Burning in a Yearning Fire | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 17, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 17, 2017

Fictiom: Zahir Raihan's IcHcHhar Agun-e JolchHi

Burning in a Yearning Fire

Some day, I will make a film about a group of lepers. These lepers, who—living in their melting , rotting bodies, but still resistant—continuously shout  in desperation: “No, no , NO! There's nothing wrong with us! We are alright.”

Those people—with their rotten limbs falling off from their bodies, like fallen leaves— continuously speak in a voice of eager assurance: “Oh, it's nothing!  Nothing's wrong with us!”

Their putrid bodies defiantly fill the air with the odor of oozing puss. And yet, they aren't perturbed. Soaking themselves in fragrant rose water, they say out loud jovially: “Look at us! Look! Nothing's wrong with us! We're alright indeed!”

Dead inside—dead and rotten—but bursting in insolent rage, their undead spirits keep yelling and wailing in a passionate plea: “We are not dead! Not dead yet!”

Some day, I will make a film about the young woman living next door. It has been ten years since they arrested her husband. No one knows what crime he had committed. Who knows for what reason they barged in one day and took him by force, producing no arrest warrants, or giving no explanations? The woman doesn't respond to any queries about her husband. She remains silent and suffers quietly. Like a fish out of water, she has been gasping for breath for the last ten years.  Day after day, and night after night, she has been tossing and turning and bleeding inside, alone.

And still she won't cry.

And still she won't say a word.

Some day, I will make a movie about this friend of mine. I had seen him  once in Armanitola, and then in  the Paltan area,  giving fiery speeches in public gatherings. I had seen him on the streets, taking part in processions and walking side by side with thousands of protesters. In the morning of  February 21st,  he requested me to console his mother if he died that day. “Please tell my mother not to cry for me,” He said. “Tell her I died embracing the challenges of the times.”

Time indeed has changed since then. My friend now spends his time pimping young girls to influential clients, just so he could  gain some business permits  in return!

And oh, how I wish I could make a film about her—my younger sister! She would definitely have made a good subject for a film. What a strong-willed and ambitious woman she was! Doctors had repeatedly warned her not to overwork her fragile brain, but she wouldn't listen. She was a persistent woman with a single dream. All she wanted was to  earn a Graduate degree. One day I found her sitting by the staircase of the university building; she was crying.

“Why are you crying, my sister?” I asked.

“They rejected my application,” She said. “They came to know about my involvement in politics. Because I participated in processions and strikes,  they have branded me ineligible. They don't want me here.”  She sobbed.

With that rejection letter, her dreams got  shattered,  her mental strength crumbled,  and her fragile brain failed to hold on to sanity.

My sister went mad.

Sometimes I feel tempted to make a film about this bunch of philistines who fancy themselves to be the pillars of Culture.

All they do is talk nonstop.

All they talk about is Culture.

And about language.

And about tradition.

And they keep talking.

Reasonably.

And for no reason.

And after being exhausted by their own relentless chatter, they sit under the shades of the beautiful palm and mottled ebony trees, where they fall asleep and dream.

And they dream of grey deserts.

And of Timur Lang and Genghis Khan.

And of Hitler and Mussolini.

Oh, what beautiful dreams they dream!

Some day, I want to paint a picture of these human beings on my celluloid  canvas—the humans, who have faces of pigs and tongues of snake's hoods.Their eyes are like a pair of rats and their hands are tiger's paws.  Just like humans, their hearts are  also tangled and entwined in  muddles of interweaving  knots of complexities.

These human creatures quarrel constantly and lie habitually.

They always talk of rice.

And of the gravy of curried beef.

They always talk of poverty and want.

And then they die.

Like lizards and snakes and frogs and earthworms, they die.

And yet they cannot die.

And yet, because they make themselves deathless—through the useless lives of the multitudes of progenies they leave behind—they fail to earn their right to a permanent death.

Oh, how I wish I could make a film about a young man imprisoned within the thousand walls of restraints!

He feels smothered and trapped behind the unbreakable walls:

The walls of laws and rules.

And the walls of social oppressions.

And the walls of religion.

The walls of politics.

And of poverty.

Banging his head against these walls, the hapless young man screams on and on, asking for his right to freedom. “Let me be free! Let me be free!” He yells at the top of his lungs, “let my dreams and desires spread their wings, like birds that joyously fly in the endless sky.  Let my dreams swim freely like a school of fish in the fathomless ocean!”

In his futile attempts to dismantle all barriers, the young man runs from one hurdle to another, pushing and ramming  through those  countless walls that stand between a man and his desire for freedom:

The walls of jealousy.

Of hatred.

Of falsehood.

Of hollowness.

But how many barriers can he break in one mortal life?

And yet, the young man does not give up. The yearning fire that blazes inside his heart ignites in him a relentless urge to demolish all walls. He persistently pounds his head against the walls, demanding liberty.

“Break all these walls and let me be free!” He keeps  saying,  “GIVE ME LIBERTY!”

The young man doesn't lose hope, even though he knows that life is too short to cherish and to relish all joys that liberty can bring.

 

Fayeza Hasanat teaches at the University of Central Florida. 

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