a city in silence: 'Holey' and its immediate afterthings

It rained today. It finally rained today. It felt like the heavens were mourning but perhaps that's too silly a statement. Maybe it was just raining and that's that.

I have a lot of things I wanted to say, but in the aftermath, amid the numerous opinions and conspiracy theories about what happened and what didn't happen, it feels pointless to say anything. Because whatever I do say, will eventually fall through the loopholes of this situation - of what they're saying and not saying, of the void created by the inconsistent numbers and indifferent press briefings.

But I suppose that is what aftermaths are made of. Conspiracy theories and inconsistent numbers. Hopeless remnants of beautiful friends. Blood. Pictures on social media. Memories of loved ones. An anecdote from the last time you met them. The panic of realizing that it was so close to home that this time, it could've been me. And then, a bigger panic of realizing, it *will* be me. Next time, or the time after that, or maybe the time after that. It feels too close for any of us to miss the bullet now. Or machete. Sorry, I meant sword.

And that's the next realization: it wasn't a bullet to the chest and quick and easy. It was time consuming, it was personal, it was them saying, "Look, we had the option of making it easier, simpler, but this is how desperately we went to spread the hate. SHOW the hate." It was a whole fucking process. And it makes you realize that you, you'd thought there must be some limit to how cruel the human mind could get - you were wrong. There's no end to how much worse it can get.

These days, Dhaka is growing up fast. On a random sunny afternoon, when you look up from the streets, you'll realize - with a sudden sense of pride - the high rises, the new buildings and bridges. A brand new skyline. It's the kind of naive surprise a parent suddenly feels when their child is off to college. You look and you realize, "Wow have we come this far?" The buildings under-construction, staring at the sky with their (half-open) heads held high - they reek of change, of newer times, of better times. Of courage.

And then there's this. The reality of our homegrown terror. Anything that can make the whole city shake, crumble the high-rises. Five hours after the siege began, I remember telling a friend, no one takes hostages for five hours and remains silent. It feels ominous. 
In retrospect, even with that feeling, I'd thought the worst that could happen was a suicide bombing. What happened, as we know, was so much worse. One that's shocked us into silence.

And this silence - it's not just on the roads and in public places; this silence is in our homes, in our conversations, even in our prayers. My family has a tradition of saying prayers right before Iftar - it's our version of saying grace. This whole month, the elders complained that we weren't doing that enough. We weren't praying enough. Yesterday at Iftar, the silence descended on us like sunset. We sat together, and without saying anything, we began praying by ourselves. A room full of silence. A house full of silence. An entire neighborhood full of silence.

A city in silence.

Silence for the ones who believed and maybe didn't believe. Silence for those who were made to watch others being slaughtered, silence for those who were asked to recite verses they'd perhaps never even read, silence for those whose blood spilled all over the floor that the survivors had to walk out through them, silence for her, who would find every other reason to be happy, silence for him, who supposedly was let go but refused to leave without his friends, silence for the mother who was going home to give birth in her hometown, silence for him who, when asked why Bangladesh was still safe for foreigners despite numerous threats, said, the people are good, silence for her who loved it so much here that she'd even bought a home.

Silence for those who were just out for dinner on a Friday night, maybe cracking lame jokes, or discussing work, or thinking of the next match.

A silence that feels so pointless.

There's a lot of things I wanted to say to you. But you're gone and we're strangers and it's raining like someone is weeping but we can't quite hear them and the whole city is in a mess. But know this, the silence you've left us in - it will never leave us. We will look back on this day and say "Remember when...?", a quiet fear settling in our gut. Maybe we will go on to complete the sentence. Maybe even to crack a joke in a few minutes. But the reminder, of what those from among us, could do to us, have done to us, this silence, it will stay. Maybe not on the streets or at dinner tables. But inside us. Deep inside us.

And meanwhile, maybe we'll just believe that the heavens, too, are mourning. Maybe we'll just let them cry.