The Icy Hands

“There is no armour against fate;

Death lays his icy hand on kings”  

– James Shirley

Sanyasi at Sangam

Recently, one of my readers who often leaves precious footprints on my desolate blogs, remarked how an image posted by me invoked both disturbing and pleasant memories in him. I was left with little choice but to ask what it was that stirred him so.

He wrote back that while he was still a child of five, he had witnessed dogs feeding on a human body on the banks of Ganges, somewhere near the scene of the photograph. He was probably pleased also because it brought back the other memories of childhood.

My friend, if you forgive my little game of one-upmanship,  I also happen to have witnessed dogs feeding on human carcasses twice. While on one occasion it was a headless adult, it was an infant the second time.  Please don’t ask me which of the two was more sickening.  It is probably part of the bargain of living so close to a river as holy as Ganges.

It also boils down to the sad cliché that death is a great leveler. Not only in the sense that it eventually ‘lays its icy hands’ on all, but also in that once it has befallen,  all are reduced to helpless bags of meat ready to rot, if not quickly consigned to fire, water or earth, or be eaten by maggots, vultures or  rather less fashionably, by dogs.  Different cultures have had different methods of performing last rites and none of which may be particularly exhilarating for the one awaiting the farewell.

But the dead are beyond  pain and fear. It is for the living to writhe in agony. More than the cadaver, it is for our sake that we mourn the death and perturbing ends.

Think instead how it is like being chewed by rabid dogs alive? Sounds barbaric? Kings, generals, raiders and tribesmen are known to have submitted their victims to various kinds of carnivores alive, not long ago.  If the heinous deeds of Adolf Hitler are already a saga, gentlemen like Idi Amin have had first hand taste of the victims. Back home, the legendary master-servant duo of Nithari  should still be smoking fresh in our memories.

But, my friend, I want you to focus on more sinister phenomena that put both cannibalism and canine-balism to shame. We are being ruled by morlocks who are restlessly prising out billions off our bleeding entrails to fill their overseas coffers.  Even as we pine for basic needs and amenities, they are erecting monuments and statues of self costing millions. They are rewriting the history to establish their unquestioned right on our living body till they can extract the last ounce of protoplasm out of it.

Take a look around the quotidian business of life, too. The grocer mixes deadly substances in our groceries, the milkman supplies white liquids worked out of urea and the chemist supplies caricatures of drugs. If the education system renders us desperate enough to rob and steal, the healthcare system has the potentials of turning us into assassins.  Bristling industrialists pay ridiculously low income tax and power bills even as we pay through every orifice of the body. The criminals itch to pounce on our families and meagre fortunes. The police want their own pound of flesh or else they beat the hell out of the complainants. The courts tell us they jolly well know who the criminals, rapists and murderers  are but are unable to do anything because the investigating agencies have eaten up the evidences without any trace.

So fear not the dogs that merely clean up the system and fill up their stomachs in the process too.  Beware of the morlocks who rip off our living flesh because we gave them the gift of life.


  1. I am glad that my trivial observation got you into writing yet another insightful piece. The wide spread corruption is another disturbing reality. Power corrupts. A radical change with lesser number of people with rubber stamps is desired.

  2. Your description of us being eaten alive by all those mentioned is certainly more grisly than a dog eating carcasses. In fact, it is obscene. Do we have any hope of deliverance?

  3. Power packed. It is always a treat to read your posts.

    As Zephyr said…your analogy is hard hitting, yet a stinking stark reality of the times.

  4. Dear Pandey,

    Congrats for new mesmerizing look of your blog.
    Waiting something on Shivani Bhatnagar’s cold-blooded murder. Delhi High-Court’s decision to set-free IPS Ravi Kant Sharma on technical glitches is really shocking. As if it is not enough he is probably going to be reinstated. ‘Enough is enough’ glitters only in the leaves of books.

  5. If I had not seen the date of the post, I would have thought you posted this today. It is as valid today as it was before; if anything, more valid. Amazingly written. And so true. Just tried to imagine what the river must be thinking…..

    Some Gangas flow
    at the beck and call
    of Fake Mountains,
    rising and going rough shod over
    Public Interest Rocks,
    making inroads
    into Bays of Corruption,
    powerful Men and women
    stand immersed
    and worship
    the Rising Son.

    So many inlets,
    so many bays,
    so much unbiodegradable
    mind degradable junk
    to be swallowed,
    and the real river
    heaves in breath,
    and slowly moves on
    cynical about
    the Project
    to clean her
    and those that Sin….

    Her daughter Padma,
    meets an agitated Brahmaputra
    at the Bengal Delta.
    I’ve just come down from
    Sukeleswar Ghat, Guwahati,
    and I don’t believe what I am hearing…”
    she says.
    “Tell your Mom
    I need to talk to her…..
    There is just so many times
    I can change my course
    to avoid such folks.
    Is there a
    National Commission for Abused Rivers ?”

    1. Suranga, those three stanzas are like three different clouds of nuclear mushrooms, spewing away repulsive fumes of the plagues that singe this land. The rise of the son, the rot in Ganga and the blot in Guwahati, all meet in a blinding confluence of damnation. A bristling, hissing indictment in a magnificent swipe of verse.

  6. I just realized that this is an older post. And, still so relevant. Sad part that these demons that are eating us alive continue to do that shamefacedly and without any respite one year later and maybe will continue till posterity.

    1. Rachna, I was passing by my old posts when I realized how relevant it still is, just as you say. It does seem to be our ultimate fate.

  7. What a brilliant post, my friend! I would say that I liked it, but it is difficult to use the word ‘like’ for such a chilling piece of writing.

    May I venture to suggest that though the human dogs of today may eat away at our material possessions, they will never be able to gnaw at our souls.

  8. That was so emphatically written. Shows how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. Death indeed is a great leveler but you made it sink in to every reader’s mind that life (under such dire circumstances) is the one we should fear more than the death which ironically puts our miseries to rest. I love the great depth and sheer power that come to you so naturally in your flawless writing.

    1. Yet again, you upturn a cauldron of elixir into the parched throats of an ordinary observer! We seemed to have evolved into a soulless civilisation; we are part of the decaying carcass, living or dead.

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