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       Volume 11 |Issue 17 | April 27, 2012 |


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Old is gold, well sometimes


We have the habit; nay a fetish or it could tantamount to a mania, of not throwing away anything. We are not considering here foul behavior, but merely articles of necessity or not. We keep almost everything with this apprehension or anticipation that somewhere in time we might require that prized possession. But we forget that time is from this moment to eternity.

Even without visiting your wardrobe or the trunk inside that wardrobe, I can see with my mind's eye that somewhere you have a kameez that you have not touched for the last four years. Okay, make it six. And when you finally gear up enough confidence based on its current fashion value and uniqueness, you may find it just a little tight at the places you would prefer loose. But, you must agree we have some excellent tailors, because it was stitched when you were nineteen and now you are, say, twenty-six. Alright, I shan't be telling anyone.

The men amongst you, but how I can say that because women are also buttoning up, may have a shirt tucked away that you thought you will wear when it got a bit cool after the rains; that was in 1993. Now a tight shirt can be pretty embarrassing at places, especially public.

A chirunee that needs to visit the dentist (they have teeth, remember) neatly tucked away under the newspaper that lines the closet and a safety-pin rusting from ignorance still finding a safe haven in your dresser drawer will top the list in any home.

A pencil too short to be written with, an out-of-ink ballpoint pen, an eraser too eradicated to rub, an ID card of a seminar held in 2002 (it will not be ever held again), a pair of illegal spectacles because it has only one glass eyepiece, an unused sim card, buttons of several sizes and shapes and colours of clothes you no longer have, a hairpin too wide for reuse even to clip a gorilla's nose, visiting cards addressed Dhaka of people who have gone and settled in Montreal after the fall of Ershad, a dried-up inkpot (and you do not have a fountain pen any more), ………………………… …………………………………………………………….. I have kept some space for you to fill up. You can use extra paper if you need. But, please consider using the paper you have saved since man first walked on the moon. Even if you are not that aged, you will have inherited such museum pieces from your GF. It's not girlfriend; so figure that one out.

Why do we have to keep everything? Any English pop video that we come across fifteen times a day or a peep into the TV drama-serial 'Desperate Housewives' or any contemporary Western movie will show internal spaces as bare as a house not moved in, or as the lady performers. Okay, we are not Western. But we suffer from a colonial legacy.

Not as much as due to our past than to communications technology, we urban Orientals seemingly imitate everything occidental, from architectural styles to dress design, from transforming the innocent daal to five-star mulligatawny, from fusing ektara with the guitar, it is intriguing as well as perplexing why we cannot dispose of everything earthly as dispassionately as they. Sadly though, we have, but at our peril done away with some of their virtues.

What is the point of this holding on to matters that decay? This lifelong urge of possessiveness (read tightfistedness and greed) however is stuck at a personal, or at best the family level, and most usually in respect to worldly items. Did they also take away with them punctuality, office sincerity, public servant honesty and such virtues when they were made to leave lock, stock and barrel?

At the state level we have done away with both: worldly elements and characteristics. We attained independence twice on the throes anti-government agitation fired by slogans such as 'Throw the goods of the government in the river'. Woefully the hangover lives on and, although the government today is made by us, and belongs to us, we do not often hesitate to waste national possessions.

Our rivers today are dry and shall remain so as long as there is no maya-mamata from West Bengal. We now therefore throw office furniture on the arid grounds of upazilla complexes, dump expensive imported machinery on desiccated hospital premises, let the stored food rot in our gasping godowns (we are that much kind to our national insects).

Simultaneously, at the official level, private and public, we care a hoot for the systems of education, judiciary, common justice, punishment, public etiquette and relations, health, finance, social security, etc. that have helped the developed countries to surge ahead, despite some of them imposing those very traits on our people as colonialists. We shared many parallel aspects of governance. But, alas!

Come Boishakh we sing to the rains and the winds our vow to throw away the old and the rotten, and embrace the new. That, as far as material goods are concerned, may work. Let us but cultivate and hold on to the qualities that mellow with age.




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