Catacombs of Honour: A Tragedy

Swayam Nath

Born in Assam

South Point School, Guwahati

A 12th Grader from Guwahati, Swayam is a poet, aficionado of both Western and Indian classical music and a yet-to-be-published translator. He finds literature and art to be his ultimate respite. The story presented here is captioned 'Catacombs of Honour: A Tragedy', which is told in a rather unconventional narratological way in terms of the aesthetical presentation, form and multiple narrator, and so forth.

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Swayam Nath

With an aching pen where the unrevealed in unravelled, with aches and pains to tell you the melancholy that numbs my heart. Holy silence hovers over the meandering path to fill the catacombs of honour with destitute arms, but what more could it be, than the hovering silence that is suspended in the thin air much like the dead man’s plight sinking—sullen. And what more could it be but gore and glory.....gore and glory.....gore and glory.


Ditya, Gamya, Ehani, Bilhana, Chirasmi clad in clothes colourful were plucking Sarai flower in the bahabagan for they were to offer it to Marangburu.”Come Lopa, help us carry them. Have you bought the jholi, eh?” called Gamya with her usual jovial tone and so I affirmed and collected all the flowers in the jholi. Festivities had taken a good hold over Gamya as the rustic vibrations of the madal and the peals of the bell had captivated the environs. Ladies were in their Sunday best. Colors had drenched each one of them as they were draped in sarees of vibrant colour. The birds had forgotten their songs and the trees their tassel-like dance. Sense of stillness was still reigning.


Bajrasen: How petty these vermin are, celebrating what? —A petty festival of flowers honouring their false gods. All of this tomfoolery. Don’t they know there is but one God and of her I am the true devotee—Kali. 

Rakhal: “Yes, Bajrasen Babu.” (Rakhal was of the type which one would categorise as a ‘Servile peasant with sadistic disposition’ always with his acquiescent ‘yes, sirs’ at length for as long as he was reinforced with the sum of 2 annas that he was promised.)

Bajrasen: Nevertheless, I will not spare this moment to go out of hand’s curl,

Even though I am in no position to bother about it at all. 

Petty men and their ways— I know them very well. 

Yester month they had asked me for a sum—

a rather grand one. Unhesitatingly did I part in disposition warm—

The sum grand and all;

Asked repayment which I was supposed to receive yesterday by night fall.

Call Shaka at once!

(Shaka enters)

Bajrasen: You had seen Reicheralal borrow rupees 10 yester month when by the shores of Gumti in the sugarcane field, we were resting. Extract it at once for me. If they are reluctant, you know what you have to do, right?

Shaka:  Yes, Master.


The hustle and bustle of the festivities filled the void of silence that the birds left in the environs. Everyone was dancing and singing with smiles like children.

Ai Rangamatir pathe lo

Madal baje baje basher bashi”

Each member, when their turn came, with the family prostrated before the deurey and prayed “O Jaher Ara may you bless us with good health and deliver us from any obstacles that may hinder us. May peace prevail upon our people and may our people prosper evermore.” After the Sarai flowers were offered, everyone proceeded to the open field for the archery duel. Such great the joy was, that the black clouds would cry, the pard would hunt and the birds would forget her song.


Silence succumbs to the susceptible forebodings,

The horseman is on his way coming.

With flashing eyes and floating hair

He dons his pride.

Come! Come! Look!

Look into his eyes, 

the opal burning where his sedulous strength lies.

“Come I hither anon 

In search of Reicherlal the con,

Where are you? Where are you?

Come here, come forth.

Answer me, Return me, the sum Bajrasen quoth”

“Hear me, O, hear me

For here I come

Give me some time to repay you the sum.

Shaka, blessed son please understand my plight

Do let your conscience bring to your actions some light.”

“O petty peasant, peasant poor, poor con,

No understanding that you part will please me anon.

Come from my Master I am his slave

Slave I am feeble not, but valiantly brave

Here, here o come not.

Here, I take your precious lot.

Repent and return

And only then your Lopa to you ever turn.”



The Bloody man! (Reichurlal sobs and shrieks), I am robbed of my honor and robbed of my daughter. O Jahan Ara, will you be silent to such poor plight of your devotee? O how every morning I remember you in devotion. Will my devotion to you be of no use? Will my plight go unnoticed to thine omnipresent eyes? O spirit of nature, hark my prayers! Glory be to Jahan Ara.


“Petty Girl! Sit here and think not about running off. I shall go now and I will lock the door as I leave. Try not to be creative lest you should be shifted at Bajrasen’s house whose presumptuousness and promiscuity is far worse than mine.” Threatened Shaka with his hoarse voice.

“Ok”, replied Lopa timidly.

Lone and alone she was sacred and was engrossed in contemplation of her father’s plight, who in his stressful disposition would give up eating altogether. Poor thing!

(She sings)


My Jahan Ara has closed the door

With luck’s blow will that door falter.

With week’s wait in days’ time

When shall my saviour come and save me from my plight…


Days passed incessantly. The Sun and Moon were on their mundane rounds each having their prefixed share till the end of times. 

Shaka came and went. Ate in silence. Fallen Dust cleaned. Each bathed. Slept soundly, though some nights she would lie with her eyes open thinking what her father would be doing. Whether he ate. O poor thing. Good bless him with composure.

It was maybe 7 days or so. Shaka’s silence had blossomed into a few words and those few words further blossomed into sentences of pure delight. At one night he even dictated Lopa to sleep with him. Somehow his cruel crust was tumbling to soft sediments.

Nevertheless, since Reichurlal had paid the sum, Shaka, by Bajrasen’s order, was bound to give away Lopa to her father and give away, he did. 


And I must confess how charming she is.

There is a touch of cuckoo about her, 

Her voice is so sweet as it flows in the ether

There! She has made me what I feared and wanted most

(Perhaps he has seen his true self like Caliban but only 

It did not enrage him as it did Caliban)

Shall I go and meet her

Perhaps the sight of her face may calm the tempest in my heart.

As Arjun embraced Chitrangada 

I shall embrace her in my arms.

Her goodness would transform my kuroop to Suroop

As love for Arjun did transform Chitrangada.

Though, I am no Chitrangada,

To her I shall be her beloved Arjun, her Shaka.

As stars do shine and twinkle

I will proclaim my affections.


Lopa was bathing like a banakumari with her sisters in river Gumti. There he was, Shaka, struck by Madan’s bow in profound love. Only when she came out of the water and dressed herself did he reveal himself. Shy as he was, more helpless was Lopa. She was afraid of him greatly, so were her sisters. Her fear and reluctance somehow irritated Shaka. Nevertheless, he confessed his love unafraid of the truth or of her sisters. Lopa however did not answer at all and left him in the convoluted strands of ambiguity and that great ignominy. He thought perhaps, as they left him there, they would discuss him in front of their other mates. Oh what a great shame.


Shaka could not bear the ignominy and those broken sediments again crystallised into a cold icy rock. Nothing could ease him. His pride was the fire and his cruel nature was the ice. The marriage of fire and ice started a fiendish tempest which swept the softness in him.

In this raging madness he planned to bring upon ignominy on her.

At dusk Lopa was returning with her pots full of water. Shaka caught hold of her in the fading dark—Took her in his embrace—took her pride and smashed it—deflowered her, a beautiful flower that she was—All hopes lost. Lost. Lost.

SHAKA: This is your punishment for all the shame you’ve brought upon me, petty girl!

Poor as you are, poor shall you be.

Shame shall wash you from top to bottom.

There shall be no moksha in this earthly realm for you.

Must you dare to name me in front of others or accuse me of anything, I shall offer your father’s decapitated head to Maa Kali and pour libations to her.”


Sarai flowers covered the hilly lea in the bahabagan. Under the sal tree, Lopa sat brooding. Last night was spent in silence in unmatched anguish and swept all of her composure. She was firm in determination. She started walking. 

Abdul chacha, as he was returning with wood, asked her, “Lopa beti, where are you going?”

Lopa, lost in her thoughts, replied, “Nowhere”.

Lopa walked and walked till she reached the Gumti shores. She looked as if she were beholding an abyss. As she beheld she uttered softly—

“In the resounding echoes,

   In vast waves

     Of the world’s breath—

        To drown,

           To sink


               Heavenly Moksha.

(She jumped in river Gumti)