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Arts & Letters, April 2018

Personal essay On music

Personal essay On music (Is it not such an impossible distance to fathom?) After hanging up the phone, I went on YouTube to stumble across a string quartet version of an Adele song. I do not like Adele, but I played it nonetheless, my love for strings having won over my indifference towards the artist. In that situation, in the middle of a re-revelation of sorts (for we all know this anyway, don’t we?), in that state of mind, one which was so susceptible to influence, especially that of music, especially to a lover of the violin, especially to a song with a title that epitomized communication, especially to someone who knew someone, once, ever so long ago, who used to love the artist, how else could that someone possibly react? And I felt voluptuously; I ate up my delicious emotions gluttonously. In that moment, which other individual could boast the exact set of circumstances required for such a reaction? Who else could access the same memories I had, even if I were to communicate to another, verbatim, with the best use of audio-visual-textual evidence what my experiences were, the experiences which had, like before, cascaded forward and smashed together •SN Rasul Once in a while I’ll come across a piece of music so potent for a given moment that the entirety of my life before that point in time seems to have cascaded forward and smashed together. This is a beautiful feeling, but this is not a good feeling. For one, this is not a feeling that I can repeat with the same piece of music; in fact, I cannot plan and make this feeling reoccur. That is the heartbreaking beauty of it, that there is no science to this feeling. Or if there is one, it is not one that I am yet privy to. For another, and this is the most important lesson that music has perhaps taught me, is that there is no way I can share this feeling with another individual. I cannot send this piece of music to a friend, a relative, a lover, and expect them to understand how I feel, to understand why that piece of music has been so successful in moving mountains within. Even if the person is right next to me, his or her expectations are not the same as mine. Maybe similar, but never exact. The very difference in our vantage points warrants an experience of the piece in question in vastly different ways. SN Rasul is a fiction writer. He works with the editorial team of Dhaka Tribune. 20 Music, like every other experience, we experience alone. It can be communicated through mediocre channels with other individuals, but it cannot be experienced simultaneously This is why these moments are so tragic, and music with it. Of course, it is not that there are not entire swaths of people, entire communities built around favorite artists and genres. It is not that there are no best friends created out of the shared experience of a single concert. It is not that no two people have ever connected over what is essentially a string of notes strung together most exquisitely. But these are longer, earned experiences, spanning hours, days, months, years, lifetimes. These are common interests which have blossomed into meaningful relationships. This is my example: One night, after a rather brusque conversation with a significant other, I had reached a state in my mind where I could feel the distance that sometimes erupts between two people more potently than usual. to create this very instance? No one. Music has taught me many things: I have learnt of the enormous talent and skill required to create even simple sounds. I have learnt to feel empathy and sympathy for people I wouldn’t have were it not for the presence of a certain kind of music which catered to that person’s suffering or pleasure or joy or misery. And the most important lesson it has taught me is that, the distance between two people, not only can it be not fathomed but it cannot even be begun to be crossed. How special an artist is, how important a genre, how crucial to your very character, only you will understand this fully. Music is special in this way. Almost everyone feels something in its presence. Almost no one feels the same. Music, like every other experience, we experience alone. It can be communicated through mediocre channels with other individuals, but it cannot be experienced simultaneously. Occasionally, there is magic in the form of an experience shared so almost-perfectly that a moment, which almost always creates a bubble, encompasses two people, instead of one. But for most of us, even for me, these dual bubbles remain myths, fantasies, fairy tales. How many more musical journeys will I take alone, into the ether, before I stumble across a piece of music so ubiquitous in its strength, that I find myself looking around me to a whole crowd of listeners, ears pricked in wonder? • ARTS & LETTERS SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2018 | DHAKA TRIBUNE

Travelogue Kashmir: Heaven on earth •Sayeeda T Ahmad Snow-capped mountains. Mountain lakes. Fields of flowers. Kashmir is known far and wide as the “Heaven on Earth.” Despite the conflict since 1947 when Kashmir was partitioned, with India, Pakistan and China claiming rights over its territories, a visit to the area has always been in the back of my mind. Thus, when Tour Pedia, a budding Bangladesh-based tour company specializing in affordable tours, announced a 12- day group tour, my mother and I jumped at the chance. This would be my first visit to not only the state of Jammu-Kashmir but also India. After an overnight bus trip from Kallyanpur bus station on November 23, we arrived at the Benapole-Petrapole border the next morning. On completing all immigration formalities, we hopped in another bus of the same company, and were on our way to Kolkata. Arriving at our hotel in the late afternoon, we had only a few hours to freshen up, take a tour of the city, grab dinner, shop, and also drag our luggage to Howrah Junction, as our electric train, Himgiri Express, would leave that night. Eastern Railways operates the train, connecting Howrah Junction with Jammu Tawa, crossing 32 stations in 36 hours and 40 minutes. Bad luck, though. Our train arrived 10 hours late on November 26 due to frequent stops caused by ongoing maintenance work. Outside Jammu Tawa, we found a number of street food options. While our organizers went to find where our reserved bus was parked, we grabbed a quick snack of Rajma and Rumali Roti. Many of us hadn’t had dinner on the train, unsure when we would arrive. Hence, a couple of hours after departing for Srinagar, we pulled into a roadside dhaba for late-night supper. The best part: Wide open starry skies outside and the lights of the Vaishno Devi temple, on a distant hill, glinting in the darkness. Locals in the Jammu area of the state are Hindus on the eastern side and speak Hindi, Punjabi, and Dogri. Most dhabas offer vegetarian options. There are also a number of temples, and a bare handful of mosques. Meanwhile, residents on the western side, in the Vale of Kashmir, where Srinagar is located, are mostly Muslims and speak Urdu and Kashmiri. The Jammu to Srinagar highway is two-lane and poorly lit. Built into the sides of a cliff, the road has a river running below. On the opposite side, lights twinkle in the distance. They are clusters of a few small towns, set into the sides of a mountain range opposite the highway. Several well-lit tunnels built through the mountains cut the commute time between the two major state cities. These include Asia’s second largest 9.2 kilometre Chenani-Nashri or Patnitop and the 2.5 kilometre Jawahar tunnel. Though pleasantly cool in Jammu, temperatures dropped to sub-freezing level as we approached Srinagar. Unfortunately, our bus did not have a heater, and we literally shivered! Yet, as dawn beckoned, the sights of snow-covered grounds appeared lovely, and the roadside homes were quite distinct. The Bollywood flick Haider, filmed in and near Srinagar, gives one a good idea of the architecture. DHAKA TRIBUNE | SATURDAY, APRIL 14, 2018 ARTS & LETTERS Dal Lake PHOTOS: PEARL MATTHEW We arrived early on November 27 and checked into our hotel, a modest building and home owned by Irshad. Tourism is the main income source for most Kashmiris in Srinagar and smaller tourist towns, as they rent out their homes as local hotels to visitors. Several locals also sell apples, oranges and other fruits on pull-carts, or warm winter clothes to tourists. The clothing items include the phiren, a long flowing coat commonly used by Kashmiris. Under the phiren, they carry a kangri, or a pot of hot charcoals, to keep warm. After breakfast, we headed to Dal Lake to ride the shikara, a local wooden boat. Unfortunately, my mother opted to stay at the hotel as the freezing temperature had raised her blood pressure. Riding a shikara, we traversed the length and curves of Dal Lake and enjoyed its sights, including its floating garden and lakeside shops. Soon we were besieged by boat salesmen, selling everything from local-made jewellery, saffron and other spices, fruits, and even a modelling opportunity involving dressing up in traditional Kashimiri garb and having photos snapped. One gentleman cooked kebabs and rolls on his boat, which became our late lunch. Though the group planned to visit the Mughal Garden afterward, I left early with some of my boat-mates to check on my mother. En route, we passed a local park awash in autumn reds and yellows. Forget the typical tourist site! I headed there after ensuring my mother was all right. The next day, after breakfast, we travelled to Gulmarg (meadow of flowers) for a day trip. The hill station and town is located in the Pirpanjal range of the western Himalayas. Though glowing with wild flowers in late spring and sum Locals in the Jammu area of the state are Hindus on the eastern side and speak Hindi, Punjabi, and Dogri. Meanwhile, residents on the western side, in the Vale of Kashmir, are mostly Muslims and speak Urdu and Kashmiri Sayeeda T Ahmad is a poet and nonfiction writer. Her debut poetry collection, Across Oceans, was published by Bengal Lights Books. 21

The Arts Paper | April 2016