Walls closing in
“Ma, can I have some money?” Saad asked, quite sure what her answer would be.
“What for, beta? What do you need so much money for? I just gave you a thousand taka last week. What did you do with it?” his mother asked, the worry crystal clear in her voice.
Simply giving the money was too much to ask, the woman just had to keep nagging! Enough was enough. “What the hell do you want to hear, huh? That I'm on drugs? Asking for something politely is a bloody crime in this house, isn't it! Fine, you don't want to give the money, don't!” with that, he ran out of the house, his mother's desperate calls trailing behind him, absolutely unheard, and uncared for.
Personal space is something that adults were simply not aware of. Saad knew his mother thought he was heavy on drugs, and that made him want to run out of their stinking house. Of course he wasn't on drugs! He just smoked marijuana with his friends once in a while, but that didn't make him a druggie. He was just going to go out with a bunch of friends, but even then, what he did with his life and money was none of his parents' business. They just couldn't handle the fact that he was no longer a thumb-sucking baby, although they sure did treat him like one in front of every other person! Humiliation…well, that's a lifelong friend if your parents are going to be around.
Saad decided his parents and their insanity were too stupid to ruin his life. He needed money and he got it quite easily from his father's wallet. Of course, his father thought the house servant had stolen the money, but that really wasn't his problem. Saad had a great day, despite the little screaming session with his Ma in the morning. He went out with his girlfriend, got himself a brand new Zippo, hung out with his friends, smoked pot, and decided to stay over in his friend's house that night. 'Perfect day, although a shot or two would have made the day even more perfect,' Saad thought with a smile, as he went off to sleep that night.
The next morning, he woke up late with a heavy headache and decided it was time to go home. When he came home, he found his father gone to the office, and his mother still in bed, which shocked him, quite truly. He had expected her to be ready with a million questions to fire at him as soon as he entered. But there she was, lying in bed, not even moving when Saad called out to her. He decided to go check in on her.
“Ma, why are you crying?” Saad asked uncomfortably, when he saw his mother's pillowcase tear stained from hours of crying. It was clear she hadn't slept that night. But his mother didn't reply. She just looked at him hard and long, the tears flowing without a sound in the room. Finally she said, “Do you know what happened when you were born?”
'Oh crap, here we go again,' Saad thought, anticipating another emotional lecture from his mother, but given the situation, he decided to hear her through.
“I had a very well paid job, you know. But I left it, because you were my only child, and I loved you too much to stay away from you. Your father was always busy, so it was just you and I in the house. I taught you to play badminton, do you remember? I was so proud when you beat me at it! Everything was so good. What's happened now, beta? Why do you hate everything that I say…”
“I don't hate everything that you say, Ma…” Saad cut in.
“Come on, Ma! Stop being so ultra-emotional!”
“Well maybe you should get a life then, Ma!” Saad blurted out, his head aching even more after all of his mother's crazy talk.
“Maybe I should, beta. But I have sacrificed a lot in bringing you up, so why don't you repay me a bit? Never touch your father's wallet again, do you get that?” his mother said quietly, every inch of her face traced with the mark of a failed parent.
“I'm sorry,” with that Saad slowly walked out of the room. He didn't know what else to do.
By Fahmina Rahman
Penguins Go to the Zoo
The Mill on the Floss
Korbani'r Eid was in full swing, and the air hung heavy with the meaty, metallic tang of bovine blood and the death cries of the slaughtered animals. No bookstores open, and the Sheldons sitting on my bookshelf smiling smugly in the manner of Cinderella's step-sisters as they traipsed off to the ball without the poor girl. Another book review gone to waste, I mused.
Then I remembered my collection of classics, and thought, why not go through them again? That's when I discovered a book I hadn't yet read, and the imprisonment of Eid (yeah, I don't have a life) turned out to be less oppressive than I hoped.
The Mill on the Floss stars one Maggie Tulliver, the lively daughter of a miller, an anathema to the society of her times in every sense of the word. She didn't conform to the existing notions of physical attractiveness, and neither did she behave the way she was expected to. In other words, this dusky-complexioned, dark-eyed, raven-haired tomboy had a vivid imagination, a mind of her own, and an unquenchable curiosity. Her one weakness was her elder brother Tom, a stolid, well-meaning, hard-working, but unimaginative boy. We watch Maggie blunder her way through childhood, constantly under reproach from everyone but her father, until she reaches the age of thirteen, when her father gets embroiled in a lawsuit and loses his property, his job, and his mind.
With their father thus broken, and no hope of real help from their relatives, Tom and Maggie are left with the responsibility of keeping things all together. While Tom quits his private education to find a means of earning their keep, Maggie is left to tend to her father and help her mother at home. Mr. Tulliver is completely broken, and the only thing that keeps him going is a burning hatred for the lawyer, Wakem, who is responsible for his ruin, a hatred he passes on to his son. Maggie, however, whose heart is free from prejudice, feels sympathy for, and secretly befriends Philip Wakem, the lawyer's hunchbacked son, who had once been Tom's study buddy. The furtive friendship begins to flower into a more serious attachment when Tom discovers this and forbids his sister from communicating with the boy. An uneasy breach forms between the two siblings, which is clumsily mended at the death of their father.
As Maggie slowly blossoms into a woman of uncommon beauty, fate throws another handsome, dynamic young gentleman her way; Stephen Guest, who's unofficially betrothed to Maggie's favourite cousin Lucy. It's instant mutual attraction, and I leave it to the readers to read the book and find out what transpires next.
This being a classic, the narrative may be a little difficult for those who are exclusively into more modern reads, but the story itself is so moving, that after the first couple of chapters, you find yourself getting interested in it. Author George Eliot has Jane Austen's mastery over characterisation (The Mill on the Floss is peopled with many interesting characters) and Charles Dicken's sensitivity to the broader state of society, and her own wry insight into the hypocrisy of the Victorian society definitely makes this book a good read.
As far as price tags go, it's an old book, so I'm guessing you'll find it at Omni Books for around Tk5-600.
By Sabrina F Ahmad
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