Humayun Ahmed was a Bangladeshi author, dramatist, screenwriter, playwright and filmmaker. He emerged in the Bengali literary world in the early 1970s. His breakthrough occurred with the publication of his first novel, Nondito Noroké in 1972. He was a former professor of Chemistry at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Humayun Ahmed continued to be the top best sellers list of Bangla Academy (Bangladesh) book fair, a feat that had been maintained over the previous two decades.In 2012 he was appointed as a special adviser to the Bangladesh Mission in the United Nations. Humayun Ahmed passed away on the 19th of July this year, leaving millions of mourning fans.
Karim was wounded by the lawyer's statement but was not angry. He was not hurt. He was doing his job. He was going to catch the offender, and see to it that the criminal got severe punishment. This is what he was paid to do. Karim was hurt by Jaheda's statement. He used to adore that girl, used to call her Ma. Jumna used to get mad because of this.
“Why call a maid Ma? Call her by her name. She will be spoiled if u adore her too much.”
She was just a little girl. What made her do such a thing in the court! Karim was embarrassed.
“Do you know him?”
“Say his name.”
“How long have you been in his house?”
“Did he and his wife quarrel because of you?”
“Not yes. Speak clearly. Did they quarrel often?”
“Did his wife suspect that he had any physical relationship with you?”
At this point Karim's lawyer objected, the questions are not right. These are leading questions.
The defendant responded to this, some questions have to be leading. A little girl and will not be able to say these filthy things by herself.
Karim was feeling like saying, Ma why are you saying such lies? He didn't get to ask it. He couldn't. After quite some time Karim found out a reason as to why she was lying. The girl was under the impression that Karim had killed Jamuna. The girl wanted Karim to be ruthlessly punished.
Nine o'clock at night. The jailer has sent food from home in a tiffin carrier. All that Karim asked for has come. Karim eagerly seats down to eat. It's not that alu bhaji and shing maachh with egg were his favorite food. It was Jamuna's favorite food. She told him that she will ask for these dishes to Allah twice a day in heaven.
Karim told her, “you might find alu bhaji in heaven but not shing maachh's broth”.
Jamuna asked, “why not”?
Karim said that shing maachh has life, to make it's broth it has to be killed. In a place like heaven, no life is ruined.
“Who told you?”
“No one told me. I thought it out myself.”
Jamuna said in amazement, “I think you might be right. So I will have all the shing maachh I want before dying. Buy shing maachh for me at least once a week.”
The guard has brought pan with jarda. Karim enjoys having the pan. He lights a cigarette and gives one to the guard. The guard says, “Have courage, brother.”
“I will. I will try to be brave. Don't know whether I will be able to or not. What is the name of the person who will execute me?”
”There are two brothers. They are imprisoned for life. They carry out the executions. One of the brother's name is Ramjan, and the other is Ali. Both of them are here. Do not know which one of them will do it.”
“Would have been better if I knew who will do it.”
“He will sin for hanging an innocent man. I should pray for him in order to avoid that sin. He does not know that I am innocent.”
The guard says, “Every convict sentenced to death says he is innocent. When his face is covered with the black mask before hanging, he realizes that he is not innocent. Many of them scream out saying Allah forgive me for I have sinned. Will you have another pan, shall I bring it?”
“Please do. It's very kind of you.”
“Will you read the Quran?”
“I can't read Arabic.”
“I have cigarette, don't need any more. I am not a smoker. I am having it because the jailer gave it to me.”
There is too much Jarda in the second pan. After eating it Karim's head started spinning.
This happened to Jamuna once, after having pan with raw betel-nut. She fell on the bed after her head had spun. Her body was totally wet due to sweating. Jamuna said, listen I am dying. Hold my hand and sit beside me. You won't move. Do not dare to move. Such childish behavior! Does a human die that easily? Death of a human being is a very difficult thing. It requires a lot of preparation. He will die at dawn. Lots of preparation need, lots of things to think through.
Karim went to sleep in the blanket at 11pm. He knows he cannot sleep. He has to kill time somehow. Time will pass beautifully if he thinks about Jamuna. There are so many things to think about, so many events.
Once he visited his in-laws with Jamuna, suddenly he heard she was angry and stopped eating. He couldn't figure out the reason why she was angry. She did not eat anything in the afternoon. She did not have dinner as well.
Jamuna's mother started crying. Her daughter came home after so long. So many dishes were prepared but her daughter was not eating. She was constantly saying, “I have made a mistake. Don't people make mistakes? I was joking. Please forgive me, Ma. Jamuna shrugged her shoulder and said, “I will not forgive you. I will leave tomorrow morning.” People's requests, tears, nothing worked.
Karim found out the reason for her being angry after a long time. His mother-in-law had said, “Jamuna's husband is dim-witted.” Is this any reason to get angry? It is true that he is somewhat dim-witted. Mother-in-law said the right thing. Is it reasonable for a daughter to get so angry for this?
Karim thought he would not be able to sleep. He falls asleep after lying down for a little while, a deep sleep. He wakes up when the maolana (Islamic scholar) came. He will be given a shower. He will pray to God for forgiveness. The maolana brought clean pajama and shirt. He will start his journey wearing this. Karim said to the maulana, “I have a question.”
“What is your question?”
“Can I get shing maachh in heaven?”
The maulana was not surprised to hear this. Right before being hanged the convicts often say strange things. The maulana said, “In heaven a person will get whatever he wishes. That food will taste a thousand times better than any earthly food. Say SubhanAllah (glorious is Allah).”
Karim said, “SubhanAllah”.
Karim is being taken towards the gallows. Two police officers held him from both sides. His hand tied at the back. These were not necessary. Karim was not making any commotion. Many do to try to run away. The jailer was walking with him. Karim looked at him and asked, “Sir, will you please tell me the name of the person who is going to hang me?”
“Why do you need to know his name?”
'Just curiosity, nothing else.”
'His name is Ramjan, Mr Ramjan.”
“Thank you sir for telling the name.”
Karim remembered his gatekeeper's name was also Ramjan. He was extremely modest. He had a huge body with a comparatively small head. He used to look down while talking. He used to hide his cigarette in a weird way. He used to say a word or two with everyone-“How are you sir? What did you get from the market? Hilsha fish? How much did it cost? Can't eat fish anymore. Food will be extinct from our country. We will have to live by eating soil.”
Karim could not understand why right before dying he was thinking about Ramjan of all the people in his life?
Karim was standing on a wooden floor. The wood was clattering. The noise seemed strange. He could not even understand why it seemed odd.
As soon as the black mask was placed over his head, he figured out the mystery of Jamuna's death. The gatekeeper, Ramjan always talks with him, but the day Jamuna died he ran out like a mad person and Ramjan did not say a word.
Jamuna said, “Listen I won't keep Fuli anymore. Get rid of her. She often goes to talk with the gatekeeper.”
Karim said, “Let it be. Ramjan brought the girl from his village. They are close. When Fuli returns after visiting the gatekeeper she stinks of cigarette.”
When Karim removed the bed sheet covering Jamuna he smelled strong tobacco. The smell of tobacco from Ramjan's hand was on Jamuna. It was so simple.
Karim can smell the tobacco again. He was trying as hard as he could to remember the sweet smell of Jamuna's hair. Only if he could remember the intoxicating smell of Jamuna's hair before dying! The ghastly smell of tobacco is destroying everything.
The jailer waved his hand giving the signal to carry out the execution.
Translated and Illustration by Sadia Khalid
(R) thedailystar.net 2012