Sunday, June 23, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

OP-ED: Nostalgia personified

When music takes us back

Update : 19 Apr 2021, 03:50 AM

Iftar’s done. A rooftop, chilled air, residues of monsoon. A bottle of Coke, some snacks, some other things. Mom’s Nokia 2630 and a pair of headphones. 

The evening program on the radio that plays all sort of cool songs. Building is sandwiched between two other structures that provide ready access to the best of my friends from the comfort of my own veranda. 

And did I mention the thousands upon thousands of stars that decorate the dome above? 

Life is good. Life is serene. Life is safe. What’s left of it is being lived through nostalgia!

“Why do babies cry out when they are born?” 

Of course, I’m not really on the rooftop. I’m lying on my back against the hard marble of my bedroom floor, looking towards a darkened ceiling. I live in a different house now, so I don’t have ready access to my friends anymore. 

And even if I had, it would do no good. I have a job; they have school and other responsibilities. Even beyond the surface, there have been inevitable changes, from the molecules that make up their body to the tiny bits of cells that make up their skins. 

Nothing is the same anymore. Coke has changed the design of their bottles a number of times. Snacks don’t inspire the same level of assurance they once did. And for psychological clutches, that varies from person to person.

I don’t know what happened to Mom’s 2630. Hell, I don’t even know if it is still in our possession. The music doesn’t inspire the excitement of discovery it did to my 12-year-old self, a kid who had just stepped into high school and was obsessed with stars. 

Instead, it inspires a feeling of deep-seated nostalgia, of a good night with the lads and slowly drifting off to sleep to the rhythmic lull of a ship caught amidst a storm. Then again, considering the kind of music I’m listening to, the general characteristics of life itself; I think this is the most deserving complement I can give it.
For some time now, “the attempted band” has been some kind of a cult sensation in our country. In fact, in the tongue-in-cheek style in which the press release has been written for their latest Doura Picchi, it becomes clear that the band is not only clear about their cult status, but actively plays into it. 

While this seems good and all, I was never a fan of this kind of self-deprecation. I checked out some of their songs, and while they are very good, they just didn’t seem to click with me. 

I guess subconsciously I didn’t like the clown act that much to begin with, which impaired me from some of their earlier music. What I didn’t realize was that, under the circus, there was the famous clown Pagliacci. That, under the humor, there was sorrow and deep-seated longing. 

“In a way, aren’t we all continuing the scream we started in our infancy?”

But Pagliacci, as the legend goes, can’t keep the façade up forever. The truth behind the joke became clear when Arafat Kazi claimed in a serious manner that he would pay people to review his band’s new EP. 

I didn’t want to engage with it, but when I was the earnestness and hopelessness in his plea, I couldn’t ignore his plea. As human beings, isn’t that what all of us are doing? Screaming into the void, trying to make something out of nothing? Trying to reach the stars that we fell in love with so long ago?

Arafat Kazi has been playing the role of a clown for a long time, but of course, like all of us, he has been worn down by life. 

He came back to Bangladesh on pilgrimage. He met up with all the usual -- the mamas and chachas and everyone else that make up our late adulthood. 

He also met up with a friend from the past. A friend from when everything was fine. A friend when we were the most ourselves, before we were bent and broken. 

“Don’t we all have friends like that? In the words of Ian Curtis, where have they gone?”

Before going back, his friend promised Arafat that he would visit him in the States in exactly a year. After a few days, the friend was dead, having fallen to his death from the rooftop of his home. Funny. You think that people would be safe in their homes. But most things happen when they are inside it. 

“If memories are so painful, why do we still hang on to them?”

A year passed. Arafat remembered the day through the help of Facebook. He decided to go to their rendezvous point. After some time of longing and tranquility, he got up to leave, and somehow, found a message. 

It was fairly innocuous, but to him, it seemed like the universe was sending him a message, a message from his dead friend from some far away land. And this is what the EP is really, the scream of a man stuck in a ship amidst the storm. 

The frenetic crying when you remember something, so you turn it into a joke. You’re better equipped to remember now, so you can’t help but look back with pain and longing. You’re worn and tired, and you doze off with the high of memories (and some other things). 

The attempted band’s Doura Picchi is nostalgia personified, and with how life is and general theme of things, I don’t think I can give a better compliment in any other way. 

The room is getting darker, and it’s getting darker outside. As I’m dozing off, a light shines down on me, showing specks of the Almighty even in the most mundane. 

Rationality says it’s not possible, that I’m in my room, that it’s Dhaka. But I don’t care. It’s making me feel good. After weeks of screaming, I’m finally having a moment of respite. Why should I deny that? 

“City of stars
Are you shining just for me?

City of stars
There’s so much that I ca…”

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

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