Of Windows, Reciprocity, and Rainbows
The Department of Economics at the university I study in is situated on the 13th floor of the Administrative building in Mohakhali. The large window at the secretary's office overlooks a so-called lake and surrounding it, the endless cityscape. A faculty member sometimes gets uncomfortable when a distracted youth stands staring out of it.
I personally like that window because it takes one closer to the skies; the changes in the seasons are noticeable from this window. On any long day it is quite easy to get lost in a dream gazing out that window and letting the breeze ruffle my hair, but the secretary's office is a busy place and not for hopeless romantics like me.
So it was, on one eventful fall semester when the window presented fluffy late autumn clouds over a serene city that I took a course Eco443: Social Mobilization, Rural Banking and Community Organization. Our instructor promised if we could write the whole course title in the small space given on the top of our answer scripts during exams, we will have saved ourselves a mark! It was in that course that he taught us of the vulnerability context that the poor are subject to; how they are exploited by local money lenders and, by use of social network innately the use of reciprocity between groups of people to help themselves out of the poverty trap. On one particular incident I could relate it to Black Sabbath's lyrics:
'The world is full of Kings and Queens, who blind your eyes and steal your dreams It's Heaven and Hell'
That is when he had accused, “I tried to teach you 'vulnerability context' and you bootlegged my favorite quote from Black Sabbath”. But he did not forget to recommend two albums: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and Rainbow Rising.
This particular instructor, we fondly called HIA Sir as goes his initials, was an adjunct faculty who came to the University for a short time. However, as they say, 'there is no end to learning', and attachments grow to so many lengths, I still consider myself his student, having moved from learning the art of economics to the art of 'classic rock appreciation', even though he moved to the opposite building and is now the programme Head of Microfinance in BRAC. Often I have had to sit with a pen noting down a few songs as he suggests telling me why I might or might not like them “oh it is too mellow”, or when talking about the song 'Streets of Dreams', “that's a romantic ballad, you won't like it!”
photo : internet
That also was when Microfinance and its reputation seemed to have gotten into murky waters. I had written to him asking him not to be afraid of the mountain looming ahead. He had replied quoting a song of Rainbow's, “I don't fear the mountains in the distance, rather I like the view. I just don't like to climb them, but as it seems I might have to do that in a not-too-distant future...who knows maybe I'll become 'The Man on the Silver Mountain' someday!!!
Well perhaps this attachment has been influenced by another window, one that is also situated too on the thirteenth floor at our HIA Sir's office and overlooks the other side of the city. I like to call the view outside 'Rainbow city'; as the day evolves, the colours befalling the city transform with each passing hour.
Of course, the other reason why I refer to it as 'Rainbow city' is because of the rock band 'Rainbow' -the first topic of my virtual lessons in 'Classic Rock Appreciation' triggered by a series of coincidence of quoting lyrics as I had added my teacher on my facebook; Thus we engaged in 'reciprocity' of status and photo comments. Then one day, he handed me a stash of CDs that he kept in his car with a message, “You seem to be doing much better in following my instructions on 'Classic Rock' than 443!”
The other day I had taken a picture of the view from that window. The color of the glass gave the photograph a purple hue and the sun a fluorescent glow. I tagged him in the picture and captioned it 'Rainbow city'. That was the day he had shifted his office down to the ninth floor, moving “closer to reality” as he puts it.
“Micro-finance is a constrained attempt, it cannot solve all problems and we should not expect it to,” he had last taught us. Isn't life like that? When one wants to think of stars, wizards, castles- life is like the Tarot Woman, quite deceiving, or like the words in the song Gates of Babylon:
You can see but you're blind, Someone turned the sun around But you can see in your mind
The gates of Babylon.
Yet, Sir encourages, “Run and run and catch up with the sun
before it sinks..”
(The writer is a student of Economics, East West University.)