Shazia Omar, one of the very few Bangladeshi English Fiction Writers, talented, young and prominent Bangladeshi, had her book published from the famous international book publisher ‘Penguin’. The book title is “Like a Diamond in the Sky“, is about the contemporary issue of struggling youth in Bangladesh. The story will touch you because it’s the story you already know but you’ve not given much concern or may be you have many similar thoughts as the writer of this book or even like the protagonist of this book.
Shazia Omar told about the central theme and her experience while working on the book in an interview with Elita Karim, a journalist of the Daily star Weekly magazine. The story begins with a couple of North-South University students who are trying to make sense of their lives. The writer describes the theme as ” It’s not only about drugs, youth frustration , sex, rock n’ roll in the chaotic metropolis of Dhaka city, it is also about the social fabric of the community around them”. You, the writer, me, deen, we all are the part of this Dhaka city. May be we had been at a same place someday but haven’t noticed each other; that’s the real success story of the book. It will take you to something you sometimes do not notice with care.
Deen, the protagonist of the book, struggles to find a spiritual connection but he is unable to transcend his physical reality, all the more so because of his addiction to drugs. It’s his journey to redemption. This book is about the struggles against drug addiction amidst a degenerative landscape in Bangladesh.
The reason I added this article in my blog is that, I enjoyed the book ( though my taste of books doesn’t resemble with this one.). May be there is another reason, I wanted you to know about a Bangladeshi writer , who can be a role model for some of us and to inform you about a website named: www.writersblock.com.bd , which is the first of it’s kind in Bangladesh to let the net surfers write their story and be published.
About Shaziz Omar :
Born in Dhaka, Shazia Omar spent the first ten years of her life in Saudi Arabia, then moved to Canada and went to college in the United States . She completed her bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth. She spent some time as an investment banker in New York, before the thirst for travel took her to Africa and India. Later, a Master’s at LSE in social psychology followed. The first thing that strikes you about Shazia is the effortless transition she makes — a short, concerned query about her daughter is immediately followed by the plight of women in Bangladesh. Shazia Omar is a social psychologist. After three years of travelling, visiting ashrams and learning yoga, she completed a master’s at the London School of Economics. Shazia is a member of Writer’s Block Bangladesh. She works at a development agency and teaches pilates. She lives with her family in Dhaka. Shazia would like to participate in another writing retreat, maybe on some exotic beach. She’d like to get certified in hypnotherapy and surfing, travel to Barcelona and Brazil, and find more time to meditate and play with her baby. She’d like to meet Robert Downey Jr. and Arundhati Roy and Bob Dylan and Oprah. She’d like to fully harness the power of her mind and spirit to keep her energy high, and while she knows detachment is an art, she’d rather stay passionately attached and positive.
Book Review : Like a Diamond in the sky by Shazia Omar :
Published by : Penguin Books India.
Published date :15th August, 2009
ISBN : 9788189884147
Edition : Paperback
Format : B
Extent : 264
Classification : Fiction
Rights : Indian Subcontinent and Singapore only
Like a Diamond in the Sky : At twenty-one, Deen, the protagonist of the book, is dismayed by the poverty around him and trapped in negativity. Alienated from family and society, heroin is his drug of choice. Deen and his partner in crime, AJ, ride high on acid and amphetamines, philosophize in the university canteen, party in a politician’s posh pad and contemplate God at a roadside tea stall.Turned out of his home by his heart-broken mother, he sits on the bank of the once-mighty Torag river, “now a polluted poison pit” and muses on the platitudes of middle-class life: “Work hard, be good, pie in the sky when you die. Sugar free pie. An eternity of blandness.” He has visions of himself “fighting the power structures, smashing G8” but gives in gamely to his “turquing”, craving body. Like Renton, the protagonist of Trainspotting, he could chose not to choose life. And yet, there is beautiful Maria, “his crazy diamond”, the woman for whom he will redeem himself. But can he?
Deen and AJ arrived at the mourning house a little before noon. There were forty cars parked along the street. Deen rang the doorbell.
“Salam’alaikum,” said a sad eyed lady. “You must be Chinku’s friends. I’m his mother.”
“Salam’alaikum, aunty,” they said in turn.
“I watched my baby kill himself, right before my eyes.” She clutched the end of her sari. “Come.”
The house smelt of death. There were sheets laid out on the marble floors and baskets of rosary beads scattered around. Leaning against the walls were silver haired ladies in white saris and aunties with children, counting prayers on the beads, sharing memories in between sobs. So many deaths one must face in a lifetime. In the living room, bathed already, wrapped in white cloth, was Chinx. Chinx’s father, brothers, uncles, cousins, grandfathers, in white kurtas, stood around, stoic, mostly silent. Their grief stabbed into the emptiness in Deen’s gut.
“Here,” said Chinx’s mother. “Chinku’s friends are in here.” Deen stepped into a room full of ratty-faced junkies. Khors, most of them sober, in white kurtas, downcast eyes. Rahul. Shagor. Monwar, the quiet smackie who knew a lot about religion. Asha, who was once a classical dancer but now looked like a skeleton. Farhan, the con artist. Deen knew them all from school, they were one year junior to him. English-medium school rich kid junkies. They partied together once in a while.
Chinx’s room had red walls, a Darth Vader poster, a bamboo lamp on the floor. On the other side of his bed were his neighbourhood friends. Bangla-medium school kids. Deen knew most of them too, all junkies. Raihan and Rubel, brothers from St. Josephs, played football back in the day. Fazle, aggressive, macho yabba khor. Naved, the prick. Deen and AJ sat on cushions propped up against Chinx’s closet
“It’s crazy. I can’t believe this happened.” Rahul pulled up a cushion next to Deen. “I hung out with him last week.”
“I feel hollow,” replied Deen.
“He wasn’t fine,” continued Rahul. “But he was doing better. He was in rehab you know. They had him on largatrine.”
“No one prescribes that shit anymore,” said AJ.
“It’s not a cure,” continued Rahul. “Blocks neural pathways to ease withdrawals, but what about the habit? Chutiya doctor. What was Chinx going to do with his urges? The minute he got drunk he went and chased. Couldn’t stop himself, he was a khor. With blockers in his system, his body couldn’t handle the smack. Fucking doctor doesn’t understand addictions!”
Deen had known Chinx since primary school. He aced his classes, teachers loved him. He dated a girl named Nadia whom he adored. He always offered rides and went out of his way to accommodate his friends. He had become a recluse over the past few years, caught up in the chase. Now he was Dead. For maggots under the earth. For heaven, maybe, for hell, maybe. For an eternity of NOTHING ELSE, maybe. Bones in the graveyard. The end.
No more addas with friends, no more mornings, no more dinners, no more music, no more long drives, no more hot showers, no more tea, no more rain, no more love, no more kisses, no more sex, no more late afternoon naps, no more movies, no more parties, no more football, no more highs, no more lows, no more chasing, no more withdrawals, no more vomiting, no more stealing, no more lies. . .
Shagor interrupted, “Hey man, I’m turquing,” he whispered. “Let’s go to Tongi?”
Deen felt disgusted. “No man. The guy just died. I don’t feel like chasing.”
Deen stepped out of the room and into the veranda to catch his breath. Chinx’s younger sister was sitting against thewall. She had grown up since Deen had last seen her, she had become a woman. She looked beautiful, even in her mourningkamiz and sad eyes. Deen sat down next to her. “I wish I could have helped him,” he said.
“You? Ya. You and all his other friends.” She smiled bitterly. “How could you help? You can’t even help yourselves.”
Chinx’s mother hurried into the veranda. Deen could hear howling sobs from the living room. “They’re taking his body,” she said. “Come.”
Deen stepped into the living room. Chinx’s cousins were carrying his body in a wooden khatia, from the living room, through the corridor, out the door, into the car, off to the graveyard and into the ground. Forever. Chinx’s Last Journey.
“Are you going to the graveyard?” Chinx’s mom asked Deen at the doorway.
“Ya, aunty, of course,” replied Deen.
“Ok, but promise to come back here again. Anytime. Come as if Chinku were still here. Come spend some time with me. We can talk about Chinku. He was a sensitive boy. Before the drugs. I tried to help him. I’ve been begging him to go for treatment for over six years, ever since I found out about his addiction. I sent him to America, I thought that might make him happy. He came back with more problems. I found a doctor in Bombay who runs a rehab known as Land. He heals addicts through love, none of those chemical blockers, no drugs to stop drugs, just positive energy. It was the answer to our prayers, but Chinku refused to go. He was in denial. Then I sent him to the rehab here. It was my fault that he went. I sent him.”
The male relatives stood queued at the doorway, waiting to get past Chinx’s mom, out to their cars. Not ready to let Chinx go, she stalled, dragging out the conversation with Deen for as long as she could. Finally, Chinx’s father took her in his arms and led her back into the house.
Deen got on the bike behind AJ and they followed the procession.
It reminded Deen of his father, he was buried in the same graveyard. Deen was at a party when his old man was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night. By the time Deen had sobered up enough to join him, his father had already lapsed into a coma. Deen wondered what he might have said, had he arrived in time to catch his last words. Deen thought about the Bombay rehab, Land. Neverland. Never do drugs again Land. Need to google it, he thought. Maybe I can quit. Move to America with Maria.
“Dosto,” interrupted AJ, “I can’t find the gun.”
“I can’t find the Beretta!”
“What do you mean?” asked Deen.
“Raj Gopal is going to kill me, I mean really, kill me. You’ll have to come to my janaza next.”
“Calm down, dost. Try to remember, where did you put it?”
“I left it in the glove compartment of Shagor’s car, but I went to get it yesterday and it wasn’t there. He doesn’t know where it is. We searched the entire car.”
“You think he sold it?” asked Deen.
“No. He says he didn’t.”
“Maybe it’s at your apartment.”
“I looked. I’m so screwed. Ronnie won’t pay me. I owe Quader bhai money. And now Raj is going to kill me,” grumbled AJ.
Raj Gopal was Bangladesh’s most feared, revered mafia Don and AJ had lost his gun. Deen wondered how far AJ was from the deep end of the black sea.
They buried Chinx in the Banani graveyard around 3pm. Chinx’s friends and family took turns with the shovel. Bury your beloved, thought Deen as he dropped dirt over his friend’s bones. He wondered who would do this for him when he died.