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July 3, 2009



July 3, 2009

In Greek mythology, Orpheus and Prometheus are two such prominent characters who were punished by the king of the gods, Zeus, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the god of the sky and the thunder. Orpheus is considered to be the greatest bard and musician in Greek mythological tradition. After his beloved Eurydice was killed by the bite of a serpent, he went down into the underworld to bring her back. The nymphs and gods wept at the sadness of his songs and let him take Eurydice back to the world of the living. The only condition was that he wouldn't look back while bringing her to the surface. He instinctively looked behind him just when he was about to make it to the ground and Eurydice slipped back into the netherworld. Being an icon of culture and civilisation, Orpheus is widely represented in poetry, drama, film and music across the western world. There are varying accounts describing his death. One of the versions says that Zeus struck him with lightning for having revealed the mysteries of gods to men.

For Prometheus, there is only one account that when he stole fire and gave it to humans from Zeus who had kept it hidden from the mortals, he invited the wrath of the king of the gods for being sympathetic to humanity. He was chained to a rock and an eagle was commanded to pick at his liver everyday. The liver would get regenerated to be eaten again the next day. This punishment would go on for millions of years until Hercules would kill the bird. Prometheus is seen as a saviour of humanity. He has a major symbolic significance in world history and revolutionary writing. Our own Syed Sibte Hasan's seminal book in Urdu, Musa say Marx tak (From Moses to Marx), illustrates Prometheus on its cover. Both Orpheus and Prometheus sided with the mortals by helping them gain intellect in the shape of culture and creativity and resources in the shape of fire. They were punished by the king of the gods for gods do not like their mysteries to be revealed or the

resources of this world to be made accessible to humans.

We the mortals of Pakistan are ruled by gods. They have made Orpheus haul over the coals after seizing his lyre. They have chained Prometheus with a rock after snatching back the fire and hiding it from us. The eagle of injustice is picking at his liver. The lives of gods who rule us are mysteries for us for they live in another world. The children of gods do not go to the schools our children go to. Half of our children do not go to school anyway. The families of gods are not treated in the hospitals where we are treated. Each day, 75 of our women die in childbirth anyway. The gods do not go from one place to another on the buses, trains and rickshaws which we use. A third of our population cannot afford to take a bus anyway. The gods do not live in neighbourhoods where we live. One-fourth of us are shelter-less anyway. The gods do not go buy their food from where we do. One-third of our population sleeps hungry anyway. The gods do not speak the language we speak.

We have no choice but to rise. Get back the lyre of Orpheus and sing. Shoot the eagle of injustice, free Prometheus and snatch the fire back. A Herculean task but we have got to do it.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet and rights campaigner. Email: [email protected] .org

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