Pebbles of Affection
Shah Husain Imam
Her face lights up at the glimpse of a young man clambering up the footrest into the full view of passengers inside a railway compartment, the train having just pulled up at Jagannathganj ghat.
That was the first admiring stare from a girl meeting the eyes of a sophomore at Dhaka University that got instantly etched on his mind. The gleam in her eyes could not have missed the twinkle in the lad's.
It was infatuation at first sight, and very short-lived, too. The young man was soon to discover that he had romped on to a compartment, earmarked and headed for a direction that wouldn't take him to his destination.
Abir had no way knowing what went through the girl's mind; but for him, it was balmy breeze of optical romance caressing his senses for the first time into his adolescence.
But that is the way fleeting moments of cross-gender joys are imprinted, perhaps rarely to be revisited again with the same spark of delectable romanticism.
Suddenly pushed into dormitory living away in Dhaka, he had difficulty getting by on his own; a sheltered child that he had been under the parental wings in smaller townships, he pined for home. For long years, Abir would get lost into the wilderness of self-reflection and mood swings, largely triggered by English fiction and classics that he read and watched movies on, acted out by powerful Hollywood stars. He even unconsciously picked up some of their mannerisms and would delight in friends' describing him looking like this or that Hollywood figure.
An escapist, he turned out to be a lonesome pathetic figure (to others, not to himself, though) deriving strength, so he believed, from sorrow rather than flights of light-hearted mental jaunts. For all these idiosyncrasies, a sense of humour streaked through him popping in and out at seeing what a German philosopher had famously diagnosed 'the monkey in every man'.
Then into his early fifties, as a new entrant into an office, wearing a senior hat, he had some colleagues gather around him for a meeting he was hardly prepared to be the focal point of. Feeling a little intimidated and nervous at his first encounter with office fellows, some of them women, he was reeling off words that apparently had no effect on the listeners, most of whom looking into the blank. Then something happened, a pencil Abir was holding slipped out of his fingers and fell on the floor. Promptly a woman colleague picked it up and handed it to him. At once, Abir plucked courage from the retrieved pencil shoved into his hand with sympathetic warmth pulsating through the gesture. That was to be the beginning of a kind of human bonding which the like-minded in an office are apt to forge and build on and feel occasionally refreshed by as they went about their daily grind.
Several years later, a junior colleague who had hired a three-wheeler for a trip back home, spotted Abir himself apparently looking for a transport. The former beckoned Abir to take the scooter sacrificing her turn. He just thanked the girl for the gesture asking her to go ahead with her trip. But he could not help feeling respect towards her for her gesture realising how much she herself needed to go home when it was just about getting dark.
Little gestures of kindness, sacrifice, consideration and gracefulness are the stuff of which joys of life and living are made. Without these cool eddies flowing with the stream of life's experiences, humanity would have been so much the poorer, living so much of a drudgery and creative ingenuity so much the loser.
Thanks to today's self-complicated, restive and go-getting social ambiances we find that simple pleasures of life are thrown out of the window with the routine and prosaic blunting the finer sensibilities of the mind.
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