You promise heavens free from strife,
Pure truth, and perfect change of will;
But sweet, sweet is this human life,
So sweet, I fain would breathe it still;
Your chilly stars I can forgo,
This warm kind world is all I know.
You say there is no substance here,
One great reality above:
Back from that void I shrink in fear,
And child-like hide myself in love:
Show me what angels feel. Till then
I cling, a mere weak man, to men.
You bid me lift my mean desires
From faltering lips and fitful veins
To sexless souls, ideal quires,
Unwearied voices, wordless strains:
My mind with fonder welcome owns
One dear dead friend’s remember’d tones.
Forsooth the present we must give
To that which cannot pass away;
All beauteous things for which we live
By laws of time and space decay.
But I, the very reason why
I clasp them, is because they die.
'….and when you’re in your twenties, i hope you buy a plane ticket to paris. i hope you get lost wandering all of the streets. i hope you travel the world and read lots of new books. i hope you have interesting conversations over warm cups of tea. i hope you drink out of mason jars while dancing barefoot in the grass. i hope you have a water fight in central park. set goals and change them. quit your day job. i hope you don’t do any of these things or that you do them all. write a book. change your mind. start new friendships and let go of the ones that you need to. say goodbye to all of the things that have kept you stagnant and vow to keep moving forward…..’
'….but what i really mean to say is that I hope you aren’t held back because of a number. and that you don’t rush into things because it feels like time is slipping by. i hope you do what’s right for you. hold on. slow down. and breathe in. your age is your age. but more importantly, your life is your life. don’t change your journey so that it matches someone elses. we need to walk different paths so the whole world can be explored. revel in the differences. and enjoy where you are…'
Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.
Back as a Senior
My first morning waking up as a senior at AUW started rather early. I’d gone to bed or fallen asleep watching TBBT around 10pm the night before and so woke up at 3am, wide awake. My bed was beside the door to the balcony. With a window behind me and one at my feet, I had all the cool breeze the night could offer. It offered silence too, but silence is never silent enough in Bangladesh. I could hear the bells ringing at the nearby temple and in a few hours I would hear the azaan.
My roommates hadn’t arrived yet so I had the whole place to myself. Not that I needed all this space. Over the last three years I’d learned to live out of a suitcase, that’s all I needed. I’d cleaned some of the surfaces with savlon, the damp wood had given fungi wonderful homes over the hot summer.
This year is a bit different than the others. My sister is on campus with me. She’s moved in right over the library and so all’s well. It was strange, the first day. The hustle and bustle that comes with new students arriving on campus. The maps, the schedules, the red-puffy-eyed parents. Luggage-pulling volunteers and lost freshmen. In the middle of all that, my usual relaxed stroll seemed rather odd I suppose.
I saw familiar faces, they needed no introduction, no pretenses. We were in this together. Our final year together. Nuff said. It was the new faces that brought in some amusement. Taking the lifts meant cramming into the small spaces with overdressed holiday-goers. Or that’s what they looked like. “Tumi eikhane thako?” (Do you live here?). Upon seeing my blank expression and Iqraa’s modest ‘no’, the young girl soon realised her confusion. “O apnara ki senior? Salaam apu!” (Oh you must be seniors? Salaam sisters!)
Good to know that we still look young as freshmen.
The rest of the day was a rush. Shopping for Parisa, eating, cleaning my room, eating, worrying about stuff getting stolen as I abandoned my room for the rest of the day, eating, and then some more eating.
So this morning as I lay in bed, watching an old movie, perhaps for the sake of some added familiarity, I noticed my comfort. I was comfortable here. And that was realisation enough for one night.
Saw a lal-jhuti-woodpecker at dawn.
Oh, and I have a smashin’ view of the city!
With depression, you find out who your real friends are. You also find out who your real friends aren’t. This can be tough to discover, but it makes you appreciate your true friends all the more. They are there for you. They don’t treat you any differently for knowing your secret. They know there are worse days than others, but they’re willing to sit with you in silence while you stare at the wall and try to figure out your next step. They wait for you because they believe in you
Of Butts and Mates
Inspired by Imrul Islam’s “7,869 Miles” and “An Original Story” by Phil and Sarah Kay
I don’t need protecting, I used to tell myself that. I still do. I read 7,869 Miles every day and I smile to myself as I read the first line. I like to live my life thinking I’ve got it all figured out. I like knowing things before they happen, I also like surprises, when they are good ones. I tell myself bad experiences are for learning from, and good experiences, well, they also teach you - they’ve taught me not to get ahead of myself.
I have been blessed with a conscience, intuition and understanding - I wear these words with pride. I may be wrong. Very wrong in thinking I am capable of any. I think I am brave. I might sound brave, too brave - braver than I ever will be. I am also scared. Scared of too much.
You told me its ok to be human. To feel human. No, I told myself that when I told you stories. I told myself, it is ok to share a dream with someone else. To be open - like in an open heart surgery - only no one’s poking at you with a knife. I learned - a lot.
I learned about words beyond compromise, sacrifice and me-second-everyone-else-first. We met where our families, ideals and beliefs met. Our faith. Our priorities we called them. Bliss. I found peace in that. I had to learn a lot about you and understand a lot more about myself. I saw it and I felt it made me stronger - You thought I was - am - naive. You second guessed my idealism, not on its merits, but on how it needed a breath of reality. You gave me cynicism - it hurt but it plunged me into icy cold waters - I had to learn how to swim and survive. The world would not be as kind. I understood.
Remember, hearts are shaped after the human butt? Oh, The Big Bang Theory!
I see wider now, bigger too, taller as I always did - while I still consider myself alone, I might also know that I really am, I know that I do not wish to be lonely. It wasn’t just you, I’ve had others who’ve taught me more. You were part of every moment though. You matter. I am still writing this story. Right now it hurts. I hope to come back to it and add much more.
We wrote a story together. It hasn’t ended yet. Birthdays, memories, Hobbits and strange music - sounds like a lifetime. But it’s not. There’s a lifetime ahead to experience all that and so much more. I look forward to reading your chapters. I look forward to reading mine. Let’s promise each other though? Our books won’t sit on dusty shelves all alone. We won’t be melancholy writers on hills of solitude. They must see the world, they must see each other.
And the Force must live on.
The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
Lost and Found in Strasbourg: Christmas 2013
26th December, 5.35 am: I get off the Euroline bus. It is dark and raining outside. I am in the middle of nowhere. 100 meters away I see an empty tram stop. Here starts my 12 hours in Strasbourg, capital of the Alsace region, bordering eastern France and Germany. This is a good day.
*If I were a mystery drama series, my cool detective-like theme song would play now*
So this was the third day into our 3 days of adventure in winter break. On an impulse I decided I needed to get out of Reims and eat more food and then walk around like a dreamy tourist-trying-to-look-local that would burn more calories, making space for me to eat some more. Yep, that was the plan. I’m glad I followed through.
After a 6 hour bus ride from Brussels, when I was dropped off at Place de l’Etoile, I strangely felt right at home. I was back in France, had full bars on my cell phone, I knew I wouldn’t get lost and (here’s the best part) there would always be a pattisierie around the corner.
By now Anupoma and I knew that the central station is always ground zero and so we walked across the deserted streets, drenched in cold, now familiar rain, to wait for the next tram to Strasbourg Gare Centrale. The tram came 20 minutes later and we were on our way.
Everything about coming to Strasbourg felt special, especially after our two days in Brussels. Not only were we comparing everything to the Belgian capital and still coming out on top (excepting the frites, that we clearly gave to the Belge) but Strasbourg was, most essentially, timelessly beautiful. The central station, a glass masterpiece shaped like Bengali jhinuk-pitha was warm and charming. It was architecturally gorgeous and even more so because of the Christmas decorations - seeing which was the original purpose of our visit to this north-easternmost town. English old-timers would call it a quaint little town bridging the French and Germans over the reunion of the Rhone and Rhine rivers. France’s very own Venice.
We were still 4 hours away from sunrise and so we waited at the station, having dropped off our backpacks (read: burdens) at baggage lockers, we gladly roamed the beautiful structure till we discovered something I just couldn’t walk away from..
It was noir, a black shining beauty, sitting in the middle of the glass dome welcoming anyone and everyone to try their hand at surprising themselves. It was a piano, free for all to play, free for all to listen to, free for all to experience. Nobody could walk past it and not take a moment to think about its charms, to press one key, or not, to drown themselves in a dream that only an instrument so beautiful could bring them. I wondered how magical music really is. We all know about its wonders, its powers in healing the world as MJ put it, but I think of it as so much more. It has a lot to do with my mother. She identifies herself as a woman, a teacher, a mother, a responsible citizen of the country she loves, but above all, she feels it is the music in her that identifies her. For so many of us, that may be true, even without realising. I for one make memories not over names and dates, but tastes, aromas, melodies and colors - my experiences are defined by my senses and Strasbourg had it all.
Around 9am we finally thought I’d stared at the piano long enough (not having the courage to really go and play). We bought one-day tram tickets, always feeling better because France makes travelling cheaper for students in so many ways (that we did not find in Brussels: another point to Strasbourg), and head out into the city to find the many Christmas markets this town was famous for. There are three Marchés de Noël in France that are above every other: Strasbourg (also the largest in Europe), second one that I do not remember, and third, Reims.
It was the day after Christmas, so of course the city was deserted; but that meant we had it all to ourselves. The quiet, silent cobblestone streets, endearingly curious alleyways, old vintage shops shoulder to shoulder with glamourous high fashion stores. Strasbourg’s heavy German influence meant the architecture in the city was very Deutch. Bold colors, tiled roofs, multiple attics and wooden frames on stone houses - it was, to be put simply, quite charming. Only thing missing was my medieval dress and for my pink and yellow umbrella to turn into lacy white. Perfect.
The Strasbourg Cathedral, in the Old Town, surprised us too. Having seen far too many cathedrals since I got here in August, I assumed nothing could surprise me there. I was soon proven wrong. I don’t know if it was the charm of the city itself, the huge christmas present sitting in front of it that was totally out of place or the lack of symmetry in its structure that won me over. For one, it was not the sandy grey stone structure that I was accustomed to seeing, it was dark brick red - almost like the red forts in Old Dhaka. It only had one tower and the square in front of it fed into those mysteriously fulfilling alleyways that I was already in love with.
Following one of these streets led me to the river banks, having crossed over many rot iron bridges. Opposite to Palais Rohan, we found a boatride that took us around the Old Town, Petit France, the new town which boasted the great European Commission and International Institute of Human Rights, while we listened to a funny voice telling us the great history of this little community. Funny how a part of the world so timeless could still have suffered the damaged of destructive wars fought by selfish men and yet find in it, the strength to rebuilt itself - restoring its identity.
It rained the whole day and it didn’t matter. I knew that I would come back. I knew I would walk these streets over and over again, at least another time, to remind myself how it not only met my expectations, but surpassed them. Beyond the glitz and the glamour, I found the simplicity in this community and I knew these cobblestoned streets would stay with me forever.
Thirteen hours of walking, and of course, eating, and then we were back to the station where Strasbourg had convinced me that I had nothing to be afraid of - I had to try my hand at playing the beauty that lingered in my mind. I did and then I handed it over the the little boy curiously watching me make funny noises and then he surprised me too.
From that first tarte citron that confirmed to me I was back in France to the 4+ hour train-ride that brought me back to the Christmas lights of Reims, and then the hot bowl of the familiar Wai Wai that ended my day, 26th December was special indeed.
My cooking has gotten better
Okay, I didn’t make this but I DID ask them to put in extra Nutella in it. NOT the smartest decision of my life (it was already sweet enough to give you a headache, and this is me saying it) but damn, it was gooooooood <3
That’s cheese, not bird dropping (clarification for Irka)