Just as soap operas often end on cliffhangers, which are almost magically resolved at the start of the next episode, a difficult drama of my last days in Dhaka has taken a surprising but pleasing turn for the better.
Working at Drik we were never short of excitement and laughter, however frustrating the work was at times. More so at Chobi Mela time. This year’s Chobi Mela VII was terrific – we were running on a high despite all the work. However, the time was fast approaching for me to leave the second family of sons and daughters and even one self appointed grandson I had acquired in Dhaka.
The jokes about the Secretariat being a sickie ward turned not so funny when my persistent annoying cough was diagnosed as pneumonia. I had missed out on the tail end of Chobi Mela events, then there were the hartals and Shahbagh Square and my own work visa expiring. Yes, life had become a soap opera, with me ending up at Apollo hospital with midnight x-rays and ECG’s etc, etc. The big question was would I get better in time to get out of Dhaka before my visa expired?
I didn’t make it but had to overstay 4 days. However, I had a benevolent angel who smoothed the way, and Bangladesh Immigration officials were so polite and courteous I breezed through immigration after paying a small fine. Yes, the universe was kind and I was finally living my oft quoted “ Chole Jabbo Sri Lanka.” I had asked for an aisle seat on Mihin Air, but the two Indian gentlemen were already comfortably settled and had left me the window seat for me. Being a morning flight, I didn’t quibble, and was rewarded with a last view of Dhaka. Up in the air, it looked like a lego city shrouded in smog. The rows of apartment blocks in certain section even looked orderly.
The sight of Lanka, when I return from living abroad — whether it is flickering night-lights or the lush green of the tropical island by day — has always been a moving sight for me. The big treat came as we approached the island past the Indian shoreline. It was the sight of the legendary Adam’s Bridge — the chain of limestone shoals, between mainland India, and Sri Lanka. The sea separating India and Sri Lanka is called Sethusamudram meaning “Sea of the Bridge”. I could clearly see the chain of shoals and the tip of Mannar and the sea glistening in the bright sunlight. I was seeing this Google map alive. The bridge was first mentioned in the Indian epic Ramayana by Valmiki and was apparently built by Rama and his army led by Hanuman to reach Sri Lanka to rescue Sita.
Back home I am enveloped in the warmth of the house, friends and family. A house is not just bricks and mortar – there are the whispers, the voices of laughter, thousand memories. I wake up to the sound of squirrels outside my window and birds chirping away in the fruit trees. My barren avocado tree has flowers and bears a single tiny fruit.
The morning sunlight dapples my collection of Buddha’s and artifacts that I have arranged on the black and white runner that was Drik’s farewell present.
Light symbolises the absence of darkness, grief and unhappiness. An oil lamp is lit to bow down to knowledge as the greatest of all forms. As I watch the flickering flame I am filled with a warm content feeling. It’s great to be back in a house filled with light and my thoughts flit to a verse from the Bhaddekaratta Sutta:
Let one not trace back the past
Or yearn for the future-yet-to-come.
That which is past is left behind
Unattained is the “yet-to-come.”
But that which is present he discerns —
With insight as and when it comes.
The Immovable — the-non-irritable.
In that state should the wise one grow
Today itself should one bestir
Tomorrow death may come — who knows?
For no bargain can we strike
With Death who has his mighty hosts.
But one who dwells thus ardently
By day, by night, untiringly
Him the Tranquil Sage has called
The Ideal Lover of Solitude.
From the: “Bhaddekaratta Sutta: The Discourse on the Ideal Lover of Solitude” (MN 131), translated from the Pali by Bhikkhu Ñanananda. Access to Insight, 19 September 2010, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.131.nana.html . Retrieved on 2 March 2013.
Note: Not everyone agrees with the Indian version of Ramayana. See: Madhusudan’s subversive interpretation of the Ramayana story, with Meghnad, son of Ravana portrayed as a tragic hero https://chulie.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/painting-my-imagination-with-william-radice/