Change doesn’t make a grand entrance. Of course, there are major incidents which shake the cores of our beings. There are attacks like the one on Holey, which remind us how meekly we stand on the precipice of destruction.
There are deaths, assaults, rapes -- big things which have big impacts. They are constrained by the prerequisite of numerosity and oddity. They make their mark on our memories with fanfare and splendour, for in the very quality of their enormous singularity, they cannot be forgotten.
We speak of them in muted words and hushed tones. In the dimly lit corners of our consciousness, they are the sacred markings on our history that we must respect, devoid of humour and celebration. They are, first and foremost, not to be forgotten and must be remembered with the utmost reverence.
Following them, there is a period of recovery. There is a desperate fight for normalcy. And this recovery is marked by a different kind of forgetfulness, one that does not forget the incident in question, but its qualitative, emotional impact, one which we never thought we would forget, but we do. This is an inevitability for most.
It is seen in the laughter which returns to our faces, and how our conversations are no longer tinged with a certain sadness. The initial intensifying of security at malls and restaurants notwithstanding, we start to forget in the very act of going out, seeing a bigger gathering of the masses than what used to be there.
It is made evident in the way we achieve that which we fought so desperately for: Normalcy.
With this, there is a risk we take that is not confined to the physical. Of course, the returning of the normal beseeches a loosening of the noose on security, so that the thorough bag checks become light pats on the buttocks, but by focusing on the big incidents, we lose sight of the little things that lead up to its existence.
Little things we are allowed to talk about, but when we do, it is making a mountain out of a molehill. When suicide bombings become norm a la Pakistan in a country like Bangladesh, these aren’t separate incidents marked by outsiders who play no part in the collective consciousness of the nation.
These so called “extremists” have not come into existence out of a vacuum but out of the unsung problems that mark the identity of our nation, but only behind closed doors, and never on paper.
The recent attack in Sylhet will be marked, though with not as bright a highlighter, as another “big” incident in our history. It is a “thing” that “happened.” But the things that don’t quite “happen,” what of those?
A person for whom death is the answer is, in many ways, unstoppable. It is no revelation that he is a person who cannot be bought with money, persuaded with logic, beaten into submission. Not anymore, at least.
Understanding can only be attained through inhabiting the shoes of others. These shoes, sometimes, come in the form of befriending those we hate, in reading tales of the struggles other than our own
This is something that was done to him long ago, as he either grew up under the benevolent care of a family who hadn’t taught him tolerance, or as a young boy finding solace in the words of a vengeful mentor, or as a frustrated man in his 20s who could not understand that there was no connection between the physiology of a person and what he chose to believe, that we are all flesh and blood, muscle and decaying tissue. These are the non-happenings we miss.
Too distracted by the poor quality of Wi-Fi, we are failing to make big issues of the little things. These little things lie in loneliness and desperation, in poverty and education, in the combined mindset of just letting things stay as they are.
If you’ve ever been gently easing your car into traffic, and heard the foul-mouthed noise of another driver behind you, urging you to hurry up, you should know. When in Rome, do as the Romans. When in Bangladesh, be the monster the country wants you to become.
It is sad that we find ourselves in a country in which doing the right thing is a revolutionary act.
It is sad that, if one discusses, openly, the merits and demerits attached to religious doctrine or, at least, its interpretation, one finds oneself in hot water.
Why has this been allowed to happen? What has allowed for a culture which doesn’t quash these aspiring militants in the bud, but in fact, propagates it through completely mistaking what constitutes for humanity?
I suppose what constitutes for humanity itself has become contentious. And humanity comes from understanding. Understanding that leads to a life without violence, that recognises the value of life, of all, right here, right now, over the more debateable life that will come once this is all over.
And understanding can only be attained through inhabiting the shoes of others. These shoes, sometimes, come in the form of befriending those we hate, in reading tales of the struggles other than our own, from erasing the manmade lines that litter the world.
If death be your answer, you have failed to understand life. Life is not punctuated by full stops and commas, by hyphens and quotation marks. It is in the fluidity with which it overflows and intermingles with the sentences and phrases of others, confined to a book the world writes together.
SN Rasul is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.