Feb 27, 2011

Hope? No I've Learnt To Live Without It.

By Ramisha Kaludi


Your forehead is decked with beads of perspiration glittering in the sunlight like polished
diamonds. The sun’s rays blind your eyes, the lack of sleep clouding your vision. Your palms feel sweaty
as your painfully blistered hands desperately try to cling on to the weathered wooden support of your
chisel, its oddly placed twigs prickling you. Warm blood oozes out, slowly trickling out down your skin,
yet you do not moan. Everywhere you cast your eyes, you see naked men ostentatiously attired in just a
pair of boxers, slaving away in a slow monotony, mining and hauling away stones. The heat is sweltering,
the air smells of rotten potatoes and you feel suffocated, yet you do not bother to regain your breath for
fear of being thrashed and whipped by the whites with their long, snakelike whips.

The whistle blows, you hear the labourers heave an audible sigh of relief and you finally put your
tools down. It’s twilight now, and the first twinkling star is already there, glittering against the inky black,
exuding light from it, like a bright lamp in a dark room. The whites throw a handful of peanuts for you to
eat. Their mere sight sickens you to the gut but atleast it keeps you from starving. With envy bubbling,
like the flames of fire licking your insides, you see the affluent ‘Pur-too-geese” (Portuguese) going back
to their luxurious mansion in horse driven carts, while you are left standing there looking for some
heather to sleep on.

Overwhelming nostalgia grips you as you try to sleep, the faces of your wife and children loom
before your very eyes. You remember your wife’s parting words just before the Portuguese had you
shopped from Ethiopia to Minas Gerais:

“Don’t lose hope,” she had said, “we will be right here waiting for you.” How much you long to go back

Morning brings you no relief. The rise of the sun is not the birth of a new beginning for you, but
the growth of a lifeless, immortal you. You wake up at the crack of dawn, and start mining again for
diamonds and gold. Your Portuguese masters strut around you, like peacocks, with a bemused
expression. Sometimes they enter into a jovial banter with each other, almost mocking at you. ‘Nigger,’
they address you as, because they are creamy white and take pride in it, while you are as black as putty.
They laugh at you and scorn you.

Your wife’s words come back to you and keep on playing in your head like a broken record

“Where is the hope?” you bitterly grumble to yourself. Your lips are parched, and your mouth cries
out for water. You have given up on your inner strength. You can feel your eyeballs bulging out of your
sockets and the skin crackling against your ribs. Without warning a warning, you feel a heavy blow on
your back which knocks the wind out of you. The next minute you are lying on all fours, a searing pain
shooting through your body. It feels like you are being struck by an iron rod. A leering white face looks
up at you, while your friends continue to work silently, xenophobic of being treated the same.

The familiar, synchronized sounds of soft thuds, like momentary beats of heart reverberate
throughout the dessert along with your cries of sheer pain. Your masters walk away, leaving you
whimpering in agony. You hear one cry out apathetically, “let the vultures feed on him, he deserved it,
that proud nigger,” before he spits at you.

Your wife’s words come back to haunt you again, only this time you know your beats are
numbered. You feel giddy and unconsciousness threatens to take over you. You curse your fate, you
curse these invading colonial tyrants, and for one fleeting moment you wish, you desperately wish that
you too had been born with a silver spoon. You see your wife’s face before you and mumble bitterly:

“Hope? No, I’ve learnt to live without it.”With these final words you fade into an eternal blackness.


Lynette said...

wow this is really amazing! I love the description and the story in general.It is so sad and after reading it I can't help but wonder, is hope an enemy or a friend.

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