Sunday, March 29, 2009


I finally did it- I admit it! I never thought I would. I've resisted and resisted. But I've succumbed. There's no use denying it, I'm guilty as charged. After a year and a half of mocking the idea, belittling it- such ridicule I've spouted when people suggested or implied it- my face distorting with half mocking lines of surprise and disgust. But today I finally relented. I couldn't hold back any longer. I must just say it, this thing I've done. I called my driver to have him pick me up from work to avoid walking half a block. There, I said it.

But wait! Don’t judge me so quickly, so swiftly- don’t view me unkindly. I promise you I had reason and I blame the season- it’s true. Don’t mock me with that look, those eyes. I’m not wasteful- that I despise. Don’t call me spoiled and pampered and all things unjust. I usually walk that half-block, at daybreak and dusk. Let me tell you my reasons- really it’s a must!

I’ve been watching and waiting, biding my time, for I knew it was coming but not understanding how strong.

For these past few weeks I’ve wondered. On my walk I’ve watched barren trees sprout small leaves. I wanted to watch so carefully this year- the magical development of spring. But I blink and looked up and all the brown dusty branches were bathed in the soft yellow green of new growth. I tried to imagine each cell splitting – mitosis after mitosis- daughter cells growing, chromosomes replicating and being drug to each end, their legs and arms failing unwilling behind. Cell walls being constructed faster than I can imagine… maybe for some, the science kills the mystery and the beauty but for me- it just increases my amazement at the leaves that seem to appear fully formed, straight from the air. I walked with my eyes lifted high, appreciating how the distance is somehow so much greater has newly crowned trees blocked the buildings and sky behind… what a contrast those fresh new leaves form next to the deep ages green covered with a dry winter’s worth of dust and pollution.

And I’ve been thinking… it must be time for the rains to come. Those rains need to come to wash the trees and rinse the streets. Those rains that give life and steal land it in its river-swelling floods, shrinking Bangladesh and squeezing its people.

And today… as I start my last term teaching in Dhaka… as I begin to clean and prune my existence here, to sell, box, ship and store… As I carefully prepare for my own new post-Dhaka beginning… the rains have come… with golf-ball size hail, rancorous thunder and lighting that explodes like an instantaneous moment of midday thrust into night…

So, rather that subject my work laptop to the hail and shoalsh my way home, I relented and called my driver- thankful that he was still at the covered parking in my apartment building, waiting for me.

And as I enter my apartment without a drop on me, I see Morshida’s shoes waiting outside. She welcomes me into my home, filled with fresh white ginger flowers. I notice that my balcony furniture sits completely dry, inside. And as I sit to write, and admire the storm that echoes into my living room, Morshida comes to sit on the floor by my chair. And, with tears in her eyes, she tells me that her husband disappeared in February. After a month she called and he informed her that he has taken another wife and will not be coming back. He wants her to leave her job, take their children out of school and come live with his new wife in a place she has no hope of finding a job even near as good as she has in Dhaka. And still, her mother-in-law lives with her, telling Morshida how wonderful her son is and what horrible wife Morshida is.

It pains me to let her walk out into the hail that pounds down. She insists, what is she to do? She must go home to her children. She cannot wait out the storm. I lend her an umbrella and she walks into the angry weather with the benefit of its flimsy protection. I cannot help but notice the metaphor – as she walks from the temporary sanctuary of my home back into her world where women of her status have no rights and may be pounded with fists like the angry stinging ice that falls from the sky. I have to wonder if she takes more than thin borrowed umbrella from my home… does she gather some self-esteem? Self-worth? Can this job in my home give her anything, no matter how weak or temporary, to shield herself from the harsh realities of her life?

And a few moments after see leaves, the angry grumbles of thunder quiet in the distance as the storm calms… and I pray for the little woman whose life is controlled by the storms of her nation.