Why reading ‘A Doctor’s Journal Entry’ by Vikram Seth is must for all nuclear powers

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | August 7, 2015



Seventy years is a long time for the memories to fade. But when it is shaped by the most horrific incident of written history, time too fails to erase it from collective remembrance. August 6 marked the 70 years in the lowest point of World War II- dropping of nuclear bombs on Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

For a generation to which I belong, which is distanced from the incident, both in terms of time and geography, any realisation of the brutality of the act comes only through the writings that chronicled the horror.

One of the finest among them was a poem written by Vikram Seth. The poem that was published in 1990 brilliantly reflects upon the absurdity intrinsic to the war. It also, to a great extent, helps in countering any defence to the war and ambiguities attached to its purpose. It underlines the savagery attached to it. And more than anything speaks of unspeakable and unthinkable violence, which it unleashes on people.

The poem which starts with a vivid picture of a beautiful morning ends up describing a miserable picture, where people are failing to recognise themselves as human being.

The poem was part of the collection called ‘Images of Life’ which I read some 15 years ago as a class 9th student. While Wordsworth and Frost remained with me for all these years for their inspirational oeuvre, I could never forget Seth’s work as it always reminds me of the futility of war.

In June this year, former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf said in an interview, "If I say in Chaudhry Shujaat's style, do we have nukes saved to be used on Shab-e-Baraat?". He was warning India of a Nuclear strike. Every time such chest-thumping jingoism compels a leader of any country to favour a nuclear strike, I only wish that they have read what Seth wrote.

Nuclear weapons are the deadliest evil created by mankind and ‘A Doctor’s Journal Entry’ by Vikram Seth tells this with an evocative clout. Reading it only can tell you how and why.

A Doctor’s Journal Entry by Vikram Seth


The morning stretched calm, beautiful, and warm.

Sprawling half clad, I gazed out at the form

Of shimmering leaves and shadows. Suddenly

A strong flash, then another, startled me.

I saw the old stone lantern brightly lit.

Magnesium flares? While I debated it,

The roof, the walls and, as it seemed, the world

Collapsed in timber and debris, dust swirled

Around me – in the garden now – and, weird,

My drawers and undershirt disappeared.

A splinter jutted from my mangled thigh.

My right side bled, my cheek was torn, and I

Dislodged, detachedly, a piece of glass,

All the time wondering what had come to pass.

Where was my wife? Alarmed, I gave a shout,

‘Where are you, Yecko-san?’ My blood gushed out.

The artery in my neck? Scared for my life,

I called out, panic-stricken, to my wife.

Pale, bloodstained, frightened, Yecko-san emerged,

Holding her elbow. ‘We’ll be fine,’ I urged –

‘Let’s get out quickly.’ Stumbling to the street

We fell, tripped by something at our feet.

I gasped out, when I saw it was a head:

‘Excuse me, please excuse me –‘ He was dead:

A gate had crushed him. There we stood, afraid.

A house standing before us tilted, swayed,

Toppled, and crashed. Fire sprang up in the dust,

Spread by the wind. It dawned on us we must

Get to the hospital: we needed aid –

And I should help my staff too. (Though this made

Sense to me then, I wonder how I could)

My legs gave way. I sat down on the ground.

Thirst seized me, but no water could be found.

My breath was short, but bit by bit my strength

Seemed to revive, and I got up at length.

I was still naked, but I felt no shame.

This thought disturbed me somewhat, till I came

Upon a soldier, standing silently,

Who gave the towel round his neck to me

My legs, stiff with dried blood, rebelled. I said

To Yecko-san she must go on ahead.

She did not wish to, but in our distress

What choice had we? A dreadful loneliness

Came over me when she had gone. My mind

Ran at high speed, my body crept behind.

I saw the shadowy forms of people, some

Were ghosts, some scarecrows, all were wordless dumb –

Arms stretched straight out, shoulder to dangling hand;

It took some time for me to understand

The friction on their burns caused so much pain

They feared to chafe flesh against flesh again.

Those who could, shuffled in a blank parade

Towards the hospital. I saw, dismayed,

A woman with a child stand in my path –

Both naked. Had they come back from the bath?

I turned my gaze, but was at a loss

That she should stand thus, till I came across

A naked man – and now the thought arose

That some strange thing had stripped us of our clothes.

The face of an old woman on the ground

Was marred with suffering, but she made no sound.

Silence was common to us all. I heard

No cries of anguish, or a single word.

 


Comments

 

Other News

PSUs under steel ministry must share resources: Minister

Steel minister Chaudhary Birender Singh has directed a high-level coordination committee comprising CMDs and top ministry officials to be constituted for pooling and sharing of resources among PSUs.   He said, “This will lead to aggregation of demand and economies of sc

India seeks dispute panel against US at WTO

India has submitted its first request for establishment of a dispute panel against the US at the World Trade Organisation (WTO)—a request that was blocked by Washington on February 20 stating that this dispute was launched for purely political reasons. According to India, eleven measures ad

So what Pahlaj Nihalani, if there`s lipstick under the burkha

The Central Board of Film Certification seems to be fast turning into 16th century Italian theatre Commedia dell`arte, whose special characteristic is the lazzo - a joke. And Pahlaj Nihalani is the prima donna of all that is not right with the censor board. Nihalani, who is frequently quite

India needs policy measures to conform to global standards: Carnegie

India faces significant challenges in the area of trade policy— the global economic slowdown, increasing protectionism, the stalled mega-trade deals that could in time be revived, and perhaps more important, its own domestic preoccupations. For India to achieve its policy objectives, the government a

The power of a meal

In 2000, we set out on an uncharted journey. Neither did we have any strategy nor any idea about how far we could go. I still remember the day when we took the first meal to a government school. The children loved it. I did not believe that we would go with food the next day as well, but we did, and now we

Should Pahlaj Nihalani be axed as the chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification?

Should Pahlaj Nihalani be axed as the chairperson of Central Board of Film Certification?

Video

अखिलेश डूबते जहाज में जा बैठे - मोदी
Digital Transformation Summit

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter