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No Music

Sound
The clearest memories I have from the early days are those of my mother's voice. The soft sounds she used to make, the little things she used to whisper to me, like secrets told to a dear friend. Over the years as I grew up I learnt to read that voice, listen to the musical quality that it carried. I gained an understanding of it that was completely instinctual. The sharp retorts when I did something wrong, the imperious command when she put me to bed and always, just before I went to sleep, that soft whisper with which she told me she loved me. But those weren't the only aspects of that voice. I remember the pain embedded in it, the sound of betrayal and loss. All the things that came later. Hearing that voice now, I can hear no music.

By the time you get to the aftertaste, everything tastes the same. The sour, sweet essence lingers longer and the individuality of food is reduced to an aching sameness that catches at the back of the throat. But then again, the same is true for life, for everything; by the time you get to the point where you can look back, the details have faded just enough for you compare your memories side by side, to make moments that once seemed momentous and incomparable, seem just like another. Life bleaches everything to void.

Flashing lights, chain links groaning against spiked gears, as if mere audible expression could somehow convey meaning, the sounds of human endeavour. Bleached shirt, salt lines on ridged backs, small grunts at every repetition, as if vocal expression could somehow add definition to tedium, the stench of human sweat, rickshaws rides in Dhaka.

Even the atrocity of traffic was reduced to a numb monotony.

Dhaka wasn't made for subtle celebrations; it wasn't made to uphold simple values, to appreciate human life. A jarring ridge - cracked asphalt rebelling - loosened one of his ear plugs; the repulsive sounds of commuters vying around a maze obnoxiously seeped in, and yet somehow, found a counterpoint to the music in his ears.

The music had helped him forget, for just a while; a mind that had comfortably found that state of unthinking calm suddenly reared and came to terms with place, sights and smells. Brought back abruptly to consciousness. And with it came fear, apprehension. Thoughts that he had pushed back.

In an effort to stop himself from wallowing, he did what he always did. Rationalise. Debate a topic with himself; a completely useless and unrelated topic. But it helped him keep the wolves at bay.

He took comfort in irreverent humour. Everything he saw on the road became points of contention and objects of derision. It helped. A whole different kind of fugue from the music, and he laughed at the double meaning of the word.

Touch
When they first handed my son to me I was still disoriented by the anaesthesia from the C-section. So much really that I couldn't see properly; everything was a fuzzy blur, static. I held him though and I smelled that new baby smell and I think there were tears. Because I couldn't see him I ran my shaking hands all over his small frail body, his face the most of all. I felt the tender softness there, the set of his bones, his little nose and his closed eyelids. In that moment I didn't need my eyes. I could see my son well enough. I felt his face scrunch up as he prepared to cry. I waited for that first wail that would break my heart. Only, he laughed. I didn't know newborns could laugh like that. These days I want to see him like I first saw him, with my hands and not my eyes. But I don't because I know he won't let me.

The problem with journeys that come with a side dish of trepidation is that they end before any resolution can be found. One is left floundering, but the one advantage of manners, decorum, is that they provide a format one can follow. A protocol, unthinkingly executed gives one time enough to gather thoughts and arguments.

He stowed the earphones into his pocket and steeled himself. A remote part of his mind wondered if arriving without notice was the polite thing to do. And another more cynical part asked why he was worried about manners. This was his mother. Things shouldn't be this formal right?

He realised that he was scared. Really, truly scared. He didn't want to meet his mother; he didn't want to talk to her. Should he ring the bell or use the keys to let himself in? Was that another pitfall of decorum? He decided to follow the rules, as if he were meeting a stranger.

“You ring the bell, ask her how she is… And then we'll see.”

A lined face, tired, but somehow still animated greeted him. An expression of surprise, then anger, then resignation. She raised her hands just a little, as if she wanted to… He didn't know what. He asked her how she was.

There are no words that can alleviate true betrayal, and that sore sense of guilt. A simple question of state turned into a silence that bespoke of a greater intimacy, one borne of mutual pain.

“Come in.”
Dead voice, devoid of emotion. No music.

By Tareq Adnan
(da.phat.one@hotmail.com)


Courage

How often had it occurred to you about fear, or frigidity or complexity for that matter of fact? There are certain circumstances where you need desperately someone beside you. Someone who could accept your consequences; someone whom you could rely on, and from this poem, an event has been presented that what happens when there is no hope in your heart; no hope in your soul.

HER HEART WAS CRYING
HER EYES WERE RED,
I STILL REMEMBER THAT DAY
WHEN I GO TO BED,
HER HAIR WAS MESSED
AND CLOTHES WERE TORN,
STARING AT HER FATHER'S BODY,
SHE WISHED SHE WAS NEVER BORN.
WHEN I LAY DOWN IN MY BED
I WISH IT NEVER HAPPENS TO ME
I AM LONELY AND ALONE
BUT I CAN NEVER TAKE THIS MISERY.

RUNNING TO MY FATHER'S ROOM,
I HUGGED HIM TIGHT
“I WOULD NEVER LET YOU GO, FATHER;
YOU ARE THE ONE WHO COULD SHOW ME LIGHT.”
MY FATHER THEN SAID,
“MY LADY, YOU ARE NOW GROWN
YOU ARE STRONG;
THEREFORE THERE IS NO CERTAIN NEED FOR ME
TO SHOW YOU THE PATH THAT IS LONG.
FOR I KNOW YOU CAN BEAR IT,
AND I KNOW YOU HAVE THE COURAGE
TO UP BRING YOU'RE MORALS
AND YOU'RE LEVERAGE;
MY FAITH WILL BE ALWAYS IN YOU
EVEN IF YOU GO TO THE DARK
THE LOVE AND GUIDANCE THAT YOU ALWAYS WANTED
IT WILL LEAVE YOU A PROSPEROUS MARK.”
THAT DAY I LEARNT,
FEAR IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF COURAGE
BUT RATHER IS THE JUDGMENT OF HOW YOU TAKE,
IT LEAVES YOU NOTHING BUT A HERO OF ITS KIND,
BRAVERY OF WHAT IT MAKES.

Seemran Rashid Promee
Age 13


 

 

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