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IT was the first time I saw her, and the last time I will ever be seeing her. As she slept peacefully the smoke of the agar baati covered her blissful visage. I looked at her and wondered where she was. It was hard accepting that she was gone. I closed my eyes and a drop of tear touched her face. I wondered if she could feel that, I wondered if she knew how much people cared…

I had a very strange relationship with her, and yet she meant so much to me. She was one of the nicest and strongest women I knew. She endured so much and that without complaining. She was a loving mother, a devoted wife and an idol to every relationship she had. She left behind two children, who are two of the most important people in my life.

Whenever I called her I used to joke with her, gossip with her and scold her for not taking care of herself. At one point in my life she was like a second mother to me. It's strange to think that she was my "net friend's" mom, and I will never be hearing "Hai maa ami bhalo achi, tumi kemon?" on my receiver…

There are some unseen relationships and unreasonable bonds that generate between two people; and nobody might understand how important they are, but they mean a lot to some people… This loss is a huge loss, but I am sure that the children she left behind are strong enough to go through this. She was always proud of her children and wanted them to be better, like any mother does.

Losing a mother is losing a part of yourself, and that pain cannot ever be razed, it can only reduce as time passes by. She left them in this world, but they are not alone. They are God's special children, and everyone out there who has lost someone close to your heart, just know that, that person is still with you, in your heart and in the small box of memories, always wanting you to be the best that you can be.

Dedicated to the late Syeda Samina Hussain Kirmany (Neela)

By Alavi Kifait Reza

The stuff of love

THEY give birth to you, raise you, and then find you unworthy of their love. Yeah, harsh isn't it? But I've got to deal with it. I've always had to deal with it.

Some of the more energetic of the local youths have hung a banner out on our street. It says “Happy Valentine's Day! Celebrate It With Love!” I really want to meet the ones who hung up that banner… I want to witness their love and see how they celebrate it. Mostly though, I just want to see what love really is... you know, just to verify its existence. I'm curious, I admit.

There were classes today, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the early evening. Just like every other day except I knew today's attendance would be a bit… sporadic. Oh people will come, there's no doubt about that. But they won't stay. Sneaking out of a coaching centre isn't really all that hard, as long as you pay the fees. The fees matter.

I've decided to skip classes today. There would be a bit too much of the 'love' in the air. Too many couples holding hands and staring Bambi eyed at the blackboard. I could have gone and seen examples of love in there. But I've learned to discern. Every year the people stay the same, only the couplings tend to change, same people, with different people every year. Maybe love has a working cycle of a year, or maybe expiration dates and bar codes and the best before it all goes sour date. And Bambi shifts her focus to the next hunk that happens to smile at the right moment. I haven't been smiled upon yet. Thank god.

Mom left me a note on the fridge. Most of our correspondence seems to occur through the fridge; invaluable the ability of a household item to make people talk. “Breakfast in the fridge and the bua comes at 11 to make lunch. If you need money there's some in dresser drawer. Love, Mom”. I almost called her. I'm sure she'd made a mistake. No, not about the bua making lunch or the money, it was the conclusion. I'm not sure about the love. Is it in the dresser drawer with the money or in the fridge? Or is the bua going to make some for lunch? The love angle was baffling. An anomaly…

Beep-beep… Cell phones have a way of vibrating and you feel like there are cockroaches up your pants leg. Even an SMS at the wrong moment can send a shiver up your spine. I almost choked on the cold paratha (from the one and only fridge). “Happy Valentines Day! And on this love filled day call your special loved one with our new revised call rates at…” I didn't read after that. It amazed me really that love could conquer corporate businesses from relinquishing their profits. What amazed me even more was that I got the SMS on other big occasions like Eid and there were no call rate discounts then! Love conquers religion. I wonder if there is a solidified version of love I could put under a microscope…

I was back in my room after breakfast. The huge banner outside fluttered and I couldn't stand it. Its flaunting message stared at me and I couldn't stand it. The fact that the day was supposed to celebrate love was unbearable. I was alone. And quite alone I wondered… was it possible to celebrate love alone?

I looked around the room. A PS2 in the corner gathering dust beside the TV, books on the shelves and model cars all around the floor, DVDs on the dresser and yet more books on the bed…this was my world. The walls were bare and one old dirty photograph suggested that it was once a family portrait. I went and stood in front of it. If I squinted I could make out Mom and Dad, stiff in their best professional regalia, they had insisted that I wear my school uniform. I stared at the picture and tried to find some love in my Dad's proprietary hand on my shoulder, something in my Mom's eyes and moreover… something resembling affection. And I looked at myself carefully. The only person I can honestly say I ever loved is a character in a book. I took the book into my hands and stared at it. And I felt cold.

As the morning wore on I took a walk. Walks are hard to accomplish in Dhaka… but just walking the streets and looking at the people was nice. I noticed a woman begging with a baby in her arms. I wondered if my mom was willing to do that for me… I wondered if I was willing to do that for my mom. I noticed people all around me. All of them striving, all of them dying. I noticed couples. For some reason, the simple hand-in-hand walk down the sidewalk appealed to me. There was innocence there.

I went home late afternoon. The bua had come and gone. The food on the table was cold. The cell phone had two messages. Dad: “I'll be home at 11. I'm sending some food over from the office. Love, Dad.” Mom: “I have to stay over tonight at the hospital for emergencies. Lock up everything and don't stay up. Love, Mom.”

And there is was again, that elusive 'love', making another brilliant cameo that would woo the critics more than the main actors. Yeah they loved me… but only in terms of food and money. I loved them too. But only just.

By Tareq Adnan


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