Sin City Notes: Two fairly familiar deaths

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Two persons close to me died, both souls looking for a home in distant lands. Maybe they found new homes, maybe they didn’t but in the end one died away not by choice, and the other chose another home but returned to die. History can be so unforgiving. Sometimes it gives shelter and then takes it away leaving without faces, without a pair of feet to stand on. There is something so final about being horizontal.

Both grew up in Bangladesh but both left its shores, one for prosperity and the other for security. One went to Pakistan and the other to India. One went thinking home was always going to be here and the other went thinking there was never going to be a home again. Both were proven wrong.

The one who went to Pakistan was following his brother in a search for fortune. That is the most common trek a Bangladeshi makes, always moving to another land for that pile that matters. His interest was not to settle abroad but to make enough money to retire and come back like all good boys do.

He had made a trek already. He was born deep inside the bowels of the old city and spoke their tongue not the babu Bengali of Dhaka University. He knew of that culture and cuisine. But they moved from the crowded birthplace, moved to Mirpur and built a house there. The departure from the birthplace in old town probably sowed the seeds of his own loss of home town, homeland and home itself later in life.

As time went he settled in Pakistan, raised a family there and slowly the ties were manifolded there. But he always wanted to come and claim his homeland in a way that suited his memory. But property in Sin city is the deadliest assassin of ties and trust. His brother had him kidnapped at gun point and forced him to sign the land away. Blood is no match for greed and the liquid bond flowing through the veins are always overwhelmed by the far more powerful muscles of gain. He knew he had lost his home not property.

How he lost his ties with his homeland and town and finally home is therefore all too easy to see. He stopped coming to the sin city, dropped all connections with his friends and relatives and became a stranger. In its place grew a rage against everything home.

He finally made contact with his friends here but would often get into fights with them. His FB posts were mocking of Bangladesh. It was obvious to all who knew that he was hurting deep and was taking it out on whoever would listen.

When the cardiac arrest began last week there was no plumber around to repair his veins and pipes. Hospitals are more killers than healers in the corona era and like so many he died at home more out of helplessness than a wish. It was a rented flat in a city where he lived in a land he had no other option than to call home, as he had none left.

The second death

He had lived in Dhaka after he came here to study at DU and continued his career there as an academic. But one day many years later he felt insecure and like so many others left for India. He had everything here and he had little there. But he took all the money he had with him yet as always there are others there to bleed a few, then more and then more till one day not much is left. No one is sure how badly or well he was doing there but he wouldn’t meet many from Bangladesh. One day it all became too much for him and unlike most cases he returned home to Dhaka.

Dhaka is not a welcoming city but he moved in with his family members and scraped out a living, stitching his old contacts together, doing odd writing jobs. He was ailing and his time was being measured in coffee spoons as his blood was being cleaned by the dialysis machine. And one day covid knocked on his doors and he took the next train to eternity last week as the man in Pakistan lay dying.

Not many know him but those who do will mourn him. They will remember him as a man who finally died in his own homeland, in his borrowed city which never treated him nice. But it’s his own history and that’s where he rests. In the end, we all belong to our history and not to a piece of real estate.

Two deaths, similar and different meeting each other in the end of their time. No matter where you live or die, history alone can lend the fiction of peace.

  • History
  • Two fairly familiar deaths
  • Dhaka University

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