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There’s a small voice at the back of my head.
It’s very small, hardly a tinkle-but never silent, never resting. And on that particular day it was determined to nag me out of sleep.
Get up, get up, get up ….. and it went on.
“Give me a break?” I half-pleaded, half-ridiculed.
"No, it is time…."
I looked at the cuckoo- clock perched overhead- 5:30 am. Under my breath I uttered every curse possible, at that voice perhaps; but got up anyway. The moment I abandoned my blanket the chilly wind struck me like never before. It wasn’t supposed to be so cold in mid March, a surprised me thought. “I left the window open I guess” I gave myself an explanation, and looked outside- where more surprises awaited.
“Why is everything white?”
White indeed- the buildings outside, the trees, the grass. “The trees? The grass?” At that point I jolted out of my sleepy trance and scampered to the windowpane- a snowy, white windowpane. Fascinated, I touched the fluffy white matter- and shuddered at the sudden, alien chill.
"It did snow okay? Snap out of it"
And no, I don’t live abroad.
I did anything but snap out of it- a snow covered Dhaka? Wow, never in anyone’s wildest dreams! My regular glass window as if, led to a world of pure
make-believe. The grim, bleak buildings looked like snow capped mountains- a pile of snow accumulated on top of each, and the entire colony resembled a
never-ending mountain range. Narrow streets were covered in a blanket even whiter than the whitest. Trees looked just as awed as me, as though they were having a hard time getting accustomed to their non-green self. I was reveling in the newfound beauty when the voice decided to strike once more:
"Crops" – spoke the small, yet powerful existence inside me. And it didn’t stop there
I was no social activist, but I instantly knew that what I was staring at was real-time crisis. At once, I scuttled towards the living room, only to find Papa already absorbed in the news headlines. There was a scroll going under every news channel and they all contained, much to my relief, reassuring news. Apparently, it was snowing in Dhaka alone, and only within a certain radius. Snow did not spread its icy claws up to Ashulia or even Purbachal for that matter, so the paddy fields in the marshy terrain of Ashulia remained undamaged. However, roads within the city were blocked for the day, so there were government orders to close down all schools and offices till further notice (YAAAAY!!!) And of course, climatologists were going haywire over the abrupt change of weather in popular talk shows. Evidently, politicians were too stunned to start a new blaming episode, so the shows were not exactly heating up.
“Papa, baire jai? (Shall I go outside?)”
In this unsafe city for girls, miscreants were too tired to wake up in such untimely hours. Maybe that’s why Papa gave me a solemn, affirmative nod- “Yes”
To the roof now, I reached the edge painstakingly wading my way through a heavy pile of snow. The cold cutting wind lashed out at me- get off the roof you timid little imp. More buildings this time- like white mountains rising from all directions. All the pallid sights around made my city look like a scene straight out of a snow globe. Dhaka was, as if an olive skinned beauty forced in gaudy bridal makeup. Her beauty was flawless, but she was just not herself. I let out a heavy sigh and decided to go for a walk downstairs.
On a snowy street, I walked alone. Well, not quite alone- I soon came across some children, street urchins playing near a dustbin. White snowballs were clutched tight in their hands, “Never thought I’d be alive to see this day” I chuckled. But just then-
I trembled, and my world came to a sudden standstill of realization. These impoverished, pitiful souls had no idea how dangerous it was. Scantily clad as they were, playing in snow in this attire gave out nothing but open invitations to pneumonia and such.
“Aye! Aren’t you guys feeling cold?” I suddenly remembered my old sweater trunk, “Wait here, I’ll get you a few things to wear”. I was just about to speed my way upstairs, when a boy said- “Apa, it aint cold at all, see?” He gestured me to hold one of the snow balls they had reserved for their fight. I held one, and gasped.
Warmth! Such warmth, oh! It made so many pictures; so many voices in my head come alive. My mother, my mother’s hands- the hands that had left me, they were just as warm! I touched my cheek, and felt a tear trickle down.
“Apa, khelen na amgo loge!(Sister, please play with us)” they invited me to their little world of bliss.
"Play now" – my conscience told me.
"Play, my child."