The old lady
She was laid in her bed, her body wrapped in white cloth. I gave a last kiss on her forehead, while tears from my eyes rolled downwards, pausing on my chin for a brief moment before dropping onto her right cheek. I rubbed the salty water; her skin was as cold as a Siberian night.
G. Sumdany Don
The scene devastated me. She was laid in her bed, her body wrapped in white cloth. I gave a last kiss on her forehead, while tears from my eyes rolled downwards, pausing on my chin for a brief moment before dropping onto her right cheek. I rubbed the salty water; her skin was as cold as a Siberian night. Just yesterday she had given me an angelic smile, warm and beautiful, a heaven in this world full of sins. And today she lies still, cold and pale, as alone as the moon in a starless sky.
Dadu is no more.
I could not sleep for days. Her departure tormented me. That dawn when the cold western winds were blowing, I thought of going for a walk. I wandered here and there through the labyrinth of Mirpur's alleys, until I saw a very old woman standing alone. Something about the way she stood captivated me, and I stayed there in silence, watching her.
She might have been about five feet tall, her back slightly bowed for the weight of her age. She was wearing a worn out green colored sari with no blouse. It was completely battered from everyday use and a few parts were mended with other small pieces of clothes. She did not have any sandals on her feet, which were severely scratched as if she walks a thousand miles before she sleeps. The alley was quite dark and her face was not perfectly visible. But when I looked closer, I saw a tall dark face. She had a long thin nose and below that, her emaciated long lips had an upside down curve, like the negative x2 curve of geometry. The concentration of sunlight had two effects on her; her skin had become extremely tanned and her hair had become red. Her most remarkable feature were her eyes as they were big and luminous. They glowed with enormous happiness even though the rest of her face was just a deserted battlefield.
She was standing beside a house in the darkest alley I had ever seen. The house was made of abandoned tin, punched with holes, and was supported by a large dustbin. The dustbin was full of rotten garbage. I could sense the most horrible smell, distorting all my other senses. Her only companions must have been the stray dogs and the unsettling mice running all over the place, diving in the rubbish. The alley was wet with sewer water. I noticed it was the backside of one of the big Mirpur garment factories. The gray building vigorously emitted toxic fumes, creating a foggy environment full of melancholy.
I sighed and thought of heading back home. She was looking at me gravely. I turned around, started to walk. After rambling a couple of steps, I stopped and turned back, wondering what the old lady was doing. She was still standing, looking at me. But her big eyes gave me no sign of recognition or fear or love or farewell.
On my way home, I was thinking that when my Dadu died, at least a thousand of our relatives came to pay their condolences. My parents and uncles put their endless efforts to keep her alive for a few more days. The best medical treatments affordable by us were provided to her, and constantly all of us were there to support her, to grant her final wishes. But what about the lonely old lady whom I saw a moment ago? She doesn't have anyone beside her, and even if there is someone, which still means practically nothing when you don't have money. I guess that if she dies tonight, no one would even know she is dead, until the place would smell. I see aged homeless beggars in the streets of Dhaka everyday who are as old as my Dadu. What happens to them when they die? Who buries them? I suddenly realized that I feel sadder thinking about this unknown old lady rather than thinking of my own Dadu's death.
Later that morning, I could finally sleep. The old lady returned to me in a dream. Standing beside her was my grandmother. Dadu smiled at me, like a glimpse of the last smile she had given me that last day at the hospital. The old lady was staring at me; but her big eyes still gave me no sign of recognition or fear or love or farewell.
This story is dedicated to my late grandmother, Ms. Kudsia Begum (1933-2006) who passed away a few months ago.
MSJ, 8th semester, ULAB.