The Empty Doorway

We chose not to be photographed. His broad smile was somewhat subdued, though the impishness of his chuckle still remained. The big hug didn’t work out. Even in the generous light through the large open window, a frail Kiarostami with tubes wasn’t how we wanted him depicted. He had cancer, and the surgery had gone wrong. My young friend Mansour Kiaei had accompanied me and had only met the great man for the first time. He wanted to photograph the two of us. We declined, saving the moment, for when Abbas would be better, and more the Abbas, as I had known him.

Abbas Kiarostami Untitled 1978 ? 2003, from a series of 32 photographs, 122 x 93 cm.
Abbas Kiarostami Untitled 1978 ? 2003, from a series of 32 photographs, 122 x 93 cm.

Continue reading “The Empty Doorway”

Happy Birthday Lisa

Lisa on 13 December 2010 at 9am at Drik.
Lisa on 13 December 2010 at 9am at Drik.

She is a murmur in the wind, which touches the rain-ravished lake in a quite late afternoon; she is the benevolent shade in the burning rays of mid noon; she is the peace that enchants in the mist of twilight; she is an enigma that engulfs the nocturnal. She is a friend, who lives in my heart, who breathes in my thoughts, touches my senses, stays in the ripples of my tears. She is a friend whose voice I will never hear, whose face I will never see, whose hands I will never ever hold again even for once. Even as she continues to visit my memories, she will never face me in the present or in the future because time has hijacked her to an unknown land, where there is no email, no facebook or phone, no address what so ever.
Our friendship took wheels when she was diagnosed with cancer back in the last week of November 2009, few days before my mother passed away. Few months later we really become close, we used to go together for her radiation therapy. I befriended her knowing she might not lose her battle with cancer, but never believing that she will one day. And truly never considering it will affect me to the core.
Our friendship was not always smooth, there were rocky rides also, but it was pure, the love was never fake, which we shared. Yes there were jealousy, cruelty and foolishness lurking in the back ally of our relationship; but our friendship always had the upper hand. We shared more than a cup of tea, we shared dreams to grew old together, do childish things, be there for one another and my friend abandoned me in the middle of life, leaving me lost? all alone? perhaps she is the only member of the same gender I believe to be my best friend.
Lisa at Hospital on her last birthday with her friend Momena, on 30 June 2011
Lisa at Hospital on her last birthday with her friend Momena, on 30 June 2011

She kept a smiling face so many did not know the pains she went through, the physical pains of the inhuman treatment, not once but twice, the mental pain of seeing friends and family?s indifference. But the most dreadful pain was seeing one?s life vanishing before one?s eyes, the time escaping like sand through one?s tight clutch? the pages of one?s life disappearing?
She was like a butterfly who was caught in heavy rain, her love for life kept her going but the aggressive cancer was giving her no chance. After a yearlong treatment and with a clean card from her doctors she was picking up on life, making plans, but in the early part of 2011 the cancer returned, worse than last time. Within a few months she went in for another surgery and the second chemotherapy, this time her body was not taking it any more, she almost died a few times but she pulled through, the smile was returning but only for a few days, in late December of 2011 the virus was back. And this time Lisa was losing the battle, she became aloof, her temper was short, most likely the cancer had reached her brain, in fact it was spreading all over her body; doctors refused treatment saying it would not help. The last three months we lost touch, we met very little, on 30 March 2012 Lisa?s mother called my sister, who is a doctor to come and see if Lisa was alive. Her family was taking care of her in the home, when we went the house was echoing in Lisa?s mother sobs, my friend was lifeless, and she had departed around 10 am. I never thought I would tie her toes together to keep her lifeless feet together.
I can go on writing forever but I will end for now, saying today is her birthday and she will never grow old, she will be forever young and beautiful, my beloved friend! I pray to Allah that may she get a place in heaven. At her last birthday in 30 June 2011, Nazmul and I celebrated her birthday in the hospital at the first day of her second chemotherapy. She joked that this might be her last birthday, well guess what, it turned out to be just so. Unbearable but true!
Lisa you are deeply missed happy birthday, stay well wherever you are, love.
The writer Momena Jalil was a co-worker at Drik. She is a Pathshala alumni.

Chavez?s latest K.O.

By Jorge Silva. Reuters

Before the recent election campaign in Venezuela, the last time that I had been close enough to Hugo Chavez to use a wide angle lens was last February when he left for Cuba to be treated for a recurrence of his cancer. ?That farewell began as a solemn procession through the streets of Caracas, with Chavez dressed in black, riding in a dark van with open sunroof and an image of Christ on the windshield. His supporters showered him with flowers on the way to the airport, as he left his followers in suspended animation, and his future full of doubt.

This campaign was a re-encounter with him; one that many didn?t believe would happen again. His cancer disappeared from the agenda, and Chavez was back. For his followers it was the difference between night and day, or the idea of a Venezuela without him contrasted with his reappearance in power, where he had been for the last 14 years. Continue reading “Chavez?s latest K.O.”

Missing the Monalisa smile

She was simple and sophisticated, charming and exuberant, quietly noisy, mildly strong, mischievously coy and full of life even in eminent death.

Rezwana Chowdhury Monalisa

We made plans seated in the Drik conference room. She wanted to study. She wanted to take on more responsibilities, she wanted to be more than a pretty, smiling face at the Reception. “I wish I could take your place one day” she said to me. I marveled at her courage. An unpopular HR Manager’s post is not what most would aspire to attain. “What’s stopping you?” I asked. “So much pressure to be good wife and mother, no time to be anything else” she said, little realising she didn’t have much time to be either, leave alone my post. This was nearly 3 years ago. Continue reading “Missing the Monalisa smile”