Faded rose, born to blush invisible
After you left this mortal world, the phone did not stop ringing for days. And people keep asking me how you died, telling me how much you loved everyone you knew, and how life will be different for them now
Syeda Zakia Ahsan. Illustration: SCT
Syeda Zakia Ahsan. Illustration: SCT
When I started school, you mothered me regularly. You waited until I got home and took care of me on your own, not letting me be taken care of by the helpers at home. The other day you mentioned how as a child I would talk to birds in the afternoon, telling them not to twitter because mom was sleeping. You spoke of the beautiful birthday you organized for me with all your love and care. You guided me academically and imbued me with the rites of passage that made me who I am today. You were my mentor, friend and companion. You were affectionate towards my classmates and later with my college friends.
Rosy apa, you were a common factor in my social field. You attended parents’ day at school and accompanied me to the debates in which I participated in college. You sewed clothes for my dolls and for me on special occasions.
In 1976, your marriage separated us. And now September 8, 2021 has separated us until I meet you in my final destination. I have visited you every year and the times we spent together are engraved in my heart. When I left you, we cried profusely, wondering when we would see each other again. Last year my visit was short and it was the last time I saw you. You controlled your tears when you said goodbye. And goodbye, it was forever.
Although fate separated us and Covid restricted our lives, our privacy has not changed. We chatted almost every day for long periods of time, laughing at my childhood follies. You have encouraged my every effort and celebrated my accomplishments. Your blessings to me were like manna from heaven. You called me Chhoton Rani and our younger brother Khokon Raja, who was your favorite. You were revered by all the nieces and nephews.
You were selfless, filled with the milk of human goodness, never hesitating to help your friends and loved ones with all your love. The slightest effort and the smallest gift will delight your spirits. You were very sensitive and emotional, and a drama of insult or betrayal deeply hurt you. You were a human person and you were in constant contact with the whole family. The rich and the needy loved and respected you because of your selflessness and generosity of spirit. Your intellect was refined and literary. You were philosophical in your attitude and simple in your relationships; because of this, you have been injured by several individuals. You had a deep respect for our family and always wanted to highlight all the good deeds accomplished by our elders and ancestors.
Your intellect had several levels. You have written poetry in English, Bengali and Urdu. Your interest in Tagore coupled with your melodious voice gave you the satisfaction of singing, as well as your interest in Ghalib, which brought out the poetic zeal in you. You took the pulse of Sanskrit, a language you studied at school. People have listened to you on Bangladesh Betar and BTV. You were a giver and not just of your love, but what little you had you gave to people in need. You left everything you had for charity. In the conversations we have had, you have so often discussed the environment, the Bangladesh Liberation War and Shakespeare with my husband. Always looking forward to watching the talk shows my husband has been on. The last time you spoke to him, you sadly said, “I couldn’t watch your program on Ekattor TV”. With me you have talked about a variety of topics encompassing the broad spectrum of human development. You were interested in discussing Quranic verses, philosophy, poetry and sometimes telepathy and healing, you were part of my existence and now the void is part of me too.
You were born to blush without being seen. Your poetry remains unpublished and your wishes unfulfilled. Your singing remains a pleasant memory. As a young girl, I accompanied you to a music competition all over India held in Nritya Bharati in which you were third. I was also fortunate enough to hear you sing at the famous Kala Mandir in Kolkata and see you in a role in Othello at the annual Victoria Institution in Kolkata.
You were an excellent teacher and taught at Khulna Girls College and Tejgaon College in Dhaka. In your last days, you taught pro bono to Honors Bengali students, those who have been financially affected by Covid, in your residence. On your deathbed, you remembered one of these students while talking to our nephew. Fate didn’t make you a mother, but your innate love for children made you love other people’s children. The children in your building were your regular visitors. You enjoyed their company and taught them to sing.
Your life was not full of glitz and glamor, but your relationships with people like you touched them.
After you left this mortal world, the phone kept ringing for days. And people keep asking me how you died, telling me how much you loved everyone you knew, and how different life will be for them now.
I will miss you, apa. You won’t call me again and we won’t laugh at common jokes. But as winter approaches and the cold wind blows over this heap of earth under which you lie, I will remember the good times we had together and I will absorb into my daily life what you taught and what you thought.
I will listen to the song you sang and recorded for me — ‘chitthi aayi hai aayi hai chitthi aayi hai’.
As I write, I remember Rumi’s lines:
‘This is how I would die
In the love that I have for you
Like pieces of cloud
Dissolve in the sun. ‘
Syeda Zakia Ahsan is an educator and charity worker in London.