|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 5, Tuesday January 29, 2008|
Under a different sky
She could not remember where she picked up this 'rule of three'. She remembers watching old Bangla films where the heroin would have dialogues with her best friend:
Heroin: Amar aj kichu bhalo lagche na, o ki asbe? (Nothing feels right to me today, will he come?)
And the hero always came. Was it his attraction for the heroin that brought him or the power of her friend's same three words? She doesn't know. But the digit three is engraved inside her. When Muslims perform ablution before prayer they clean each part three times; when a Muslim man wants a divorce he has to say 'Talak' three times. Bengali fairy tale kings had three wives, in sports and academia the first three top places are always given special honour. It also makes her happy that her family consists of three; there is something fulfilling about that, something so solid about the number three, she doesn't know what it is…but she is a slave of it.
It's not about the number three really. It's about her, that's why she must go. She doesn't have to go far, only upstairs to her daughter's room. Her teenage daughter, who no longer looks, acts or feels like her. Except for her name, Nina, similar to her own name Bina, that's the only similarity between them anymore.
She must...must...must go, she reminds herself, she needs to talk to Nina...today...today...today.
Half an hour ago the phone rang, Bina picked it up with a “hello” upstairs Nina did too, it was her friend Kevin, Bina asked “Kevin, you are looking for Nina” and Nina said “I got it Mom, you can hang up now.” And Bina was going to hang up, but for some reason she held on, and she heard them, Nina repeating her mother with a Bengali/Indian accent, ridiculing her English, Kevin giggled and copied Nina, they went on talking with that same accent with purposefully butchered English to establish the right affect of mockery. Eventually she put down the tear-drenched receiver; on the other side their laugher was still in full swing.
Bina holds a masters degree from Dhaka University in Sociology, she took English all her life; at school she was quite a good student in fact. It's just that she never had to speak English until she got to America as a newly wed. And she learnt to speak it, and she could go by just fine, until Nina grew up and showed her what she thought was just fine is actually quite pathetic. Nina picking on her English, Nina embarrassed of her mother at Parent-Teacher meetings at school. Bina can feel the respect that Nina has lost for her through the last few years because she doesn't know how to speak her daughter's native language correctly, and she never thought it would matter.
Does it all really matter that much? Bina watched “Namesake” recently. Families like hers are common in America, except she is a less glamorous version of the south east Asian house wife portrayed. Bina can't be glorified, she is just a mediocre Bengali wife with poor English and most of her problems are clichés.
And now, Bina stands outside her daughter's shut door. She wants to tell her daughter she heard them laughing, she wants her to know she wants to learn, she wants to be a part of her again, she wants to cry and while she cries she wants her daughter to understand and maybe even cry with her. She knocks, one, two but three times, and then she calls out Nina three times, “Nina, Nina, Nina”. Nina replies “Ma please not now”. Bina stands still, she turns around, she thinks to herself, perhaps the power of three is not so solid after all.
On three hours worth of celluloid film rolls, a Bengali movie only turns on its heat full blast when the hero and the heroine run away from their feuding families to tie the knot in hiding.
Unknowing to their families, who literally beat each other to pulp over an age-old rivalry, the hormone-doused lovebirds hurry to get over the formalities at the Kazi office and proceed to their happily-ever-after life in La-la Land. Very becoming. Or more specifically, very melodramatic!
We have all seen these scenes play over and over again, and for some absurd reason, the “Get away, get married and get naughty” formula never fails to top Bangladesh's movie hits list. And of course, the kazi office scene has to be the pivotal scene to guarantee box office success.
So prominent has been the influence of these scenes that the stereotype is that people only use the kazi office to get married in secret. However, real life is never as interesting as the movies. Similarly, the kazi office, strictly speaking, is not a Mecca for the runaway couples. Here is the whole deal… and clarification of some misconceptions.
First off, the term kazi is a misnomer- a word that was synonymous to a judge. Initially the word was used for adjudicators on legal matters, and through common usage became interchangeably used for persons who registered marriages.
The correct term, as I have been informed, is “nikah registrar” or “marriage registrar”. Moreover, the registrars do not preside over a wedding; they only register the marriage as a sign that it is acknowledged by the law of Bangladesh.
The act of 'biye porano' can be done by anybody, usually someone senior, but the task in most cases is undertaken by imams or other persons in a religious capacity.
The kazi verifies certain factors such as the age of the parties to the marriage and the competence of the witnesses. For the former, the to-be bride and groom will need to provide proof in favour of the contention that they are both of the legal age. This is usually done by using certified documents like the birth certificate, driver's license, etc. The witness will, further, need to be a close relation. Witnesses from both the parties are required to be present.
By Shahmuddin Ahmed Siddiky
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