Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 4, Tuesday, January 26, 2010


The hollowness of being

She has shrivelled up, dried to the core inside. From the outside all seems to be working fine. She is still a little plump, round faced, made up, bronzer and blush on the cheeks, lipstick and powdered face with a carefully calculated gesture on the lips. Rationed smiles and laughter, unlimited comments and opinions ready to be given when wanted and when not.

Once a beauty some would say, others would just talk about ancient raw not-so-transparent history. Summed up in high tea parties and in between the folds of thousands of expensive saris from today dating back to the days of Pakistan. A war, a drought, floods and the deaths of a few presidents, all around her as she grew up, married, produced children and became the shell that she always wanted to be.

Her sons, foreign educated of course, daughters married to rich men, and if not rich at least distinguished. What is rich in the Dhaka standard anymore anyway?

Dhaka, the next Moscow with new money eating the old over brunches that cost more than dinners. She is proud of her children, success, grandchildren some even look like her, the others act like her husband, she has spread her blood good, high, clean blood as she would say, the ones which cannot be found anymore these days she would claim.

If you sat down to have an early evening cha with her, sharing delicious baked goods, listening to stories of the past, she would inevitably insert a brag or a few. About the wealth of her father, the beauty of her mother, of the boys that fell in love with her and were heart broken, of the curves of her body which turned heads, though of course she would hide them with all modesty, about how she won over each person that came into her life, how she mastered the art of living, breathing, creating, creating what you would wonder besides the materialistic heaven that was moulded from her husband's earnings.

But no, it's cruel to say she didn't do anything. Isn't being a mother enough? A wife? Raising children, running a household, keeping the husband happy? Of course it is… isn't that what all women do? Her maids too, leaving home just to make some money so that their sons can start poultry farms and daughters can pay off their dowries?

Is that why she has shrivelled up then? Realising exactly that? That she has not done anything out of the ordinary? Except for her foreign trips, framed photos and a few thousand pedicures?

Has her life just been a glorified version of her maid's? In the end, just a body to work, please and give birth? And if that's all that she is then where did the rest of it come from and what do they symbolize? Just wealth? English learnt from television, expressions picked up from children? Is her shell now deteriorating? And when will it be visible to all? And when it's visible will anyone want to make her body into a mummy and worship her like she has worshipped herself all her life or will it just become a pound of dirt, brown, muddy in monsoon, dry in the winters, occasionally visited with dead flowers and no hope for a bragging right.

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