Published:  12:24 AM, 12 September 2018

In praise of simpler times

There is something soothing about waking up to the sound of rain falling. I could hear it falling on the leaves and the ground. An occasional light wind would pass and make the leaves rustle in tune. The air was cool and even though the sky was still blanketed by dark clouds the day finally broke. 

The leaves appeared greener, and a few had already turned gray, reminding one that Fall is not far away. They dislodged and touched the wet ground in slow motion as well. A few droplets glistened when the leaves were able to momentarily capture them.

These are the kind of days that take me back to another time and another place, where rain was always abundant and fell incessantly. I am taken back to the veranda of the four-story home that we lived in then. 

I could see the all familiar street below with water flowing along the sides, a rickshaw passing by with the rickshaw puller covering his head in plastic made from what was a polythene bag, which probably had carried someone's grocery. 

If I looked up I could see the dark clouds peeking through the tall buildings. There were the days that you could stay in, but then there were the days you had to venture out. It was a challenge trying to get to classes or office, depending on the stage of life. There were no complaints though; it was part of life.

It was on days like this when things were a little slow and when the rain had given a break or slowed its pace we would find ourselves out in the corner tea stall having some tea with our heads tucked under the plastic cloth the shop owner had hoisted with two bamboo sticks on either side to keep the rain away. I think we were just happy to be able to leave the house. I lived in Tajmahal Road in Mohammadpur then. 

Cell phone access was limited, so usually one person came and rang the doorbell or just shouted something that represented your name in some form. We would pick up others along the way. 

It was the same when I went to other friends' places. We would take a walk to similar tea stalls where usually one or two of their local friends could be found. In fact, some of those friends have become my friends as well now and vice versa. 

In the university, like every other university or college, we called it Mamu'r dokan and that term was actually out of respect as it translated into uncle from one's mother's side. That is how the relationship was viewed, especially when you were short on cash and he would let you pay another day. 

We would sit on the bench that wobbled a little and you could see the many repairs it had gone through and drink that cup of tea. It was the same when I started my first job at MGH at Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue in the ETV building, then at SCB in Motijheel and then for ETC at Kemal Ataturk Avenue in Banani. 

This was where we socialized in between classes or to take a break from work. It was the place where we talked about life, our hopes and dreams. It was where friends became brothers and colleagues became friends. 

Times have changed. Now we know the name of the storm and when it will rain and when it will stop through an App. Not that we did not know back then, but no one really followed that religiously and it was a pleasant surprise most times to see the sky go dark and the rain begin to pour. 

The friendships that were forged over tea long ago have evolved as well. We cannot share a tea on the roadside as often, but I did get a call early morning Friday on the way to work, from Canberra, when one friend visited another. 

There are many occasions that we would have tea near the railway tracks in DOHS where they lived at the time. I received a call and spoke to another from California, who I had met at an even earlier stage of life before we actually were allowed to hang out in tea stalls while I was writing this. 

An ex colleague and now friend sent a picture of a restaurant called Cookers 7 without any caption last Thursday. We would cross Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue to have the chicken there sometimes and then stop by the tea stall in the corner. 

Those were simpler times and we have managed to keep it that way even scattered across the globe, just like those millions of tea stalls scattered all over Bangladesh.

The writer lives in Maryland, USA 

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