Being back in Dhaka is strangely like a coming home.
The city still smells like rose water, almonds, perfume, death and urine. But the alternating aromas offend my nose a less than before. I’ve grown use to the sharp acid sting that nestles in the petals of the bouquet and widens my eyes a little, offering me something a bit more earthy.
On broke back pavements, dodging rickshaw races, hop-scotching pot holes and open drains, I cannot doze or dream without finding myself knee deep in something indescribable: the cut up kitten, the pile of severed Eid cow ears, the neat packed sack of intestines oozing wetly through gleaming fur.
But I don’t have enough eyes in my head to hold the falls of blossom knots, the judder-jolt of photocopiers on wheels, the glitter gardens of bangles, the passions of plastic and the gauzy bright flutter-flight of saris and scarves.
Even my attention fully given is always something less than is required. I kick up smiles like dust, scuffed up lint of litter, but walk on before they settle and sink. I may draw stares like a visiting celebrity but this is still not my show.
Colours here seem to own their own more vivid spectrum. They riot elegantly on streets that hold horrors of severed limbs, gouged out eyes and sawn off lives. Small hands reach for me but there are too many to hold, many sights I don’t know how to see.
I am ashamed to find I often don’t want to know, to write, those other stories. There is not enough of me to tell them well and I don’t know what to do.
There is still more that could be taken and I don’t want it to be my hands grasping greedily at the last, stripping off what is left.
The woman, who sifts dirt as if she’s looking for fallen stars, squats like she even shits with dignity. But I don’t know if that lost kind of lovely is what she would want and I’m trying not to assume.
Nothing I see makes a whole sentence. There are clauses and questions but I am still feeling for the grammar, drawing connections from broken bonds and fleeing dots.
These jarring juxtapositions of great beauty and grinding poverty have their own charm. They tell their own truths and sometimes words need to be shouted to speak above the clamour of tuk-tuk traffic, beggar taka patter and plaintive goat bleats. Even when the words don’t make sense they certainly make an impression.