Dreams . . . and a Strand of Hair
Syed Badrul Ahsan
A strand of hair that accidentally comes your way from a beautiful woman is poetry you can live for, perhaps even die for. There is, in that single strand, the story of a charmed life and the history of a romance rising from the depths of the sea. It is a strand you should have felt playing soft music on your cheeks many moons ago. But then, you sit back against the hard rocks in the twilight of your life and reflect on the myriad pains life throws your way. All those years ago, as you walked the steamy streets in search of a future, this woman whose strand of hair you hold in your hand was not around. Or if she was, her path and yours did not meet and certainly did not cross. What if they had?
That, you might reason with yourself, is a question with little of substance and hardly anything of meaning. Whatever has not been is not ours to dwell upon. In all these decades that took you down the road to middle age from dreamy youth, you did stumble into beauty; you did watch the winds blow through the hair of women you thought summed up the totality of poetry in your life. Maybe quite a few of them also happened to be individuals you thought would share your miseries as together you set out on the road to a gleaming landscape of physical cheer and intellectual delight? Ah, but why rake up the past? Destiny is part of our lives. And it does not always cater to our secret desires. You woo the dream woman you think will be your queen. A slight difficulty here, though, is that she does not know you woo. She marries another.
On the rebound, you search for new poetry. You spot it in her in whom the gods have taken particular interest. They have made her young and intend to keep her that way. Age, as you recall Shakespeare telling the world ages ago, does not wither her. And proof of that comes when, in these days of regret, of desire you cannot exactly put in words, you bump into her. In her fifties, she has held on doggedly to her twenties. And, yes, in those twenties, she went away to share life with a man she thought was loving and an assurance of security. You were left picking up the pieces of your life once more. Suddenly, sad songs were what you sang under the trees that dripped monsoon rain. The moon paled, the stars went off to sleep. Life as you had known it was without poetry any more.
But poetry does have a way of coming back to you, however battered a soul might be residing in you. That pretty woman in the yellow polka dot kameez, stepping out of a red car every day to hear talk of literature and then stepping back into it in the humid afternoon to go back home is what you recall on nights of gloom. She goes home; and you go dreaming of her. The dreams do not last. They scatter one bright morning as you learn of her journey into wedlock. You set out, once again, on the road to rain and depressing poetry. You teach, you weave new dreams of scaling the heights. And you try coming to terms with life, with all its craters and boulders and with all its nights of cold feverishness. Until that strand of hair, silky and glossy, comes to you, wraps itself around your finger and makes you wonder of the aesthetical that might have been. Yes, you wonder, you go beyond those might-have-beens, and you think of all the festival of light that strand of hair went through before it alighted in your palm. A stray breeze made it waft across that brief distance between her seductive face and your drunken eyes.
How often did that strand of hair float on to that beautiful woman's cheeks as she slept? You ask and you then have a sense of how she might have tossed and turned in her sleep, forcing that strand of hair into a state of riotous excitement. In her long moments of innocent passion in the shower, that strand of hair went through the roughness of storms and the civility of a waterfall. And numerous have been the times when her fingers, those you touch furtively, a touch she lets you go through, went through her hair, played with that smooth musical manifestation of herself. And then, reflecting on her inimitable physical form in the mirror, she must have become a teenager again, felt coy and all the while that strand of hair stayed caught between her sparkling teeth.
What waves of soul-searing music will flood the secret valleys of your passion if one day she were to bend down, her goddess face in close proximity to the worshipper face in you, and her breath mingle with yours? And all that hair of which that strand is but a symbol were to create a long starry night of dreams for you?
You hear the stirring of the leaves. You know you love her. She knows. And she knows too that her strand of hair is now, will always be, the imagery you have tried shaping through your verses.
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