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OP-ED: As I was moving ahead, occasionally I saw brief glimpses of beauty

  • Published at 12:27 am December 13th, 2020
december calendar 2020
Photo: UNSPLASH

With December comes a feeling of impermanence, a feeling that something is leaving the plane, never to come back

Throughout my time on Earth, I have encountered many Decembers. 

The first December I encountered took place half a year after my birth. But of course, due to the nature of memory, I do not remember it. 

Then there’s the December of 2004. I was just finishing up class one. The skylines of Dhaka were still open to the masses, and I would have a chance encounter which would become a key to a puzzle I would have come to wrestle with 15 years later. 

The sky was white as ash, and standing there, below the canvas of angels, I thought it was going to snow. Little me didn’t understand the significance, or insignificance, of our place on the Earth, and I really believed that it was going to snow. But what stuck with me about that evening was the transience of it all, a feeling of impermanence that ate away at my stomach. Even though I had already entered primary school by then, it really didn’t kick in how different things would be from then, until then that is. 

With the cold kiss from the northern winds, I looked around to find silence all over me. The roof used to be a sanctuary, a safe haven for both kids and adults. But by then, most had moved away, and we were one of the last remaining echoes of the previous decade. It made me sad in a transcendent way. When I grew up, I came to know that this feeling had a name. It is the affliction called nostalgia. 

The next December I vividly remember takes place in 2011. I had just finished my JSCs and was enjoying a well-deserved vacation. I was still into computer games, and Skyrim had just come out. I would spend hours upon hours getting lost in its gorgeous world. But one night, two days before Victory Day, I saw a flag-seller carrying a poll of flags with him, I was filled with joy, but I was filled with sadness the next moment. 

It was already the 14th of December, and soon, it was going to be the New Year’s. I had already gotten my fair share of adult life by then, but I knew. I knew when the new sun came along, and it was going to be time for me to enroll myself in class nine, nothing would ever be the same. The feeling of impermanence that I had felt in every December just became a whole lot stronger then. 

This feeling starts with the crack of October. The streets are made a final resting place for the dying leaves, and with them, it feels like something has ended. The air says that something has left this plane, and no matter what you do, it is never going to come back. I always thought that there was something in the weather, or the only person that felt this way was me. But having conversed with other people regarding this phenomenon, I was quickly proven wrong. 

Truth is, compared to eternity, our lives are like a single drop in the ocean. And even then, we seldom comprehend the vastness of our lives. Time doesn’t exist, except as a tool of perception within our heads. As such, eternity has been carved into smaller, manageable chunks, and a year is just the way we measure the immeasurable by. As such, if human life is compressed within a single year, then the beginning is the beginning, and the ending is the ending. As such, it only makes sense that the beginning is marked with the rays of hope, and the ending is bookended by bluish tint of nostalgia.

Of course, there might be other, more rational explanations for this. One having to do with our perception of reality and the natural rhythms within our biological clocks (even then, I would imagine that the hypothesis I have put forward would be pretty close to that). But I would rather not get into that now. I generally do not draw on academia for my weekly columns as a rule, but even despite that, when it comes to something as humane as remembrance, sadness, regret, and longing; would it really be fair to replace poetry with numbers? 

As Shakespeare said: “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt in your philosophy.”

I have experienced a lot of years since 2011. I have finished high school, college, earned my first paycheck, and now I am on the precipice of adulthood. A lot of these years were bad, and some of them were like fairy-tales. But even then, I have never spent a bad December. Sure, there are some better than others, and the current and last December have been some of the best of my entire life, but even during Decembers where I wrestled with regret and smoked away the night, I wouldn’t have them any other way. 

I guess that is the power of nostalgia, and the particular power of this specific month. Even if that isn’t true for anyone else, even if this write-up resonates only with me, it would still be true for me. As Okabe Rintarou says in the time travel anime Steins;Gate: “We’re all just a ship of  fools chasing phantoms, heedless of what really underwrites natural law.”

So, let this be my own tribute to the new decade. I know I’m a year late to the party, but throughout this recollection, there has been echo towards this transgression on my part. At the end of the day, we seldom know what something means, until it really gets here. 

I recently saw a film, a beautiful film in a long time. It’s Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Millennium Mambo. The film opens with a gorgeous tracking shot exploring the Hong Kong nightlife, where the protagonist is looking back on her early 20s and fleeting youth, framed against the outline of the new millennium. 

I don’t know where I’ll be in the next 10 years, what wonderful things our generation will have accomplished by then. Hell, the future is so uncertain, sometimes even imagining something a year from now gives me anxiety. But when I look back, I would surely want to look back at a life well-lived, rather than the branching path of what ifs.

Here’s to a new tomorrow.

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and a freelance writer.

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