RED & GREEN
I barely recollect how she looked, looking back to the heydays of my late adolescence -- a dozen years and some more have passed it seems -- but I surely remember the way Parna looked that day. Even her dusky cheeks would blush when someone asked what her favourite colour was, for the colour was the same as her name. She was small but not petite; what I remember most about her, apart from her long hair, was the love she had for green and red.
This was way before the 'boutique' boom and the glory of the fashion houses but she was 'cool' enough to carry a khaadi green kameez contrasted with a neat, circular, red 'teep' on her forehead. Sometimes, she would skip bicoloured garbs, only to reflect upon the colours through the glass bangles in sparkling shades of magenta and bottle-green.
Was this a display of patriotic fervour on her part? Seemed unlikely then as it does today. But to me, red and green will always conjure careless images of a girl I once knew.
My sister got engaged a few months ago. The affair, even just the engagement party, was quite an ordeal for the couple, their entourage and the people who relentlessly worked in making the show a success.
To put henna on her hands, an artisan was summoned from one of the more renowned salons of the city and cost a fortune. One could buy a whole sacrificial cow with that sum of money when I was young.
Although an event for the womenfolk, some of her closest male relatives were allowed to stay.
“Thaako na bhaiya, please? I will be gone soon.”
I sat on a cushion and watched the dextrous hands of the lady with the henna tube work her way, drawing intricate patterns. Soon both her hands were a marvel of exquisite artisanship. The lush, green lines would soon lose the moisture and turn grey-green, and washed to reveal a network of bright red.
It is something contrary to the mental image that the blood and struggle of red gives birth to the beauty and serenity of green. But here, my dearest sister giggling her heart out showed how brilliant it is to see red emerge from green.
I lost my father at a very tender age. Truth be told, I was so young that to recollect an independent mental image of him is somewhat impossible. I only know him through a handful of photographs in the family album that survived the test of time.
I however did connect with him through his hobby. As an amateur horticulture enthusiast he had a garden in our backyard, one that my mother and I nurtured for many years after his death.
From my mother I learnt that roses are delicate living beings and that they require tender, loving care. Soon enough I knew that a constant moisture supply is vital to successful rose culture. Also of equal importance was applying fertilisers, insect and weed control.
And after many months of efforts, the roses would bloom -- white, yellow, and of course my father's favourite -- red. I felt a great sense of pride in culturing red roses in our garden, which was like a family heirloom handed down to me.
Red and green is not only about raging anger against oppression; it is also the compassion felt for fellow beings. Red and green can express love for a girl whom one never spoke to; or represent the mehendi red on the hands of one's sister. It is in the bandana of the shop assistant helping a mother choose a patriotic tee for her child. It is in the legacy of what a father leaves behind. In reality it is in everything around us. To be inspired, all we need to do is look hard. It's not difficult; only if you try.
By Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Makeup: Farzana Shakil