Merry Christmas, dear reader. Wherever you are, whichever faith you hold, or even if you do not believe in divinity, on this Christmas I wish you happy holidays. I hope you are enjoying a special time with your loved ones. Hope these are your cherished memories in the making. I am spending a white Christmas with family, celebrating life and love.
I turn on the music, but instead of the traditional Christmas carols, the melody is a contemporary tune, with a timeless theme. The music of Coldplay streams in the room-
‘Those Christmas lights
Light up the street
Down where the sea and city meet
May all your troubles soon be gone
Oh Christmas lights keep shining on’
I can’t help but pause to feel slightly bitter with this God of ours though. I ask why couldn’t God be a tad kinder to Her/His subjects?
This has been a hard year. Fatal accidents snatched our loved ones from us. Cyclones, floods, famines, bitter cold and wars caused much distress almost in every corner of the globe. So many of us live with growing intolerance, anger and anxiety. High levels of stress slowly nibble away at our pleasures and drain our energy. As if my Catholic guilt isn’t enough, I feel even more guilty for continuing to live when so many others have faced senseless deaths. A dark cloud of sadness engulfs me.
* * *
The families and communities of our labour migrants who lost their eight loved ones to an archaic justice system in Saudi Arabia; Our Sromik whose lives are taken in a toxic, dark place meant to be the graveyard for ships; the dried up land in the southwest of our Krishok, while we along with the rest of the affluent world feast on affordable shrimps; and of course the loss of income for our sacked garments workers who dare to protest when we boast with triumph about doing so well globally; satisfied to take over the lower end of the global apparel industry while China and India move to the higher end of the market.
I remember recent conversations in Chittagong and Dhaka. Tsk Tsk Tsk- none of these labourers appreciate Bangladesh’s economic growth. Tsk Tsk Tsk! The treachery of the poor when instead of starving they are being paid! And damn those jhola bag carrier activists who stall our growth in the name of human rights!
Then we have those Machiavellian among us, the disloyal Bihari, the outsider enemy Rohigya and of course the minorities. Their tears also refuse to dry up despite our repeated claims that we have solved their problems. Yes, these are the others within our borders.
Our Adivasi friends and families from the CHT, to Sylhet, to Madhupur and to Dinajpur may not pause for a moment to celebrate a Christian God who was brought here by the colonial rulers. Then to make it even more confusing, there are those who celebrate Christmas with gratitude and passion; and there are also those who along with their Christian God thank their ancient Gods with equal fervour. Yet, for so many of them the tears flow when they look on to the land that have been forcefully taken away from them, over and over again by whoever became their ruler and the Gods controlling the material world.
A ‘modern’ Bangladesh may indeed rise on the blood, sweat and tears of its people. However, I wonder, how long it will take for those tears, so many tears, to cease flowing? What price for ‘progress’?
* * *
I change the music and move to Sinead O’Connor. I recall all those beautiful people who made our lives so much richer.
‘An angel weeps,
I hear him cry
A lonely prayer a voice on high,
Dry all your tears,
Come what may,
And in the end the sun will rise on one more day,
Hey … the sun will rise on one more day.’
December is a month of deep mourning for many in Bangladesh. It is difficult even for the glowing sun to cloak those memories of our loved ones who lost lives in 1971 and in the subsequent four decades. My silent prayer is for Moutushi, who lost Tomohor, or as she affectionately used to call her brother, Puchi, and her amazing father, Nurul Islam. Where is justice when there is such senseless political violence? I remember Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier, our dear Tareque Bhai and Mishuk Bhai. Our projects on 1971 have brought us together on many occasions. I also remember Jalal Alamgir, who loved music and who would have laughed at my use of the dance metaphor, below.
An English songwriter in 1967 wrote a hymn that is often used in traditional English carols during Christmas time.
‘I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!…
I am the Life that’ll never, never die!
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in Me
Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!’
Dear reader, you may have someone who you have lost recently, if not to death but perhaps to another moment in time. I hope you remember those moments when you got to dance with your dear ones. I hope you find the strength to hold on to the beautiful memories but also the courage to let go of the grief.
One a personal note, goodbye dear Jalal, a friend, a brother and a member of our team – Drishtipat Writers Collective. We will continue celebrating your brilliant achievements. You have lived life at its fullest and your laughter will echo forever in our hearts.
* * *
Dear reader, I don’t want to leave you with a sad, intense message.
I am thankful that I am alive, that I am free and that I can still dance!
We continue dancing and thank dear God for bringing loved ones to our lives.
So, dear reader, I wish you a very special Christmas and a happy new year. I hope you can deal with the pain of life, feel all the joy it brings you and undertake your personal journey even if you don’t always know your destination.
Bina D’Costa, The Graduate Institute for International & Development Studies, Geneva.