Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 81, Tuesday, August 18, 2009



Rotten lavender

Because it wasn't the first rain of the season nor was it the last, I didn't know what to do with it. During an early evening nap while I was dreaming of a mouse grinding his teeth right in front of my eyeballs, the clouds had gathered outside. When I woke up, my whole body felt like a mound of coal, my skin dripped with sweat and the air around me smelled like rotten lavender.

I craved a guava of a moss green shade so I wrapped the achol of my sari around my shoulder and put on my flats and walked down four floors. When I stepped onto the road, the third drop of rain was just settling in the not so concrete part of the road. By the time I reached the bazaar, rain was pouring over un-showered bodies and colourful cotton saris.

My usual fruit stand loyally stood waiting. I tested each guava for firmness and picked up two. The young, not-so-much-of-a-gentleman who runs the fruit stand stole a few glances of my umbrella-less arms and the dots of rain on my forehead. He overcharged me. I paid him in coins. I ran towards the house.

Climbing up four floors with a sari that was not yet as wet as I wanted it to be, made me crave a moment from a never watched art film, the low budget independent ones full of clichés. So I dropped most of my valuables and carried my most valuable to the top of the building, to the roof that was having an intimate affair with million raindrops.

I barged in, seeking part of their intimacy. The concrete jungle of Dhaka was lost between time and space. Unknown faces danced on rooftops far and near, half naked bodies drunk on monsoon bliss. It took only a minute before the rain had reached every hidden curve, every sore wound waking up neglected happiness.

I stood obliged and listened to that silence that rain creates, even the honking cars on the streets had surrendered. I stood begging the rain to travel to the ends of my troubles. I kept them mostly on the shelf above my collarbone, near my throat. The rain extended his ring finger and touched each one of my miseries. He told me “stand still” and I did, trying to accentuate my neck while the rain bathed me endlessly, scrubbing me down left and right with his sharp kisses.

When he was done with me, I didn't feel pure or perfect. I asked him if he had held back, I told him that I remembered how he used to be better at this, back in those days when I wore frocks that only came down to a little above my knees. I told him I wanted the same treatment as then and that he is no longer the rain that he used to be. He laughed, there were no thunders in the sky, no sun either.

He told me “it's not me, it's you baby,” and before I could reply he moved on to the next roof top where a little boy stood naked, peeing. Without all my troubles and a perfectly wet sari I slid down the stairs. At home, I wrote about fulfilling old love and emptying out new ones, while the rain continued his endless affairs right in front of my eyes, leaving me wanting absolutely nothing more.

The empty nest

My daughter, Rayyan, was leaving for her home in Chittagong. She had come some months back with her daughter, Sarah, to have her second child, Alina. I woke up early in the morning with a heavy heart and instinctively pulled 'The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran. The first page that I opened read:

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, Speak to us of Children. And he said: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you....”

So true!

Rayyan went to a boarding school in India when she was ten years old. After that she spent a year in Malaysia to complete her high school graduation. She joined Independent University, Bangladesh and spent four years in Dhaka. She got married during her final semester.

Every time she leaves us, I can't stop my tears from flowing. She keeps on reminding me that it's just for a while and we'll soon be together again. But, no matter what she says, the twin pools can't stop overflowing and the rivers of tears just stream out unbridled. I know she feels the same way but she is more able to control her tears or maybe she hides them just like my mother used to when I was at a boarding school.

There seems to be a big gaping hole in my heart when she leaves which cannot be filled with anything. The house too seems forlorn without her. Now that she has two sweet, little girls, their departure makes our lives even harder. Sarah, who is a little over two years, keeps us busy while she is here. After she leaves, it seems that everything is quite pointless. Every waking minute seems to remind me of the things that both of us did together.

Some say it is this difficult for me because I have only one daughter. If I had more children, I would have had one or two at home all the time. But I don't think that is true. A relative of mine who has five sons and four daughters does not have a single offspring at home to keep him and his wife company right now.

So whether one has nine children or just one, most of the time one is left with a house that is devoid of children. Those parents who have grown-up children living with them are very lucky. In spite of all the debates about nuclear families, I feel that children should live with their parents. The nest should not be empty!


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