. His grandfather, he said, "was a very courageous man and I consider myself very lucky because I have three powerful role models that will obviously influence my career choices when I am older." ........... a consensus has emerged that the person needs to be a Bhutto, a name that retains incredible power and vote-winning influence ......... "This was also the situation when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was murdered," says Babar Awan, a PPP Senator and close ally of Benazir. "Benazir was a teenager, she was a student at Harvard in 1979 [when Zulfikar Ali was hanged]. It is basically the hard core of the PPP that rallies around their great hope and that they attach to the House of Bhutto." .......... All those who don't accept the military role in politics are controversial. The charges are 100% unfounded and fake. ...... Bilawal will head the party, and that the party's deputy leader and longtime Benazir loyalist, Mukhdoom Amin Fahim, is likely to become the prime minister .......... Bilawal would take over as the parliamentary leader once he finishes his studies and once he has more experience ....... Bilawal was a natural future leader...... Last year Benazir told a reporter that she hoped her three children would choose a different career. "My children have told me they are very worried about my safety," she said. "I understand those fears. But they are Bhuttos and we have to face the future with courage, whatever it brings."