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|Volume 11 |Issue 49| December 14, 2012 ||
From year to year, nature and seasons are cyclical. The human drama also unfolds in a recurrent circular universal pattern, with the revolution of the wheel of fortune. Life's circles are whirls and eddy in the ocean's currents. An individual's life-circles are measured by the totality of birthdays celebrated whilst alive upon this earth, symbolically by counting the increasing number of flaming candles. Pondering this quasi-metaphysical strain of associative wisdom, grandma sits at her desk in her bedroom, with her fingertips playing memory's tune on the laptop keyboard in the quiet early hours of the ninth day of December. Grandma feels the pulse of time flow in slow circadian rhythms. She happily remembers that three nights earlier, on the sixth night of the last month of 2012, her fifty-eighth birthday, she had received gifts of flowers and food from her aged mother. A song of praise, of grace, of gratitude – a hymn of life – emanates from her innermost being as she composes her thoughts this night, her voice audibly in simultaneous synchrony with the soulful voice of Ani Choying Drolma chanting serene Buddhist verses on the CD, “Inner Peace 2”: “If there is intense will, one can transform suffering into bliss. Instead of cursing the darkness, you can simply light a candle.” It is nearly dawn, and from the south, the rising melody of the fajr azaan vibrates into the room. It does not seem at all incongruous to her, this merging of female and male voices, of Buddha and Allah. Is it not all celebration of life, of creation, of the gift of light?
Tonight, she has not grown old. Memories take her back to the blushing days as a young bride and a new mother. She thinks of the growing circle of the womb, and then of the two who were taken from her before their time. Now, tonight, a quarter-of-a-century later, flashes of dry days of insanity are distant and quiescent in the palpable spiritualism of Ani Choying Drolma:
“In the pollen heart of the lotus, Marvellous in the perfection of your attainment You are known as the lotus born And are surrounded by your circle of many dakinis.
I pray that you will come and confer your blessings.”
This year, the miracle of new life born of her daughter's womb, works its own miracle of closure, of suturing the jagged edges of the deep gash of the heart's wound. With new life in Melbourne, settlers beginning a new journey in a new country, the first footprints of another special circle within her own family circle, grandma offers a silent prayer to ward off the evil eye. Invigorated by a belief that the algorithm of providence and chance disallows the probability of destiny's drone to target the same circle one more time, she weaves a garland of variegated memories into a wreath of images to celebrate life.
First light of the morning sun pours into the long rectangular veranda, open to the sky on the east and south sides. She savours the green corner of her home, her mother's jack-fruit and mango trees canopying the sky on the south, with the large Neem tree, and the guava and jujube- berry trees providing privacy on the east. Skyping allows grandma to bring Melbourne into her home in Dhaka, and oftentimes the frail great-grandparents are able to have endearing moments with the scampering baby. In four days, he will be nine months old and can already crawl like a determined commando. His small pudgy fingers can now hold and throw the soft daffodil-yellow and deep-blue six-inch football grandma had bought at the Flinders St. Station Concourse three months ago. He had loved it instantly, but could not then mould his fingers around the shape of the ball. He could just hold on tightly with two fists and delightedly drool on the rubbery fabric. Grandma's full-throated laughter intermittently rippled through the quiet nearby suburban homes when the ball would suddenly slip the baby's grip, leaving him momentarily beatifically stunned by this perplexing existential phenomenon.
Grandma remembers how she herself had always loved to trace round and around the shape of a circle. Her own pudgy fingers would hold thick waxy bright crayons before she could spell words, and she would sit for hours creating circles within ever smaller circles in myriad colours of winding unbroken lines. Tempting tinkling sounds would at other times make her step outdoors where she would stalk the group of slightly older players and ambush their games to steal and lovingly gaze at the large handmade speckled glass marbles and wonder at the mystery of their kaleidoscopic fluid cocooned designs. And to this day, she remembers in England at the age of thirteen, a museum-room collection of thousands of the most spectacular hand-crafted large and small round glass paper-weights, some with flowers, or butterflies and birds and animals, or silver and gold and copper filigree figures. Later that year, when she was reading Longfellow and Blake in Grammar School, the rhythms of lyric and hymn and prayer and adoration all coalesced in one poetic, symbolic line. It became for her, forever, the maxim of her life's pursuits, and the ideal nexus of the circle of life: See Heaven in a Grain of Sand.
She knows there is weirdness, strangeness in her sentient response to the world around her. Perhaps, it is the fault of the Sagittarian Archer's arrow tipped atmospherically with the smoky night vapours, possibly hallucinogenic in its composition and effect on creative creatures. However, she glories in being such a creature; a child of the night, born in the dewy sheen of a cold December Monday pre-dawn, in the silvery light of the eerie witching-hour when Venus is just sharply declining below the ascending rim of the red sun . To this day, her psyche comes alive and alert when Luna reigns supreme in the celestial sphere; her six senses are heightened and the moods altered by the quarter- moon, the half-moon, the crescent-moon, and the full-moon. She gravitates magnetically to the waxing and waning moon as the ebb and flow of the tides surge through her flesh. A solitary lover of the night sky from her childhood, she is shepherded by the trajectories of the stars and the planets. Her breath is kissed by falling stars; her mind is radiated by meteor showers.
She waits for the time to come when her grandson will walk tall and strong through fields of fresh wild flowers blooming in the white light of a night of full-moon. She will not be there by his side as he discovers the earth, as he takes his rightful portion of the enchantment in the cosmos, as he grows with the vows of true love and betrothal. There will be others with him in the family circle.
She looks at the lush spreading branches of the Neem tree on the east, grown from a sapling transplanted from her mother-in-law's garden, and she whispers a prayer to zephyr to carry across the waves and over the clouds : be with him to find Heaven in a grain of sand, to draw a circle upon the sands of time, to weave a garland for his grandma's bones.
The writer is Professor, Department of English, University of Dhaka