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     Volume 11 |Issue 44| November 09, 2012 |


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Photo: Star File

When it Rains . . .

Syed Badrul Ahsan

When it rains, I think of lonely ancient cemeteries and decaying bodies in freshly dug graves in the village. I do that because the rain seeps through the soil and into the graves, and falls drop by drop on old coffins and on to the corpses of men and women who till the other day walked amongst us and shared in our laughter and in our banter. When it rains, it is the memories of those who, alive, sang in the moonlit splendour of pastoral nights that I remember. As every moment draws them further and further into what promises to become receding memory, I walk in the same moonlight and sing the songs they sang in that expanse of timeless beauty. In the rains, it is my own grave I imagine, the end of me and my songs, the parting from those I have loved, at home and beyond it. The rains are to me an eternal reminder of the end of time, of the limits to which life can go. The rains tell me that life is the boat which takes us to the shores of death.

When it rains, I think of her who once shared a long rickshaw ride with me, in all that literary delight which has kept us going. The rainwater fell through the holes in the plastic rickshaw hood, on her cheeks, and ignited again the passion with which we had stumbled into each other on an autumn dawn aeons earlier. It rained, the rickshaw moved on, to nowhere in particular, and she and I loved in full measure in those long minutes that were an eternity. The scent of my beautiful woman enveloped the earth even as I enveloped her in the warmth of romance which has kept the world going for millennia. The rains remind me of her. They speak to her of love that has endured, that keeps expanding, like the universe. When it rains, love is born anew in all its tenderness. The sound of rains rouses her from sleep, to tell her that her love for her man is about to touch sublimity, as love for Him who has given her that halo of holy serenity. In the rains, it is her purity that I wallow in, through the starry passages across the night sky.

Photo: Anurup Kanti Das

When it rains, I dwell on the childhood that will never be again. Long and serene were the moments when we ran madly out into the courtyard, to gather the raw mangoes dropping to the ground from the trees. And with us ran the chickens, looking for a place of refuge and confused as to why we were running out while they tried to run into the verandah. Our mothers screamed at us, to warn us that we could catch cold, that they would tell our fathers how undisciplined we had become. We only laughed, for we knew that deep within their hearts and souls, our mothers loved us as they loved life. We knew that once the mangoes had been picked up, in huge bountiful cacophony, we would go back home to our mothers in search of that endless love they had wrapped us in. In the rains, it is the smell of my mother, the scent of her sari as she held me close, that I remember. She does not hold me any more. The grave holds her for all time.

When it rains, it is the long, sad walks I took from college to home that come back to me in flashes of memory. The roads were long, the mind was gloomy and umbrellas were nowhere around. In the rains, the muddy road held out the dire possibilities of tragedy caused by a slip. The rains, in my youth, were consistently a reminder of what a toehold meant: you placed your feet firmly on the wet ground, your toes resting against the mud into which they had sunk, and slowly moved on. You could not draw back or stay still. You could only move on, even as the rain left you soaking on every pore of your skin. On the streets, when it rained, you tried looking for shelter among so many others already having taken up all the space beneath a building. Disheartened, you looked for a fifty poisha coin in your pockets and finding it, you walked into the nearby restaurant for a cup of insipid tea, hoping that the end of the tea would mean too the end of the rains. The cup was emptied but the heavens showed little sign of showing pity on you. And so you or I walked out again. It was suddenly most charming getting bathed in the rains.

When it rains, I miss my walk in them, without an umbrella, on the streets of London. In the rains, it is the hours I spend among the bookshops on Charing Cross Road that I recall. Richard Nixon comes alive in the rains, for he loved walking in them without an umbrella. When it rains, she dances in all the fullness of ancient mythology. She becomes Radha and the Krishna in me plays the flute, the notes of which mingle with the falling water to create magical symphony.

When it rains, it is that old monsoon morning I walk back into, to see myself in my first full conversation with Sheikh Hasina at 32 Dhanmondi. There was tea. There were sweets. Amid the books in Bangabandhu's library, she talked – graceful and warm, with that human touch – and I listened.

Outside, it poured.

The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star.


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