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     Volume 5 Issue 117 | October 20, 2006 |

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View from the Bottom

When the going gets tough,
never try going

Shahnoor Wahid

I have always been fascinated by the story “The Secret World of Walter Mitty.” Walter Mitty is a fictional character in James Thurber's short story, published in 1941. Mitty is a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life: in a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devil-may-care killer. He actually personifies the desire in each of us to be great heroes in real life.

This story also reminds me of the legendary character Nandalal created by D.L. Roy, who wants to be a hero too but cannot sum up enough courage to be one. He wants to fight in a war but the sound of roaring guns and exploding grenades scares him off.

In real life we have many a Walter Mitty or Nandalal in our midst. In real life there is yet another type of people who do not want to be heroes at all. They want to stay far away from action and heroism. They have no desire to prove their courage and are frank enough to admit they lack it. Well, let's take the example of our friend Lenin Mridha. You may call him a coward, you may wonder why his parents had to choose the name of a historical person who is known for his courage, but he has his own way of living his life. He does not care about guys and now-a-days girls going on jungle hiking and mountain climbing trips. He calls them the 'crazy lot.' Why? Because he does not want to be eaten up by a pack of jackals or bitten by a snake. He believes in playing it safe, and that's how he has managed to stay out of trouble.

A scene from the film “The Secret World of Walter Mitty.”

Think of it! He has never ever slipped on a banana peel in his life! Then he has learned from experience that it always pays to be at the back of the crowd, ready to run as soon as stones begin to shower from every direction.

He has never broken his legs or hands because he never tried to play football or cricket or climb mountains, not even small hills of Mainamati. In his childhood he once tried to climb a flower tree and had scratches all over his arms. Since then he has hated the idea of going up a tree. Only monkeys do that, he says.

Water is the last thing he would cross. No, he is not a werewolf. No one in his family ever was. But he despises the sight of the silvery rivers. That's why he has never been on the other side of the Padma.

What about flying in airplanes? Well, here is another big problem. He does not believe that thousands of tons of metal can fly through the air and land safely, no matter how much technology might have progressed. Only crazy people fly them and crazier ones ride them. So, the number of times he had to fly in airplanes, on compulsion that is, he had to be drugged heavily.

We have often told him about the story of Nandalal, but he refuses to take any lesson from it. His logic is simple and his conviction is firm. He thinks only fools turn daredevils, and break their back. Only reckless and irresponsible people become heroes doing things sensible people would not do. Lenin Mridha was happy with his life.

Lenin Mridha was having a cup of tea sitting on his bed and trying to read the morning paper. Suddenly his hand shook, the teacup tilted and hot tea fell on his lap. He started and in the process his right leg went out in lightening speed and hit the corner of the side table. The big toe broke with a nasty crack. As he tried to get up to get the hot tea out of his lap, his left foot got entangled in the crumpled bed sheet and the newspaper. He lost balance and fell mightily on his face on the floor. He broke his nose and sprained his neck muscle badly. The cut under the chin was not so deep but it hurt. The huge swelling on his forehead would go away soon though it throbbed like hell.

At this moment, Lenin Mridha is on a hospital bed, with bandages all over his body, for the first time ever.

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