The other day I was walking by the main gate of my colony near Kuril, when I discovered a crowd of youngsters, security officers from the nearby homes and offices and drivers in uniforms from auto-rickshaws and caps pulled over near the pavement. They were all staring at the trees above. I looked at them myself and was amazed to see monkeys sitting on the branches! The trees hardly had any leaves left. The monkeys looked calm and seemed to enjoy the serenity of a cold and early morning. It also looked a little scary, like a scene from a horror movie. What if the monkeys suddenly turned wild and pounced on the spectators, biting them and tearing them to pieces, I thought to myself. After a while, I moved away from the scene and walked away to my destination feeling amused and slightly lifted inside. After all, one doesn't get to see a tree full of monkeys in the city every day.
I usually go to university with a friend who lives next door. We walk for a while and then take the rickshaw to the station to wait for the train. My friend and I practically grew up together and our parents have no problems with us going to university together or even coming back. He, of course, has a group of his own while I have mine at the university. Even during our school days, we had our own friends from our schools. My friend went to a renowned school for boys while I went to a girls' school. However, because our families have known each other for years, we have always been very close while growing up. The other day however, he was ill and was skipping classes. I had to go to the station myself to wait for the train. As soon as I came across my usual group of friends waiting for the train, one of them asked, “Where is your boyfriend?” I was a little taken aback and wondered if he was joking. He was not. “Don't tell me you guys broke up!” he asked again. The others were waiting for an 'answer' as well. That was when I realised that to survive in this society, everyone had to be related somehow or the other. Concepts like friendship or acquaintances do not exist in our dictionary.
Chittagong University, Chittagong
The other day I overheard my parents discussing a possible marriage match between my 30-year-old cousin who works in a bank and a neighbour's daughter still studying at university. I was fascinated by the answers my father was giving to my uncle who was the father of the groom-to-be. My father had to assert several times that the girl was very fair and tall and seemed 'quite suitable' for my cousin. My father was very enthusiastic about this match and I could sense the exhilaration in both my parents' voices, like they would get cookie points if this marriage became successful. It was very amusing though that after hanging up the phone there seemed to be a slight confusion over whether the girl was actually 'very fair' and 'tall' or not. I couldn't hear what my mother had said but in reply my father said, "well she seemed fair and tall to me and I will tell them exactly that." My father then continued to call the girl's parent and I heard him quoting my cousin's salary and educational background. No mention of 'fair' or 'tall'. I suppose some things in our society will never change. Our perception is still that a perfect marriage means 'a financially able' man and a 'fair and beautiful' woman. We still live in a sad, superficiality worshipping culture.
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