Let the Time Pass
wrong turn. Baani made a wrong turn and landed in a tranquil
neighbourhood of dogwood trees and freshly gravelled streets.
The tranquillity, fresh air, and white petals floating across
the sky made her screech to a halting stop at the green
light. She thought to herself, “I'm here.”
She got out of the car, slammed it shut, and walked away,
leaving all her inconsequential belongings behind.
Baani climbed a hill where two children stood arguing over
Yugio Cards and a bearded old man rummaged through the trunk
of his '73 Chevrolet. She stopped in front of his car. Her
presence distracted his vigilant search. He gazed at her.
She wondered why. Baani forgot that she was draped in a
sari. The old man spoke: “Are you lost miss?” “No,” she
replied. An awkward moment of silence passed before he spoke
again. “I like your sari. The nice yellow edge is very pretty
against the white.” She blushed. She looked into his old
eyes and asked, “Why do we get married when it is not forever?
Why do we have children that are not our own? Where do souls
go when they leave their cage?” The old man squinted his
eyes hoping he would hear her words better.
Baani did not explain. She brought the anchaal of her sari
forward covering her arm, and walked away leaving the old
man behind. She walked. She reached the end of the neighbourhood,
and entered the gate to a park. Baani was oblivious to the
sign on the gate that read “Caution. Park OFF LIMITS at
Baani continued to walk. In time, she passed a playground.
She thought about her grown children, somewhere strewn across
the world. She felt a tinge of pain, but she did not stop.
She walked. She came across a large maple tree with names
and promises of undying love engraved on its flesh. Baani
remembered her husband and all that they shared. Her mouth
opened to gasp for air. The pressure in the cavity of her
chest was too much to bear. She walked away from the tree.
She walked. The brightness of day wore away revealing a
crooked moon against the orange streaks on an indigo sky.
Baani thought of her mother and father, their faces outlined
in the light of a hurricane lamp. Everyday before her father
left for the Bazaar, he would ask her, “Ma, what can I bring
for you tonight?” Her answer would always be the same. “Nothing,
Abba. I don't need anything.” Her mother always told her,
“I am the body, you are my arm. You can cut yourself away
from me without a worry. But I will always feel the pain.”
Baani cried out to the evening sky, “Ma, where are you now,
and where am I?” No one replied. She walked.
She arrived at a ledge overlooking a highway, an abrupt
end to the park. She looked down at the zooming cars. She
recalled hearing long ago about nomads leaving their elderly
behind in forests when they became incapable of continuing
a journey, or when resources became scant.
She exhaled. She knew it would only be days before the children
would begin fighting over the responsibility of taking her
in. She didn't want anyone to leave her behind. She wanted
to leave herself behind from the tossing world. She looked
down at the highway, wondering where she would land.
Then, shrubs moved. Branches swayed to reveal the old man
from the hill.
He said, “Wait, miss, I have your answers.” Baani, annoyed,
replied, “Why do you call me miss when you see my leathery
skin and distorted old bones?”
“If I were to call you anything else, it would be a reflection
on my age. And, I refuse to think that I am a day older
than twenty-six,” said the old man. He walked closer to
Baani. Slowly. He extended his hand out to her. He continued,
“We get married to pass the time in sweet delirium. We have
children to pass the time with reason. And, souls… when
they escape, they are suspended between worlds, waiting
for the passage of time.”
Baani did not reply. The old man spoke again, “Come away
from there and pass an hour, a minute, a second with me.
Let's talk about nothing that matters. The afternoon sun
reveals beautiful shadows in my backyard.”
Baani replied, “How do I find peace knowing that those I
lived for, do not want to live for me?” The old man asked,
“Are you referring to your children? You have already acknowledged
that even when they are born, they are not your own. And,
I have already told you that we have children to pass the
time with reason. When your children are grown, you miss
them. But, you also miss having the reason. Perhaps it is
time to change your reason. Make yourself the reason. Nurture
the soul within you, because even though you want your time
to end, how you pass this time will be all that you can
take with you.”
Baani looked down at the street, the freshly gravelled street.
The lights dimmed, yet glowed. The line of dogwoods, graceful;
its flowers adorned the night sky.
Then she looked at the old man. She stepped forward, placed
her hand on his and asked “But night has come. When can
we see the shadows, the beautiful shadows?”
A. Pasha is a Bangladeshi filmmaker staying in the United