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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | July 1, 2005 |

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Walking Along the Dhanmondi Lake

Tulip Choudhury

I walked along the shore of Dhanmondi Lake.
The lake, with its flowers and trees along its grassy shore is certainly a beautiful place in Dhaka. It was a hot, humid day. The summer was in with its blazing sun and the clear sky. The persistent heat of the day was almost unbearable. However, a gentle breeze every once in a while swept over the body. The touch was like an angel's blessing. The wind carried down yellow leaves and petals of the 'krishnochura' flowers. They fell, swirling and zigzagging to the ground. I felt like a queen as I walked over the carpet of the petals and the leaves.

Up above, the scarlet 'krishnochura' flowers were braving the hot weather and blooming against the blue sky. Large yellow alamanda flowers could be seen blooming in their thick green foliage. I remembered that my daughter was fond of these flowers. I felt like picking some for her. But then I resisted myself. Of course they were a beauty on their own, why spoil their life? Each and every life was created for a purpose and I certainly did not have the right destroy it. There were some other purple and orange flowers too. In that scorching heat, the flowers with their bright colours looked so peaceful, they seem to be setting examples of keeping up the fight for life.

In fact, there was the vibrant sign of life all around the lake. Many people were walking along the path that continues on both sides of the lake. Beside the path on the thick green grass young people sat in pairs. They were young men and women deeply absorbed in each other. Some passers-by stared at them but they were too engrossed each other. Life was just opening up all its doors for them.

So many people moving around! Each and every one of them seemed to be absorbed with life. An elderly gentleman was walking with a small boy. Must be his grandson, I thought. The gentleman gave an occasional toothless smile at the boy as they walked hand in hand. I could hear the child chattering on. As he talked the little boy wrinkled up his nose laughed heartily. As I passed by I could hear the little boy saying, "Grandpa, I want more peanuts" The grandfather handed him a peanut from time to time from his pocket. The grandfather may have been old but his steps were light and buoyant, steps of one who was in love with life, maybe more so because it was shared with the grandson.

Sharing certainly makes life lively around the lake. Little further on, two middle-aged women walked, talking and laughing with each other. Both of them were dressed in saris. As they talked they leaned towards each other as if sharing some secret. Right behind them by two young women and a little girl walked. The little girl had curly hair that was tussled all around her head as if the mother did not have the time to brush it before coming out for the walk. The ladies and the little girl were very bright clothes. The little girl gave a sudden whoop of delight as a blue butterfly crossed her path and started to chase it.

I was walking rather slowly. People walking at a faster pace passed me every once in a while. Two gentlemen were discussing some business deals as they passed by. Two elderly men with walking sticks came along. They were deep into conversation about how to keep fit in the hot weather that was sweeping across the country. Snatches of conversations! Yet through them I caught glimpses of the latest gossips and bits of advise too. Not a moment goes by in vain! One only needs the eyes to see into things!

Next two young ladies,seeming to be in their late teens passed by. They were hot into debates about the latest Hindi films. Two elderly ladies with white wispy hair walked in front of me. They were very slow and I had to cross them and move on.

As I passed I heard one of them saying,'....in those days we had trees full of mangoes, trees full of jackfruits...those were the good days..."

Old age, I thought, is always full of nostalgia.
My train of thoughts were just about to delve into the memories of my youth when a beggar suddenly stood in front of me with the hand extended for alms. I dug into the small purse in which I carried and came up with some alms. The beggar mumbled, "May Allah make you happy and fulfill all your hopes.."

For the moment I felt as if indeed the beggars words could work magic and maybe everything in the world would be bright and colourful. For the moment life was wonderful, it was a moment that one wants to hold on to forever, a moment when one forgets that life does not at all promise rose gardens for us.

The soul may have been wallowing a little about life's problems but looking at all the people swarming around the lake bought peace for me. Some old gentlemen on the other side of the lake were busy doing exercise. If I come to walk in the late afternoon that very place would be full of young people watching plays in the open-air theatre that took place beside the lake. The old people walked slowly. Their tired limbs could not keep up with the young and energetic young ones who just whizzed past them as if chasing after some invisible force of life. The little ones followed their elders, their faces full of happiness at being let out into the open place. Some vendors sat near the walking track selling seasonal fruits and vegetables. The rich and the poor all had joined the race of life on the shore of the lake. It was a mad race, the race for life. Here the people were busy chasing after life. Yet life does not guarantee endless good health or happiness. The hands of fate sometimes can strike like lightning.

I remembered that only a few months back my brother-in law, who had walked regularly along the path of the Dhanmondi lake had died of a massive heart attack. I felt a shiver down my spine. Was I not walking on the very path he had walked on? How long will I be walking along this path?

The wind played with ripples on the water of the lake. Overhead the birds flew from tree to tree. A cuckoo cooed somewhere. Cuckoo calling in the middle of the summer? Must be the black sheep of the family, I thought. So many things seem to be happening around the lake! I felt as if I too was caught in the magic of the day, my heart was reaching out to life. I felt a deep craving within me to live a long life, to witness such wonderful mornings more and more. So many people from so many spheres of life move along the Dhanmondi lake everyday! The lake flows on quietly and steadily. Its ripples seemed to whisper some deep secrets about the many people it had witnessed for so many years.

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