Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home

 

Life for rent
Photo: Niloy

Sakina washed the plates and glasses under a flowing stream of water from the tap, careful not to let a single pricey crockery slip from her small, shaky hands. She'd just been scolded by her mistress for peeping at the television while dusting the living room. The entire household had already had lunch, but as a punishment for the television-crime she was restricted from having any food at all that day. Sakina had never been so hungry in all ten years of her life, not even in the village. She'd gotten up at seven-thirty in the morning, dusted the whole house, mopped the floors, done laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, and was now washing the lunch dishes. Her stomach churned in emptiness and sent out sickening sounds. In trying to resist her hunger from going to her head, she drank a handful of soapy tap water. Then her eyes stung with tears, and before she could stop herself, she broke down and wept. Her tears mingled with soap and water, and her surroundings came crashing down as she fainted to the floor.

*

Sakina felt herself being poked violently at the shins. She sat up drowsily to find her mistress's angry foot about to kick her in the spine.

"No!" she cried out, shielding herself with her fragile arms.
"How dare you sleep during work-hours!" her mistress screamed at her. Then grabbing a handful of Sakina's limp hair she dragged her out to the kitchen. Picking a large iron-rod from a rack she let go of Sakina's hair and kicked her to the floor.

"Please forgive me!" Sakina cried over and over again. "I fainted! I was not sleeping! Please forgive me!"

"Oh...you'll know about fainting after this, for sure..." her mistress said cruelly."Now you'll faint for real!" With that she brought down the rod onto Sakina's left arm with all her vigor. Sakina cried out in excruciating pain and writhed like a dead worm. The rod came down upon her again and this time on her right thigh. She screamed out for her mother who couldn't of course hear her all the way from their village.

"Don't scream like that, you witch!" the mistress said threateningly, pointing the iron rod straight at Sakina's face. "Or I'll shove this down your throat!" Sakina immediately stopped making any sort of verbal sound, but couldn't control herself from shaking hysterically.

"I get sickened to even touch your disgusting, sweaty body," the mistress retorted, then went to the kitchen sink to scrub her hands clean until her skin was ready to come off. Then she left without a second look at Sakina's frail, immobile carcass lying on the floor.

*

It seemed like hours after Sakina finally regained her consciousness and could move her body again. When she discovered that she couldn't feel her right leg, the gruesome memories came back like a shower of needles, causing her to quake. Looking outside the window she saw that the sky was a beautiful collage of striking white clouds and bright pink and orange. It was a conspicuous contrast to her dark, stormy psychological condition. Suddenly it all became so evident to her that she wanted to cry out in desperation. She could see her future being trapped in the hands of her mistress, who would make each coming day of her remaining life a worse nightmare than the previous. It seemed appalling and inequitable. She had to find her own way out of it. She went out of the kitchen and found that the house was serene and silent. Everyone was taking their daily afternoon nap. At this time she usually took off the dry clothes from the cloth-line and put them in the respective bedrooms of her employers and their children. On entering the room of her employers' fifteen-year-old daughter, Sara, Sakina found her propped-up in her bed, talking softly into her cell-phone and giggling foolishly. As soon as Sara saw Sakina with an armful of clothes, she cried out superciliously,

"Hey, get out of my room. You stink so badly! Ew…"
Leaving the clothes on a couch Sakina left the room immediately, closing Sara's bedroom door behind her. She headed toward the main door of their fourth-floor apartment. It was locked from within. Sakina breathed out in frustration. She had to get out of there today! It had been almost a year since she'd seen her family. Just remembering them brought an unexpected smile to her clammy, scarred face. The reminiscence and nostalgia brought an amazing strength to her body and mind. She ran to the front terrace, which had only a halfway iron barricade. She silently climbed over it and stood on the other side, with nothing but air beneath her tiny feet. 'Now what?' she asked herself not daring to look down. If she could swing inwardly toward the third-floor terrace underneath and then so on, she could make it. Closing her eyes tightly she said a small prayer her mother had taught her as she hung from the iron barricade, and then jumped for the third-floor terrace. She landed there safely! Sakina almost laughed out loud with sheer happiness. But there was very little time, and she needed to hurry. So she repeated her hanging position from the barricade and just as she was about drop down, her injured right leg gave away and she found herself falling to the ground with an incredible speed. Sakina couldn't believe that she was only a few seconds away from her own death. Her mother had once told her that suicide was one of the greatest sins one could commit, and those who did were straight away sent to hell. Sakina couldn't figure out if she had just committed suicide or if it was an accident. Was her after-life going to be hell as well? So just before hitting the ground, she prayed to God with her last breath, "God, I had no intention for suicide. I was just trying to save myself. Please don't send me to hell for dying like this. Amen."

The above story is purely fictional. However, it is has an unfortunate link to real-life stories we have seen being printed on newspapers about brutal behaviour toward the helping staff who we regard as our 'servants'. This story can be viewed as a caution towards those who abuse their 'servants' in any way. Please stop maltreatment toward the helpless, even in the most negligible way.

By Zihan Hafiz


Mauritius - land of sugar and smile

Our school closed on 15th of December 2006 and sometimes we spent our winter vacations abroad. This year we planned to visit UAE and Mauritius. It was a 10-day package tour organised by Emirates Holidays. We thought we would fly straight to Mauritius but unfortunately our flight was scheduled to fly from Dhaka. This time I was very excited as this was my first journey to any African destination.

Before going into the details of the tour let me introduce Mauritius to you in short. Mauritius is a spectacular and beautiful island situated in the southwest of the Indian Ocean, about 800km of Madagascar. Together with Reunion and Rodrigs it belongs to the Mascarine islands. It has an area of 1.865 square kilometers and the population is approximately 1.074 million. The island is of volcanic origin and is mostly surrounded by coral reefs. The country was ruled by the Dutch from 1598 to 1710, the French during 1715 and 1810 and finally England from 1810 to 1968). Mauritius has been independent from 1968 and the name of the present prime minister is Mr. Navin Ramgoolam.

On the morning of December 17, we went to Dhaka by GMG Airlines. My uncle who resides in Dhaka was amazed to see us. After 2 days we went to Mauritius and on our way to Mauritius we had a transit of 2 hours in Dubai. After completing the formalities in Dubai we headed for Mauritius. Mauritius is said to be a country of sugar and smile. We found immense appropriateness in that phrase when we landed on the marvelous island. Mauritius does not grow any rice and barley but they have ample sugarcane and other essentials are imported from South Africa, India and Pakistan. Presently tourism is considered their prime sector for foreign currency earning.

We visited many wonderful sights there. There were lots of beaches in Mauritius with coconut and palm trees. Our hotel Merville Beach was very near to the sea. We went to Coco Island which was a 1 day cruise with a giant speed boat. We sailed the sparking blue waters of the Indian Ocean which is a 45 minutes drive away. The guide who made our island tour colorful was called Mr. Ravi. His forefathers came to Mauritius and settled there for good. We came back to Grand Bay in the evening.

The next day we went to Domaine Lee Pailles which is a colonial village. There we visited the spice garden and had a wonderful horse ride and a railway carriage ride. The tour guide, Samila Aunty told us that they use 8 different spices for cooking. That is why we did not find the taste familiar. The oldest sugar mill is also located there, where there is a display of sugar production. The work was done by manually at first and then by animals and now by modern machines.

The white sands tour authority offered a Sega dance in honour of the tourists from Italy, UK, France and Bangladesh. Sega is their national dance which reflects their long traditions.

The following day we went to Eureka, the oldest and best preserved colonial house in the island. We had lunch with old traditional Maurice menus where cooking methods were also displayed.

We also went to the Mauritius National History Museum on a rainy day. We saw a skeleton of Dodo, the largest extinct pigeon of the island. There were Maurice Fody, a beautiful singing bird, rats, monkies, dolphins and sharks. There were rocks and minerals as well.

We also visited Port Luis which is the capital city of Mauritius. Here, the Waterfront supershop was the nearest attraction.

On 25th December, 2006 we arrived in Dubai for a 4-day tour to UAE. We went to Abu Dhabi, Sarjah, Ajman and Fujiarah but this a narration for another day.

By Syed Masrur Rafid

 
 
 

home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2007 The Daily Star