Sunday, June 16, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Essay: Merry Christmas, you filthy animals

Thanks for all the fish!

Update : 29 Apr 2022, 04:32 AM

I first read Unmad in the Eid-ul-Fitr of 2009. 

The summers weren’t as hot as they are now. I was out with my parents shopping when I noticed a magazine with a beautifully illustrated cover in a news stand -- full of comics and cartoons and interviews. I had once before caught sight of an issue of Unmad during a trip to my grandparents’, but my folks had refused to buy it. This time, they relented, and what followed was days full of ecstasy and creativity and magic. 

Eid was different back in those days. There were no responsibilities, and there seemed to be limitless freedom. We would just get out of our summer breaks and we would again have a second break in a couple of days, breaks in which we would be able to do anything. Among a respite like this, I picked up the pen. I was fond of discussing stories in class, and that Eid, I was determined to publish my own comic with a kickass story centered around international espionage. Fast forward a decade or so and I still think of stories, but I no longer think of saving the universe. I no longer look at the military industrial complex as something to aspire for. I do write for a living but the money isn’t enough. The stars have all disappeared, and with them, I might have even said goodbye to my dreams. 

2009 was a magnificent year. I think there is something magical about years that end with a 9. You have the summer of 69, where the whole world was drunk on the power of ideas. You have Norwegian Wood that portrays parts of that time in tumultuous pages. You have the novel 69 by Ryu Murakami which apparently does the same thing. Of course, we had our protests here leading up to 71. All in all, be it 69 or 2009, those years were killer. 

The years ending with 9 -- these are times when the decade comes to a close. Memory smooths over the rough edges of history, and you find yourself at the crossroads. The upstream climb has been hard, but man, weren’t there some good memories as well? A lot of times, journeys do matter more than the destination. The destination mainly reminds you that you could see the journey through.

Disk spin -- back to track 3. 

When I was a child, there was a small CD shop close to my home. I was an avid gamer, so I would nag my parents to buy me CDs at whatever chance I got. It was the day before Eid and I wouldn’t be getting any CDs until morning. I had some errands I had to run with either mom and dad and I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse at the CD store. It was full of seniors who were lapping up CDs by the bundle. Back home, I peered out of the balcony to look at all the older kids loitering in the street, pissing about and stuff. They had all the freedom in the world, all the freedom to make of life what they wished. I had a good setup back then, but I wanted to be like them. I wanted to take my life into my own hands and live life to the fullest. 

Of course, while I didn’t have freedom, I didn’t have bills as well.

Life is weird. When you are a kid, you want to be an adult. When you are an adult, you want to be a kid.

We earn, we spend, we die. But if that was all, murder would be the highest form of philanthropy. 

I went out and bought a new issue of Unmad the other day. I had been avoiding Unmad for years because they ceased to be funny. The statement still holds true, but there are still hidden chapters that make me laugh. There were bits and pieces here and there that reminded me of what Unmad used to be. Most importantly, I was glad that they are still in business. It takes guts to stand up to the digital might of Facebook and other social media services, but magazines like Unmad and Rohosshyo Potrika are still doing it. Hell, I don’t think it is possible to support oneself as a writer in this country, but we have had one of our countrymen get shortlisted for the annual Commonwealth Short Story Writer’s prize. And before this piece becomes overly optimistic, I get it. The world is f*****. Russia’s screwing over Ukraine. The US is one the verge of declaring war over China. 

There are also the personal existential crises of having to work for a life a lot of us don’t even find joy in anymore. You’re telling me I have to pay for antidepressants and cough syrup? Where’s the manager? When did I sign up for this rubbish?

But taking stock this Eid, I have realized that not all is bad. Of course, this is something that I can say because I am privileged. I am immensely lucky as well, and I would be lying if I said luck didn’t play an extreme part in making me what I am today. Henceforth, writing a piece where everything is fine and dandy shouldn't be an option. 

If I were writing something more serious, I might have taken the opposite route. 

But dude, sometimes sunflower and daisies are all we need. Was 2009 not screwed on an objective basis? Absolutely. But did we not enjoy it all the same? Hell yeah.

On a similar tangent, I’m not going to take the stance that love can dispel hate. 

The world is unfixably f*****, there are no two ways about it. 

But there are good things in it. There are good things -- and hope and love are among them. Again, you have to privileged and immensely lucky to get their taste, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there. It’s like the ending of The Magic Mountain -- even after everything, love does matter. 

It doesn’t matter in war rooms. Hell, love is abhorred in wall street. But there is love to be found. You need to be lucky, but love does exist. And when one is loved, most of the time, you want to spread that as much as you can, so it might not even be imperative introduce communist reeducation camps in order to change the world. Love deeply and get loved deeply in return. As long as most people do it, there can really be a bright side to things. 

Hell, my tong er mama lets me smoke for free sometimes as well. Here we have an example of love helping with the bills. Yeah, the effects of love are always small and personal, but if everyone had it, imagine the collective effect of such a phenomenon. 

Bottom line, not all is lost. While we can’t change everything, maybe, we can work with small groups and try to spread the joy of Eid. If that works, it can turn into a group that is willing to do more. Maybe your compliment to someone has made their whole day. Or maybe you want to approach a stranger and want to congratulate them. Maybe buying a single issue of Unmad will help to keep the dream alive. Or maybe favouring your elakar drug dealer mama will help to put his kids through college. (Or her. No judgement.)

2009 is just a memory now. The guys that seemed alluring were probably struggling with their own issues. Maybe the tables have turned and the kids want to be like us now. Or maybe people will stop having kids and this wretched torture of the soul will finally come to an end. 

But regardless, there will be issues of Unmad that are good enough. There will be new generations just as annoying as the next. When the society collapses, maybe the weak bonds that exist within people will become stronger as well. And if not, well, don’t tell me you don’t have your own post-apocalyptic fantasies.

The world’s f*****. But when has it not been? Maybe all we can do is sit down, relax, have a shake, and learn to love the bomb as all things fall apart. 

Then again, only possible if you can afford it, taxes apply. 

From Dhaka Tribune, we wish you a lovely Eid. 

And for the people who were bored enough to read through, so long, and thanks for all the fish! 

Nafis Shahriar is an Editorial Assistant at Dhaka Tribune. 

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