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     Volume 4 Issue 39 | March 25, 2005 |

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I'm pregnant.

What? Really? How long? I asked jokingly.

Dosto, I am serious, she said in a grumbling tone.

'Never judge anyone, people learn from their own mistakes and others learn from theirs'. So, there I was scared and surprised but willing to help a friend I have known for the last four years. As days passed, I called many people, finding out as much as I could about abortions. Many of them didn't buy the whole 'my friend' part of my queries, and thought that I invented this character to cover up the fact that I was the sinner. I never worried about peoples' opinions about me, so why bother now? The results of the ultra-sonogram showed that she was actually about 18 weeks pregnant. Only four of us knew, including her, and none of us were over the age of 18. We had absolutely no knowledge about pregnancy, let alone abortions or complications. Every good hospital they visited refused to abort an over 18- weeks-old foetus claiming it was against the law. It was around this time that I came up with my brilliant slogan: I want to help, but I don't know how. I took a hasty retreat from our serious predicament, honestly, not knowing what to do. Her boyfriend ran all around Dhaka city trying to find a place and after all government clinics, mother and baby hospitals, an old lady in a public clinic suggested a place in Azimpur beside some slum. It was the only option available.

A few days before 'the day' she called me up and said 'maybe we should get married'. I told her that one mistake was enough, and that marriage will be something stupid for both of them. Exactly how much can two 18 olds make per month? Certainly not enough to pay for diapers! She just said 'but I can feel it.' She begged me to stay with her at the clinic. Maybe I was selfish, but I didn't want to cook up a whole story for my parents, so that I could stay there a night. This was large scale lying, and I just didn't want to do it. Besides, I was also scared that this whole operation was illegal, and if anything went wrong, I would be held responsible, and I couldn't deal with that.

'The day' came, and around noon I got five missed calls, (I didn't receive any of them because I was in a math class.) and then at 12:59pm I received a message from another of my friends. 'She alredy tuk da thing. It was an injection…damn, she doesn't evn kno wethr da needl was new or not. Emniteu okhane jeye labh nai, don't wory, shes drowsy, thx 4 evrythin.' A feeling of guilt, in the form of an emotion that I never knew I had swept through me. I rushed out of class, and I finally found out what the phrase 'get a breath of fresh air' meant. God knows why, I just called my mother, said hello, talked about nothing and hung up.

I was continuously posted on her situation in the form of SMS s, 'feeling drowsy', 'mite b goin 2 hel 2nite', 'plz pray' were the messages that kept coming in. While I was jumping up and down with Junoon, Artcell and Strings, my friend was somewhere bleeding profusely, and scared half to death. I came home lighthearted only to receive a phone call from the other friend of mine saying: 'listen, you weren't home, I dropped off a math copy at your place, it has 3000 taka in it. The bf is coming to pick it up in the morn, they need more money'. I knew that initially, the amount of money required was 5000, but somehow it jumped to 12,000. I was back in the world of reality and stress. Something happened, and they both turned off their cell phones. None of us could get through to them, and we panicked. We tried giving each other strength on the phone but we were already imagining that the worst had happened. Finally, at five in the morning, the bf called and said that she was in a horrible state, and I could hear her sobs in the background. It was supposed to come out by now, but it didn't. For the first time in my life I took sleeping pills: I have to stop thinking about this!

The pink panther tune on my cell phone woke me up. The boyfriend was coming to take the money. I added 2000 to the amount our friend had already given and handed it to him. I inquired about her condition and he told me that the baby didn't come out the night before, as planned, and so they were going to take her to the OT. He begged me to find some place by 2 o' clock because that place was filthy and he didn't know how clean their operating material would be. As he turned to leave I found myself saying: "Should I come with you?" He smiled and replied, "Please do." Without thinking twice, I grabbed my cell phone and left with him.

I found myself going through one of those ultra narrow alleys in the old part of town. Finally, we arrived at our destination, a 'nursing home'. The entrance to the dilapidated building wasn't all that bad, but inside, as soon as I opened my shoes and looked up it was extremely dirty and literally freaked me out -- oily sofas which had lost their colour a long time ago, and were tattered and torn in places. The walls had also changed their colour, thanks to all the dust that had accumulated on it. The floor had a plastic-like covering on it, but it was missing in some places and the mosaic could be seen. This was kind of a hospital, even though it was illegal, and one would expect it to be clean at minimum standards! I could literally feel the dust particles under my feet!

To be continued...


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