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     Volume 10 |Issue 11 | March 18, 2011 |


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In the Blink of an Eye


Photo: Star File

So much can happen in the blink of an eye. That's what last week seemed to be: a blink during which a hundred different things happened. It showed, yet again, just how unpredictable our lives are and how vulnerable too. Just the week before Bangladeshis at home and abroad had reached their lowest point after the nation's cricket team lost miserably to the West Indies. It seemed it would be downhill from then on. But what happened in the next game with England and then the Netherlands gave us enough reason to believe in ourselves again.

That's the thing with life. It goes on taking unexpected twists and turns, shaking us, lifting us up, breaking us or mending us. In a blink it seems the whole of Japan has been turned upside down. Footage of last Friday's horrible earthquake and consequent tsunami made our stomachs churn with fear and grief at the level of destruction left by this monster. We had just started revelling the Bangladesh team's amazing win when the television started erupting with the worst disaster in Japan since the Second World War. It was not just empathy we felt for the victims and survivors but a gnawing apprehension that this could happen to us at any moment in time.

As the Tsunami waves ate up everything in sight, buildings, cars, towns and people, it became clear that when it comes to nature, there is no demarcation between rich or poor, human or animal, good or evil; everything becomes equal under the wrath of natural disaster, everything perishes.

Photo: Star File

Sometimes opportunities are lost in the blink of an eye. The chance to shake hands with an idol, to acknowledge someone in a public venue, to see a relative in hospital, to express gratitude for a friend's generosity. Acute shyness, poor time management skills or just plain laziness may cost us lifetime opportunities. The idol whose hands you could not shake may fly off the next day to foreign lands where you may never go in your lifetime. The dignitary you could not greet in public because you hesitated for a few seconds before he turned away may think you are rude and end up ignoring you next time. The friend you forgot to thank because of sheer stupidity may end up thinking you an ungrateful wretch who is not worth helping. The relative you thought of visiting but didn't, can pass away the next day. In a blink you have the potential to lose everything that matters.

Conversely good things can happen before you realise it. One moment you may be taking preparations to jump out the window after a terrible row with your partner. The next moment you may be gushing with joy and love because he called and admitted to being a jerk. It only takes a few seconds to be transported from one state of being to another, from confusion to clarity, despair to hope, heartbreak to happiness.

Conventionally we are always told to 'think things through' before taking a decision, to deliberate and weigh the pros and cons. In many cases this is necessary. But often enough it is that gut feeling that should have been given more importance because sometimes people's intuitions are far more powerful than their rational thinking (which in any case, may not always be rational in the first place).

This gut feeling may have saved Mohammad Liton, a Bangladeshi migrant worker who escaped from violence and political unrest in Lybia, surviving on shrubs and vines in the desert of Benghazi. It was probably in a few seconds that he decided that he would live even if, as he put it, he had to eat sand. That snap decision was what kept him going until he was reunited with his wife and children whose faces kept coming to his mind during his ordeal. The road to safety was long, grueling and cruel. But the decision to go through it took seconds almost in the blink of an eye.



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