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     Volume 7 Issue 4 | January 25, 2008 |

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No Longer

Nusrat Jahan Pritom

(continued from last week)

Finally I decided to take a cab to go to the airport and on the way I tried some offices in the media but couldn't get the people. As I approached the office of a photographer whom I had met through work, I thought that it was stupid. What would he be doing there at that time? As I knocked he was the one to open the door. He fired a dozen of worried questions at me and I implored him not to tell the folks at home. He made me get the cab driver's number and give it to him. Later when I was on my way, he called on the cabby's cell. "Is the driver shifty? Are you sure you will make it? Are you ok?" that made me realise that I was back again to the social world. A world where people care. I smiled to myself and looked out into the empty road in the dark sky, thinking about my mother and my sister whose glimpse I had caught on my way to Gulshan. They were obviously looking for me, but they looked calm.

It was a good thing that I had taken a cab so I was dropped off at the departure lounge of the airport. Once there a guard came for a little chitchat and I got impatient at his irrelevant questions. (What was my name, address, contact number!). Shaken and definitely with a resolution to get me for scolding him, he went and consulted with his fellow crewmen. Ok that meant trouble, as I had given contradicting information to the guards here- one I had said I had come here for departure and the other for picking up my relatives and my two khalas were on their way here to join me. I realised that I was pretty conspicuous as I was a young girl and all alone.

Walking along I found a seat beside two hijab-clad women. They were going to stay here till morning. I told them that I had come form the U.S a week back and hadn't known anybody in Dhaka, so I had come alone that night to pick my sister up from the airport. Moreover her flight was at dawn, I said, and I didn't want to wait downstairs as it was risky. I felt bad about lying to such nice people but I had no choice. One of them was very exuberant and kept talking to me, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The other lady however eyed me with suspicion and did not really speak to me until dawn approached by which time her scepticism had dissipitated. She smiled warmly and asked while I was about to leave "We have spent such a long time together, but I don't even know your name." Well that was the only truth I could convey to them-my name, so I did.

After what seemed like eternity, the Azaan started and bidding my companions goodbye I made my way out. Immediately I regretted the decision as there was not a single soul out in the whole main road and it was still dark. A CNG drove past so I got on board, but it started to move like a turtle and stopped frequently (for extra payment). So I left that one, and with serendipity another one was passing that instant. But the driver did exactly the same thing and this time I gave him a piece of my mind. Luckily the shops were opening and by then the street was getting filled so he dared not get me back. In total I had to pay TK80, 40 each for a not such a great distance.

When I met my benefactor at the TV channel, I was shocked to hear that somebody had kept calling him, from the phone shop I had called him from - and informed him where I was about to go. That guy even told him that I was going to Gulshan-2, but that's something only I knew. I was being tracked all along!

So I was still under the purview of my enemies. None of this made sense-51 hours of not eating, not sleeping, and a whole day still lay ahead. I began musing and planning as I sat under the bright morning rays near the Shahid Minar. Actually this was the first time I had ever been there. It was also the first time that I had spent so much time away from my family. Usually I have a bad case of not remembering directions as I always rely on my mom to pick me up and drop me to wherever I had to go, so I couldn't believe how I had managed all these days.

This particular day my photographer friend told me over the phone that I would be hunted too as a missing report had been filed at a police station earlier that day. So I asked him to bring me a different coloured jacket/shirt and a cap in the hope of disguising myself. He asked me to visit his office where many of his colleagues who knew about the whole thing, started to convince me to go home and abandon my reckless plan. I got impatient and asked one of them why it mattered to anybody when so many people are dying out there everyday-we frequently come across such grotesque news across the papers. She defiantly replied that it was because by that time I had become someone she knew and cared about. Coming from somebody I had known only for about a month, I was touched, yet stubborn. Later as I spoke to another colleague, somebody I had met only the first time in my life he somehow was able to make me aware the importance of going back. As impulsively I had taken the decision to run away, I opted for coming back.

Then they called home and outside as I was waiting for my mother and sister, I felt the card that the old man had given me the other day in my pocket, gave it a last look and tossed it away. Then I made my way towards my family. And here I was once again -as clueless and frustrated as ever! As for all the people who helped me including the solicitous, well-intentioned team at the newspaper magazine, for good reasons I would not approach them anymore concerning this.

The End

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