01 January 1970

February - The Month That Asks My Name

Weekend Reads

February - The Month That Asks My Name

February, for some a month to celebrate, to love. But February comes to me with some horrors. Three big genocides - Neilly, Godhra and Delhi pogroms happened in February. This is the 40th year of the Neilly massacre(18th February 1983).

But February has the darkest secret of calling...
But February has the darkest secret of calling... Getty Images

The smell of his earlobe and the blooming fiery red of the Palash - I desperately try to catch all fragrances and hues of February in my words. Can words contain smell, sweat, flesh, presence and desire? Maybe words contain more than these. Words are oceans, in every layer, you will find something new, and you will discover new essence, new beings and new self. Words are love too. Love that you feel, inhale and smell through your eyes. Your organs change roles. You become her or him or they or all at the same time. You forget names. Her/his/their presence is all it matters. An all-encompassing presence. You feel the air of her presence passing through your ribs and every cell of yours drinking her aroma, her movements of fingers etching time on your memories. You are not aware, not conscious or conscious. You just want the time to stop there and dance till the world collapses and the sun falls in your palms. You don't know what to do, you just know you're in love, madly in love. Your essence melts into a sublime joy that you can't put into words and your search for the words is the journey that is called love. Your poor, dialectical presence does not bother you anymore, you just want to fly or sit idly for hours, for years with your eyes closed and heart open as vast as the October sky. You forget who you are, you are just what your love wants to see.

Yes, it's a kind of love we all want, we all mad lovers want. But February makes me cautious. It asks for my name. February is the month when I can't be a lover only. I'm my name and the names are many - I'm everyone who before 18th of February, 1983 used to bathe and sing the songs in rough, unpolished voices by the river Neilly. February asked my name and then I became a flow of blood with many others, with a hundred and Neilly forgot to sing. The fish in the river didn't drink water that day or did they become carnivorous since then? I don't know. February doesn't tell the story anymore. It asks me to forget. But it doesn't let me forget my name too. The stinking paddy field and the vultures roam with me everywhere.

In 2002, it again dug up my corpse and asked my name - 
What is your name? What is your name? What is your name? 
This time my names are Bilkis, Ehsan and many more. Can't you see the blood and sand and brick dust in my nails? I was scratching the walls to find a way out of the rooms. My legs were burning. They had torched the rooms on fire. Do the scratch marks still exist? Do I still exist? The homeless camps of February were full of me. I was everyone and everywhere. I tried to hide names. I tried to become no one in nowhere's place. I ran and ran and ran. I became a faceless immigrant in the Dilwalo ka Shahar, Delhi. In the darkest corner of the ghetto, I came to live.

But February has the darkest secret of calling. On 23rd February 2020, it again called my name. I became Nazia, Suleiman, and Ratan Lal. I sang the national song they asked me to sing. But still, February didn't leave me. The nullahs became full with me. I became rotten, living and non-living me. 

I'm afraid, I'm terrified.
I want to love and sit on the benches of the park in the mellow sun of February. But whenever my lover calls my name I become terrified. I can't kiss her/him/them. I whisper in her/him/their ears not to call my name. Lest February listens and wakes up to call me again as it called me in Neilly, Godhra and Delhi.

I can't love you anymore. I don't know what love is anymore. I beseech you February don't call my name anymore. Please let me be a faceless, living and non-living being forever. Please don't call me by my name, February. Please listen to my prayer-

Don't Call Me By My Name, February 

Don't call me by my name, February.
You have called me enough.
I was sleeping and my father
was singing a lullaby -
Amare moina xubo e,
Barite bogori rubo e,
Barire bogori poki xori goley,
Moinai butoli khabo…*
then you called and 
he couldn't finish the song
and I have been awake since then.

You broke into my sleep
and raped my mothers in 2002
You woke me up in 2022
and asked to walk into the grave.

Now let me sleep, February.
It's still too cold.
Don't call me by my name,

(*It's an Assamese lullaby which means-
The little one sleeps,
While they plant a jujube tree.
When the jujube berry is ripe and falls,
It will be sweet and the little one can eat it.)