‘Joshua’s last stand’


Joshua was dying.  But, there is nothing unusual about dying , is there?  Yet, why was he dying so young?  Because he had plunged a carving knife into his middle.  Why had he done that?  Because of his mortification;  he had been identified as a paedophile.

As he lay dying, he thought how unfair it all was.  Now, if he had been a priest … …!  And he could have continued to give pleasure (he was sure of that) to youngsters, but in another district.  And, in the olden days, one could seduce a servant, service the wife of a brother or other relative, and generally have one’s way without all this sanctimonious fuss and bother.  So he communed with himself even as he sought to combat the physical pain he had inflicted upon himself.

As he lay dying, he thought that he could feel the eternal flames of hell nibbling at his toes and warming his feet.  As an upright man (his peccadilloes aside), the flames had surely to start with his feet.  Given his origins, he had to fear death – even as he had hastened the end of his life through social pressure.

This fear of death had been inculcated in his ancestors by the priests religiously attached to the trading marauders from the Iberian Peninsula and parts of the globe further north and east.  The traders had been in search of those spices which would cover the stench and terrible taste of the rotting meat that was normal fare for their peoples – that is, when they could find a kill.

Because of their superior weaponry, they had managed to acquire control some of the harbours which had given them succour;  and to build trading and wenching posts in the hinterland.  They had soon begun to feel racially and culturally superior to the coloured peoples (now described as natives) they had so easily dominated.  Their priests were ecstatic.  Here were so many sinners (they said) awaiting conversion to the one and only faith.  Their souls would be saved.

Joshua’s ancestors did have their souls saved, but they were not sure from what;  their life of desperation remained unchanged.  Their souls, on the other hand, were mighty pleased:  they sang of salvation with silent satisfaction.  Little did they realise that the priests were on an ego trip, blind to the reality of the origins of their founding authorities and their man-made doctrines of salvation with superiority.

At birth, Joshua had been a sore disappointment.  He was as puny as the rest of his community.  Centuries of living a life of hardship and deprivation, the inheritance of the masses in any part of the world, had resulted in weedy specimens of mankind.  The injection of solid Scottish (or, was it English?) genes, blood and whisky two generations back  had done little for his stature – both physical and social.  The pure of blood are normally not inclined to respect the genetic  infusion received by those who had been the beneficiaries of foreign infusions; often, the recipient had been under some duress.  Yet, the whisky was acceptable by one and all, as the local liquors were never of competitive quality.

As he lay dying, Joshua said to himself, “The world is indeed changing fast.  The oh-so-superior priests are facing strong competition from faiths which deny human intermediaries.  Colonial so-called powers have been forced to withdraw to their own borders.  A few nabobs had, however, established mansions at home, with assets seized from the colonies, matching the mansions of those money changers whose faiths allowed such a business as honourable.”

“As for my alleged sin, surely giving pleasure should not be seen as a sin.  How many men-of-god have given pleasure to lonely wives.  As well, when my ancestors were converted in their faith, they were promised salvation.  I know that the world is changing fast, but I sincerely hope that salvation will not be denied me.  Even as I feel the eternal flames seeking to devour me, I hold tightly to this hope.  For, without hope, life and death is indeed meaningless.”  So said Joshua as he took his last breath.

(Fiction by Ratnam)