Sometime last week, post-lunch when the rush of vehicles jostling each other to pick up kids from schools had well been over on the streets of Dhanmondi, I was on a rickshaw just like any other lazy winter day. I was headed for my office in Farmgate. Angry car drivers and bikers were screaming at each other at an intersection. I was convinced life was going on as usual.
At this point my rickshaw was running along the Abahani Playground and as soon as it turned right, towards Dhanmondi 32 Bridge, a surreal thing happened.
On the right was a majestic house while on the left was the residence of the chief engineer of the public works department. Drowning out the shouts and cries of commuters and drivers and also the shrieking horns, a sound far more majestic than the imposing facades of nearby buildings originated somewhere up in the air, and kept soaring up. The distinct sound that comes in short bursts but rises up in intensity. It was a cuckoo; ignoring the ruckus coming constantly from the streets below, a male cuckoo, flashing its glowing red eyes, went on tweeting its romantic plea to woo a female in a city that has earned itself several monikers, including “the city of dust” and “the city of vertical mess”.
I got off, requesting the rickshaw-puller to wait for me. I looked up and scanned the trees to locate the source of this distracting sound. Was it the first time ever that I am listening to a cuckoo sing desperately from a dusty tree top in Dhaka? Did it happen every year around this time? Was it possible that maybe I was asleep all this time like the sailors in Tennyson's “The Lotus Eaters”? Yes, there it was; perching surreptitiously on one of the highest branches of a neem tree, a black cuckoo was announcing the arrival of new beginnings.
I turned around to see a middle-aged woman standing with her teen-aged son and daughter. Distracted just like me, they too were scanning the trees. I pointed towards the neem tree and the mother shouted, “There it is! Kids, can you see it?” Her son had taken out his mobile phone by then to take a snap. Before I could help him locate the bird, a crisp breeze blew over our faces, raising specks of dust here and there. Yes, there was spring in the air!
Soon these tweets combined with new leaves sprouting up from every tree branch will touch us all. Injecting a new wave of life into everyone around, the youth will lead us out in droves onto the streets to march towards where people from all walks of life gather up to celebrate life, to get drunk on the ceaseless flow of crisp spring breeze.
All the cities and towns will dress up in bright yellow and red. The whole of Bangladesh will rise up in sync with the tweets sung by cuckoos, spreading message of the youthful spirit that never fades!
The writer is a contributor of The Daily Star