Where the Id Lives

Moments, once gone, lived and experienced, can transubstantiate, not capriciously to have a semblance of remarkability. In my case, if you ask me, I could picture these moments as the brilliantly colored nudibranchs (pictured above); I can look at them as a sluggish, insignificantly small yet out-of-this-world panoply of majestic beings and become nostalgic in a moment. These nudibranchs tell me that I’ve survived the days and thrived, and remembering them gratifies the very existence of my philosophical plus nonphilosophical conquests. By remembering our footprints, both weak and strong ones, we garner perspicacity that, I think is simply golden. Today as I’ve just completed my sixth year at AFD, my marrow is heavy with gratitude; my keenness to learn– still far from being sated and I could daresay that I now have my own brand of sagacity that was learned in the hard way. Here are some of my thoughts on this day, topicalized maybe for no reasons at all.

With Arms Akimbo
Be it for a photography exhibition or a musical concert or a festival of sorts at AFD, I got together and talked, and joined in on chuckles with many mavens of their respective fields. Those were educational, and motivational in many ways I’d understand later. I learned that my work is as good as I want it to be. And that there is no harm in being an iconoclast sometimes; if you don’t, you’re imprisoning yourself in the proverbial “box.” I learned that to be able to realize my vision is sometimes a lot harder than having the vision itself. Also that my thirst for being honest and thorough to the last detail is something that defines my work, and I have to hold onto it. A friend long ago told me that if something that I had designed was not spread over several thousand square feet billboard, then there’s no point in feeling great about being a professional graphic designer. Well, my dear friend, I guess I’ve been feeling great for quite some time now!

A Hymn for the Weary
Construing a song right away after listening it, is something that I do not usually do. I’d listen to a song several times before latching onto it, I might contemplate on some of the words from the chorus if there any or some words that stick out might be the thing that I could relate to. If there’s a soul to every song and you can fumble it by listening, I almost always take mighty time to do that. But I do do that. And when I do, the song becomes a treasure. When I left home for the unknown, I had “Be Yourself.” When I was stabbed in the back by someone I had taken in as a friend, I had “Spicks and Specks.” When life seemed too hard to live, I had “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.” When Ana needed to know I’d need her saving me on a regular basis, I had “Wonderwall.” When all my sobriquets turned bupkis, some of which are still in this blog, I had “So Far Away,” or “The Best Is Yet to Come” or “On Every Street.” I could reckon, maybe speciously, that for a hungry heart there’s always a song, made to order and full of true romance. As they say, “Remember that the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.”– in my years here, I had treasure troves of songs to support me through the straits and to help me prove that I have the resilience to walk tall.

The Jazzman Lifter
I’m glad that I’m blessed with the greatest of friends. I can put off my infomania, cynicism and disillusionment, and I know that someone’s by my side, perhaps from another continent. I’m older and I still believe, “Friendship is the most remarkable thing in this world.” Now that my salad days are over, I know those friends are one of a kind and irreplaceable in every sense of the word. And this is coming from someone who knows that no one is irreplaceable and the earth is made that way. Those friends from the school-days that you grew up with are the only friends you can ever have, anyone else coming your way is a sham at best. I haven’t found any exceptions yet. I have also learned about people who sustain by feeding off schadenfreude, that is just how they live. I cannot get back at them without turning myself into one of them. Then the only savior becomes– “inner peace.” I can read a poem like “Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann or the greatest lines a man could read– “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley or I could read what the 14th Dalai Lama said, “When we have inner peace, we can be at peace with those around us.” and feel better. All in all, you can see me mutter “inner peace” at times, and it helps.

To conclude – let me say this – these six years, “id” was the one who enodated all the knots and shooed the heebie-jeebies. Even when he had cautioned me and I didn’t pay any heed, “id” was with me. For a man with a bruised knee, for a captain midsea without seamen, for the loneliest soul who has forgotten other faces, his or her “id” is a sentient friend to acknowledge, I believe. I take 3,000 known species of nudibranchs, some more beautiful than other, and I dedicate my most beautiful moments that I’ve chanced upon these years at AFD to “id”. Thank you, dear frenemy. My ugliest memories are my own awaiting a song or many. I needn’t worry, I have Carole King singing “Jazzman” on my ATH-M50. Happy six years!

Photo by Lynn Wu.

World’s Greatest Centerfold

Peter said, “All you have to do is think one happy thought, and you’ll fly like me!” I wouldn’t miss that invitation for the world. Here’s a happy thought in the form of a centerfold– get featured in your most favorite magazine with your most cherished friends. Endless gratitude, Tanmoy Bhai, you’re one in a googolplex. And Unmad (Ahsan Habib Bhai et al), you’re far too kind.

View the centerfold in high resolution here.

In niz bogzarad

DU-Convo-Ana-and-I

↑ Piaru Bhai was kind enough to take this photograph. Please take a bow!

I’m rejoicing. Not that I do not have skeletons in my closet…I have too long a line of tribulations and broken hearts that I can only expect to be felix culpa. I have miseries and afflictions that require an inexhaustible supply of equanimity. But in January at last, with my gradually expanding waistline and the cut of my jib still resembling that of a wide-eyed freshman, I got to wear the full academic dress of DU. The gown and the hood were comfortably warm. My mortarboard, though for a younger head, fitted perfectly. Parents with beaming smiles flashing their little cameras all around the corner of my eyes created a specific bokeh of blues; I could remember an exquisitely lovely photograph of Tabu in his IUT gown placing his arms around his Ma. I had Ana beside me; I thought I’d rather stay quiet the whole day and soak in the ambiance, up until I bumped into Moin and Co. Thanks to Moin, Reyad, Khan-Shaheb, Tarin, Nazia, Shimul et al, it turned out to be another kind of day. There are memories that one forgets in this dog-eat-dog world, and there are memories that one treasures with both hands until hell freezes over or more realistically, on the blackest of nights. One may look at it from time to time and smiles; a person nearby may inquire a reason for that chuckle, and one would just revel in the experience of that memory. For me and Ana, it was that kind of a memory. Memory that you never let go.

I had an original idea of entertaining those “insuperable” souls who have helped me graduate to a fitting dinner, I still do not know when I’m going to be able to that. Dearest pals– Shihan, Zarifa, Motin, Khan Aftab Zavid, Duke, Pathan, Moin, and Ana– I cannot thank you, there’s not enough thank-yous in the world. My deepest appreciation goes out to you guys. And, Ma, Baba and Shantuiya, you’re the air I breathe.

And the restlessness of the wicked, undefended individuals being killed, the human condition at its lowest, all that are getting under our skins– this too shall pass.

A very belated happy new year to everybody.

Rice Bucket Challenge


Following a hype could every so often result in a beautiful something. As smallest as the 18th letter of the Roman alphabet could attach itself and create something as cool as Rice Bucket Challenge (#RiceBucketChallenge)! I know, it’s still up for much contemplation as Mike Rowe wrote on the Ice Bucket Challenge and the byword for altruism, “charity ought not be public” still stands. But, let’s for a moment—as I can—try to smell a large serving of made-up freshly-cooked pilaf rice and think how frequent a disadvantaged child can have that. I think it’s in no way a charity of any kind; rather, an unpretentious movement that could reel in a lot of smiles.

Much thanks go to Bruno Plasse for nominating me. I’ve donated a bucket of rice to the children of ASD (Assistance for Slum Dwellers) at Adabor. I, now nominate Tabassum Aziz Hussainy (Oklahoma State University), Mohammad Al-Amin Kiron (Campus France Bangladesh) and Jannatul Ferdousee (Ayre Nachi) to take up the challenge and donate a bucket of rice to anyone needy.

Big thanks to Aveek Ahmed for shooting the video.

An Old Photograph

Ana has a penchant for collecting (read hoarding) photographs, and yours truly has the most herculean job in the world- cataloging her hoard. Needless to say, I’m good at it and every job completed fills me up with out-and-out happiness. As such, last night I tripped over an old photo of mine in her collection! Apparently, Ana sorta broaden her catchment area, and started collecting my photos from years back. I wanted to share that old photograph with you guys-

An-Old-Photo

The photograph was taken maybe in 2003 at my alma mater- Collegiate School, all my dearest friends seem to somehow manage to get inside the frame- that’s a first! Let me try to name them, from left- Arka, Anirban Palit, Sajal Saha, Amlan and Gal-kata-Aziz holding tuberoses, Rubu, Ridu, Tasif, Aziz sir, Masud Nizam, yours truly, Tabu, and Rony. I cannot seem to recognize the shadow-figure behind Aziz sir, and the 4 guys visible atop my head, and the 2 guys standing on the right.

Good old days!

Hotel Shahbagh

Hotel-Shahbagh

Almost every part of his body had something to contribute here: his eyes could tell that everything around him was shifting, changing unobtrusively like a fast-tracked video of a time-lapse. The big old majestic hotel changed its name, a two-lettered acronym instead of one; the asphalt beneath his bare feet could feel with its million nervous tissues that the grains and dusts of this plain were completely unfamiliar to them. His brain was sad and “not all there,” his hair made him look like a madman in the making, and his heart was looking for a bright red old door. The street signs were new, they were more helpful than before, albeit skin-deep- well, his skin was commenting. His ears could make more bicycle bells ringing through the streets. As he dallied off the square of unknown, like stepping on a booby trap- his whole body gave over, what was this? Why and how from out of nowhere did he jar into this world? As thousands of scents had found their ways into his brain, a marigold attached its yellow florets to a memory he once had of a bouquet that had a destination; a rose flew its petals to another memory that now got wings to fly to a very beautiful face and a smile like a lightbulb, an unknown flower was just there- he knew if he could itch a little more on the green stem he would know the name- it all made sense. The florists never knew they had so much mastery in curing amnesia.

Meeting at the Mountaintop

At-the-Mountaintop

Rukhelaviya and I wake up in the dawn when we could still hear the dewdrops falling on grasstops. Tiren is asleep, cuddled up, her hair- red and long like her mother, not a care in the world. I have to climb up to the top of the Kirighiz mountain; I give a small kiss on her forehead and start preparing my backpack; Rukhelaviya brings my trowel out from kerosene and cleans it off. The dark blue sun is still warming up and she takes my right hand in a firm clasp with both of her hands and squeezes one last time before seeing me off. I have a long journey ahead, so I find the readiest whistle in my mind and off I go. Upon reaching the settlement, I get only the time to catch my breath, and I start at my post, planting these green seedlings one by one, I have yards and yards to cover. I do not forget my whistle, I whistle all the way till my lips cannot anymore. When the sun is ready to call it a day, the old head gardener thanks us for our hard work, we do not hesitate to show our gratitude and we thank him as well. On our way out, a young boy who is missing his front teeth distributes my wages for the day- 3 oranges, freshly plucked just now. I become overjoyed with my earnings, Tiren’s happy face emerges in the back of my head. Sweated and tired, I set off down the mountain to find out a violet scarfed women and her child awaiting. This is one of those good days when Rukhelaviya and Tiren would come to this plateau just shouting distance of Kirighiz, and we would return home together. I start running towards them, holding dearly the backpack with the oranges in it; Tiren jumps and lands in my arms. Rukhelaviya too. I forget I am dog-tired, I go on hugging them.

Music, the Mainspring

Illustration by Kate Greenaway

For a rat like me, it’s an innate expression to use food as a “one size fits all” idiom: “as slow as molasses in January” or “not for all the tea in China” are common in our everyday conversation and possibly the “greatest thing since sliced bread.” Here I’m with my innumerable brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts and friends chipping off gobbling everything in front of us with our innumerable protruded teeth, but that was food for our body; we know there is a food for our head. Music. It’s a hunt, a journey on a floating stairway pulsing with all the beauty in the world, you feel tired but beatified; you suddenly have the eyes and mind to look beyond your whiskers, you curl your tail and taste the wind against your face and your rounded ears. For every note of the music, you form a unique pattern- a unique color tone in your mind, so fulfilling- you feed on it. So when we saw that piper summoning his fife from his pied dress and blowing on it, oh! We were swept off our claws! It was music in its purest form. Good music in its best. All of us, even my long-lost cousin from my father’s side came out of the woodwork. Swinging and dancing through the dried out streets, so mesmerizing, so hypnotizing! We followed that man, down to the river Weser, leaving behind the city of Hamelin.

Rivers Are Roads That Move

The great "Railroad Track Slum" Band

I’m penning this for more than a year now, wrote the first lines and my mind has this chyron of “offline, will be back in a moment” and to this day I couldn’t turn that off. Poetry for a poor “versifier” like me is hard and painstaking and sometimes cause for a rather long malady. I’ve read about French Quarter and William Faulkner, who wrote his first novel “Soldiers’ Pay” there, perhaps a space, a plane, and a change of horizon are in their own way poets of nature in the making. For me, a story doesn’t come as tangible as to write interminably, an alluvial but not decrepit design of a story effervesces and I try to hold on to them and turn them into words.

I am indebted to my friends who took me to this place call “Jamuna Resort” last year, beyond the sandstorms and coconut-juice clad adventures lay a river so calm and forgetful, even I could make out some of those verses in my mind. I’m still writing it, but here’s an excerpt-

A mystery lies in this heartsick field,
A dying passerby once yodeled to him about
A key, or a tune, or a poem or maybe just a whistle
It treasures. The old winds, the startled cuckoo flapping,
The pockets of air might liberate a part of the puzzle,
So the field listens and listens, whimpering.

It never rained there though, so when it did
The facing rows of flame trees grew the leaves long
And
out came a mark, a mark of water and earth-
Wet and dry, green and gray.

A Long Time Ago Story

When something is about to happen, sky knows; it subtly waits, a verisimilar envisioning ensues; sky opens up a color panel, earmarks the perfect color, and then takes all the elements in its hands; air comes and tells, “your wish is my command” and blows just the way from a spaghetti Western movie; the humidity leaves a greasy smear on the cheek and the kid, for the first serendipitous time in his life opens his eyes to a world of wonder and sheer astonishment! Then after years watching reruns and re-reruns, one shady evening that kid cleans up a niche in his heart for many little white-red balls and one really catchy-poppy tune “gotta catch’m all”, and three years after, that kid would go to a small store in Dhaka to find DVDs of these “shows” he never watched before and would know the word “anime” that would change his life forever.

So “change one’s life forever,” when I usually read something like this, I sigh and think about skipping lines, such a vague and unoriginal lackluster expression is, however, the only explanation I can come up with. I found my scabbard, the love of my life through anime; I found some of my best friends through anime, and through anime, I found the center in me that fuels me; anime transpired my ideology as I have hewed my own window from where I can look out at the world and define it. Through anime, I found you, my friend; you who are reading this jiggly text and hopefully has a tiny little smile in you somewhere that has a wireless connection, a sort of a nexus that is at this very moment connected to many many more like you. I can zero in on each of the axial moments of teamOtaku/MazeCity and also some of the knee-slapping ones, these moments are my precious treasure.

What I really wanted to tell you is- I met that kid from the first paragraph, and we had this Fight Club moment where we understood somehow surrealistically we are but one. My dog-eared memory so unlikely remains so crispy for this particular period of my life, I still, if I try clenching my eyes, can hear the voice of the broadcaster lady announcing Rurouni Kenshin (or as BTV called, “Samurai-X”) and the buttoned-up intensity inside me is so fresh and green I can almost mistake it for a déjà vu. To me, anime is all the dreams in the world, the intricate succulent inside of any favorite fruit, the savoring micro-moments that so tacitly ripples under your teeth when you’re having a bar of chocolate, and end of the day when pure entertainment is a low blow and your amygdala craves something original, and your agonized seconds need to be turned off like a cheap piano switch- anime is the drug! From Lupin III to today’s Ookami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki, hundreds of thousands of anime went out of its way to reel me in on great adventures, discoveries, epiphanies, tears of joy and melancholy. I laughed, I cried; I felt exhilarated, I was rebellious, and then I was ready to fight…what more a human heart can ask for! To all who hasn’t yet delved into this realm, anime no sekai ni youkoso! And to all my fellow nakamas, my fellow adventurers- boy oh boy, am I glad to have you beside me! Let’s punch the lights out of our deadbeat days, depression and whatnot, let’s watch anime!

Written for MAZECON 2 2013 Publication.