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Fields of green

THE memories have dimmed somewhat, no longer as vivid as they had been years before. Zayan walked by blocks and blocks of apartment complexes, beholding the towers with something a little like contempt. He stopped in front of a particular block, and for a brief moment, everything crumbled to dust, as Zayan's eyes unfocused, and his vision blurred. He began to remember a time long, long ago when things were so much simpler, and there weren't as many worries as these days.

In that brief moment, he saw a vast field of green and gold, stretching far out into the horizon, patterned with occasional structures of a humble abode, or a mosque and even a church. He saw the clear blue afternoon sky, and he even felt the cool breeze blowing back his hair. A smile crept up to his face and he opened his eyes welcomingly, but everything's gone again to be replaced by what's left- an ugly distortion of something once beautiful, a monotonous pattern of bricks and concrete and a barren unforgivable absence of green. The illusion disappeared with surprising clarity and the cool breeze is replaced by a blistering evening heat that makes him cringe in discomfort and annoyance.

Zayan sighed, placed his hands in his pockets and continued his stroll through the labyrinth of progress. Barraged with nostalgic thoughts and emotions Zayan slowed his pace to match his mood. Hearing a name being called in the distance, he stopped again. His eyes unfocused again as he begins to remember once again a time long, long ago.

The same field of green and gold stretched out before him, but this time it wasn't as empty. Boys and girls, of all ages and size zoomed past him, bumping him from one side to the other, until a particularly heavy kid with a mass of unruly hair and even a larger mass of unruly body fat brushed him aside, throwing him to the ground right on his rear. He fell with a thump, the wind knocked out of him. Recovering himself, he stood up again, frowning. He looked in annoyance after the beefy kid clumsily running through the field.

He was snapped out of his annoyance, hearing a distant call that sounded faintly like “Zayan”. He turned this way and that straining to hear the sound again. And it was there, from the west. He turned and smiled at the distance to the group of kids huddled with a football. The sun shone bright, and he raised his eyes to shield his eyes. He had closed his eyes, and upon reopening them, he found himself once again in front of apartment complex. He sighed as he stood there, looking at the building, at the name of the building on the huge metal plate. “Evergreen Villa”. He scoffed. Ridiculous.

Several kids with a cricket bat and ball walked out of the building, talking rapidly among themselves. They walked off down the road. But one of them remained, looking at him with an odd expression in his eyes. Something like regret. He frowned at Zayan and muttered, “You took our grass.”

Zayan stared after him as he scurried off. He muttered to no one particular, “I had…” He couldn't finish. He had what? He had to? He had no choice? There's always a choice. He shook his head and walked into the same complex the kids came out of- into the beautiful five storey building that he owned.

As the elevator door closed, he thought to himself resolutely, If I hadn't, someone else would have anyway.

By S. S. Emil

Love thy neighbour

SOME time ago a news piece caught the limelight: an elderly woman was dead in her apartment for about a week, and her neighbours didn't notice until the stench came out. It made a big fuss and suddenly everyone was talking about how distant we have become with our nearest living, intelligent organism. Some may argue that such kind of indifference towards one's neighbours is natural, with the onset of so called 'civilisation' and all that.

People especially those living in the cities, have become so much busier than their previous generations, That they don't find enough time to communicate with the people living next doors. Agreed that the aforementioned incident happened in a western country, but as things are going we might not notice if an alien or a robot lives beside us or not. In fact such type of 'bond' between the neighbours exists even now in our country, especially in the metropolitan city of Dhaka. Things have changed drastically from the good ol' days.

What they were before:
Time machines haven't been invented yet. So before any of our brilliant readers or some people other than yours truly invent one, we just have to ask our elders to find out about the past, in this case how things were between the people living in a residential area, or colonies, or for want of a better word, 'para-mahallas' in Bangla.

News for us is that they basically knew who lived beside them. And not only their names, but also what they did and in many cases what they had for lunch and dinner. In fact one particular elder claims, “Our relationship was like that of a family. We shared our joys and sorrows,” and food stuffs too, it seems. Whenever something delicious was made in a family, their neighbours were sure to have a good share of that. And 'neighbours' didn't include the next door only. Every house was at least in acquaintance with each other. The children were more so.

Talking about children, the things that come to mind are playgrounds. Though still true to some extent these days in the government residential areas, playgrounds were in abundance everywhere. Children played there together and through them their parents got acquainted with each other. They were considered the heart of the whole area and everyone took care to guide them in the right direction. As such the rate of campus-crimes was small too.

One thing our elders never fail to mention about the drawbacks of our generation is our lack of manners. Well, such things were uncommon. Mrs. Papia says, “When we were young, we used to give salaam to every elderly person we crossed in the roads. Such kind of behaviour was also encouraged in our families. In turn they too loved us and would often buy us sweets and candies. But that was not the reason for our paying respect. We would do that to be on everyone's good book. Moreover those also bettered our parents' relation with them.” And who can deny the necessity of occasional candy?

How we are now:
I have heard this story somewhere: crows keep their eyes shut when they steal things. As everything looks dark to them with their eyes shut, they think that no one is noticing them. Such kind of foolish thinking seems to be present to the youths of these days. According to most of the elders 'they avoid our eyes and walk as though no one sees them'.

The tradition of sharing food between the neighbours is going extinct. But even a few years ago that was still in practice, albeit only during the month of Ramadan and sometimes Shab-e-Barat. Sadly fewer people are doing this kind of friendly exchanges. Says Abir, 18, “Well, we still have a guilty feeling for not sharing, but that does not linger very long. In the end we all forget.” Shaon, a boy of the same age, shared an interesting fact, “This year during Shab-e-Barat, my younger brother was very excited. He asked our mother if that was the day when everyone brings food to each other's house. But unfortunately none came and he was very disappointed missing all the food.” Go ahead, laugh.

Nowadays people actually have very little idea about who lives next door. Abir says, “at one time, we suddenly saw some trucks and movers in front of a building. But when someone asked me I couldn't confirm if the people were leaving or arriving. In all those years they hadn't come to our house and we didn't go to theirs as well.” “Not even on Eid?” “No, we were busy doing our own duties.” “That figures.”"

In the residential areas one or two, and sometimes even more, clubs of young people exist. Most of them are not active at all in the positive sense. Rather sometimes they become the workshop for evil. Very few social clubs can be found which hold creative and recreational activities. So in the end, most parents forbid their child to go outside and play with others of the same age.

So close, yet so far:
They are the nearest humans to us. They can respond quickest should there be any sort of discomfort for us, if they are not making it themselves. But even so, why are we becoming so distant from them? The answer is simple: people too busy to take notice of their neighbours. They are also reluctant. We teenagers also don't feel the necessity to approach a complete stranger living next door to get acquainted. And in most of the cases the children are the bridge for the parents to become familiar with others. A counter argument is that we have no place for getting familiar with others than our classmates. You can count the number of playgrounds in this city. And we have that foolish notion that being grown-up and mature means lesser interactions.

The Prophet (S.A.W) said, “Those who live in the forty houses in all sides of your house are your neighbours.” Let's take one step at a time and know at least the residents of our buildings. Make sure you don't live beside an alien or something.

P.S.: I am NOT an old guy. I just sound like that.
By Jawad


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