The morning was still chilly when the krishnachura tree saw the two sitting on a pile of rubbles by the large playground near the school building. They were about five or six years of age. The boy was in navy blue shorts and white shirt. The girl was dressed in blue. The two small figures obviously knew one another well. They were comfortable in each other’s company and sat there dangling their legs. The boy suddenly held out his palm and offered something to the girl. She looked at it with curiosity, but then shook her head. The boy scratched his head, baffled. He looked at the small item in his palm and took out a piece of cloth. He cleaned it carefully and then offered it to the girl again. “It’s clean now. Take it.”
It was just a dialogue from a movie that Shimana was watching unmindfully. She was worried over her little girl in the ICU. On the screen, a young woman was whimpering, “But I don’t know how to be a mother. You know everything—words, hurt, every pain and joy in your child’s life.”
The other character, a slightly elderly woman, answered with glowing eyes and just the hint of a smile, “You’ll learn.”
She suddenly felt she had no air in her lungs. Mother? Who? She was no mother. She had left behind her child long, long ago. And she had never regretted the decision she had taken as a young girl. Now she had everything– perfect children, a loving husband, a good job. What was she thinking? Was she thinking of that small make-shift operation theatre? The smirking nurse and the grim doctor who warned her that she might have complications later? She was two-and-a-half months pregnant. She was eighteen and unmarried.
Shimana shivered, and Nibir turned to her immediately. “Are you okay, Shimu?”
Yes, of course. She was fine. Only her daughter, Nrita was at the hospital diagnosed with pneumonia. It was quite severe and Shimana blamed herself for not noticing it sooner. She gave a wobbly smile at the tall man bending toward her with a frown of concern on his brows. It took years for her to build up the confidence with which she walks beside him. In the initial days of her marriage, she did not know what to make of her husband who was handsome, had a very good job and was too busy to give her time. Shimana could not really complain because he provided her with every material need, gave her a handsome allowance and encouraged her to study further. But he barely stayed at home and she felt that his heart was elsewhere. Shimana struggled with her own problems and did not have the courage to tell him anything about herself. After a year into her marriage, she decided to enrol in an interior designing program. Read more
On 16th December, Bangladesh celebrates Victory Day — a day when they gained sovereignty after a battle with Pakistan in 1971, a battle in which India backed Bangladesh. Here is a translation of a story by the acclaimed writer Sarder Jayenuddin set between pre and post-independent Bangladesh… a poignant story of sacrifice and heroism
Translated by Sohana Manzoor
It was the middle of the Bengali month of Ashwin*. The early nights were too warm, but the late nights were cool and sweet. It was difficult to get up from sleep. On such a night, I was in a deep slumber when there were quick and firm knocks on the door. Someone was urging us to open the door.
Even though I had been in deep sleep, I felt restless. It was not just me, but everybody felt uncomfortable during those days. How could we sleep in peace? The country was being plundered by the Pakistani Army shamelessly. They were killing people and burning homes. My situation was even worse as I had been absconding for quite some time. Basically, I had been on the run for four to five days. And then the boat I had taken was attacked by robbers. We had almost died. Even though we survived, we encountered some others who had jumped into the river to save themselves from the robbers. Actually, that was the main reason why the passengers of our boat were able to get away.
Okay, so we survived. But then, even after arriving at this remote village of Pabna, I felt scared stiff. The military could come here too. They might arrive any moment. The only hope was that they would not come at night. They were apparently terrified of the Mukti ( Mukti Bahini, the freedom fighters). So, who was knocking at the door? And it was quite loud by now. I sat upright and was sure that it would be robbers. Just as I had taken courage on the other day in the river, I took a deep breath and asked again, “Who is it? What do you want?”
A steady voice replied from the other side, “Be quiet. Where is the Professor? Call him.” Read more
From her fifth-floor apartment window Neera could see the roof-top of the three-storied building that stood at some distance. She looked at the sun-drenched houses in the winter noon and wondered listlessly if people still used such gigantic mosquito-curtains like the one drying on the roof of the next-door. It looked like some green magic net big enough to catch a genie. And what were in those jars? Pickles, perhaps? Or maybe guava jelly? The child in her heart gave a shout of glee and, for a moment, she thought she had a whiff of her grandmother’s guava jelly emanating from the kitchen. But her grandmother had died years ago, and the house where she had lived was gone too.
The large pre-Pakistan era house that was her Nanabari, her maternal grandfather’s home, had been given to developers some years ago. While Neera could understand the practical reasons, her heart cried incessantly at the loss. The cluster of coconut trees standing at the bedroom-window of Neera’s apartment often made her sadder than ever even though she also considered herself luckier than most people of Dhaka where it was difficult indeed to get a breath of fresh air. But at her Nanabari, there were four such coconut trees. Images from her childhood when her uncles and aunts had made watches and spectacles for her with the tough and shiny dark green coconut leaves stood out fresh in her mind. Read more
“So, you know nothing? Everybody’s talking about it.”
Reba raised her eyes from pages of her book and looked at the eager face staring at her. “Well, it takes place at least three times every month,” she observed complacently. “I don’t see why I should be interested in this particular one. Only last week there was a dispute between Keramot Chacha (Uncle) and his nephew on land.”
“This isn’t just any arbitration!” said an irritated Amina. “You’re so much into those precious books of yours that these days you barely notice the people around you.”
Closing the fat volume of test-papers in her hand with a thud, Reba looked at the young woman in front of her. She said as politely as she could, “Look, I’ve the HSC (Higher Secondary School Certificate) exam coming up. I’ve no time for gossip right now.”
“And then you’ll probably go to town to study at a big college and won’t remember any of us. You’ll be a hoity-toity miss and forget all about your friends in the village!”
“Wait a minute– what’s the matter with you? Why are you acting like this?” Read more