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June 4, 2004

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All in a Day's Walk

Aly Zaker

Take a walk in the morning or in the afternoon wherever you want and we will have an experience or two to share. Except that the walk should preferably be within the confines of a space so you get to walk in a round and meet the same people several times in the course of walking. I call it the "Mulberry Syndrome" and enjoy it enormously. The walkers in a group usually converse while walking. If some of these conversations get to your ears you would find them so interesting that you would not regret having heard them. No you would not be eaves-dropping. That's despicable. The words would pour in to your ears so you would have no way of not listening. You would easily be able to fathom the subject, intensity and the language of quite a hand full of conversations. Just be informed that if you yourself happen to be in a similar group you would be pleasing someone's ears as well.

Now there are various kinds of walkers as there are various types of conversations that make the round. I have found women to be more entertaining walker talkers than men. Some of them would be talking about their children. The younger women would prefer to discuss the education of their kids, exchanging views on schools and on subjects. If the children of two women belong to the same school then they would jealously share the achievements of being the mothers of children going to such great schools. If the children of the women are grown up then, of course the focus would shift to higher education or marriage. The conversation essentially becomes more colourful if the grown up children live abroad. We get to travel, free of cost, to various places in this wonderful world of ours represented vividly in their discussions. So what if you haven't been there? You could see in your mind's eye the places in their pristine glory. There are also some women who discuss various dishes they cooked in the party held last night. These are mouth watering conversations. If you have imagination you could literally smell the aroma of the various dishes and salivate. Believe me. I have even picked up half of some of the recipes that are discussed. Why half? Because, the conversations fade away to a distance with them and me walking in opposite directions. If I can muster enough guts I would like to stop them and complete the recipe some day.

I must confess that the men have much less interesting subjects to discuss than the women and are highly opinionated. These, in most cases have to do with contemporary politics and can be grouped into three broad categories -- politics of home, politics of neighbours and politics of the world. Politics of the world, these days, comprise the happenings of the Middle East. More precisely, Iraq. With Iraq, as an essential corollary, comes up the role of the west. Needless to say, every body is critical of the USA and UK. In the category of politics of the neighbours, nowadays, the Indian election is the hottest subject. And Sonia Gandhi seems to have emerged as the darling of everyone. Her grace, her élan and her political foresight has now become the most talked about subject amongst the walkers as it also is amongst, I think, all Bangladeshis. Some even think that by her recent acts of benevolence she has reached the heights of Mahatma Gandhi, the founding father of India. Some also apprehend that the change recently brought about in the centre stage of Indian politics may not last long as the forces of communalism and extremism were around. They would pull down anything that was reminiscent of political sanity. Readers might wonder at how I was able to pick these complete conversations up on a day's walk. It is simple; I walked with the men who were discussing these subjects. The conversations on politics at home always leave me sad. They are so depressing. We seem to be marooned in an unearthly place as in Albert Camus' "Plague". We know for sure that an all pervasive pestilence has surrounded us from all sides. It is closing in on us gradually. There's no way to get away from it. We are waiting for the inevitable end.

At the end the good and the bad of my collection from a day's walk seem to give me a feeling of absurdity. I return with a mixed feeling. At times I think if it is worth it. Do I give up walking from tomorrow? It is then that I remember the flaming Krishnachura in orange and scarlet, the mauve Jarul, the golden Alamanda, the Shonaloo in yellow, the blades of grass freshly sprouting up. All these beckon me to give them company. And I feel life verily is worth living. So I will keep walking.




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