On that riverbank I was rooted for years while growing, following the sun and moon, following the river’s rise and fall. I spent hours – days, seasons – playing in the mud along those banks, making mini cities and neighbourhoods peopled by thousands of matchstick figures, going about their business, smelling their roses, feeding their dragons. Their houses were the same colour as my house – they were made from the same material, after all – but oh, their daily activities were far different. My father referred to this as ‘Going higher than my bud’; my mother made huge plans for me.
Finally one day I flew away from that that riverbank, aboard a spring wind, wiping a few final flecks of mud from my feet. And oh, the gales that followed: I ran and I fell among the rainbows of women; and I sang and I slept among teachers and thieves; and I stared and I stared at wide-open vistas, peopled with people and blossoms and bees. I went all of the way up into the sky and looked around; and with the kites and swallows and clouds, I hung and I waited. My father referred to this as ‘Coming into the country’; my mother scanned the horizon worriedly.
Yet oh, I longed to feel the mud between my toes again. The wind had tugged at my hair so long that it hurt, and the roar of the thunder would drown my whole world. And so I retraced my earlier route and floated slowly down, lingering here and there in the breeze. By the time I drifted back to the riverbank it had changed dramatically, though there was still abundant earth to work. My mother and father were gone, but I rooted myself on that riverbank all the same.
~ This is part of a new series of Himal’s commentary on artwork from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Dhaka.