Aasha Mehreen Amin
He used to bring us tea every now and then when the regular canteen boy Reaz was too busy with other orders. His name was Mamun, nobody can tell me his last name. It is strange to be talking about him in the past tense: he couldn't have been more than 16 or 17, a thin, quiet, sweet-faced boy who hardly spoke unless spoken to. I had just seen him last Tuesday when he brought me my tea and had wondered why he looked so serious, even a little sad. Nobody will know whether he was troubled or how much he had been suffering. The very next day, on Wednesday, Mamun was dead. Cause of death, unknown.
Mamun, a teenager from a village in Mehendiganj, Barisal, had joined the newspaper's canteen about a year ago, after a stint at a small shop in Gabtoli that made iron grills. He was like the other teenaged canteen boys who would joke around with his co-workers and liked watching a movie once in a while. But just before Ramadan, Mamun started to behave strangely, picking fights with his co-workers, saying offensive things - and staying awake all night. He would not even sleep in the afternoon and became disinterested in work. Eventually he went to see a doctor at the DMCH and was given some sedatives to help him sleep. He did sleep and things began to get back to normal. But then the insomnia returned and a few days before his death, Mamun felt really sick and decided to go to his village home. He took leave from his employers and said goodbye to almost everyone he knew at the office, saying he would come back before Eid. On his way he went to Gabtoli to see his elder brother who worked at a bus ticket counter. He had a high fever and by the time he reached his brother he was gravely ill. His co-worker Reaz says that he had been taking the sedatives and had also taken tablets for his fever. We don't know whether it was a reaction to so many drugs or whether Mamun had been suffering from some serious illness secretly eating away his life. Mamun died on the way to the DMCH, a common death for thousands of ordinary people whose illnesses are seldom correctly diagnosed, let alone properly treated.
The canteen was kept closed that Friday; all the staff, employers and employees went to say goodbye to Mamun before he was taken to the village. We don't know how his parents reacted or his two brothers and two sisters. Perhaps they were numb with shock, perhaps they eventually accepted it as part of fate, as God's will, as people are programmed to do.
For the rest of us it is business as usual. Almost. It is Tuesday again as I write and I can't help getting that heavy feeling of sadness that sometimes you cannot quite explain. I did not really know Mamun and chances are I will forget him all too soon as my thoughts seep back into my subjective world. But right now it is hard not to remember him. This time a week ago, Mamun was right in front of me bringing tea, looking small, thin and depressed. But he was alive and it seems unacceptable that a strapping young teenager with dreams that will never come true, is gone from the face of the earth. The other boys at the canteen have gone back to their routine, running to and fro from morning till late at night giving tea, snacks and meals to the hungry staff of the paper. But things are not quite the same anymore. There is one less member in their team of mostly teenagers. It is hard not to miss him.
(R) thedailystar.net 2009