from previous issue)
man's torso stooped as he put both his hands on the bleeding
stomach. And when he turned and twisted before falling on
the grass by the pavement, she recalled seeing his effeminate
face before. In the newspaper maybe or on the university campus,
where she taught literature; she guessed he could be one of
her students. She looked at him more intently, while the attackers,
now forming a circle, kicked him on the butt and shoulder.
The man screamed and asked for help in a piercing voice but
she stood silently, now hands crossed over her chest, in a
Christlike calm in the shivering cold. The cat strode to the
window and stood at her legs, looking fixedly at her dreary
face with its glowing eyes, as if trying to understand from
it what had gone wrong.
gave up when the mosque nearby started calling the faithful
to the morning prayers. She turned round and looked up at
the grandfather clock, standing tall on the floor; it was
nearly dawn. When she looked down again, she saw the men stride
north, now forming a horizontal line, and realised she had
not noticed that all three had been wearing prayer-caps all
along. The golden brocade on one of the topis glittered even
from a distance. They were getting smaller as they walked
further down the crossing towards the mosque. She waited for
them to disappear, put on her Shalwar-Kameez and
hurriedly went down the pavement.
her surprise, Shormi found the man conscious. He muttered
something when she walked closer to him; his eyes seemed to
come out of their sockets with desperation as he moved his
blood-soaked lips. Shormi went down on her knees and put his
head on her lap. Above them, a branch of a mango tree was
suspended solemnly; in the tree, a group of sparrows were
lazily declaring the breaking of another noisy dawn. A blade
of grass fell from their nest, hovered in the air for a while,
and finally rested on the dark stain of the man's nose; she
carefully picked it up with a trembling hand and called the
hospital from her cell.
was hungry when she got back home late in the afternoon. The
doctors would not touch the man without a No-objection Certificate
from the police; "It's caused by a sharp knife, I think,"
said a pale mouthed doctor staring at the man's bruised body.
doctor, who knew Shormi before, said, "Ma'am you don't
know this guy and neither do we. He could be a serial killer
or a mugger. What if he turns out to be one of the people
who had thrown grenades at that meeting? Just imagine what
will the police do to us if he gets away after treatment and
the police find it out.”
looked back at the man's pensive lips; he had been trying
to tell her something in the ambulance. But his voice was
so stifled that she had to tell him not to talk. A known sense
of responsibility, which she had at times found tiring during
her three years old marriage, grasped her. She stared at the
wall, a long piece of cloth hung there, "Be it a boy
or a girl, one child is enough", it urged its viewer.
The pale mouthed doctor meanwhile continued chattering with
a nurse, Shormi turned round and said to the other doctor,
"Mizan, you know me, right?"
nodded and tried to say something but stopped suddenly in
the middle of his sentence as Shormi continued, "I know
this man well and in case the police turn up or anything goes
wrong I will take the responsibility. Now please take him
to the emergency before he bleeds to death". And her
words worked like magic.
stitches were needed to close up the wound; the man cried
every time Dr Mizan put the needle into his flat stomach.
She could not recall when was the last time she had seen a
grown man cry. The doctors said, in a reassuring tone that
all doctors had, that he would get well in three weeks.
felt relaxed when she walked into her room after taking a
long shower. A strong smell of fried chicken and French-fries,
which she had bought on her way home and had put on the dining
table, was wafting in the air. She got dressed and smiled
at Bobby; she was curled up on her bed, coiled like a big
rope. The window was wide open; sunlight that came through
it and fell on Bobby's white fur had given the room a blanched
look. She put a French fry into her mouth and sat on the bed
to inspect Bobby's leg. The cat hissed and kicked her hand
with its hind legs, but she did not let go of Bobby; upon
close scrutiny, she discovered that the wound had healed a
lot, but she also noticed that one of its paws was badly bruised.
She rubbed some antiseptic around its injured claw. The cat
made a murmuring noise and with its other paw clutched the
was early in the evening when she decided to go for a walk.
She was typing her class-lectures on the PC and then, as soon
as the grandfather clock struck at five and she had just typed
"fantasies inability to overcome reality", as if
to follow a long drawn-out ritual, the power went down. She
closed the book and pressed her hand on the stain on the flapper
of A Streetcar Named Desire. A blob of faded red made by either
ink or wine. When she had decided to start afresh and join
teaching, the book was in her mind. The Head of the Department
was somewhat surprised, first at her sudden decision to join
the department again and then at her choice of text. He was
a short middle-aged man, who had to shriek to make things
done. "Shormi, I don't know what to say," he was
surprised but tried his best to hide it; "You were a
very good teacher. Tell you what I was quite shocked when
you decided to quit the varsity". He welcomed her back,
but it took her a while to make him register that she was
serious about teaching Streetcar. He frowned, yawned
(he was getting late for his regular afternoon nap), smirked
and after a brief cajoling budged.
she kneeled on the pavement where the man was stabbed, she
noticed that the place had been hurriedly washed away. Drops
of water on blades of the grass were shining in the fluorescent
lights like the yellowy teeth of the attackers. She looked
down the street where those three men had melted away into
the fog. A large group of people was walking down the narrow
ally to say their evening prayers; some had sat at the reservoir
for wazu. She looked up to see the white minaret
of the mosque and glanced further up to two blue loudspeakers
that were suspended from the tall slender tower.
cell rang as she remained lost in her thoughts; it was from
the hospital, the man wanted to talk to her.
he said, "Thanks for saving my life."
his words came through the cell, she realised the man had
pulled through quite quickly.
third part of "Love on a Blue Afternoon" will come
out in the next issue.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004