Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home


Letting go

Sometimes it's just hard to find the right way to let out your emotions, the rights words to put your thoughts down in and the right time to let go. It might be the tattered quilt from your childhood, the faded photo of your first footstep (from which you can barely make anything out), an almost-antique page with your name on it, when you wrote it for the first time, or in my case a house. That's right! A lifeless, feeling-less, speechless structure made of wood, cement and all other stuff a house is supposed to be made of. For me, though, it stands as the emblem of philosophical truth that transcends time and space 'Todo es según el color del cristal con que se mira' (Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder). To me it's a time-capsule, a place I long to go back to when everything around me falls apart, to be surrounded by the people who love me more than anything else in the world, to be loved, pampered and cherished, where I know the wickedest of my acts will go unpunished, and I don't mean to sound like a drama-queen, but it is almost for sure that those acts of a witty brain (?) will actually be appreciated.

Well, I'm talking about my dadubari, a place I hold dear to my heart, a place I want to run to after I wake up from a nasty nightmare, a place where my heart seeks refuge. But I guess not for long.

I was devastated to hear from my father that the old two-storey building will actually be taken down to build a new (you know that newer-bigger-better stuff!) house at that place. Before I realized it, tears were trickling down my face (more like a giant waterfall in full season) and that's when the harshness of reality struck me like thunder. Because you know how kids grow up fantasizing about building their own castles? To me this place was the ultimate fairyland.

I loved climbing up the wooden staircase to the wooden second floor, where I used to sleep with my parents when I was a kid. I loved being awakened by the tantalizing smell of freshly cooked breakfast that would await me downstairs. I loved running around within the periphery of the house, which stretched quite beyond the sight of a child (even a grown-up man). I loved seeing my Dadu getting back from prayer at the family-owned mosque next door. I loved seeing him gracefully dressed up in Sherwani and Turkish Tupi. I loved (and still do, more each day) the nickname that no one else but my Dadu used to call me by. I loved those carefree days when I could go round and round in circles till I felt so dizzy that everything actually seemed to be spinning out of control. In the eyes of a child, the house itself was the most amazing thing, but I am equally awed by its ingenious structure even today. Above all I loved my Dadu, because to me he was the ultimate superhero, the man who never gave up.

Being orphaned at an early age he was a self-made and self-educated man. The only thing that he could not beat in life was a lethal disease named 'Cancer', which took his life about 8 years ago, and shortly after my Dadi also departed. Being married to my Dadu at a very early age (as per the customs in those days), my Dadi very often told us that they could not live without each other. And Dadu would always smile and nod in assent.

I painfully remember the first time I stepped into the house after both my grandparents had departed. I was welcomed with not quite the usual more-than-picture-perfect (to me of course) beauty that it used to depict. The perfectly kept porch was full of weeds (which I remember my dadu hated in particular), the house was empty. The furniture, the utensils and cutlery, the clothes had neatly been put away in the right places. But what it lacked was a humane touch (as well as human touch). There was no loving call from my grandparents, no strong arms to hold me, no merriment, no laughter and childish babblings that used to surround the place when I was growing up. That's the first time I actually realized how much that place means to me.

I can go as far away as possible, but I know this place would always be my home. You know that they say, 'Home is where heart is'. Only, from now on it's going to be more in my head, not my heart. Just the very thought of it fills me with such excruciating pain, the prospect of bearing which for the rest of my life is indeed scary!

Now, sitting miles away from my own fantasy world (soon that place will be taken down, as my dad just informed me a little while ago), shivering from a really bad fever, I don't know which is worse, tears triggering memories or memories triggering tears. This in fact is quite contrary to the tough-gal image that I put out there. That is why I decided to cry it out through words instead of actually crying.

As the night is slowly fading into the dawn outside, I gaze into the disappearing stars harder just to get a better glimpse before they completely disappear. In my mind, I try to dodge the cold fist of reality, thinking that may be, just may be it's better this way trying to live in a bubble. Or, may be Joan Baez sings it better than anyone else for her love Bob Dylon, “We both know what memories can bring, they bring diamonds and rust”. Then I think of the stars. Though they fade away to set the stage for the raging sun, they always come right back as soon as the dusk falls, equally bright, equally charming and equally breath-taking! So, here I stand. It's like sands of time slipping away through my fingers. Caught between the desire to hold on and yet forced to let go. Just never knew, letting go is all that hard.

By Belleza Negra

Book review
The Zahir

A couple of years back, I read The Alchemist, and it changed my outlook on life. The author, Paolo Coelho shot up in my regard for him. Then I read I sat down by the River Piedra and wept, and it was a bit of a letdown, because despite the beauty of his words, the story did read like Coelho on Prozac. There's only so much of rosy-eyed joie de vivre one can take.

Then a well-loved well wisher sent me a copy of The Zahir, and I wasn't sure what to expect. The reviews on the Net were very mixed. There were people who said this was as good as The Alchemist, and there were some who demanded their money back. Coelho has been called everything from a literary Messiah to a faker. Well, as John Steinbeck put it, 'Give a critic a mile, and he'll write a play', so I decided to give The Zahir a shot.

'Zahir' is an Arabic term for obsession, something that, when experienced, takes up all of one's thoughts and dreams. The story is about a best-selling novelist whose war-correspondent wife mysteriously disappears with a young man who may or may not be her lover. The man starts obsessing over the reasons why the one person he has actually loved would do that to him, and the wife becomes his Zahir. A few years later, the man his wife left with reappears and promises to reunite the two. First, however, the protagonist needs to learn a few things about himself, about love, life, and also the world around him.

Part of the story feels autobio-graphical, because the main protagonist is a novelist, and he wrote about a 'young boy who goes to Egypt to search for treasure' (Santiago, anyone?) It's hard to be sure, though. This book has a darker and more cynical tone than the other two I've read by Coelho. I also have to agree with the reviewers who said that the protagonist's vacillations between his obsession for his ex-wife and his appreciation of his girlfriend is not something that will go down well with feminists. Yet the book has that little extra something that Alchemist had, and River Piedra lacked, so it was an enjoyable read, and more so because of the poetry of the author's words. Consider:

When I had nothing left to lose, I was given everything. When I ceased to be who I am, I found myself. When I experienced humiliation and yet kept on walking, I understood that I was free to choose my destiny.”

If that grabs you, go grab a copy of The Zahir.

By Sabrina F Ahmad

Amar Bondhu Rashed

For me, a good writer is somebody who can make the readers 'grow up' with the characters in the story. Feel, understand and imagine themselves as parts of it. In my particular case, I have rarely 'felt' myself as an integral substance of the book I'm reading, but one book that has genuinely touched my heart is Amar Bondhu Rashed. One of the most praiseworthy and heart-warming works of Muhammad Zafar Iqbal.

The story is a lively and emotional narrative of the Liberation War 1971 through the eyes of a teenager. It carefully portrays the thoughts, ideas, miseries, wonders and feelings of a young boy, who survived under the strain and fear of the war surrounding and disrupting his daily life. What makes this narrative particularly beautiful is how the boy learns to mature and understand the different complexes of life through the hardships of a war.

The book opens with introducing the main character of the story, Rashed with an interesting spark of humour, which characterizes Zafar Iqbal's writings. His casual tone of writing is easily acceptable by readers of all age, which makes all of his writings far from being boring. The story eases initially with minor incidents from daily life that comfortably builds up the nature of each individual in the readers' eyes. Friendships, under- standings and meaningful relationships are nurtured among them. Eventually, as war starts and tension builds up, it is painful for the readers to see these relationships fall apart. Or, grow stronger as fear and hopelessness dooms upon them. The pain of separation and death gives us a deeper and more realistic insight into each character, which makes this book such an amazing read.

What I personally love about Amar Bondhu Rashed is the simple way in which fierce bonds of friendship, realities of the war and patriotism of the young people are presented by the author. With a lighter touch of humour and stronger sense of practicality, readers realize how difficult our fight for freedom had been and how people suffered emotionally from it. I have to admit. I first read this book when I was about 12-13 years old and it was, without fail, the first piece of literature I cried over. I read it again when I was older and it has carefully secured a place in my heart and memory as one of the finest children's fiction written in Bangla by a contemporary writer.

Amar Bondhu Rashed is available at local bookstores for about Tk.80.

By Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Researchers identify "male warrior effect"

Norwich (Reuters) - Men may have developed a psychology that makes them particularly able to engage in wars, a scientist said on Friday.

New research has shown that men bond together and cooperate well in the face of adversity to protect their interests more than women, which could explain why war is almost exclusively a male business, according to Professor Mark van Vugt of the University of Kent in southern England.
"Men respond more strongly to outward threats, we've labeled that the 'man warrior effect'," he told the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting.

"Men are more likely to support a country going to war. Men are more likely sign up for the military and men are more likely to lead groups in more autocratic, militaristic ways than women," he added.

Van Vugt said the finding is consistent with results from different behavioral science disciplines.

In experiments with 300 university men and women students, Van Vugt and his team gave the volunteers small sums of money which they could either keep or invest in a common fund that would be doubled and equally divided. None of the students knew what the others were doing.

Both sexes cooperated in investing in the fund. But when the groups were told they were competing against other universities, the males were more eager to invest rather than keep their money while the number of women contributing remained the same.

"We all know males are more aggressive than females," Van Vugt said, adding that co-operation is needed to establish institutions
and governments and to wage wars.
"Male co-operation is a double-edged sword," he added.


home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2006 The Daily Star