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     Volume 8 Issue 65 | April 17, 2009 |

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Writing the Wrong

Detachment - An Update

Sharbari Ahmed

The score: detachment- zero, ego- what is the symbol for infinity to the tenth degree? I just want to say ahead of time, this is a column of shame. I do not know how to follow up my last article. It took a pound of emotional flesh from me. But I have to, so here goes. I am still wallowing a bit, so tempted to rail against people and situations here, but you know what, this transcendence thing is not going to work out if I don't learn to bite my tongue or in this case, still my manic fingers as they dash across the keyboard. Many people commented on my last column. There was a mixture of praise and concern and a couple of detractors. One friend asked me if I had ever considered suicide. Another said to me that I had potential as a poet. But she looked worried the whole time. I would be too. Yet another informed me that I am so self absorbed that all I do is write about myself. If I wasn't Zen at that moment I might have popped them in the face. They are not the only person who has said that. I feel that is monumentally unfair. Okay, back to me.

I was feeling very sorry for myself and my father, a man who refuses to feel sorry for himself, reminded me that I actually have it really good. At the top of his lungs. Just at that momentI kid you notthe young girl who lives across the street started screaming again. It did not last for very long, but it was enough to jolt me back, but only for a moment. By the way, I have a plan now for what I am going to do about that situation. I will let you know what happens.

The whole thingthis whole Dhaka Disillusionment (hey, good name for a novel), in the final analysis, was my fault anyway. I put people on pedestals, so high they get nosebleeds, and then, when they disappoint, well, I unceremoniously remove the pedestal, pawn it, and refuse to speak to them ever again. I do not even leave room for them to get the pedestal out of hock. And the ones who have always been there, who have consistently been supportive, who listened to my interminable whining about this and that-well I forgot about them; stood them up for dinner, more than once, did not return phone calls immediately. One friend took me out for my birthday and informed me that he had been ready to dump methat very night, over penne arabiata-- because I had been so MIA and pre-occupied with things that were not worthy of my attention. Most of which was solidly ego-related.

This is not good. In fact, this is so bad. In fact, it is high school all over again. And I am crowding the wrong side of forty. There are no excuses. I am alarmed at my lack of maturity, wisdom and dignityand judgment and almost retarded child-like sense of trust. I had really thought I had moved past all of this rigmarole.

Painting by Thomas Ackermann. courtesy: [email protected]

Apparently not. There is a quote: what is the best way to make God laugh? Tell him your plans. I had so many plans when I arrived in Dhaka, most of them concocted in the privacy of my own head and then foisted upon anyone willing to listen. Almost all of them not well thought out. As the Yiddish phrase goes, oy vey! I think that is pretty self-explanatory. Naturally, everything has fallen apart. Except one thing, the thing I really came here to do. Make a film. Though that has taken a beating and a half as well. But it is still here, bruised, a bit wobbly, but still standing. And that is because of the people involved. My actresses. You see, just as I am about to chalk up my experience here as merely painful but necessary, I come across people and situations that remind me why I am here in the first place.

The journey with this film has been bumpy. I had another leading lady with whom I had developed a bond, and she had to drop outfor very good reasonsbut the beauty of the situation is that she now knows (I hope) that she is a good actress and I think I have made a new friend, always a gift. Especially at this late stage in the game. My new leading lady is also beautiful, smart and strong and her co-star has surprised me with the depth of her commitment and emotion and courage. She has never acted before and the character was written especially for her. Even as she protests she is scared, she keeps taking my direction and pushing herself. Whenever I start getting worried, or despondent, I just have to speak to one of them or see them and know that this project is bigger than me and there are now people just as emotionally invested as I am. That this story belongs to them as well.

It is to them I owe them my steadfastness and tenacity, and deep belief that I am on the right path with this film and story because it has been so hard to keep my chin up.

Another group of people have helped me remain on the path, and that is a group of writers called Writer's Block. We recently had a reading, where ten of us read from a variety of works ranging from novel excerpts to poetry, to deeply personal memoirs. The collective energy of this group exudes support and love. There is no competitive edginess, only a forum for writers to explore and overcome fear. The last is a rare gift and testament to the fact that there are still some real artistes out there. They have generously allowed me into their group, risking messing up the wonderful balance they have achieved.

We were all so nervous before the reading. Well most of us were. My hands were shaking the whole time I read. I only calmed down when I looked at the beaming face of one of my actressesboth of them were there to support meand saw how proud she was as well as my closest friendsyes the ones I have been neglectingand realised that what I was doing at that moment was for them. These people actually believe in pursuing one's dreamsall of them, my leading ladies, my friends, Writer's Block. The small room was packed with dreamers and people who place value on taking chances.

It would be such a shame if I gave up on myself nowdon't worry folks who are reading this and panickingthe late great Fellinni talks about how this is one of the normal stages of filmmakingfear, despair, copious chocolate consumption (the last is my contribution)even leading ladies dropping out. Another friend gave me the Fellinni book for my birthday and marked that page to remind me that this is what filmmaking, art, writing, etc is all about. So, essentially, I have no intention of letting this go. I have no choice; this film does not belong to me anymore. Actually very little of what I have accomplished here does, except of course my mistakes. Those are all mine.

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