The Ramblings Of A Madman

The Ramblings of a Madman[1]

by Kashfia Nahreen Arittri (Class 12)

 

Once I came across this person who had the heart of gold. She was amazing and everything she did she did it for the people, people who didn’t even know she existed. I asked her, “Why do you work so hard when you don’t even get any appreciation?”

She replied, “You don’t do good deeds for appreciation, you do it because that’s the right thing to do. You do it because you want to be honest to your conscience. I don’t need people’s approval, all I need is to know that what I do affects people in a positive way. As long as I am able to help people I will be happy.”[2]

That was the day I started seeing the world in a new light. The day when I realized true happiness doesn’t depend on material things. True happiness lies on finding a purpose in life, a purpose that will help others, and working hard to pursue it. [3] I don’t even know what the person who changed my world was called, but I know as long as I live I will follow in her footsteps and I will do what I can for the betterment of this world. I will never forget her, she will always be in my heart. She will forever be my inspiration. [4]

“We are the monster that kills the song in a bird.”
[5]
Everywhere I turn I see broken pieces, torn clothing, shattered windows, demolished houses, fallen trees and I know that all if these are the results of human deeds. Misery, sorrow, pain, hopelessness and desolation I see in every corner of the world and the knowledge that all of these too are the work of human beings eats me up. It seems like all we know is how to inflict pain, how to cause violence; that all we are good at is making each other suffer.

Time after time we have proven to our own selves that destruction and wretchedness are what we know. Cruel, greedy, vain, conceited, violent, jealous, sadistic, unsympathetic, indifferent, heartless and cold: all these are our worst qualities. These are the qualities that command us to vanquish all the good, to annihilate all the happiness[6] .[7]

We claim we want to be happy. We also claim we want others to be happy too. And yet when we see someone other than our own selves being happy, we try our best to ruin [8] their merriment. We let jealousy get the best of us. We can’t stand to see someone doing better than us. Yes we do smile and say we are happy for them, but in truth we are far from happy. [9] We pretend to be civil but on the inside we are as discourteous as it gets.

But we do possess the quality to be genuinely happy for someone else; we do have the ability to be kind and compassionate[10] . And there people who are kind and full of goodness. But for many of us, we let our worst qualities take hold because following the wrong is much easier than following the right. Our worse traits have an allure to them that is hard to resist, and often times than not we let ourselves be carried away by their temptation, however evil may it be.
[11]
Causing violence is one of our main traits. Since the beginning of our existence we have instigated so much pain, so much sorrow that at times every good deed we do seem like nothing compared to the bad ones. We have now almost existed for 200,000 years[12] -a very long time-, and yet after all this time we are still as uncivilized as we were back then. Yes, good indeed does exist among us, but we crush it again and again.

We say we live in a civilized world, where people are kind and generous. We say we live in a world where we have freedom but not cruelty, a world where we all get along. We say we live in a world free of injustice, where all is fair. We say we no longer discriminate based on race, age, gender, sexual orientation or religion, where we are all viewed as human beings.  [13]  And yet after claiming all those things we have wars, where people viciously, mercilessly kill each other. We have our freedoms snatched away by the government in a moment’s notice. Yet we constantly keep on infringing upon the rights of others. We have corruption ruling the world. We still discriminate and stereotype against people. We still do the things we insist we don’t do.

Yes we no longer live in caves, we no longer roam around not properly dressed. We now live in houses, we work in clean offices, we use cars, we dress ourselves well, and yet we somehow are more uncivilized than we were back in the olden times.

Back then whatever we did we did to survive, and now whatever we do seems to be for our own personal gain. Whatever we do seems to be done in order to satisfy our insatiable greed. We ruin countries, kill billions of people just because they have something we want.
For years we enslaved people and made them do our bidding. We deprived them of their rights and called ourselves their masters, when we were and are all the same.
[14]
Hitler tried to annihilate people belonging to the Jewish religion, and what did we do? We let him torture and kill them while we pretended to live normal lives. Children and elders were killed in gas chambers, families were separated, people starved, beaten and tortured in Auschwitz and we let it all happen. The only reason we finally helped was not because we wanted to help the Jews but because it was what would benefit us.
[15] [16]
We saw Afghanistan fall apart. From a beautiful country it was turned into a rubble and once again we did nothing. We watched quietly as women were suppressed, -degraded to the status worse than that of animals. When we finally did act it was because it finally affected us. [17]

We saw Syria and Iran and so many other countries struggle and then fall to pieces, and did nothing. We watched as they were torn apart. Once again we acted when we knew it’d benefit us. Even now the Syrian refugees are being turned away by different countries who are unwilling to take in refugees.

Why do we stand by and let it all happen? Why do we not speak up?
If all us stood up together and fought against all the evil and injustice the world would be a much better place. Why does it have to affect our lives for us to act? How can we turn a blind eye and let other people suffer? How can we[18]  live with ourselves?[19]

How long are we going to let all these go on? How long are we going to remain silent as countries crumble down to dust? As people turn into mere skeletons? How long are we going to let unfairness reign freely? We have the power to fight for the good. We have the ability to do what’s right. If we only fight and beat the inner demons within trying to overpower us; if we only put our minds into doing what’s right; if we all stand together and wage war against the corruption, bigotry and inequity around and among us; we can make this world a better place.

I was walking home the other day and I saw this homeless boy by the side of the road and suddenly I started wondering what it would be like to not have a place to call home. That wasn’t the first time I saw a homeless person, the streets of Dhaka are filled with them, it’s just something about this particular boy spoke to me, something about him made me wonder. He didn’t look much older than me and I couldn’t help but think that in another life, if he wasn’t homeless, we might even have been friends.  [20]

Life is unfair, isn’t it? I mean what right do I have to have a home when someone else doesn’t? I look around and I see all this pain and misery, and I wonder what the point of life is. Do we even have a purpose to be alive? Why is it that some people get whatever they want while others don’t even get what they need? [21]

We, human beings, possess both the good and the bad. Despite all our bad traits we do have some good ones. We have a conscience and we have our intelligence. We are capable of doing things other creatures are not. We can use our mind, our brains to make this world a better place, -a better place not only for human beings but for every living being.

There are so many among us who devote their entire life making the lives of others better. Mother Teresa dedicated her whole life into serving others. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr spent his life fighting for justice and equality for African American people. Begum Rokeya fought so that girls could go to school. She fought for the basic human rights that girls were deprived of.
[22]
We do have kindness in our hearts, we do possess compassion. We just need to focus on our good qualities.

People say we would never know what good is without knowing what bad is. But how much more “bad” can we take? Isn’t this high time we stop and learn to live in peace and harmony?
[23] We are all human beings and we need to learn to live with each other without tearing one another up. It is time we take a step and stand together and fight for what is right.
[24] We need to stop the violence against each other. We need to embrace our good and vanquish the bad.
We are intelligent beings with so much to offer. We have so many talents and so much to give back to the world. We can all use all we have to make the earth a better a place to live in.

We need to respect one another and do what is right. We need to stop hurting others and help each other. We need to be kind and compassionate. We need stop trying to dominate and suppress others. All these tiny efforts will make the world a better place. Life would be so much more wonderful if only we try and do what is right[25] . [26]

Poem
I await a day;
[27] A day when the sun will shine brighter than ever,
A day when the light will glisten in every corner of every hallway.

I await a day;
A day when human beings will rise above violence and cruelty,
A day when happiness will take all the pain away.

I await a day;
A day when laughter and gaiety will fill every street,
A day when for the new tomorrows we will make way.

I await a day;
A day when war will be a thing of history,
[28] A day when lives will not waste away.

I await a day;
A day when humanity will stand together and be brave,
A day when corruption and deceit will be shooed away[29] .

I await a day;
A day when rape and sexual assault will come to cease,
A day when we will keep crimes and violence at bay.
[30]
A day like that I await,
A peaceful world I dream of;
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow,
Maybe a hundred years from now,
I just know that someday
Will come that long awaited day. [31] [32]

Continue reading “The Ramblings Of A Madman”

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Short Story Review: In The Twilight Age

Link to the short story: In The Twilight Age

Abrar Rahman has done it. Finally a story about twilight that doesn’t have anything to do with Vampires, The Legend of Zelda, and the Dot Hack Franchise.

I had a talk with the author before I sat down to write this review and in his eyes he envisions this as a “not” coming of age story about a teenager who has made his own share of mistakes. As the boy is transitioning into adulthood, it dawns on him that his responsibilities will only continue to grow from here on out. This causes him to indulge in escapism and withdraw further into the abyss of his comfort zone.

Interestingly when I read the story I interpreted it quite differently. I like my characters dead, hence I took the sea to mean the place where he drowned, the sand to be where he was buried, the twilight (right after sunset) to be his eulogy, the sky to be where he will be ultimately ascending to, the forest to be his life, the wet footprints in the sand to be his legacy in the life he left behind, the wind to be his guide (Like Virgil to Dante), and the lion to be his family trying to bravely accept his death and move on with their life.

First off, let us address the title.

twilight

As you can see, the second meaning of the word can be closely related to the story.

“In The Age Of Decline” is how I see it.

Perhaps the narrator  treaded water, and, unfortunately, had an encounter with a box Jellyfish, thus spelling his demise!

This line is truly food for thought, “The water was not salty. It tasted of a flavor that I could not understand. It tasted like everything, and nothing.”

Our atoms are 99.99% empty space,  yes there is a bit of nothing in everything. Soren Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” After considering his life in hindsight he arrived at this conclusion, “Do I regret what I have done? No. I don’t really regret the past. Not much, anyway.”

A question raised by the story is this one, “The wind whispered into my ears, ‘You can’t imagine what you don’t truly know, can you?’”

One can imagine a war vicariously or live through someone else’s story, but can they visualize a new color? I think not. There are limitations in place.

The narrator laments about not being able to swim or climb trees. This stops him from exploring to his hearts content and prevents him from gaining new perspective. While it is true that he can sink to the bottom of the ocean while drowning and still view what it has to offer, this will cost him dearly. Had he learned those two skills more doors would have been open to him in life.

“You must be wondering what happened in the forest. Well, nothing. Nothing happened in there. I kept on walking around until I felt calmer than before.” These sentences are anti-climatic in nature. It off sets the excitement which had been building up, demonstrating that life isn’t always as grandiose as we make it out to be.

The narrator further contemplates about his life and asks a question asked by philosophers then and now in the follow lines,

“The wind showed me the way out. As I stepped to the edge of the forest, it whispered in my ears, ‘You’re leaving already?’
It sounded melancholic and distant. I questioned, ‘Does it truly matter?’”

I could continue to do a line by line analysis or tell you bluntly that the overall message the short story gives, to me at least, is that, “the answer is not yours to give. It is mine to find.’” 

Whether or not we look with blurry eyes (bias, lack of clarity) or enlightened ones is up to us.

Rating: 8/10

Stars: 4/5

Yes even lions yawn. (Ps. that’s Aslan from Narnia)

Something Borrowed

Written by: Kashfia Nahreen, Class XII

(Inspired by one of my Favorite Novels: Pather Pachali)

The late afternoon sun shines on the deep sea-blue water of the lake. The sunlight reflecting back from the water casts a soft, warm glow. The trees surrounding the river allow a little shade to the girl sitting by the river gazing off into the distance. The warmth of the sun embraces her; the warm, gentle wind ruffles her chocolate brown hair that falls about her round face. Butterflies fly past her; insects crawl about in the grass. The late afternoon sun slowly fades away into distant memory giving the sky a pinkish hue.

The girl still sits there with something small clutched in her tanned hand. Her deep grey eyes have a distant look about them as they stare at something far away. A voice calling out to someone can suddenly be heard. The voice is loud and worried. It pierces through the silence, calling out,

“Durga, oi Durga, koi geli re-where are you-?”

A little boy of about 10, with dark, untidy hair and perfectly drawn eyes, comes running, still shouting,

“Durga, oi Durga.”

His eyes fall on the girl sitting by the stream,

“there you are,” he says panting.

He hunches over and put his hands on his knees.

“Where have you been?”

The little boy asks in Bengali with a hint of urgency in his voice.

“Just around,” the girl replies.

“I have been looking for you for a while. Ma is furious with you, Durga di-sister Durga,”

the boy tells her with a note of sympathy is his voice.

A flicker of fear passes through the girl, ‘does ma know?’, she wonders.

She possibly couldn’t, she reasons with herself.

“Why?”

she whispers barely looking her brother in the eye.

“You were supposed to help ma stitch the katha- the blanket, she has been waiting for you for so long.”

“Oh,” she says, looking relieved.

She doesn’t know, thank the Lord.

“Where did your mind wonder off to again?” her brother asks,

annoyed by his sister’s constantly distracted self.

“Sorry, Opu, let’s head off.”

There is commotion inside the small brick hut, loud voices can be heard: people yelling, arguing. Durga and Opu approach the door with hurried yet apprehensive footsteps.

“There she is, there is your beloved girl,” says a shrill, loud voice,

“ask her, why don’t you? She took it, I am sure of it.”

Durga’s heart skips a beat as these words register in her ear. She looks around, there is ma looking defiant and angry. And there is Shurmila di with her mother, -the woman with the shrill voice they called mashi- aunt–, from the big house at the end of the road. All were looking at her, ma with anger, Shurmila di with embarrassment, mashi with accusation.

Opu stands behind her, completely bewildered. He had no idea as to what was going on, but Durga did. And the thought of what she had done makes her stomach churn. I am going to hurl, but I can’t. Oh Lord, why did I do it?

Earlier in the day:

She is running, trying to find a place to hide. Her worn out clothes get stuck in a tree branch and she tugs at it, trying to free herself but managing only to tear the dress. Ma is going to be really mad. But before she could do anything about it, she hears a voice say,

“ready or not, here I come,”,

and rushes off into the big room on the left to hide herself.

Durga crawls underneath the bed, and stays tucked in, waiting for the seeker to find others. What a nice room Shurmila di has, she says to herself. I wish our hut was half as pretty as this room. She signs. Why are we so poor? she asks herself. I just wish, I just wish we were able to afford nice things once in a while.

She hears footsteps right outside the room and is shaken out of her reverie. She holds her breath in order to not make any noise. The footsteps pass by the room, no one even bothers to look in. She waits quietly for someone to find her, seconds turn into minutes but no one comes. Have they forgotten me? she wonders. No they couldn’t have, she assures herself.

She waits some more, but finally she scuttles out from under the bed and goes up to the door, ready to leave, when she halts. A burst of laughter reaches her ears, followed by voices.

“That was the best mithai -sweetmeat- I had in a while. Thank you, really thank you, Shurmila di.”

“It was my pleasure,” replies Shurmila.

“Oh, um wasn’t Durga playing with us too?” ask Shurmila.

“I guess she was,” someone answers.

“Did anyone find her? Or know where she is?” Shurmila asks with concern.

A general answer of “no” follows her question.

“Well who cares where Durga is? It’s not like we want her to play with us!” someone says.

“Exactly, I mean she always latches herself onto us, like a leech. She follows us around all the time. Why can’t she realize that we don’t want her?” someone else pronounces.

“Hey, don’t talk like that, come on she is nice,” Shurmila tries to interject, but in vain.

“Have you seen her clothes? They are more like rags.”

“And she always has dirt sticking to her face.”

“So disgusting.”

“She should really play with other poor people and not try to play with us.”

Comments after comments hit her. I…I thought they were my friends. They don’t want me? What did I do? How is this my fault? Is being poor a crime? she asks herself, as tears pour down her cheek. She bites her lower lip in an effort to stop sobbing and backs away from the door, afraid that someone will see her. She doesn’t want to be seen, not by these people. How can they be so mean?

I am just another kid like them, then why am I the one they don’t like? Why does it matter if my parents have money or not? She sighs and gently sits down on the bed. Suddenly her whole world seems to have turned upside down.

She recalls the time, a few months back, how everyone had refused when she had asked people to come and have some sweetmeat at her house for her 13th birthday, well everyone other than Shurmila di. Kind, sweet Shurmila di, whom she loved. Shurmila di is one of them too, she is. Durga tells herself. She is as bad as the others, maybe not as mean.

She sits on the bed quietly waiting for everyone to leave. They were never my friends, never. Why was I so naïve to believe they were? Ma was right. Rich people do not care about us poor ones. We will forever be looked down upon.

Bit by bit the voices quiet down, Durga rises from the bed, and peaks out through the crack in the door. A few kids still stand outside, chatting. She steps back, and glances about the room. The entire floor of the room is tiled; from the roof hangs a beautiful fan and a sophisticated chandelier that looks rather out of place. Pushed against the wall with a big, wide window is the bed where Durga had been sitting a minute ago. On the corner stands a desk with books and papers littered on it. Among the mess lay a plain but elegant white pearl bracelet, twinkling faintly.

Durga’s eyes fall on the bracelet and she is mesmerized by its beauty. Drawn to the bracelet, just like a moth is drawn to a fire, she approaches the desk and picks it up. Ki shundor- so beautiful. She twirls it in her hand, and instantly is in love with it. I wish I had a bracelet like this. But I know I never will. And suddenly her fingers close around the fragile little bracelet. I want to borrow this, just for a day. I hope Shurmila di won’t notice. I will come back and return it tomorrow. I just want this to be mine for a day, just a day.

Ensuring that no one was outside she sneaks out of the room and runs to the riverside. She sits down, holding on to the bracelet tightly like it was a lifeline, a lifeline to a better life. Is money the only way to get beautiful things? Are the rich entitled to all that is good and beautiful in this world? Amra ki kichui pabona- aren’t we entitled to anything?

“You took it, didn’t you? You big thief. You saw the pearl bracelet and you took it, you stole it. Didn’t you?” mashi shouts at her.

“I… I,” Durga stumbles, tears filling up her eyes.

“Did you?” ma asks her, her voice as cold as stone.

Suddenly a chill passes through Durga, and the tears spill out and trickle down her cheeks. Unable to move or speak she simply stands there, still like a statue.

“Open your palm, Durga,” ma commands.

And slowly, unwillingly Durga forces her palm to open.

“I told you she took it, I told you. And what did you say?

‘We may be poor but we don’t steal, my daughter will never steal.’

You poor people, you are all alike. You have your so called ideals and pride, but in truth you all are just a bunch of lying thieves. Yes, that’s all you are,” mashi says with contempt.

“Mama, stop,” Shurmila di utters, her cheeks red, her eyes averted.

“We found the bracelet let’s go. Please,” she pleads.

But mashi doesn’t move, she stands there glaring at Durga.

“Did you steal it?” ma asks Durga with a murderous voice.

“I, I just borrowed it,” Durga mutters.

“Borrowed it?”

“Yes.”

“Did you ask Shurmila if you could ‘borrow’ her bracelet?”

“N..n..no.”

“So you stole it?”

“No, ma. I just borrowed it for a day, I was going to give it back tomorrow.”

“You were going to give it back?”

“Yes, I just took it for a day, just for a…” but before she could finish her sentence ma’s hand connects to her cheek. The contact is hard and loud, ringing out throughout the tiny room. And then there is another thump, followed by another.

“You stole, you little bitch? After all I taught you, after all I told you, you went ahead and became a thief?” ma yells at her.

“We do everything we can to provide for you and you go and steal?” she screams, raising her hand to strike once more.

“Ma, ma, please, it hurts,” Durga cries out. Her cheeks are red and burning.

“Oh it hurts, does it?” ma mocks, a maniacal gleam in her eyes.

“Because of you bitch, I got to hear an earful of insults. Just because of you. Don’t you think you should be punished for that?” She raises her hand again.

“Ma, stop, please you are hurting di,” Opu begs with tears pooling in his eyes.

“Ma, ma, calm down, please you are scaring me,” he mumbles.

“Mashima -aunt- please stop,” Shurmila implores as mashi stands by, her mouth gaping in surprise.

“Get out, get out of my home,” ma yells at Shurmila and mashi. Mashi walks out haughtily, Shurmila di walks out with a saddened face, glancing back once at Durga with a guilty and sympathetic look.

Ma sits down on the bed that stood in the other side of the room, and suddenly begins to sob.

“Did I not tell you never to steal? Did I not tell you to not want things that you can’t have? Oh, it’s all my fault, it’s all mine. I can never provide well enough for you. You two are just children, of course you covet things every other kid has. I wish your father was here with us today, we wouldn’t be suffering if he was,’

ma rambles on. “I am sorry, children, I am truly sorry for not being a better mother to you both,” she cries.

Slowly Durga and Opu move towards ma. Sitting down they gently embrace her. Durga wipes ma’s tears off, and says,

“No, ma, you have done enough for us. I am sorry I took the bracelet, I just…”

“I am sorry too, love, I am sorry. Does it hurt?” ma asks softly.

“Just a little.”

The End IS NEVER THE END.