The Chicken Game
A few days back, my mother decided to take me out grocery shopping from the local Town Hall Bazaar. It was getting dark and the cold wind was starting to give me a chill. Just when we were about to head back home, my mother suddenly remembered that she had to buy chicken. A few shops which ventured to stay open had chickens to sell at an exorbitant price. We were giving up our hopes to buy one when out of nowhere a middle-aged man clad in a shawl approached us. To our surprise, he took out two chickens from underneath his rags and enquired whether we wanted to purchase one. When the bargaining was over, he settled to sell them at a somewhat agreeable price. The man seemed honest and quite exhausted. It seems he had come from far and wished to sell his chickens, which he had brought from his residence to make some quick cash. He needed the money for his daughter's marriage. My mother was motivated by the man's words and quickly bought his chickens giving him, in addition, some extra money out of pity. We were satisfied with the deal and were looking for a rickshaw when suddenly we spotted the man at a far-off distance doing something that completely shocked us. The same man who had sold us his chickens was now taking out two chickens from a basket full of chickens from a nearby shop. As he took them giving a courteous gesture to the shopkeeper he hurried towards the opposite direction.
By that time, we had realised that it was a new technique, which the sellers used to sell their items, fooling people like us.
Clothes Maketh a (Wo)man
Winter has always been my favourite season. Snuggling into sweaters and shawls has always appealed to me. However, for the last few years, I have been dreading this season. Along with winter, in Bangladesh, comes the wedding season. It might be a joyous moment for the family members, watching their sons and daughters tying the knots, finally doing what they were born to do, but for many like me who have to be on the run the whole day long, it becomes just another chore. Returning home after a long day just to dress up in silk and high heels to go to a wedding or a 'holud' is simply exhausting. To add to it all, you are required to attend all the four events - the two 'holuds', the wedding party and the reception. The other day, I had to rush to a friend's holud in Dhanmondi. I got off of work later than usual and did not bother to go home and change. As I entered the hall, I tried to ignore the stern looks that I received from well-groomed aunties, not to mention the amused ones that I received from their daughters with painted faces. They were following their mothers around and mingling with other mothers of respectable sons working in multinational companies and the telecom (a haven for young and the unmarried women out there.) I straightened my red orna on my white fotua, fixed my jeans and walked towards the stage where my childhood friend was beaming in red. The next day, the bride's mother called me up to remind me of the wedding the day after. "By the way," she said. "Wear a sari this time. Everyone has been wagging their tongues since yesterday. It will be your turn soon, you know." I skipped the wedding. I figured that an evening in bed watching classics on my DVD player would be much more exciting than exhausting my energies, trying to put on a show of propriety in front of society.
I was returning to my home in the northern part of Bangladesh a day before Eid. After several hours of writhing and manoeuvring, we finally left the chaos of Dhaka. The journey was going at the pace of a caterpillar, slowly moving out of the city amidst all the vehicles on the road. We were already exhausted. But after crossing the Jamuna Bridge, the situation began to change. The traffic was a lot less on the other side of the bridge. It was a winter night; the sky was cloudy with a moon trying to invade the cloak of fog. We could taste the rural and the real Bangladesh. People had gone to bed, as it struck midnight much earlier. Occasionally we would pass small villages where a few tea stalls were seen with small lamps. Even at that hour, there were people talking while drinking tea. Somehow, it was a unique experience - surreal form of beauty created by silence. Other buses were overtaking or crossing us sometimes. Otherwise, it was absolutely silent. Surprisingly enough, our exhaustion began to disappear. That was probably one of the best parts of my Eid vacations, far away from the maddening crowds in Dhaka.
Sabbir Ahmed Osmani
University of Dhaka, Dhaka
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