"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
---Henry David Thoreau, "Walden"
Writers, poets, and novelists have written a lot about nature. Writers like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson have championed the importance of creating a deep and even tantric relation with nature. Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats, and Frost- through their poetry- have portrayed the deeply interfused connection and coexistence that prevails between nature and humans which is sometimes complicated, transcendental, and outside of our human fancy and imagination.
Ahmed Sofa (30 June 1943 – 28 July 2001), the prominent Bangladeshi writer also wrote a brilliantly crafted novel about his relationship and chemistry with nature- Pushpa (flowers), Brikkho (trees), and Bihongo (birds), and so on.
Sofa narrates Pushpa Brikkho Ebong Bihongo Puran in an easy, rhythmic, and sing-song way as if nature itself is talking in her unpretentious and mystic language.
This novel, in many instances, reflects the life of Sofa in which he demonstrates his fatherly love for flowers, trees, and birds. Sofa narrates Pushpa Brikkho Ebong Bihongo Puran in an easy, rhythmic, and sing-song way as if nature itself is talking in her unpretentious and mystic language. But sofa did not forget to showcase his mastery of language believing that brevity is the soul of wit and employing metaphor and simile is the heart of any good novel.
The way Sofa realises and pinpoints the beauty even in small Nayantara (Rose Periwinkle) and Tulsi (Holy basil) trees are enchanting and appealing. Finding immense beauty in the insignificant reminds me of my childhood when a small grasshopper, a butterfly, or a tiny sparrow used to create wonder in my young imagination. I felt love for them all the way. They all used to hover around my village yard and became a part of my life and my family. The trees, the flowers, and the fruits on the trees were the food of my soul, mind, and stomach then. Now, being in chaotic Dhaka city, I realise, what a beautiful and harmonious coexistence I felt with nature and my surroundings. Ahmed Sofa has beautifully drawn that picture of life-where nature and humans live side by side as friends- in his particular 'eco novel' as it can be called.
After Nayantara and Tulsi, a rose comes onto the narrator's roof. And he apprehends that the formers are very jealous of the arrival of the rose on the roof. This simply resonates with human jealousy. Again, after a few days, they start to live in peace and accord like good neighbours. Sofa writes '… whenever I see the Tulsi and Nayantara flowers, I feel like they have gone through the long way of struggle and earned a well-fought winning crown.' He dreams of life in trivial matters and seeks happiness in them. In another place, Sofa philosophises as he iterates 'as day and night both coincide in the twilight, as such, in the flower both present and future holds each other's hands in a blissful dream.'
Sofa narrates his farming before the yard of his university hall. He presents us a heart-wrenching narration of the life of different species of vegetables, floras, and faunas that he cultivated. The small yard or field that he cultivated is like a piece of his heart. In the novel, we find an empathetic sofa as he collects an injured Begun chara (a young brinjal plant) which he finds in the street and plants in his tiny land. Like a philosopher and a lover, Sofa illustrates the fight and struggle of the very sapling and realises its growth has opened up a new viewpoint in his own life: a life that is full of struggle, hope, and beauty.
Sofa once in his young life was very upset as people cut his giant mango tree which he named 'Robibrikkho'. Sofa, the narrator of the story, felt quite empty and became speechless encountering such heinous and monstrous acts of insensible humans. He felt as if he had been uprooted.
In Pushpa Brikkho Ebong Bihongo Puran, the life of the narrator revolves around taking care of the small yard, watering the flowerpots, scattering rice to the birds, and having a conversation with them (flowers, trees, and birds) and with few people. We also get that when the narrator is in pain the very apple tree feels it and turns towards and touches him like a nurse. This anthropomorphic and personified attitude of his main inanimate characters makes this novel an interesting and more humane one and thus demands a good reading.
Sofa was a bird lover too. Even he is seen walking around the university campus with a Tia (Parrot) on his shoulder. While walking he used to conversate with that bird and introduced the bird with newly met friends. In this book, our narrator- like Sofa- rears a JhutiShalik (Bun Myna) in a cage that flies away breaking the shackle of prison life. By this, Sofa realises and evokes a great lesson in his life as he writes 'people can only dream of freedom by liberating others'.
Once I read a novel named The Vegetarian by Han Kang where protagonist Yeong-hye decides to become a vegetarian having experienced the stupidity of human life. Yeong-hye finds solace in nature. This novel makes me realise that human beings are not enough; we do have our nature on which we are greatly dependent. We must visit nature to find and discover ourselves in a renewed vigour.
Reading Ahmed sofa, particularly Pushpo Brikkho Ebong Bihongo Puran, gives me a sensation of living close to nature. The narrative revelations of the inanimate characters are so deeply thought out and precisely interconnected with the life of the narrator. Nature becomes the subject matter in this novel and Nature inspires and shapes our lives as it shapes the life of the author.
Our life has become very mechanical. We, nowadays, live on the screen of laptops or mobile phones. But we deeply desire to be in contact with nature. Wordsworth used to find this world 'unintelligible'; hence, invited us to refuge in nature that is 'aspect more sublime'. To stop global warming, to stop drowning our world, we must make the best communion and friendship with nature. And young readers must revisit Ahmed Sofa to learn how to connect, communicate, and feel nature.
Ariful Islam Laskar teaches English Literature, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org