<%-- Page Title--%> Chintito <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 145 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

March 12, 2004

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Conversation with Monisha


WenT swimming the other morning in the lake adjacent to the Mirpur Zoo. Routine stuff for a Tiger (ahem! that's me and you, but don't tell Australia, South Africa, Canada and the rest of the pack just yet). As I stroke my way into tranquillity, out of the morning haze I discover that a lioness is swimming besides me. Not to worry. I was properly attired.

'Haloom', I greet her between strokes. I thought it was good manners. Besides in our culture the weaker one always gives salaam first. Sometimes the stronger don't even care to respond. 'Halooooom', said she coyly. All girls look pretty when they smile. She was different. She looked breath taking. Yet she was not as laid back as one would expect a lioness to be in her own backyard.

'You come here often?' I try to strike a conversation.

'Not really. This is my first time', she said as she looked over her broad shoulder.

'How come? Where do you live? Who else lives with you? Do you like ice cream? Vanilla? Are you married?' I fire away like any male does when he finds himself alone with a lady in a pool for the first time. The second time is different. She may not even turn up. 'I live in the Zoo over there, but could no longer tolerate staying behind bars with the situation in the country getting hotter and hotter day by day. So here I am.' She is so graceful in the water.

I am not the one to let a lone lioness have her way. Not me, Sireee. So I swim a few lengths apart, as if out of respect for her ladyship, and ask, 'Exactly what do you mean by the situation in the country?'

'You Tigers (giggles) are pathetic; fighting in the House, fighting out of the House.'

'But that's us. It's almost like our national identity,' I manage to but in.

'You call this democracy? A university professor getting slashed for some book he wrote? Even animals don't do that.' She is now visibly upset.


'Do you realise your newspapers are full of accounts of people being killed everyday for political vendetta and personal vengeance?' She was incensed even in the cold morning water. And I am not comfortable with any female who is in that sort of mood.


She was relentless. 'You are now bashing up journalists for writing what they see?'

'But sometimes they make up...'

'Even a photojournalist? Does a photograph lie? And don't give me that crap about Adobe Photoshop version 7!'

I was beginning to wonder who this woman was.


''Look at your markets; you pay any amount the shopkeeper asks for. You don't even bite back.' I think she meant fight back.


'Look at your roads. All BBB -- build, break and billed. It takes longer from Uttara to Gulistan than from here to Bangkok.' There was steam around her.


'Take a close look at your administration. You can't even pay your bills without a bribe. Getting one without one is impossible.' She was fuming.


'Businessmen being abducted...' She was unstoppable.


'Toll being collected...' She was like the monorail planned between Dhaka and Chittagong to provide cheap transport.


'People being killed for not meeting the demands of extortionists...' She was exasperated.

By now I am swimming underwater, not out of curiosity but out of disgrace. I could see the bood-boods of my many buts rising lazily.

Suddenly there was silence.

I thought she needed to catch her breath. But on surfacing I discover the calm was because she was biting her claws apparently to keep her from roaring.

She had her reason to be quiet. 'I don't want to get caught. Not after saying all this'. She said finally, looking apprehensive for the first time.

'You decided to take such a bold step all by yourself'. I try to sound angry and concerned all at the same time; any male's first step forward.

'Not really. My boyfriend Bengal and I decided to elope together and do something for the country.'

'So what happened?'

'I think because he is too fat he got caught in the grille. This is the problem with shahebs. All talk. They can't even open a rusted grille.' (DS 02.03.04)

As I take some deep breaths on discovering her socio-politico-marital plans, I wanted to say, 'Why do you have to have a boyfriend who is fat?' but manage to utter, 'What exactly were your plans?'

'I don't think Monisha wants to discuss that,' she was brusque and swam towards the shore. So that was her name. I liked her style. In this day and time, you should not trust everyone, especially not someone who is shivering on a warm sunny morning. I wanted to introduce myself but before I could decide whether I should begin with my surname or my first, she was gone.

Seeing her someone in the adjacent village ran through the wall of his house, which unfortunately the papers next morning blamed on Monisha. All she did was get under the shade of a tree and take a breather.

Soon some rough-looking guys came and shot a tranquillizer dart into her. Monisha was not hurt that bad. But knowing her the few minutes before I knew this was only her pretext to get back to Bengal, until the next time, until the next sunrise towards freedom.

It suddenly dawned on me: Will they maim anyone who tries to do something for the country?



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