Tidings of time

‘Whisper of the Rain’ by Rummana Chowdhury (Poromanondo Publishing, 2016)
Design: Maisha Syeda

As the adage goes, time and tide wait for none (as do many other things), but they often leave a deep imprint on the sands of time. Prolific Bangladeshi expatriate writer Rummana Chowdhury, now settled in Canada for a respectable number of years, has, at one go in 50 pages, poured out her thoughts on life and living with an added twist—and the result is an intriguing book titled Whisper of the Rain.

Rummana is many things in one. Besides being a prolific writer in both English and Bangla (having authored some 45 odd numbers of books in different genres), she was a top ranking student in Bangladesh, a champion debater, radio and TV programme host, and a multiple-time national badminton champion of Bangladesh.  

Whisper of the Rain is an outward expression of her innermost thoughts, and they range along a wide variety of subjects—with this added twist: the thoughts are illustrated, along with the cover design, presumably capturing a kaleidoscope of all of the author's contemplations, by artist Farhana Pallab. One can probably imagine the output of Rummana's sensitive nature being picked up and given artistic expression/impression in colour by Pallab in an apt harmony.

One can take stock of the first page and look at the misty impression in the corner accompanying these opening words:

"At this point of your life, where the invisible sun is setting with its regular pace and timing, you falter unexpectedly. Is it the weakness in your limbs or the deterioration of your brain cells?  Or is it the simple fact that the autumn of your life is gradually grasping you physically and mentally?...The lyrics of your favourite poetry fade in the background.  The dreams of your bygone days are floating up in the blue sky creating its own tales.  Some are familiar, some not.  You have ultimately distanced yourself from all your hopes and expectations.  No one cares for you anymore. Then why is it hard to let go?"

 "Why is it hard to let go?" indeed!  

Chowdhury writes on the twilight years of one's life, when eternal darkness is just around the corner, and people at that stage left to ponder on the years gone by.  From her perspective, and probably from that of many others, "The universe is changing with time and technology, but universal humanism is being suppressed more and more as people are becoming increasingly mechanical and heartless." The relentless march of time.

People of a passing generation lament for the bygone days, but the eternal question could well be about what each generation passes on to the next and if the older one is at fault or the succeeding one is responsible for the outcome of its input. Clearly Chowdhury ponders on this dichotomy and comes up against a stone wall of generation gap that, unless the universal order changes drastically, will continue to intrigue/bother sensitive souls coming to the end of their days.

Chowdhury, with the accompaniment of a smattering of startlingly attractive paintings, draws comparisons between her life in her country of birth and the one of her adoption, and finds some interesting. "How long can you meander between two cities and not falter?" In Dhaka, she sees the tokai kids being exploited in the horrendous child labour market "when they could reach out for the sun and conquer the world?" Then comes this imponderable thought: "if only they were given the adequate means and facilities."  Who would give them?  How, in an unequal society, indeed?  For, in Toronto, she talks of "the homeless 'squeegee' teenage kids standing under the bridge…. They reminded you of those tokai kids in Dhaka." 

And she comes up with this philosophical observation that becomes an expression of personal anguish:  "Sometimes, the margin between the East and West is very fine. The balance of humanity has its invisible cracks…. You become so unhappy sometimes. You had promised yourself that no matter what, you would not let the tears come. But there are things in life which often go beyond your control."  At one point this sensitive soul acknowledges that, "Life is all about letting go."  Yes, life is a mosaic of happiness and sadness, and the sensitive ones are quick to pick up on one or the other. 

Chowdhury's life experience has been substantial, and she has been able to pen some of that drawn from her own perspective and with sensitivity. For example, "Beauty comes from within you. You might say it with flowers, chocolates or diamonds, it does not matter. What does matter is your sincerity and ingenuity inherent in the deepest core of your heart. It does not matter whether it is the tune of a piano or saxophone.  You do not care if it is the flute or the violin. Your eyes see through the silver or gold."

Eventually, Rummana Chowdhury comes to some sort of a resolution to her piercing dilemma. In her philosophical tone, she advises: "Forget your past, present and future…. If only you could send an immortal letter to an unknown address up above the sky calling for world peace and harmony, you can rest in eternal joy and happiness." And, with an eye looking back at you, Chowdhury advises, "You try to arrange the jigsaw pieces of your life in a new order. You try again and again. Yet the pieces do not fall into place. The puzzle becomes a permanent one. You do not have enough time anymore to arrange them from the beginning."

GM Shahidul Alam is a thespian and educator.



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