• Saturday, August 30, 2014

Musings

My Room . . . My World

Syed Badrul Ahsan

When dusk descends, a fair degree of tranquility descends around my room. I do not turn the lights on, for there is the beauty of the falling day I must let sink into my soul. Nothing is more beautiful or more poignant than twilight suffusing the room you inhabit, the little world you have created for yourself over a stretch of time. There are not many dusky evenings you can savour in the silence of your room, for the world gets in your way, makes too many demands on you. But when sheer luck favours you, as when you fall prey to one of those illnesses that assail the body, you know the opportunity is at hand to be in communion with your room again.
It is the grey of the twilight hour that comes upon me in somber magic. A whole world falls silent around me, enveloping my room in something of the mystical kind. I let the grey pass into black before the lamp on my bedside table illuminates my room. A fresh new gleam of beauty takes over as the luminosity falls all across my books, those I have patiently and lovingly collected over the years. These books fill the shelves, are stacked behind glass, rest on the bedstand and cover the entirety of the two tables in my room. In this room I am in the good company of the great and grand. A.L. Rowse keeps me company with his Discoveries and Reviews and Isaiah Berlin's life keeps telling me of its literary charms. Jon Lee Anderson reminds me of the great revolutionary that was Che Guevara and Abraham Eraly gives me endless lessons in Mughal history. Harivansh Rai Bachchan stands near my pillow, to tell me that before Bachchan the actor there was Bachchan the Hindi scholar. Barbara Walters, through her Audition, brings me once more in touch with men of power who have moved on. Minar Monsur does not let me forget the inimitable, indefatigable nationalist that was Dhirendranath Dutta. Our extremely intellectual Professor Aminul Islam is right beside me, speaking to me of philosophy in the life of the Bengali. Through him, G.C. Dev comes alive again. Nirad C. Chaudhuri speaks of a Kishoreganj that was. Deshbandhu, Netaji and Bangabandhu keep educating me on the enlightenment that is otherwise known as politics. Mushirul Hasan speaks of Partition and opens a window to the other face of freedom.

My room is my world, where I give free rein to my imagination. In the softness of falling day, I hear the soft fall of the snow through the winters that led me from infancy to late teenage. In my room, the rain falls in torrents on the pond in my village and I see the water play wildly over the graves of my parents. My room, in brief, keeps me caught in the warmth of its fragrance, a feeling that can only be mine. It is in this room that the phone rings in the depths of the night, to tell me that someone worlds away misses me, that romance is in the air. No, my room has nothing of the elegant or the beautiful about it. But it does have an existence of its own, a literature of its own. The bed on which my tired bones come to rest at the end of a long day is also my table, my reading room, my writing stand all put together. There is no space for a chair and a table in my room, but that really does not matter. Where tables and chairs should have been, my books reign in glory.  I read cross-legged on the floor; I recline or lie on my back or my stomach. Or I stand. That new book must be read to the end. My room is the alcove where I am permitted to be a recluse. On the days when a fever or a cold or a bad headache seizes hold of my corporeal being, I look for comfort in my room. This room does not leave me unhappy. Three pillows prop me up when I read. Or two of them easily serve as a table for my laptop when I need to write. Outside my window and the small door leading to a small balcony, a good bit of sky imparts the lesson to me that I am part of the universe, that indeed the universe inhabits the soul of all manifestations of Creation. The moon sometimes stands at the door; sometimes it is the stars that I try reading. My room is the nocturnal sky that the stars insist on adorning in the passion of poetry.

In my room, my songs become unstoppable affairs. All romance, all passion, all beauty come wrapped in the songs I have remembered all my life.  I sing.  I age. I rush headlong into my sixties. It is that time of life when you do not want anything more out of life, unless you are arrogant or covetous or mean or condescending or a philistine. But, yes, I do want to sing on and read on, in the myriad silences of my room. Bulleh Shah and Rabindranath and Neruda and Akhmatova are in one another's warm company.  In my room, the Koran and the Bible and Ramayana share space; and because they do, I think I know of the larger dimensions of God.
In my room, the future plays and screams and squeals and laughs. The future gleams in the bright faces of my nieces and my nephew. My room is where I search, through the haze of dreams and semi-wakefulness, for the woman whose laughter speaks of the waterfall, whose blazing eyes are a reminder of dormant volcanoes.
My room will cease to be mine someday. As the birds fly noisily home to their nests at day's end, I think I see my grave waiting for me. As they say, all bright things must of necessity come to quick confusion.
The writer is Executive Editor, The Daily Star.

Published: 12:00 am Friday, February 14, 2014

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