Letter from London

 Published in: The Daily Star on November 1, 2017
Letter from London

Dear reader,

I have not written for the last three months. In this time, I have looked down and noticed signs of tremors in my own hands. I have wondered why one side of my face feels numb, why I wake up with a headache and why it feels as though life has come to a screeching halt. My brain has also suffered a deep insult because I am tied to my partner Annis in flesh and spirit. But instead of asking why life unfolds the way it does, or why it arbitrarily serves cruelty on its platter, I have put a hold on asking questions to which I have no answers.

While many of us lead our lives and work independently, there’s always the other to look forward to, to come home to, irrespective of the noise of the outside world. These are private moments not to be shared. But when the private becomes public, when the line between the two blurs, every bit of the personal becomes the subject of public query.

My husband is no longer a private man. For the last two years, he has been holding a public office, serving as the mayor of North Dhaka. Quite expectedly, after he took oath, he most happily and willfully got trapped in the process, perennially obsessing about the ceilings that could be raised. I consoled myself—very few have the opportunity of being around and living with such rare and passionate performers. While active within their private lives, their attempt to remain relevant in the contemporary landscape, with the hope of contributing to a better tomorrow for the “tomorrow people”, is exemplary. Living with them is both rewarding and challenging for obvious reasons. While these overachievers seek to push ceilings and exceed their own expectations, there are also many who cherish a walk by the sea, look forward to the noise of love, feel the dirty grass, and enjoy singular silence.

Your columnist’s life today is caught between the two, in a limbo and frozen in time. And today, as my husband is strapped to his own world, disconnected from workplace clatter, the fresh cha, the noise, the arguments, the stress, the pride, the remorse, the sense of failure and momentary ease, I find myself wondering whether life is a worthy price to pay for passion. To me, the answer is “yes”.

My usual dose of “This too shall pass” philosophy at times ceases to work. The promise of tomorrow often seems like an overreach. Over the last three months, while aimlessly walking the streets of London, trying to catch up with breaking news, debates, controversies and often disappointing discourses, I have tried to scratch the surface of what a “brain” can do. It’s natural. When a loved one is involved, without expertise, we indulge in Google, scholarly articles, rewarding consultations and opinions. Without proper knowledge, how far can one go, really? But while there are endless questions about the brain, neurology has no definite answers to what it can or cannot do.

In the end, it’s still all left to Time for the sceptics, and God for the believers. In the end, in spite of the claim to being Homo Deus, we all end up being believers of the Higher Consciousness, simply because there is no justifiable rationale to prove otherwise. For a believer, the answers to very complicated questions are effortlessly simple. For a believer, it’s “whatever happens, happens for the best”. What else can I do? Prophesising dooms, optimism disappoints, rationality kills hope. Thus, I just live with the hope of watching a meaningful recovery and take into account his wishes to impact, change and contribute.

With time, I am learning not to regret not having taken enough vacations or for not having indulged in more leisurely activities together. My husband does what inspires him. And I, for the last three decades, have been his complying partner. I have happily hugged the backstage satisfaction of relative invisibility. Even today, I am staying loyal to my role and keeping with our routine. Every morning, I read out the news to Annis, chuckling with every Trumpian tweet as he would, raising eyebrows with every questionable incident, and occasionally swearing as he would. I assume he is listening.

This week we transition to a new phase of being moved out of Critical Care to a High Dependency Unit. After a few days there, we move to a ward. Friendly neurologists tell me that familiarity heals the brain fastest and that a white ceiling in the ward is not the best site for someone ill. I believe them. Annis loves the sound of adda. Often tired after a full day’s work, he would fall asleep on the couch to the noise of the chatter from his daughter or his friends. Ideally home is where he should be. Rescuing the brain is a process that demands time, stimulation, nursing and faith. And so be it.

While Annis takes a break from his daily chores, I cannot afford to lose heart, sight, vision or hope. After all, he will have a lot to catch up with after he is up and who’s going to be his best newsfeed source if not me?

Life stretches way beyond barely living. Although life courts uncertainties, it has its own rhythm of returning favours. While Annis steps into his new phase of recovery, my hands are clasped in faith, hoping for a more meaningful return for him. Please continue to pray for him with me. I will continue writing my weekly column from London, sharing a perspective on the current times, without the danger of proximity or bias.

As ever.