Thursday, 29 January 2015


They tell me Alexander conquered the world –
And Caesar brought Europe under his sway
They did it alone, you say?

They tell me Qin built the Great Wall
And Shah Jahan the Taj.
They did it alone, did they?

I was there.

I was the armourer who sharpened Alexander’s spears
I was the prisoner Caesar brought in chains to Rome.
I was the mason who died making the Great Wall
I was the stone-cutter who lost a hand for the Taj,
I was
The carpenter who hewed Jesus’ cross from the wood
The Englishman who set light to Jeanne d'Arc's pyre.

I was the Ethiopian warrior armed with a spear
Poison-gas bombed, so Mussolini could build an Empire,
I was the Chinese woman raped to death
When Nanjing fell.

I was the guard at Auschwitz who gassed the Jews
The Indian peasant starved to death by Churchill, too –
I was the dust beneath the wheels
Of conquerors’ chariots,
I was
The oil in the engines of their ravaging tanks.

I was, I am
Nameless, faceless -

No angel, no devil, just the one in the way
The one you forgot.

Just you try making history
Without me.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015


Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Child Abuse

Title: Child Abuse.
Material: Acrylic and Watercolour on Plaster.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2015

Back in 2012 I'd written a poem called Child Soldier:

I’m ten years old, sir
I’m all of ten years old
And all I know how to do, sir
Is what I’ve been told.

I have never read a book, sir
And on a blackboard all I’ve ever seen
Is the pattern of a minefield, sir
And the inside of an M16.

I do what I’m told, sir
I do what I’m told
And if you tell me to be bold sir
Why then I will be bold

If you tell me it’s right sir
It's fine to slash and kill, why then I would
Because if you tell me something sir
It’s an order received and understood.

I wonder if it’s right sir
To pity the children soft and weak
While I play with life and death, sir
They just play hide and seek.

Childhood, why that’s a dream, sir
That’s a dream over and done
And maybe I’ll have a rest, sir
When you tell me your war is won. 

IN this painting I used the green background to symbolise youth, and also to set it off against the green uniform of the child soldier. The black cloud around him is self-explanatory.

The problem with plaster is that it's difficult to scan (note the blurring on lower right) and a photo does not really show the texture. I'm coming round to the view that for complex paintings paper is a better medium, while for highly textured ones I will use plaster.

As always, painting is highly cathartic and the best way of releasing stress I have open to me at this time.


After the history lesson was over, the children of Kay’s class gathered in the playroom on B deck, talking excitedly among themselves. Overhead, through the screens, the stars were a belt flung across the velvet-black cloth of space, but nobody spared a look. They’d only seen it every day of their lives.

“So that’s why they left the old planet,” Peetu said. He was big and dark, and Kay was afraid of him because he was so rough. “I asked my mum about it, but she said they left because there were other worlds to conquer.”

“That’s what my dad said too,” Juno put in. She had a crush on Peetu so strong that everyone knew it except Peetu himself, and agreed with everything he said. “He said...” she put on an exaggerated accent. “...the old planet was getting worked out. There was nothing left to discover, so they decided to sail out into the wide open spaces.”

Everyone laughed, even Kay. Juno was a good mimic. “But it was a nice planet,” she said. “Look at all the animals and plants they showed us. The pines, the whales, the dogs...”

“The hippos,” someone said. It was Teddie, who was long-legged, slim and had a narrow, anxious face. “I loved the hippos. So nice and squashy. I wish I had a hippo of my own.”

“It would probably make a mess,” Juno told her. “And it would probably bite you.”

Teddie glared at her. “You really can’t let anyone else have a little fun, can you?”

There was a quarrel developing. Kay hated quarrels. “It doesn’t matter,” she said quickly. “Remember what the teacher said? All of it, hippos, dogs, pines, they were all gone long before we left the planet.”

“Yes...” Peetu rubbed his nose. “Remember the video of the nuclear wars? All those mushroom clouds. That was really cool.”

“Oh shut up,” Teddie snapped. “And you saw what happened afterwards? All the dead rivers and the sea filled with sludge, the sky black with smoke. You saw all that?”

Peetu shrugged. “They’d already killed everything with pollution anyway,” he said. “Hey, you know what?”

“What?” Juno asked.

“It must have been a really lousy planet, or otherwise why would they have thrown it away like that?”

Everyone sat considering that statement.

“The dolphins...” Kay began. She had a sudden vision of sleek black bodies leaping from a sunlit sea, full of joy and energy. “The dolphins...”

“What about the dolphins?” Peetu asked. Everyone looked at Kay, waiting for an answer. She blushed.

“Nothing. Forget it.”

“Well,” Peetu said, turning away, “that’s school done for today. Hey, anyone found any good video games lately?”

“I did,” Juno said, and playtime was on.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2015