Everybody has a story. We just don’t take the time to know theirs that often. One of our heaviest burden is bearing an untold story within us. But it is our stories that bring us together. The comfort in relating to a story that tells us, we are not alone. It is a unique untold tacit bond that we share, that makes us human. We all go through life, experiencing a multitude of emotions. The joy of success, the regret of failure. The confidence in overcoming obstacles, and the grief of loss. For life is hardly ever as picture-perfect as the movies. There is light and dark in all of us – the good, bad, and ugly. Most of which we tend to hide away from the world, but it is our battle scars that stand the test of time as a testament to our victories.
As the year continues to pass and we continue to adapt and adjust with the ‘new normal’, the challenges posed by the prolonged pandemic have been taking a toll on us all. Not just being under strict lockdowns or anxious quarantines and the concern for our loved ones, but the very weight of it all, is much to bear for anyone, especially the young minds who naturally wish to be carefree and unbound from the worries of the world. It has been increasingly difficult for them to be unable to be with friends and family, to work towards pursuing their dreams, or to even, simply take a break from it all. So much has happened in so little time, that it is overwhelming. Once we’re used to something, it’s hard for us to break out of it – the all-too familiar comforting feeling then becomes a habit. It isn’t until it is taken away, that we realize, what we had, took for granted, and now, lost. The smaller things in life, indeed, turn out to be the finer things in life. Being able to go out, connect with people, engage with the world through our words, ideas, and actions, has all gone awry. But those moments are truly the unsung heroes – the saving grace of our lives. Had it not been for technological advancement, digitalization would be just a far-fetched concept, and without digitalization, just imagine, where would we all be amidst this pandemic today?
This pandemic has given us time to stop and reflect back on those cherished parts of our lives that perhaps, we did not always appreciate then. Many of us were lucky enough to make new memories, while some of us relished in the nostalgia. Through smiles, tears, and uncertainty, we continue to strive and survive. And it is as commemoration to all those numerous remarkable moments that the American International University – Bangladesh (AIUB) is organizing “Stories of Pandemic – Resonance Beyond the Horizon”, a virtual international collective showcase of incredible stories from around the globe amidst the pandemic. A unique initiative of the revered institution, the program brought together over 100 awe-inspiring short stories, poetry, short films, artwork, photography, and musical performances from 19 esteemed institutions of 10 different countries across the globe. Despite having to be socially distant, the world still remains linked together and is indeed, the next best thing now! It has enabled us to be academically, professionally, socio-culturally involved with each other, breaking through the bounds of the four walls of our homes. The four sides of our screens have unlocked the path towards a new gateway into expanding networks, building relations, and collaborating for the future.
The Final Showcase for the “Stories of Pandemic – Resonance Beyond the Horizon” was held on the 26th of June 2021 on Zoom, with the program going live through the Official AIUB Facebook Page. The program shared the stories of ‘resonance beyond the horizon’, from amazing milestones to grievous losses & suffering to life lessons of that have left a mark on the young lives, here and abroad, with the global higher education community joining in to be a part of the event. All of these amazing short films, artwork, photography, recitations, and musical performances from the ones from the Final Showcase, along with the additional written short stories and poetry of the program, are available on the event webpage (www.sop.aiub.edu).
It has been especially difficult for the young adults, as Liza Changkakoti, a 24-year old from the Assam Don Bosco University, India, shared, “being physically limited within the bounds of our homes during the lockdown initially felt unreal”. The exasperation of this resounds in the pining tune and sighing words, “I waited too much, not being in touch…but I will wait, until I find…” from the song of Ana Jvarsheishvili, a student of Clinical Psychology at Caucasus University, Georgia. Jhanghiz Syahrivar from the School of Business at President University, Indonesia, reverberated the anxiety everyone has been feeling since last year, through the words beautifully strung together his poem ‘The Unspoken Sorrow’, “your heart is full of sorrow, your mind wonders what will happen tomorrow, for the world you know has no longer exist, and all the plans you made have gone adrift, ” depicting the predicament we are all going through, “truly I say to you that this is a great tragedy of the century, the world has been plagued by the virus of greed and poverty, the people must practice modesty and honesty, together they must abandon hypocrisy and vanity”.
The brilliant dance performance of the FCPC Baliktanaw, a student dance crew from First City Providential College, Philippines, took up the notion of how the world is crumbling, questioning ‘where is the love’? With the world still reeling from the onslaught of the pandemic, that keeps enforcing us to a standstill, bringing us to our knees with its rage of fear and uncertainty, the stories of every little triumph, in our own ways, has shown us that life truly is not about how hard you get hit, but how many times you get back up and keep fighting through. Like Melina Bravo Morales, an 11th grader from the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, Mexico, said, “Life is crazy, isn’t it? One day you find yourself giving all the power in the world. Another day, you’re having the best time of your life. But then, who would think, that everything could change in the blink of an eye? At first, it’s a struggle. Uncomfortable. But it’s okay, life goes on. It’s all part of the process. So be strong, no matter what you’re going through in life. Never give up. Even if your breath has already run out.”
The ‘Wild Flowers’ photography by Ji Ho Lee, a Nursing student from the Daegu Health College, South Korea, captured the resilience of nature, in full bloom, as though giving us hope of better days to come. The traditional performance paying tribute to their culture and heritage put together during the quarantine by the Solo Latino Dance Group from Mykolas Romeris University, Lithuania, showed us that even though our ways may be changing with time, we can still value the new with the old by adapting to and embracing the change. And all the hard work and risk undertaken by the frontliners all over the world is what makes the idea of tomorrow possible, for which everyone at the Panyapiwat Institute of Management, Thailand, sent in expressed their gratitude in a heartfelt short film. It has become essential, yet uncommon, to be considerate of one another in this chaotic world today. But as Mohamed Naleer Husna from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka, wrote in his short story, “Today, everyone is going through hard times. It does not cost much to show kindness and make someone’s day better.” While we may not be able to turn back time, nor go back to the way things were, we can always reminisce the nostalgia of the ‘good old says’. The instrumental piece of the famous Rabindra Sangeet, “Purano Shei Diner Kotha”, that was covered by Md. Hanif Bin Azam from the Faculty of Science & Technology at AIUB, tugged on our heartstrings as we walked down our own winding memory lanes. Like the stunning artwork “Chaos & Harmony” by the AIUB Arts Club reminded us that stability is contingent on ambiguity. Just as with every dark night, comes a glorious dawn, and it is with that very notion that “Stories of Pandemic” was brought to life – as a ‘resonance of our perseverance beyond the horizon’.
Storytelling is a powerful way of connecting with someone and seeing the world through their perspectives. People love stories. It’s how we’ve been introduced to the world outside our little bubbles since the tales of fairies and ghosts from our childhood. Carried on in our sinful guilty pleasure of gossip with friends and family (sometimes a bit more than we should). Even in times when we need a little push, the little uplifting pep-talk from someone who has ‘been there, done that’ that we find solace in the thought that it’s okay, everything will be alright. What are we, but our stories? Sharing our stories is what relieves us of some of our burdens, enlightens our joys, and makes difficult times a bit bearable in life. We are all stories, in the end. We age not by our years, but by our stories. After all, we are the choices we make, so today, let’s come together, learn from yesterday, and build ourselves a great story for tomorrow – the story of a lifetime!
For more information on the ‘Stories of Pandemic’, visit www.aiub.edu, www.facebook.com/aiub.edu, or http://sop.aiub.edu/.
Ms. Shama Islam
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business Administration
Special Assistant to the Office of the Vice Chancellor and Student Affairs
American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB)