This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Thursday, 11 October 2012


The room was small and dark. The only light came from a candle on a small metal stand. Molten wax made jagged stalactites down the sides.

Sitting at the table, a man was writing.

He was not young. His cheeks were pale and sunken, his beard and hair sprinkled with silver. The collar of his shirt was frayed and threadbare, but he didn’t look as though he dressed that way because he was poor. He gave the impression that he didn’t really care how he dressed.

From somewhere beyond the single high window came a snatch of music, a voice raised in song. The man at the table tilted his head, listening, and then returned to his writing.

On one side of the table, beside a small bottle of ink, was a pile of paper already thickly covered with his spidery scrawl. On the other was a much slimmer pile, and as the man wrote, that pile diminished steadily. Once in a while he rubbed his eyes, as though his vision was blurring. This wasn’t surprising; the man had been writing for hours.

“I have no desire to count myself as a citizen of a country,” he wrote, the fountain pen moving scratchily over the rough sheets of cheap paper. “A country means nothing to me, or should not. For anyone who loves humanity, or claims to, a country is no more than a cell which imprisons him within its walls. A world divided into countries is a prison, no more than a dungeon.

“I have always counted myself as a citizen of the world, as a member of the human race. If I owe allegiance to a flag, it is one comprising those of every nation and every people on earth. If I seek to speak with a voice, it’s the voice of all humanity, and beyond, the voice of all living things.

“The passport I carry is merely a piece of paper, identifying me for the conveniences of authority. In no way does it tie me down to the nation in which I was born, through no choice of mine. In no way can it demand of me obedience to its wishes. In no way am I compelled to submit to injustice in the name of a nation in which I don’t believe.”

The candle was burning very low now, and the man had to lower his face almost to the paper to read what he was writing.

“If there is to be any hope for humanity, it is this: that the people of the world realise that flags are merely coloured scraps of cloth, and nations are merely coloured patches on the map. It is only when they set themselves free of the constraints of national identity that people will be truly free.”

The sky seen through the high window had begun to lighten faintly when the man set the last sheet of paper aside and sat back, rubbing at his eyes. The candle was only a guttering stub.

With a creak, the door opened, and two young officers entered. The light of the lantern one carried glittered on their badges and the medals on their chests.

“It’s time,” the older of the two said.

The man behind the table stood up, stretching.

“I’m done.” He smiled, gesturing at the pile of paper. “I’m ready for your firing squad now, gentlemen.”

Through the window of the cell, dawn glimmered faintly in the sky.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2010

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