by Monirul Huq
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table
– T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (1915)
“Is it an extension of the Winter, or the beginning of Autumn, or by any chance a makeshift rainy season?” Clouds were slowly crawling over the tree tops covering the hill. Looking outside from the shared window of a ninth-floor pantry, it was obvious that I would be musing among the clouds. It is in my blood. From where I have come, rain makes people crazy; they get rain-struck. Thousands of rhymes, poems and songs have been composed on rainy days, rainy nights, rainy dusk, rainy morning, rainy vegetations, rainy fauna; the list will go on.
Though it was one of those long, rainy days when you should not think of going out without some crying excuse, it came to my rain-struck mind, “You have a brand-new umbrella – why not go outside to test how it creates affective sound patterns when the water sticks hammer its roof?” “Come on”, the rational part of me, the “other”, countered, “Why romanticize climate change? There shouldn’t be any rain out there this time of the year. It’s all about the bizarre impacts of the climate crisis slapping about this tiny island.” “Excuse me, climate change!”, the conversation continued, “Forget it man. I’m feeling nostalgic with the good memories of rainy days imprinted on my mind, with the nonstop drizzling and pouring of a real monsoon season back in my neighborhood, my private window overlooking the forest of seductive kadam flowers, bedraggled crows in deep contemplation on electric wires, Tagore songs in the background and the irresistible smell of delicious Ilish-Khichri . . . Wow! A delightful rainy day indeed.” Well, the dialogue went on for a few more minutes, and in the meantime, I donned the public costume for showing up on Pokfulam Road: t-shirt, jacket, jeans and sneakers. “Don’t forget the umbrella and let’s hit the road. Yo ho. Here I go.”
Good. Not many people were roaming around. Not that much traffic on the usually busy road as well. This part of Hong Kong island suddenly turned into a surreal city that, at that moment, truly belonged to me. I started to enjoy the recurrent sounds the big drops of water were making overhead. It was nothing less than Mozart or Beethoven. Truly, a happy moment. “What if an epiphany passes through my conscious being and I find out the answers to all my queries of life now?” With the Baroque music of rain playing in the background, my mind was busy sketching the matrix of a sudden interrogation. Something like John Stuart Mill’s mental crisis creeped into the alleys of my sin city. “What if all my aspirations get accomplished right now? What would I live for after that? Am I ready to answer the question?” The essential power supply failed – on and off, off and on it went, then load shedding and then a black out: “darkness visible”. This mischievous mind mocks our inability to demystify the purpose of life. Human beings have been carrying this query with them since I do not know when. We have no answer. This is where poets fumble, painters get stuck, playwrights become absurdist, narratives get dull. The “other” awoke in an act of self-defense: “But, you are no kin to these creative subspecies of Homo sapiens, are you? So, why this fuss?” “But, I’m a damn researcher. I need to find out answers to so many questions. Why not this one then?” “Ya, a researcher you are, not a philosopher. Better leave it to them to discover all that gibberish.”
By that time, the rain was in the third gear with wind blowing from the direction of the sea. “It’s not a storm, is it? No, I didn’t see that in the forecast.” I switched hands to check the vibrating mobile phone in the right pocket of my trousers. “Who may have a worldly business on such a day. Some more than realistic guy called me, for sure, but who?” Suddenly, I felt myself enmeshed in the rain as if my whole body was the sole object needed to be drenched to perceive the phenomenological characteristics of the weather. A gale came from somewhere and my timid left hand lost its grip to let the umbrella fly like a kite towards a direction I could not follow. Lo! How perfect the shot was! Without acting I felt like a great actor on the screen who just performed a mise-en-scène. Bravo! Applause! With an unusually big umbrella in hand a girl was rushing towards me. “Was she coming for me? She might have seen my shelter flying away.” As it should be, she did not stop by me, why would she? It was pouring incessantly, and as if watching me exposed under the grey sky, all the agents of nature took me to be the bull’s eye and started darting sharp pencil sticks towards me. For the first time in years my vulnerable romantic self had merged with the “other,” pushing my five-foot-nine-inch frame galloping towards the HKU MTR station.
“No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be.” Now, this is what I call epiphany.