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    Volume 9 Issue 22| May 28, 2010|

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One Off

The Rest was Silence!

Aly Zaker

Here I was sitting in a mud hut on a muggy night of early Jaistha. It was a windless dark night in a village of Bangladesh--a village that I frequented when I wanted to unwind and be by myself. This place was peaceful, almost too peaceful at night. I also longed for this quiet recluse. The only occasional sound that could be heard at the dead of night was a bark or two of the pariah dogs. It was a hot night. Almost too hot for any one's comfort. But I withstood it. This was my kind of penance for the wanton extravagance that I had chosen to be subjected to in my city life. The wail of a dog mingled with the seamless darkness of night. The dog wailed so because the heat and the lustre-less night must have made him pensive. They are used to the cooler ambiance of summer nights as opposed to the summer days with the scorching sun beating down on mother earth.

So here I was, all by myself, barely breathing but at the same time enjoying this ethereal masochistic pleasure. I took the liberty of switching on my battery operated little CD player to listen to my favourite song of summer by Rabindranath, “Come beauty of the green, and bring with thee the heat and thirst quenching company of the heaven.” The hut was filled with the mirth of my favourite artiste's divine voice. All on a sudden and without a whiff of caution a loud sound of thunder was heard. The sky was criss-crossed by the net of lightning. I came out in to the open and was almost pushed back in to the room by a sudden surge of cold wind. I struggled out again and saw that by then the whole sky was replete with pitch black cloud that soaked whatever little light skies usually beam back to the earth even on a dark night. In a matter of minutes what was a gale became a major storm and was accompanied with heavy shower. I came back to the hut, closed the doors and the windows and waited for the storm to subside.

But as the night progressed the storm became fiercer. I could not but catch a glimpse of this extraordinary anger of Mother Nature through the many holes on the tin-door of the hut. There is a tall Gagan Shirish tree within fifty yards of the mud hut. With every surge of the storm it seemed that the tree would give in and fall flat. It was literally touching the tin roof of the hut. There were plenty of other trees all around the hut, mango, jackfruit, olive, mohua et al. These plants having been transplanted recently were, therefore, spared the wrath of the storm. The summer song in the CD player had ended by then. I wished I had with me the immortal song by Rabindranath, “a rendezvous with you my friend; my love on this tempestuous night…,” which would have been the most befitting tribute to nature. But as they say, “if wishes were horses even beggars would ride them” proved very true that night.

Photo: Anisur Rahman

By now the storm had subsided but torrential rain was going on in full swing. I thought that in this night of Jaistha perhaps a song on the Bangla month of Sraban would have been most fitting. The rain went on for quite sometime and I kept listening to its song on the tin roof. The nursery rhyme, “patter patter goes the rain the river is in spate" came to mind. When the storm was in full fury, I was genuinely worried because it seemed that the tin roof over my head would be blown away and the mud hut would collapse on me. As if the nature indeed could not take on it the onslaught of human beings any more. Now, with the rain taking over it was another feeling. I remembered Rabindranath again. It must have been on a wet night of Sraban that he had written, “Here you come again wrapped in the anchal of the blue cloud”. I know for sure that the rain would cease some time and the musty smell of the drenched earth mingled with the croaking of the frogs from the ditches now filled with water would permeate the surrounding.

By the time it was three in the morning the rain had become a drizzle and then slowly faded away. I came out of my room and, lo and behold, the surroundings were inundated by the celestial light of the waning moon. Every object looked strange and eerie. Though the atmosphere was now calm and without a hint of wind and, indeed, cold after the prolonged storm and the subsequent shower the signs of damage wrought by the storm were clear. Only the sound of dripping water from the tin roofs could be heard. Even the dogs seemed to have found a quiet hide out.

I saw Jainal Mia, my old neighbour, going around like a man possessed, assessing the extent of damage all around. I went to him quietly and put my hand on his shoulder with empathy. He looked at me. He was clearly bewildered. I asked him if everything was all right. He did not say a word. The heat of the early evening, the thunderstorm, the torrentall in a couple of hours of one night, perhaps, was a little too much for him to reconcile with. I remembered that when I first came to this barren village bereft of vegetation, I asked where had all the trees gone. I had asked this because once this area was famous for Shaal forest. I was told that the trees were felled so that land could be retrieved for cultivation. I asked where the crop was. And I was told that the land turned out to be unsuitable for cropping. Today, the whole area stands testimony to the reckless plundering of nature by humans. I ask Jainal Mia if all this maddening gesture of nature was because it was trying to match us in terms of destruction. Jainal Mia remained quiet. Obviously he did not have an answer. All on a sudden the chill in the wind ran an ominous shiver down my spine. The rest was silence.

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