Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home

 

Against her nature

I remember once reading about a planet where sound was non-existent. Something to do with not having air, I think.

Which is why I am pretty sure this is not the same planet. I can clearly sense the pungent air flowing in and out of my lungs.

Respiration. They tell me it's proof that I'm still alive.

But this must be quite a fascinating planet, having air yet being so nearly-soundless. Fascinating, indeed. To think this planet had once sustained ludicrous terms like 'sound pollution'. To think it had been so generous…and yet, look at it now- grey and silent in its last hours. Is this what one should call 'peaceful'? Peace is quite depressing, in that case…

Something screamed
It nearly gave me a heart-attack, the unbelievable suddenness of it. Armageddon was pretty noisy, of course. But after that there has been nothing but silence. Not that anyone cares. There are very few left to do that anyway.

Irritatingly so, the scream continues to slice away at the eerie silence.

Of course mankind knew what was coming its way. Yet there was this inexplicable sense of surrender when it came to the Ultimate End.

Surrender, I feel, is a curious word. Lying on rubble hour after hour, listening to nothing but each other's monotonous heart-beats, thinking it a miracle that we, a mere handful, had survived and awaiting holy rectification of that 'mistake'.

Yes, surrender is pretty pathetic
They tell me I'm still human because I think like that.
“ Somebody make that whining lump of flesh shut up, whatever it is,” a voice mutters inside my head.
Incidentally this cry, still disrupting the silence, has a sense of unease about it. Is there such a thing as the language of screams? I'm sure there isn't, but still this one here somehow communicates fear, agony and insecurity through its high-pitched contours. Or am I the only one imagining all this? Nobody else seems disturbed by its 'calling'. I'm sure nobody else feels the urge to answer it either.

The feeling that now has me struggling to my feet and wobbling towards the source of annoyance, I will explain it as nothing more than 'curiosity'. Curiosity once killed some feline creature. In my case, it has brought me face-to-face with one of the most peculiar sights since the accursed Armageddon.

Perched on a raised, narrow platform, an incredibly small and haphazard assortment of miniature limbs huddles on all fours, wailing its lungs out to the expressionless audience around watching with cold indifference.

“A child,” mutters one of the observers.
“A human child?” I ask.
“What does it matter? The End is the same for us all,” comes the reply.

The child continues to cry. Only now it has become something akin to pleading. What is it afraid of? Falling? Stupid thing. The platform isn't that high and even if it falls, the injury won't be anything significant.

Once again I find the irritated voice in my head scoffing in disdain. Survival is only for the fittest. This miserable mess of arms and legs, how does it plan to survive a world that is already falling apart? How did it even survive the initial blasts? Persistent little thing, what does it expect to accomplish with all this crying now? There is no hope left. Reproduction is useless right now. And so are children.

I too must be wearing an expressionless face right now- the true face of reality, that is. “It's only logical,” the calculating part of me whispers. “There is no food. What will it eat? Look how small and helpless it is. The world is no place for small creatures.”

True. Yet what is this feeling?...
“The screaming,” I find myself muttering aloud, “is rather uncomfortable.”
“Indeed. Let's get rid of it then.”

A man rises from the gathered mass, a rusted pocket-knife clicking open in his hand. He approaches the child who somehow senses his intentions and begins to wail louder as large masculine fingers clasp themselves around its neck.

It's better this way. Yet…
“What are you doing?”
To my surprise, I recognise the voice asking the question as my own.
“Why, I'm slitting its throat,” he replies nonchalantly, “the noise is getting on my nerves too.”

The child, in its last moments of desperation, struggles wildly and tries to meet each person's gaze pleading for final mercy.

And then, its eyes meet mine.

“Ah,” I hear my mental voice whisper. The next thing I know I am holding a jagged piece of rock tightly.
“Stop it. Or I will kill you,” I find myself saying.
The man turns my way, surprised- “Why?”
Why, indeed.
“I-I don't know.”

The man shrugs and resumes his operation. The child screams louder. Something explodes inside my head…

The next thing I know the man is lying dead at my feet, the jagged edge of the rock embedded into the side of his head.

“So that's how small creatures survive,” the calculating me whispers. “They seduce the bigger ones into protecting them.”

The silly little thing outstretches its feeble arms towards me- what does it want? Is it cold?

I watch as the child snuggles close to me, settling itself deeper into the warmth of my arms. It feels nice. Pointlessly nice.

And it is the sheer pointlessness of the scenario that finally makes me realise why I am still a woman…
(The title is borrowed from one of Elizabeth Buchan's novels)

By Raisa Mahmuda Rafique


Book Review

My Invented Country - Isabel Allende

"LET's begin at the beginning, with Chile, that remote land that few people can locate on the map because it's as far as you can go without falling off the planet. Why don't we sell Chile and buy something closer to Paris? one of our intellectuals once asked. No one passes by casually, however lost he may be, although many visitors decide to stay forever, enamored of the land and the people. Chile lies at the end of all roads, a lance to the south of the south of America, four thousand three hundred kilometers of hills, valleys, lakes, and sea.”

Isabel Allende claims to have been an outsider in her native land; “I never fit in anywhere, not into my family, my social class, or the religion fate bestowed on me.” But she continues to carry with her even today, almost four decades after leaving her homeland, the mark of the people, myth and magic of her soil. "My Invented Country" is the memoir she has penned in which she calls upon the most bizarre cast of characters, people she has known while growing up in Chile, to tell the tale of her land, which at times become too much to take, to accept or believe.

Allende's novels (The House of the Spirits, Eva Luna, Daughter of Fortune etc.) are sweeping and epic (often called a female Marquez); historical and romantic, her work weaves in elements of North and South American culture. As with most fiction writers of similar caliber, Allende's work is inspired by seemingly ordinary personal experiences, and in this memoir she delves into the history, social mores and idiosyncrasies of Chile, showing, in the process, how that land has served as her muse. Exploring personal events of her life, she manages to take the reader on a highly charged, magical, whirlwind of a ride through Chile, bringing it to life in the most unexpected ways. Her town of Santiago is where her grandfather encounters the devil on a bus and her grandmother calls upon spirits to move around furniture. Her home is a place of love, spirits of the deceased, abandonment, and the living. In her memoir are the almost mythic figures of a Chilean family, grandparents and great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends, with whom both regular and first-time readers of Allende's fiction will feel comfortable. Bangladeshi readers will be surprised to find that they can relate to South Americans on an entirely different level.

"My Invented Country" is a memoir whose very structure mimics the workings of memory itself, ranging back and forth across that distance gathered between the author's past and present lives. It speaks on a personal level to immigrants, and to all of us who has ever felt like an outsider, who try to retain a coherent inner life in the world despite its many contradictions. I found this book in Boi Bichitra, and it cost something a bit shy of 600 Taka.

By Ahsan Sajid


RS Mailbox

Your one stop connection for all the love, hate, rants, advice and money you have for RS. Write to us at ds.risingstars@gmail.com We especially like the money

The Love-hate connection

Ahsan Sajid,
You may think of yourself as an omniscient, over-experienced genius of the review-writing world, but I am here to pull you down to earth from your presumed, superficial and apparently permanent position at the Pearly Gates.

You are conceited, prejudiced and overly biased towards your own opinion which seems critically artificial in itself. You use your sly command over the blessed language of English to hide your personality and highlight an image which you have created.

Don't you realize that the ultimate aim of a writer should be to create something which his readers can comprehend and enjoy? Your articles are rarely about anything which the readers are interested in.

You never let your emotions show. No one can understand who you are or how your mind works. That is what a reader always wants to do.

However strong my opinions may be, I must admit that I am a fan and I eagerly wait to read you articles. I was glad that you let us into your world even just a little bit by telling us that you love Michael Jackson and can't stand Britney Spears. Although, since I am a fan of the Backstreet Boys I was not too excited about how you disregarded them as truly accomplished artists of pop. Maybe you should put a little effort on listening to the music made by these wonderful artists.

Hope you get it right soon.
Wolverine X

 

 
 

home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2009 The Daily Star