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OP-ED: A future where everything is alright

  • Published at 04:47 am June 7th, 2021
Shops have been built illegally occupying land belonging to the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) at Nagarbari- Notakhola Bazar under Bera upazila, Pabna
Dhaka Tribune

We must keep going forward, no matter what

A particular Eid is standing out in my mind: I was in class seven. It was either Roja’r Eid or Qurbani’r Eid. The vacation had just ended, and I needed to go back to school. 

My home was very close to my high school, and classes didn’t begin until high noon. I usually walked there. It would take 10-15 minutes in total, five if I hightailed it. 

But that day, I was in a surreal daze. I couldn’t believe that the vacation was over, and I had to go back to my dull routine. 

I had always questioned the very fundamentals of life. As early as my childhood, I thought about my own death. I thought about how things would pan out to that point if I hadn’t been born. I realized that I wouldn’t amass a lot of memories that I cherished. But I also realized a lot of pain could be avoided too. 

From the moment we are born, we start to die. We get very few years of actually, truly being free -- free from work. Free from school. Free from responsibilities. Free from dreams. 

After that, it is a barrage of classes in school and a torrent of work after you graduate. You have to justify every moment you exist. And then, you die. 

Memory is a strange thing. I used to live in another neighbourhood before I moved here. By the time we moved in 2009, we were one of the last remaining people in our building, remnants of a bygone era. 

I hated it there. I wanted to move, until I didn’t. I still dream of those years, at least once every few weeks. But I did go back there, two years ago. I have been meaning to go back there another time, to properly explore the area, to take the atmosphere in. 

The place I knew only exists in memory now. Just like the person I was back then exists in memory as well. 

I went out in the afternoon this Eid, and it was quite late when I was coming back. On my way home, I passed a shop that I used to frequent. It is a variety shop that sells all sorts of things -- from Pokémon cards to cricket bats, from video games to the latest Shahrukh Khan movie. 

I hadn’t visited that shop since the final days of my high school. I got my internet connection right around that time, and games were becoming more and more expensive. I stopped gaming a little bit after that as well, so I didn’t have any reason to go back. 

Aside from passing the shop by on my daily commute, I haven’t had any interaction with that place in a long time. Seeing that shop, and seeing the man who runs that shop have his hair turn grey, haunted me. I wanted to go in and greet him. But I couldn’t. 

Time hasn’t been kind to him, and I felt guilty for abandoning him like that. I felt sad seeing how time just forgets people. So, I couldn’t muster the courage to see him. 

Back in February though, I went to see him. I went to talk to him – man to man – to do a sort of profile on him. 

He recognized me right away. Then he started his story. Throughout it, he was bitter and angry. What happened to him was out of his control, and he did the best he could under the circumstances. 

He is intelligent and self-aware. He knew he was swept to the sidelines. And he was angry, so very angry. 

But after telling me everything, he started talking about his family. The way he talked to me seemed to resemble a conversation between a mentor and a mentee, a master and a student. 

At the end of it, he was at peace. It seemed like even after this -- with the coming of the next generation -- he finally felt free. We hugged and exchanged farewells, and then we went back to our usual routine. Him sulking in his shop, and me going past it. 

Memory is a strange thing indeed. I’ve often tried to walk down memory lane, but the things that should work never worked, and when you are least expecting it, closure just creeps up, just like that. 

I went to a local old book shop today. Rather than a single shop, it is a collection of huts handled by people who would be hugely sought after if they were born in a different time. I hadn’t been there since the start of the metro rail project, until today. 

I thought that they would be displaced due to the construction, but the shops are still standing. Sure, the collections aren’t as impressive anymore, and some of those wizards have long since passed, but the magic of browsing through that place still persists, and would you look at that, I even found a book I thought I would never find again!

Memory is a strange thing, but who decides what is gone and what can stay? It all seems like a game of catch between life and death, between finding things that are long forgotten and trying to forget things that are gone for good. 

And in this way, work becomes joyful, passions become painful, streets you once walked on make you cry, you find the girl you first saw when you were young, you find joy in old shows, and you find hope for a future that holds all the answers. 

A future where everything is alright. A future as bright as the most distant stars. And the stars have died a long ago. But they are still showing you the way. 

And with the light that shines on one’s path, we must go forward, until we can be free again.  

We must try to live. 

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and an intern at the Dhaka Tribune.

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