Sunday, February 25, 2007

Drawing a Line with Reality

There is no suicide for which all society is not responsible. - Cyril Connolly

Sometimes, life just gets to be too much of a hassle. With an everyday growing need to be the best in whatever one does, eventually, one simply loses the initial enthusiasm and the innocence involved behind doing something one really loves. In a society where the battle between the weak and the strong are defined and judged in terms of finance, gender, religion and social class, there is always a clash with an emerging group whose actions and thoughts reflect peace and equality in the form of creativity and art. Young people in particular conjure up a world of their own and desperately try to draw a relation between reality and their dreams. Practically speaking, in spite of all the long after-dinner discussions about how we should all work towards a better society, somehow we are the ones who actually shirk away from it.

In the last four years, other than the incidents that I read about in the papers, four people I knew took their lives. What strikes me, is that all four of them were artistic in nature and actually defined the phrase "creativity within one's own soul". Something else that hit me was that all of them were bright and young women between the ages of 18 and 24. All of them were students in leading private educational institutions and had a circle of friends of their own. They unconsciously were out to make a difference around them with the extraordinary abilities that they had.

Monica was a second year student at a leading private university and was part of a writing club. Just starting off her life at the age of 21, she would use her sensitivity about the happenings around her and write them down. She wrote poetry and fiction about the social condition, dirty politics within friends and relationships between parents and children, lovers, even between nature and living beings. One fine day, she kills herself merely because her work and proficiency would not get recognised by her family, friends and society. One might relate this incident to the famous poet Sylvia Plath who took her own life, and point out the romantic essence that goes with all kinds of deeds performed by writers and poets. However, in a society like ours, there might be many more reasons than actually meet the eye.

These youngsters somehow become frustrated at the fact that their abilities do not get recognised or given due respect by their family members merely because they happen to be girls. Other suicide cases involve upcoming public speakers, talented musicians and outstanding photographers. Each of them opted to give up on life, instead of facing the everyday challenges, which turned out to be harder and harder to keep up with in life.

Experts say that the idea of misinterpreting reality is called Psychosis, which actually results in suicide attempts because the incorrect perceptions can cause severe suffering and a false belief that no hope exists. People usually need to believe that there is a purpose to their lives. It is a spiritual issue rather than a medical or psychiatric one. Stress at home, work, and in the entertainment and information media are causing more reports of people "cracking," or mentally "breaking down," than ever before. Somehow, the mind of a creator dwells on a level which normal people cannot seem to get or comprehend.

In our society, women are still restricted to areas where their ideas, thoughts and creations are not acknowledged by others. Even at home, these young girls do not get the support that they require to trend on their chosen paths. Most parents still think that girls should not have an outlet to expose their inner talents or creativity, so that they don't miss out on a well-to-do marriage proposal. Since marriage seems to be the solution to every single problem, sometimes, many young women are also forced into it, through emotional blackmailing, a threat to stop their education or being locked at home.

Obviously we as a society have a greater responsibility to promote and encourage the creativity of young people and also recognise the warning signs of when they cannot cope with in reality. Unless we are more vigilant and compassionate towards our young, we will continue to lose such bright, beautiful individuals.

Volume 4 Issue 51 | June 17, 2005 |

Copyright (R) 2005

Being Young

Life begins at 40, they say. But even 40 year olds might just be a little bit nostalgic about the fresh flavour of youth, of a tender blush on the cheeks, of the enthusiasm over the simple budding of flowers and living on the verge of danger.

Youth comes but once in a lifetime as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it. Just once do ripples on the pond seem amusing, the reflection of a loved one on the face of the moon seem real and the so-called realisation, somewhere at the back of the head, of forever living on a bed of roses.

The young cling on to these innocent dreams to survive, creating their own worlds and building an urge to conquer and make the universe a better place. The more experienced or the elderly merely smile at these thoughts, even wishing back to the good old days, when thinking the impossible was a habit and building castles in the air was a favourite pastime.

Lately however, I have been wondering what the children, held hostage in Russia, were thinking about when they were cramped together. I wonder what spectacles of youth they missed in those three days, not to mention what they will be missing now.

On every one of those days, they were probably hoping for someone to come and take them out of the mess. An unimaginable clutter, in which they had never even dreamed that they would get themselves into, maybe not even in their nightmares. With no food and water, these children were deprived of the simple task of imagining for more. All that they could have a taste of was their own fear and an uncertainty of whether to accept death or be granted with life again.

I am sure that they could very well hear the wails of their parents, hurdling outside the school area, screaming incomprehensible words and noises, trying to have a peak at their child or at least hear a simple word, and make sure that they were alive.

For three days, the youth in another part of the world lost their ability to dream and to think the unthinkable. Their desires were merely limited to a plate of hot food, water, and a place to sleep, free of the thoughts of slow and torturous death.

I also wonder as to what struck the children when they were on the verge of their deaths. The letters which were supposed to be written to the long lost friends, the childhood photographs of the slumber party from the summer of 1996 to be arranged and marked, the Friday night concert, a sorry to your best friend for the horrible and meaningless fight you picked with him last week, daddy's hug after coming home from work, mummy's raspberry pies and the innumerable scolding for sitting down to do homework.

I wonder what the world was doing, when these kids were dying of hunger and thirst and hat to gulp down their cries for fear of being shot. I wonder what everyone was up to when these youngsters had to get their brains blown out in the blasts or had to get shot at while fleeing from their captors.

I know what I was doing. I was probably planning my 22nd birthday party. I am sure I was listing out the 35 people I had to invite, arguing with Ma about the menu and making my room as comfortable as possible for my friends. When the survivors, dripping with blood, were being shown to the whole world, I think I was doing my last bit of shopping for Pringles, coke and the latest series of Friends for everyone to watch, cry and smile over Rachel and Ross getting back again.

Well, is that not the essence of youth? Laughing and crying over petty situations even though unreal, giggling on the telephone with the person you have a crush on, travelling with buddies to far-off places during semester breaks, staying up nights to finish the project due the next day at university, planning a 6-a-side cricket match and throwing a surprise birthday party for your friend. It is the little things that matter, which have the youth so excited about living, in the real sense of the word.

Volume 4 Issue 12 | September 10, 2004 |

Copyright (R) 2004

Moments before she left

She practically flew out of the conference. Everything blurry in front of her eyes, somehow she managed to hail a cab and instruct the driver to take her to 27 Sherard Road, East Ham. After settling down in the taxi, realisation dawned upon her that it would take her at least an hour and a half to reach the hotel. Maybe I should just head towards the airport, she thought. The return ticket to Dhaka was lying in her hotel room, Oh shucks! She reminded herself. All she could do was just sit, wait till she reached her hotel, and pray for everything to be as it was before.

Just 30 minutes ago, she remembered that her cell phone was still switched on. Oops! Don't want it to go blaring right in the middle of my presentation. That's when she found the sign of an envelope blinking on the screen of her phone. I must have missed this one in the London traffic with all it's blaring horns, she rolled her eyes. Ever since she reached London a week ago, she could barely keep up with everything around her. Even though it was her second trip to London, she was having a tough time getting used to the different time zone, hardly able to keep her eyes open during the daytime and redefining insomnia at night. However, she was very excited to be there. Being part of a junior linguistics research team in Dhaka, she worked very hard on a paper, describing her ideas and concepts regarding teaching foreign languages to second language learners of all ages.

It was on the main conference day, when she received a text message from her brother. Apuni, come home asap. Ma doesn't have much time left. Reaching her hotel, she leaped out of the taxi and ran to her room. Grabbing her travel bag, purse and taking five minutes to cast a last look around her hotel room, in case she missed anything important, ran out of the hotel and took the taxi all the way to Heathrow International Airport.

With passing moments, she couldn't keep herself calm any longer. It seemed like an eternity before she could actually reach her family back home. She let the tears flow when an image of her mother's face hovered in front of her eyes. I want to be there when they take that machine off her. Her family was struck with fear when they realised that the ever-jolly aunt and the fun mom wouldn't live long, when she was diagnosed with blood cancer. She, along with the rest of her siblings, was pleasantly surprised with their mother's ability to fight the disease and go on for a few more years.

As she got on the plane and strapped herself with the seat belt, she couldn't help thinking of the times when she and her siblings were younger and life back then was simply a routine, which everyone had to follow, never worrying about the hardships in life. Life was a bed of roses for all of them, especially with a mother who herself was a little more than a child. She would laugh heartily with the rest of the kids while watching TV or try to get into the gossiping rituals, with her daughter and her friends during their sleep- overs, much to her daughter's embarrassment.

As she slowly dozed off to sleep, she went back to a time when she was just six years old. Her four-year-old brother and she were trying to hide the expensive piece of flower vase from their father, now broken.

They fixed it up with super glue, at least they thought they did, and placed it back up on the shelf, beside their mother's precious crystal horse. They did get grounded though, when they were found guilty of the 'crime' and were not allowed to watch Voltron, Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers on TV for the rest of the day. She was especially hurt when she wasn't allowed to watch Care Bears that evening and couldn't help thinking of how horrible it was to live with her parents. I can't wait to grow up, she cried to herself. That was when her mother amused them with her magical abilities. Her mother sat down on the ground and asked the children to close their eyes and concentrate hard. When they opened their eyes, abraca dabra, she came up with oranges, within seconds and that too from thin air! Even though her brother did claim that he had seen their mother cheat, when he had opened his eyes slightly and peeked at her. She had a bowl of oranges hidden behind her.

Finally reaching Zia International Airport, she was too exhausted to think of what was happening around her. Getting on yet another cab, she reached the hospital where her family was waiting. Waiting for what, she wondered. Her mother to die?

Life without her mother was simply unimaginable. In spite of all their fights, tears and screaming at each other late into the night, she needed her mother to be with her and listen to her non-stop chattering. She needed her mother when she was angry and had to scream at someone. She needed her when she had to call someone and share the silliest of information and just see her mother's fuming face when she would come home late.

She slowly stepped inside the room, where her mother was breathing softly. Her mother looked peaceful and strangely relieved, not at all scared or tensed about going to a new place, as was her habit. She knelt down and held her mother's hand. She held me when I breathed my first. "We'll have to take the machine off now," a voice spoke to her. I want to hold her hand when she breathes her last.

As the family gathered around, seemingly to witness her mother's soul go away to a place unknown, she could actually imagine her mother happy and smiling to have the whole family together. "I would have to be on my death bed to see the family standing together under the same roof, holding no grudge against one another," she remembered her mother telling her aunt, clearly upset over the little squabbles that went on forever in the extended family.

The machine beeped for the last time. Her mother's breathing became slower, eventually dying away to a whisper. She held her mother's hand and told her the one thing she hardly ever let her know. She loved her and she was sure that from somewhere in God's own abode, she heard her mother respond, in her smiling and playful drawl.

Volume 4 Issue 46 | May 13, 2005 |

Copyright (R) 2005

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Springing back to life: Amar golpo

I write this story
To see my dreams,
To make them real,
To have you near.

I write my story
To hear you breathe,
To watch you smile and
To feel your touch.

Yet, my unfinished story
Is left unheard, untouched, unfelt
Cold and lonely
Dark and stormy

Springing back to life: Porajoy

I believe – that one day you will unveil those tears,
That you will smile and so will your eyes,
That you will feel the ice cracking beneath,
And won't choke on the wishes that you make
Every sleepless night, upon the star that you pretend to see,
And let them flow free…

Springing back to life: Gaanwala

I paint you with my music.
Smoothen that smile on your face
And colour your heart on the canvas.

I seem to be losing the colour,
The music that I create and
The heart on the canvas,
A world now empty.

Springing back to life: Ke

It must be you shining in the sky,
Tugging at my heart
Every time it rains.

Springing back to life: Tobuo

… but what is love without a little sorrow,
With no tears pouring like the rain.

It is all about being a silent crust
Cracking within.

About watching your dreams
Crashing down to pieces,

Suffering in solitude,
Withering in pain.

… I smile amidst the tears and
I love you

Springing back to life: Shesh

With you and your
Words in my heart,
My story had no beginning,
Neither does it come to an end.

Springing back to life: Bristy

Let the rain wash away
Those sweet memories,
Long gone tales of
Building a home together,
Growing flowers and
Climbing those far away mountains.

Springing back to life: Ghum ashena

Yet another sleepless night and
I wish could fly.
I wish I could touch the moon and
Light up the darkness lingering within.

Yet another sleepless night and
I hear music.
I fondle it softly with my fingers,
And carry the tune until sunrise.

You are on my mind,
And it's you that I see.
It's for you that I sing
Sleepless tonight.

Springing back to life: Boka manushta

She flies away
From my shadows,
Never turns to peek
Or watch me watch her.
She is now the blue sky,
Lost amongst
The white clouds,
But I still await her return,
Laugh with her tinkling voice,
Sing in her memory.

Springing back to life: Ghumparani gaan

Goddess of the sky,
Princess of my heart,
Your smile shines through
The darkness in me.

As you close your eyes
And enter the world of
Dreams and fairytales,
I will be there watching you,
Singing this lullaby.

If ever it may be,
That you should forget
My lullaby,
I shall sing to my heart's content,
Remembering the Aura
That once filled my being.

Springing back to life: Obhiman

The sky can be as blue as ever,
And the sun may smile and shine,
Dew drops gather outside my window,
Where the music seems to get louder and louder.

I have lost my smile,
Lost my soul and
Lost the desire to live.
All I want is a voice to
Sing out loud in silence.

Amar Ekush

I speak:

thoughts, colours, festivities, greatness, sorrow, happiness, pride, envy, greed...

people, culture, race, education, land, nation...

fields, birds, flowers, trees, forests and rivers...

history, battles, bloodshed, chains, freedom, independence...

I stand proud,

I speak of my identity.