On August 26, Pakistan declared a state of emergency over massive flooding which has affected over 30 million people, killed more than 1,200, and placed one-third of the country underwater.
Beyond the obvious humanitarian catastrophe, to me these floods also represent the direct and continued legacies of colonialism—not only in terms of colonialism’s role in contributing to the climate crisis, but also the colonial violence of arbitrarily-drawn borders that divide South Asia, like the rest of the Global South, into atomized nation states and position them as enemies of one another.
Today, Pakistan is drowning. Tomorrow, it could be Bangladesh or India. I wrote this poem to explore the cruel absurdity of this status quo in the face of a climate crisis that has no regard for national sovereignty. What do borders and flags mean when the river rises?
You can donate here to support relief efforts led by the Women Democratic Front of Pakistan.
when the river rises, its murky waters heaving towards your doorstep, will it carry a passport? will it queue for days at border checkpoints, huddled among the starving masses, waiting for its turn to enter?
when the river rises, devouring entire fields and cities in its icy maw, will it cower before your military might? will it turn back when it sees your assembled tanks and missiles afraid to proceed any further?
when the river rises, when it threatens finally to swallow you whole, what will you do? will you tear your flag from atop its mast and fashion a life-vest from the scraps? will you sing your national anthem like a prayer to the mother goddess, invoking her to come and save you? will she listen?
no more mangoes is a blog by Pranay Somayajula. Click the button below to subscribe for free and receive new writing in your inbox:
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This is so wonderful! You’ve so eloquently described what I feel everyday. Thank you Pranay!
Of course, it won't be the countries that contributed most to the climate crisis that will pay most for its effects. Standard fare.