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OP-ED: What time is it there?

  • Published at 02:07 am December 27th, 2020
time hourglass

As the year ends, we measure up the fistful of gains against a mountain of losses

In winter, even the sun is different.

What once forced you to turn on the fan at the highest speeds and check the daily statistics on global warming makes you want to cuddle up with hot chocolate and an old book, like the warm hug of an old friend.

Even the streets get transformed. I live in Mirpur, and there is a designated area where Christians huddle together, colloquially known as “Christian Para.” From the start of December and all the way to Christmas night, the streets resemble an old forgotten village in Prague, when the lights that hang atop can light up even the darkest corners of a cynic’s heart. But it is a cycle, and just as the sun will change into an all-consuming force and give us a taste of the impending heat death of the universe, the lights will be taken off as well, telling us that it is once again time to get back to our regular grinds. As of writing this article, it is December 26, 2020. It is 12am, right on the dot. The first Christmas star has been taken down, and the rest is to follow.

As a child, I used to be a big fan of Beyblade. Toonami was at the peak of its popularity, and besides shows like Dragon Ball Z and Pokemon, shows like Digimon and Beyblade used to rock our TV sets, as well as our souls. From the minute I laid my eyes on the first series, I had always wanted to own one of them, to use them and battle out to my heart’s content.

When the chance presented itself to me a couple of years later, I dragged my parents to the supermarket as soon as my first term was over. I have forever been in Mirpur, and we used to do our shopping from a place called Muktijoddha Shopping Complex. I was excited all the way, because I would be buying my first Beyblade. I was excited all the way, since I would be out in my favourite city at night time.

We are a family of four, and we used to take two rickshaws. Back then, as the gentle kiss of the summer night washed over my face, I felt like the happiest child in the whole world.

I have been watching Beyblade again, as it is available on Netflix. While parts of it still hold up, the show was never that good. And after that initial hit of nostalgia, slogging through the show honestly feels like a chore.

The Dhaka night sky

Due to my work and social life, I have to travel through Dhaka on a daily basis, and I generally get to experience the Dhaka night sky every single day. But I usually spend the whole time on the phone, occasionally checking Google maps to figure out when I’m to get home.

I have always wanted to be a writer. As far back as kindergarten, I would make up stories in my head, and would often get in trouble for acting them out in class. In Class IX, I was working on a novel inspired by a serialized issue focusing on fiction in Rising Stars. I was sure I was going to make it, and this handwritten manuscript was going to be valuable someday. I would take delight in writing, often pretending to study while writing, as that would allow me to pass the time doing what I love. I still want to be a writer, more than anything. I still make up stories in my head, at least the concept of them. But writing them down is another story, and the prospect of my being a writer has never looked slimmer.

Between Christmas and New Year's

As a point in time, I find the gap between Christmas and New Year's the saddest. The warm nostalgia fades by then, only to be replaced by the icy cold depths of anxiety, as you measure up the fistful of gains against the mountains of losses.

You indulge in your vice of your choice, and as you look out towards the sleeping city from your lonely veranda, when everyone has gone to sleep, you suddenly realize that you are confronted by a future that you can no longer sketch out.

Crossroads, they are called. In purely functional terms, they are a roundabout with roads pointing towards all the possible directions, a place where different vehicles meet and go on their separate ways. Crossroads, as they say, are transitory points in life where you have to make important decisions.

In theory, you can always get back and re-evaluate which path you want to take, and see how things fare from there. In reality, however, we live finite lives, and there are only so many decisions we can take, before the reaper calls his stake. I’m 23 now, and I feel like I’m at the crossroads of life. I’ll be graduating soon, and like the blues legend Robert Johnson, I’m presented with multiples of choice. Some good, some bad, some downright unattainable -- but the time is ticking, and soon, I’ll have to make my call. And after that, I’ll have to wonder if I made the right decision, and once the cards are down, I’ll have to start all over again. It’s the same every year. You start the year with plans, grind throughout, and end it with a fistful of Woolongs and a weight pressing down on your chest -- a weight that you’ll have to carry. A weight that all of us will have to carry.

Because I’m a pessimist

Based on the thesis presented so far, the future seems grim. But that’s because I’m a pessimist, something my partner has aptly pointed out, someone I am so blessed to have. Even that wasn’t supposed to happen. After a certain time, I began to view human existence in a very cynical way, and I began to take preparation for the life of a solitary nomad, like Elliot Alderson from Mr Robot.

When I met her, I fell for her bad, and when I first talked to her, I fell head over heels. I was never supposed to get her. I was never supposed to have someone as amazing as her by my side. But as they say, fate works in mysterious ways, and I am happy to say that the last one and a half years have been nothing short of amazing.

And all of this happened because of her. Last year, I was working on another novel, and in a fit of rage and self-hatred, I decided to quit writing altogether. But then, she happened, and some way or the other, little by little, I fell in love with writing again, and little by little, the love I had lost for myself started to make its way back in the centre of my heart.

I dream of fading away

“It’s better to burn out, than to fade away,” are some of the most famous lyrics in the hall of rock, and they have been penned by the irreproachable Neil Young. But the words are famous for the supposed finality they propose, as the parting notes of forever missed front man of Nirvana, Kurt Donald Cobain. Before his passing, Neil Young was actually trying to contact him, as revealed in Neil’s autobiography. As for the words that are etched in history with the barrel of a shotgun, he said: “I don’t believe it is better to burn out anymore. I dream of fading away. Slowly dropping out of the spotlight and living a good, long life with close family and good friends.”

So, who knows what the future holds? But I sure hope that I meet someone someday, someone just as bold and full of dreams of me. It would be winter, during the last few days of transition, and sharing a cigarette in a park bench under the snow, we will gossip about the future and the past. He would tell me about the greatness of fading away, and I -- in my cynical, pessimistic self, would try to contradict it, and bring him down to purgatory with me. He would take one final drag from his cigarette, and crush it with the sole of his boots.

Then he would raise his eyebrows at me and say: “Hey kid, what time is it there?”

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and a freelance writer.