Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 14, Tuesday, April 6, 2010



Dearest Diary,
I am upset. I am really upset.
No amount of talking to myself, rationalising, justifying, looking for explanations through the Quran or even using my last resort, searching through humour, I simply can't see any sort of answer to my depression.

I feel so helpless.
I feel so lost.
I feel so abandoned.
I feel the people who promised to look after us have failed us.
I feel like an orphan.

My sense of helplessness caved in the day when I was stuck on the airport road for four hours because our Honourable Prime Minister was coming home and traffic had to halt for reasons best known to whom I wonder.

The amount of gas and fuel which Dhaka city lost that day must have been phenomenal, coinciding with pollution, frustrations and the salty tears of the general public.

To see people pushing their luggage on the hot asphalt to get to the airport was mind numbing. I am sure our Honourable Prime Minister did not want such a reception nor did she instruct her party workers to do this, but I sure hope she reprimanded the people responsible for such chaos, so that it never happens again. (I somehow hear a distant incoherent, babble at the back of my head...never mind...sorry!)

Anyway, then this crisis of gas, electricity and water. What is this? And, yes, this cannonade of criticism coming from someone who has it all. I shudder to think what the people from the other strata of society are facing.

Actually I don't have to go too far. Members of my family who work for me and go home to cook and sleep with their families are facing nightmares. To hear about their daily struggle for no fault of theirs, is just too much to bear.

Here they are now finally earning a decent living, renting a house with electricity, kitchen and bathroom. But what is the use? They have a fan, but they are still hot, they have a stove but no gas, and finally they have a bathroom, but no water.

And if at all any water does come in an ungodly hour, they are plain unlucky enough not being able to use it. Why? Because it is dirty, murky and stinky.

Talk about going back to the stone ages. Where everybody around us are growing in leaps and bounds, we are now buying cane fans to cool ourselves, kerosene stoves to cook and storing water in drums where dangerous chemicals once resided. How sad is that?

Just the other day a huge billboard fell, crushing two people to death. We don't care whose son died. We don't care whose car was totalled. And we sure don't care if it happens again.

The Baridhara drains were cleaned. But all the muck was left piled high on the streets. We don't care if it spreads disease.

We don't care if it affects traffic. And we surely don't care if it is a problem for the people who actually walk on the streets.

The final nail in the coffin was the newspaper, the other day, that had pictures of run down buses, human haulers (uff! what a demeaning tag) CNGs and even government vehicles, looking like the worst garbage on the planet. I can't imagine to what lengths of depravity we have gone down to.

And the stories along with the pictures were gut-wrenching.
Is anybody listening?
Is anybody going to do anything?
Is everybody inebriated?

Diary, I am asking these questions to the people who made promises to us. The ones who said they would make a better Bangladesh for us and not just look for thirty-nine year old ghosts and change names of edifices around us. So, yes, what happened to those promises?

I can see myself, in the very near future, led away by men in black, wearing a garrotte ground my neck for execution for my rantings. But thank goodness! They won't be able to use the electric chair to fry me, because we have no electricity. So it has to be the good old-fashioned way...Aaack!

So diary let us have a sweaty, dirty, hungry, angry and helpless day....the Sam Q way.


Bhapa Doi
500 gm plain yoghurt
1 tin condensed milk
1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/4 cup dry fruits (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Gently mix together yoghurt and condensed milk. Pour into ceramic baking dish. Bake for 20/30 minutes or till a skewer comes out clear. Scatter shredded almond and fruits over the top. Cool and serve.

Green mango and bean curd (tofu) salad
3 tbsp soya sauce
1½ tbsp honey
1½ tbsp lime juice
2 green chillies finely chopped
150 gm green mango peeled and julienned
120 gm tofu grilled and cut into strips
2 onions finely sliced
6 tbsp chopped coriander
6 tbsp sliced spring onions
2 tbsp finely sliced red chilli
2 tbsp finely sliced lemon grass

To prepare dressing whisk soya sauce, lime juice, and chillies in a bowl until well mixed. Add all remaining salad ingredients to the bowl with the dressing. Gently toss until evenly mixed.


On the floor of the newly painted apartment Shurupa lied awake. She was sure that she heard Apa call her name. How late was it? Must be at least 2 am. They had a late dinner tonight; by the time Shurupa finished washing the dishes and had her meal it was 12 am.

Then she tried calling her mother. Which was a bad decision. People in the village don't stay up till midnight, especially Amma. The pagol mohila is usually put to sleep by 8 pm by Shurupa's younger sister, who also gives her a bath with cold water before bed. This way Amma stays cool-headed during the night and doesn't awake with any of her bouts.

It was an afternoon dream that got Shurupa thinking about her mother today. This afternoon when Dhaka was as still as she can ever promise, Shurupa had dozed off on the veranda floor staring at the almost monsoon sky. In her dream she saw her three dead siblings. Shurupa has lost six siblings to the up above so far. Some were older than her, others a bit younger.

All of them died between the ages of 8 and 13. The most recent death was of Rahim, her elder brother; he was eaten by the boal fish. That's what the villagers said at least!

He was found half buried in the mud right near the village swamp. His body was upside down, only visible from waist downwards, as if he was standing on his head. When they pulled him out of the mud his face looked beautiful like a clay sculpture, his chest strong. He was buried next to the other siblings under the guava tree in their front yard.

That was the last straw for Amma. She had already been showing signs of insanity since Hanifa's death who died from choking on a ripe mango seed.

After Hanifa, her fifth lost child, Amma started imitating different voices, first it was funny, but then days would go by without her changing back to her own. And then there were the cat killings. Three of them, which she hung side by side from the ceiling. Anyone who tried to take them off, Amma ran after with a knife.

Rahim's death finally made Amma an official pagli in the village.

She walked around the village resembling the goddess Kali imitating the village Mollah's voice giving self-created khudbas and occasionally stopping to loudly blur out adhans. That's around when Shurupa was sent to Dhaka to work for a living.

That was a year ago, she was ten.
When Shurupa was young, her mother used to tell them about the call of Nishi- the call of the night. Amma used to tell her always wait for the third call before you get up at night, darkness only calls twice, and if you follow the call of darkness you end up becoming a part of it.

So even though Apa called her twice already (and quite frantically too) Shurupa lied stiff waiting for the third call just to make sure it wasn't Nishi. Half a minute went by and this time her cell phone rang, in the dark it cried, once, twice, thrice. She picked up; there was no one on the other side, though she thought she heard a cat's meow.

Shurupa got up this time, with the phone to her ears and walked out of the kitchen. There was no one outside, just the nightlights flaunting different shades of blue. Shurupa opened the front door, holding her mobile phone close to her ears, she walked down the stairs in search of Nishi as the cat kept begging her meows.



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