A dark era, you say?
Ambia Khatun is a centurion. No, she's not a Roman soldier; she has seen a hundred monsoons, and then some according to her. Being one-hundred-plus, the last thing a woman is supposed to be doing is working for her own daily bread, you'd think. And yet, there she is - a century-old hunch-backed woman doing exactly that. Living on the meager amount of money she gets from looking after other people's cows, she, at desperate times, walks around the area, arriving at the doorsteps of the old residents of Banani to sell petty, basic items like handfuls of half-rotten vegetables for some small amounts of money. “Duniyata ekta kharap jaiga,” she says, “The world is a cruel place.” Ambia Khatun lives under an open sky near the Banani Lake opposite the graveyard with a sheet of plastic wrap for a bed.
A few months ago, at 3.00AM, the frail old woman woke up to two men coming towards her from a car parked a few feet away. They had come for the one valuable thing she owned. She yelled for help from the people living nearby and tried to fight them off herself. They beat her up mercilessly. She was left lying there, wounded and took what they came for. “Ora amar goru niye gelo…”
The poor woman could have been held down by a two-year old. You'd think beating her up wasn't really necessary. Her broken wrist still remains broken, the proof of brutality, the bone having fixed itself in the wrong position due to the lack of medical care, which this ancient woman could not afford. Instead of receiving charity and alms, her only source of income - the cows, had been robbed away. “Deshta omanushe bhoira gese. Ora amareo chartase na... Tora choilla ja onno kono deshe,” she says to me.
Adding injury to injury, this was followed by another incident a few weeks later. One with similar results in a different context of an equally repulsing nature. A careless driver on a cell phone decided she wasn't there when he hit her in the middle of the street with his car. Therefore, when he drove away without a care in the world, the logical conclusion seems to be the fact that he was unaware of the existence of an old injured woman lying on the ground. Or maybe he believed that she had awesome super powers and was actually superman in the disguise of an old woman in a torn purple saree. It's not very wrong to leave superman out there to take care of himself, now, is it?
A senior citizen of our country isn't really supposed to be treated this way. Perhaps we aren't as civilised a nation as we claim to be. Maybe the human rights cases that fill our newspapers everyday will never focus on something so out of touch with politics. Maybe this woman is too insignificant in this world to make headlines one day.
The current ways of the world seem to state that only the physically strong and mighty deserve seats in public transports. Archaic citizens should be able to cross roads alone, or not cross them at all. To each person, their assurance of safety is paramount as moral fibre goes down the drain. Humanity is tired of the insults and has taken a leave of absence and the meaning of civility is redefined. The world is a big empty space void of humane feelings where abuse prevails and negativity is the reality. Unresolved questions will forever remain in one poor woman's eyes and we will go our own ways and dither over small things in small lives.
And Then There Were Seven (Nuisances)
Common Teenage Complaint: “My parents never understand me; I can't believe they're doing this to me. They're trying to ruin my life!” Followed by dramatic sobbing.
Or maybe that's just the drama queens in those weird teen movies. But seriously: “My parents never understand me; I can't believe they're doing this to me. They're trying to ruin my life!” Or they were anyway. When you're the oldest kid of parents who are the two babies of their respective families, your parents really don't understand your position in the family - the responsibility that comes with being the oldest, how annoying younger siblings can be, and how horribly beyaddob kids these days are. Then comes the part about them ruining your life. Like when they put you in a house with 7 other kids. For a month.
The thing about families is - they can cross all boundaries. With younger siblings or cousins, when they get too rowdy, too annoying, too in your business, you can tell them off. When you're living with 7 other kids and only 2 of whom are your sibs, it's a totally different environment. Even bokafying is crossing the line.
And that's how aforementioned teenage girl found herself shut inside an attic closet in the cabin they had rented for the weekend wondering how to escape outside into the mountains without coming across any meddling kids. Ears carefully pressed against the door she assessed her situation. Her book was finished so stalling was not an option. Her ears detected no sound she carefully creaked the door open and peeked around the corner.
“OMG! THERE you are! We've been looking all over for you! Where were you?
We wanna make bracelets and weneed you to braid the string and OMG the boys are playing pool and the yare so noisy and annoying and why do you alway sread and read and read? Don't you wanna dosomething together OH! I KNOW!”
She wanted nothing more than to retreat back into the closet and spend another hour stalling. Two preteen girls with super-clingy powers that would have put jealous girlfriends to shame were a little too much to handle. Not to mention the tiny but precocious 5 year old they were towing.
“Hi. Listen, I wanna play pony. You have to be the pony 'cause I'm the pretty princess and I'm the prettiest princess in the world and the cutest and the nicest and LOVELIEST princess ever.” Followed by a smug grin. Meet the most self-obsessed, conceited 5 year old you shall ever have the pleasure of meeting. When we say pleasure, we mean it. Observe:
S: So, you think you're very pretty don't you?
Yeah, we interviewed her.
Enter the annoying baby (brother). “Come ON! We have to jump on all the pillows in the TV room!”
Her efforts are in vain. Despite the desperate protests, they leave to jump on the pillows, which will have to be paid for, if damaged.
Instants later they return, Miss Princess in tears clutching her forehead. Amidst sobs and puppy-dog eyes she explains; the 3 dudes (all below 14) had been playing pool - or trying to - and using their all-encompassing skills, managed to accidentally make the cue ball jump and bonk the Princess on the head. The 'boo boo' itself was in serious need of a cold pack; it was swelling, ginormous and red. An emergency ambulance (her, the oldest child, naturally) transferred her directly to the medical centre (her parents), badgered by all three boys looking to apologise, to make sure she was okay, and insist it wasn't their fault.
Sitting her on the counter and surveying the damage, said girl sighed and thought wistfully of the attic closet. Stalling sounded heavenly at the moment.
“I'M OKAY! COME ON, LET'S JUMP ON THE PILLOWS!”
... Beyond heavenly.
By Sticks 'n Stones
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