After responding to almost a hundred messages, two Skype calls, four telephones, a cup of tea and the faithful morning newspaper, I sat by myself in my room wondering why did I cry myself to sleep the previous night so much. I was feeling giddy even at eleven in the morning, little choked even after I had pulled myself out to the verandah. Uneasiness had held me in its cold pricking grips; a deafening sound ringing in my ear which no one else could hear; as if it’s not oxygen reaching my brain, but some heavier gas. My cursory motion of hand felt like an amputated limb- detached. Last night’s read wasn’t bad of course. Then, did that have anything to do with terror attacks? Or may be with the subtexts? Perhaps…
This is Sunlight on a Broken Column, by Attia Hossain.
Even if it’s an autobiographical account with heavy dash of fiction across pages, I found the narrative going well along everything that is happening around me today- be that the scores of young students demonstrating in front of the universities for Freedom or the mass bombings dotting all over the world trying to relocate power by the virtue of some abstract notion of existence- by the might of her words, the narrative seems to respond to how the Present and Past superimpose with each other. Hossain has lived all those days which share common ground with the structure that holds the equation between man and power, even today.
From nostalgia to the facing of reality; from the crude mechanism of politics, from status quoist power struggle to true urge for freedom, from friends with dagger behind the back to diverse insular family lines that promise to stay beside forever, even if through memories; from the evil world to the arms that felt warm; from Aunt Abida to Uncle Hamid, from Zahra to Nadira, From Laila to Asad, Kemal, Nandini, and Ameer- I..I was rather.. as if watching them talk, argue, hug, laugh, cry instead of just reading two-dimensional text, running miles across and jumping straight into my heart. I wanted to keep myself clear of it, but I couldn’t.
My child-counsellor friend says that i jump straight into the deep black holes of Everything.’Can’t stop myself’, I whispered to myself.
I could visualise them and almost yearned to be a part of them- Ashiana, Hasanpur, the text-throughout. I wanted to sit by Laila as a refugee from the mad world to her Baba Jan’s library. I wanted to tell Abida that she was the strongest woman I had ever come across. I wish I could tell Zahra that “Duty” was too heavy word to be used as commonplace. It was a word carrying worlds in itself, which nothing in its singularity, with all its endeavour could invade. I wish Saleem could understand that Nation was not a cake one could glide a knife through, just to demand one’s share in the end. It’s a matrix of strong emotions and connection among a million human souls- living, breathing layers of human beings. In his explanations and conclusion never existed the guarantee that would safeguard the man’s dignity. It could never protect man from confronting the nakedness of his own self, from getting slapped, eyes poked, by his own reflection that was getting larger and larger by the inflated pride, ego and hollowness. And had this not been the case, the Muharram celebration wouldn’t have gone awry, Asad wouldn’t have his skull broken, Nita would have gone miles from the University, Ameer would never have to worry about himself or rush for a job. Saleem was simply a cogwheel in the reactionary of which Ameer was just another victim. No doubt why she uses that stanza from Eliot’s The Hollow Men as the epigraph.
Soon I realised that I couldn’t stop my tears from rolling down, spoiling the pages as I finished the chapters, as I flipped the pages, for having finished reading the book. Pages, they taunted me for ‘crying like a baby’, for jumping into the black hole that my counsellor friend had bewared me of. I know someone who keeps on telling me that the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ in the world can not be reached by breaking down things mathematically. I know, even Mathematics works along with the philosophical principles that no text book is bold enough to ever lead us through. But still, why did that happen? why?? I was too tempted to ask this to myself, to tell myself that even the newspapers from the previous month were bundled with the same insanity that Hossain was talking about.. Syria, Egypt, Greece, Libya are left with their throats slit, dumped into the Mediterranean Sea. Wasn’t it clear that Past resurrects in Future? Couldn’t I see that there was no solution? May be I cried because I realised that at last, my be because the midnight seemed denser, rather coagulated than any other midnights, or probably because everything was snaggling inside my head with the festivity of the following day. I could see the packets of dry colours kept on the table for Holi. They were the toxic that at the end of the day demanded rough scrapping to get rid of.