Pieces of good and bad
Kamrul felt drained as he drove down Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue. It was way past 10 pm but in a bustling city like Dhaka, there was no dearth of vehicles.
Personal cars, rickshaws, and taxis alike sped by, each frantically scrambling for its destination.
Among all those small vehicles, the giant bus that Kamrul was driving seemed odd. He drives for a relatively new public bus service company. Usually all the bus service of the city stops its service by 9.30 pm. That night, however, instead of getting back to the bus depot, Kamrul decided to roll around the route for one last time. Only this time, whatever fare he collected would go, not to the company’s balance sheets, but split between himself and his helper.
He sometimes makes these kinds of unauthorized trips around the route for some extra dough. There is no difference during daytime except that it requires the money to be shared between all the 'roadies' which includes ticket sellers, checkers and every other person who notices the foul play. And so well coordinated is this neat little scam, that the transport company is completely oblivious to what goes on right beneath their noses.
With all the traffic police retired for the night, Kamrul ignored a red light. Getting in the depot too late would obviously raise questions. However, at the traffic signal he noticed some beggars who were still stuck to their job. As normally beggars wrap up their job at the traffic lights by 9.30 too Kamrul was amused. Usually, he would be very negative about the beggars begging near the traffic lights. In actuality, he despised them; their reckless movement from car to car making him nervous. "What if one of them somehow, gets under one of my tyres? I’d be the one blamed!" He always said this at drivers’ gatherings, and every time, the other drivers would unanimously agree that traffic lights should be off-limits to beggars.
"People generally don't care about others when they are desperate to fulfill their basic needs", someone mumbled once. While making those unauthorized trips Kamrul tried to picture himself among that 'desperate' category. But he knew himself to be caring to others!
Before going to bed he always hoped for the betterment of every being. That night, he suddenly found himself missing his boss. When he conveyed this thought to the helper, he replied, "the things you just said, tell me you still care. Actually the amount the owner is making every month is more than you can imagine. So it doesn't really matter." Kamrul shrugged in agreement, and drifted away in his thoughts.
Everyday Kamrul needs to make a minimum of 12 full trips around the route. He recalls that he was not actually worried hearing that number when he was getting the job. He was more relieved in fact! It beat his previous job as a guard at a garments factory.
The 'pay' was missing all the letters of 'sufficient'. At times one of the owners of the factory commented that as the guards do nothing but open and close the gates, they should be paid lesser. The feeling of insecurity was more immense then. The present job is much better though he has to sit his but flat in front of the wheel!
For this he is grateful to a distant rich relative of his, who helped generate the money he needed for his driving lessons. But the thought of his past job raised a strong sense of déjà vu along with the familiar feeling of depression that he could not kick away easily. Every time this sudden stir in his memory bowl kept him awake and squirming on his bed at night.
After getting within twenty minutes of the last stoppage, Kamrul saw a police van parked in the middle of the road by a small gathering. Getting nearer to the crowd and slowing down, he was seized with nausea, seeing a bloodied human body lying on the road. While getting around the crowd he caught a glimpse of the whole scene and the bile rose to his throat. A shiver ran down his spine when he realised that the white shirt looked familiar, and that the body resembled his son.
Suddenly slamming on the brakes he got down, and jostled through the crowd, ignoring the swearing and hollering of the passengers. After taking a closer look, relief spread through his veins and the throbbing in his brain seemed to stop. Suddenly he remembered that his son's SSC result had come out that day. Guilt took the place of relief he had felt just earlier. Just yesterday the anticipation was unbearable, and yet today, it completely escaped his mind.
Taking his seat in front of the wheel, he slowly leveled the gas pedal while letting the passengers rant on his sudden stop. "What happened?" asked the helper with his eyebrows together like one. "Never mind!"
Kamrul had four children, one son and thee daughters, whom he loved equally, and thanked God everyday for the four precious gifts. Above all, his son had been consistently bringing out good results in the school exams. Kamrul has high hopes for him. Last year his eldest daughter attended the SSC exam too but failed to pass.
After all the passengers had gotten down at the last stoppage, Kamrul headed for the bus depot. His home was just a twenty minute walk from there. After parking the bus and signing out for the day, he bumped on to a colleague of his. "I reckon, you already got a huge treat for your ears! So, go on bless MY ears!" Laughing Kamrul replied, "Don't know yet!" "What! Get on with it, and just so that you know, I'd like a pack of birani for lunch tomorrow rather than sweets" he said, while holding out a packet of cigarettes for Kamrul to take one. Kamrul laughed again, took a cigarette and gave him a pat as a sign of 'bye'.
After getting in his neighbourhood Kamrul noticed that the electricity was out. Though he knew that he did not have a lighter on him, he reached for the cigarette in his pocket. Then without knowing he threw it away.
Suddenly he found himself in front of his home. Getting nearer to the door he was surprised to find himself unable to knock. The guilt of coming late everyday and his forgetfulness started to take over. After waiting a few seconds he knocked once though he knew that most of his family might be asleep by now.
Five seconds later his eldest daughter, Shumi opened the door and gave him a stern look. Unable to go through the trauma of anticipation Kamrul asked, "What about…" but before he could finish Shumi smiled and said, "He was waiting for you but fell asleep. He passed." Then before Kamrul could ask again Shumi leaped up front and declared loudly, "He achieved a perfect GPA!" Kamrul knew that he would take half his day off tomorrow.
By Hitoishi Chakma
In a story, Kaminee is the name of a woman. Living in a village, none knew whether she really existed. It was rumored that she was a woman of incomparable beauty who randomly walked around the village. Any man who could set his eyes on her was captivated to her splendor, and Kaminee invited the man; and as they walked away together, the man was never again to be found.
On a soft soaked evening
By Adnan M. S. Fakir
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