An Awakened Man
An eminent actress and playwright, Bipasha Hayat is a Bangladeshi TV and theatre personality. So far over 40 one-hour-dramas by Bipasha have been aired, along with popular serials. In the 90's. She published her first compilation of short stories in 1996, under the title “Hridoy Rajje”. Her other publications include “Aadi Kombol”, “Nurunnaharer Doito Jibon”, “Shunno Manob”. This short story is translated from her new book of short stories is titled “Ghum Bhanga Manusher Golpo”, published by Shobdoshilpo.
Waking up, Mobin realizes that his life is great. A small tin-roof home with webs and rust makes it look like one of Monirul Islam's paintings. Staring at it, he wonders what could be its name. All his paintings have poetic names – like “Bleeding Heart”, and also, they seem like they were painted only for the person looking at it. They are fluid and bloody but full of heart. Hearts! Some taken, some given away and some cheap ones abandoned after a few days of use.
Mobin's decaying heart is bleeding. No use taking care of it anymore - it is dead. He hasn't buried his dead heart yet. Distorted, he had held it in his hands until midnight, and then headed toward Shahbagh, just five minutes away from Bakshibazar, where he lives. The midnight's dense winter fog feels like the floating foam of a mug of Cappuccino.
He remembers having Cappuccino at Erene's place. It tasted like a heavenly drink. “The hot Lassi (sweet yogurt) is very tasty” he remarked. Erene laughed. Mobin wasn't happy. She would faint had she seen him angry, he kept saying in his head, “just wait till we get married, I will drown you in the coffee and gulp the whole of you. A husband is not a lover, he is hard and knows how keep a wife straight”. He started to laugh in his head.
It takes him a while to reach Shahbagh. Visibility is bad due to fog. Getting a rickshaw is not an option since he has only 23 takas in his pocket. Moreover, he needs to buy a sweater. The one he is wearing has seen better days.
His uncle brought the sweater from Saudi Arabia. The yellow wool with golden glitter, made it look like a sunlight reflecting on a ripe paddy field. It disappeared on the day he was going back to Saudi Arabia. With a grave face, his uncle kept mentioning how expensive it was.
“Curse on the thief who stole my jumper – I hope mice chew it up into pieces” he said. The thief will never be able wear it, even if he did the police would catch him! I have filed a complaint at the police station.
“Why do you look so dry?” The uncle asked looking at Mobin's scared pale face.
“I was cursing the thief in my mind too, mamu (maternal uncle)” replied Mobin.
“What were you cursing?”
“Haramzada thief” replied Mobin.
Mobin's uncle is not a pleasant person at all. And all his curses came true! Although it took four years, one winter he found part of the sweater torn up. He cried that day! Why wouldn't he? That was his recognition.
The fog and chill made the flower shops of Shahbagh look dull. Few stores were still open with dim lights. Song from an old Bangla movie played in one of the stores. “Eki shonar alloy voriye dile – ogo bondhu” (You fill me with golden glow – my friend). Listening to the song, Mobin could not help his tears remembering Erene.
“I will poison myself if you don't become my friend”, Erene said.
“I have no problem in being a friend – please don't poison yourself for that!” replied Mobin.
“Not that kind of friend; a special friend”, Erene rephrased.
Mobin was stunned at such a wealthy man's daughter being interested in him. Mobin has been trying to get a job from Erene's father, a lowly job as a typist. Moreover, it was just their third meeting. The three times he came, it was to meet Erene's father, Mr. Lutfur Rahman. All three times he left without getting an audience with him. He was never at home. Mobin wondered “why do these people have homes? They are never there. What was the house made of anyway? It's so shiny!” The man doesn't have enough time to go see a real fountain that he had to create an artificial one inside the house. The first time he came to see Mr. Lutfur Rhaman the guard didn't let him in. He was standing near the gate when a huge red car arrived with Erene behind the wheel. He saw her fair arms on the steering wheel. She got out of the car wearing a wavy white dress and walked up to a teary-eyed Mobin. Dumbfounded, he stopped weeping and gazed at her like a deer staring in the headlights. It must be a dream, he felt, at any moment she will spread her wings and fly off. No pinch was needed – an ant fell from the tree Mobin was standing under, fell on his shoulder and stung him. He screamed and a teardrop hanging on from his cheek dropped to the floor. Erene immediately took him inside to provide first aid. Erene's ocean-like dress waved off Mobin's face. The smell of the cloth made Mobin dizzy – he fainted. Gaining consciousness, he found himself lying on a bed of the guestroom. Erene was sitting beside him, smiling.
“Why did you faint?”
“Part of your dress touched my face.”
“I never smelled such fragrance.”
“We can be friends.”
“I need a job.”
“Want to fly with me? I can turn into a bird.”
“Yes! I want to fly.”
“Before we do, give me your heart.”
Mobin took out his heart, handed it over to Erene and she turned into a stunning white bird. They flew through the clouds for a few days, with the mist in their hair. On top of the clouds, they bathed in the sunlight. Suddenly, Mobin started to fall from the clouds. And Erene was nowhere to be found. It was as if she never was there.
This midnight, Mobin is going to bury his dead heart. He woke the florist up at the flower shop.
“What flower do you need?”
“How much is Rajanigandha (tuberose)?”
“How many do you need?”
“One piece only.”
“Damn you! Just one? You woke me up for one stick?”
“My heart is dead.”
“Why worry? Mine died many times. It never survives when handed to someone else. Never again give it to anyone else.”
“Alright, will do, how much is a stick of Rajanigandha?”
“Never mind the money, want a flower for the grave?”
“Where's the grave?”
“Don't know yet.”
“Don't bury it. There is a pit in Charukola (Art College), just drop it there and in a few days, a white lotus will grow on it. “
“Sure, I have done many times. They all grew into lotuses of various colors.”
“How do you know my one is going to grow into a white one?”
“Wasn't the girl fair skinned?”
“Yes, white like snow.”
Mobin started crying again thinking of Erene.
“Let's go together and take care of the heart”, Sofa Mia, the florist, insisted.
In the dense foggy night Sofa Mia and Mobin climbed the walls into Charukola. No guard was nearby. Mobin dropped his dead heart into the pit. And instantly a new one grew inside of him. And it made its presence known through heavy breaths.
On his way back home, Mobin finds a few girls on the street wanting to give away everything they have. Their giggle and whispering call cut through the chilly winter fog into Mobin's ears. Mobin's newborn heart beat a bit faster. A half literate Mobin realized that one of those girls was following him. As he looked behind she disappeared in the midst of the fog. His senses tell him to turn to his stalker. “What's her name?” thinks Mobin. “Is it Anjana, Payel, Moyuri or Shayamoli?”, he keeps wondering. Mobin couldn't tell when and how he reached the corner of his home's street. He looked around once more and his stalker with right there standing in front him.
“You were right. My name is Moyuri”, said the stalker.
“I am empty handed”.
“Your sweater should be enough. The winter is very cold”.
“Ok, let's fly. You won't drop me off somewhere, will you”?
Moyuri spreads her greenish-blue wings into the sky. Mobin starts to fly with her. They fly over mountains, oceans and deserts. Mobin can hardly believe it. Mobin realizes his yellow sweater will look better on Moyuri. When they are both near the moon, Mobin hands over his sweater to her and his new-born heart along with it. High over the earth, Moyuri puts on the sweater and throws Mobin's heart into the emptiness of space. Mobin watches as his second heart gets juggled with and dies again. It surely won't survive a fall from this height. Then, he realizes that this is not new to her.
Mobin gets a job as a typist at a press with a salary of 1,500 taka. House rent and the amount he gives to her mother takes away 800 taka. He is saving some money for a new sweater. Today, he got his day off to go to Charukola with the florist Sofa Mia. He has never seen the beauty of the flowers in daylight. Walking through the main gate and they stand before the pit.
“You have grown flowers of many colors”, said Sofa Mia.
“I am addicted to sprouting flowers now”, replied Mobin.
A proud Mobin looks at the flowers for a while then takes a rickshaw to Nilkhet. He hears someone calling “Mobin Bhai”. It's Parul, an old classmate. He starts to walk towards her. There, standing next to Parul is her husband. Yet, Mobin's heart tells him he will fly with Parul.
Translated by Zia Nazmul Islam
Illustration By Ujjal Ghose
(R) thedailystar.net 2012