Journaling in times of turbulence

"Do you sometimes think that the world is unfair?" This is a question I know I will never get a satisfactory answer to. In fact, I would get no answer at all because I always pose this question to something that never answers, only absorbs – my diary.

Stories hide in the creases and corners of these questions. The asking of such a question is followed by the unfurling of events, be they momentous or mundane, and the unloading of thoughts that creep at the back of our minds while we're reading, talking to a friend, buying coffee, or staring at the sky. Sometimes, my entire head is filled with such thoughts.

But as the accounts of my journals suggest, few thoughts are as dramatic as the ones I had on December 7, 2022.

Shots were fired, and a man was killed. That night, it was in Paltan. Tomorrow, it could just as well be at my university, Dhaka University – the cauldron mixing politics, youth, and recklessness. I had no way to avoid going to university the next morning, as I had an important presentation. The uncertainty of the moment made the odds of getting caught up in a gunfight or a bomb blast seem much higher than it actually was.

It felt as if sitting and anticipating danger was not practical, especially with a presentation looming the next day. But my head was too heavy with daunting thoughts to take in anything else. With my parents already asleep by 12 am and my friends perhaps busy with their presentation preparations, the only place where I could shed the burden was a notebook.

The ink transferring from pen to paper was symbolic of my anguish oozing out from my head through my fingertips. It was liberating. Having your thoughts transferred to somewhere more tangible helped make sense of the mess. The chaos is under control, at least momentarily.

The presentation did get cancelled soon after. Not having to prepare for it opened up the window to sink into a similar time from the past.

Not very long ago, in March 2020, I feared having to go to university and expose myself to a deadly virus. The contamination in Bangladesh hadn't even been confirmed but the deadliness of the virus was increased manifold by my pessimism. However, these realisations are the benefits of hindsight.

Back in 2020, there was no way of knowing how things would turn out. My journal entries from those days are the blackness of confusion, uncertainty, and despair against the disturbing whiteness of a blank future. Reading them assured me that despite the hysteria racking our brains, turbulent times eventually pass. More than the hope of better times, what comforted me was reading through what I had experienced in the past.

As I held the stack of journals against my palms and flipped through my days, it felt as if I had summoned my past self to console the present. It often feels like the years are passing by too fast. Journals are my way of preserving time and retrieving sand-like memories blown away by a busy wind.

Noushin Nuri is an early bird fighting the world to maintain her sleep schedule. Reach her at [email protected]


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