Aha! What a Joy
Born in Munshiganj, Purabi Basu is a scientist and a novelist. She is the senior executive at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, in USA. Earning a bachelor degree in Pharmacy from Dhaka University, Mrs. Basu has worked her way up through persistence and hard work. All through a brilliant student, she received a master's degree in bio-chemistry from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1972 and did her Ph.D. in Nutrition from the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1976. She also earned a postdoctoral fellowship in pharmacology from the University of South Alabama.
Today Haowa will leave with her father in the afternoon bus. Her father came day before yesterday to take her away. Haowa's wedding has been arranged. Coming Friday is to be her wedding day.
After five and a half years, she will leave this house, never to return.
Maya got up very early that day. The thought of Haowa leaving torments her heart. Somewhere deep within her, she feels an aching. She can't quite locate where. Everything seems empty. Maya tries to pull herself from the bed, but then she doesn't feel like getting up. She lies down and closes her eyes, as if she can stop the sun from creeping up if she doesn't open her eyes to see it. And maybe then Haowa wouldn't have to leave after all.
Within a few hours, Haowa comes to Maya's side handing out a cup of tea for her just like always. To everyone's eyes, it would seem like any other day, as if nothing has happened or is about to happen.
“Didi (elder sister), your tea.”
Haowa brushed her hair neatly early that morning. Her dense black curly hair is still wet. It appears like she just took a shower. Today for the first time, she wore the yellow saree that Maya gave her; with a red blouse. On a white saucer, she brought a strong cup of tea for Maya.
Manik will rise a lot later. He stays up late every night, almost till dawn. He comes home after everyone has gone to sleep. So, Manik wakes up just in time to gallop a cup of tea before rushing out to office. He never had the habit of idly sitting in bed in the morning and slowly sipping on a cup a tea. He doesn't have the time for that luxury.
But before the day begins, Maya enjoys this idle luxury of being carefree. She especially cannot make herself leave the bed without first having a hot cup of tea prepared by Haowa. Long ago, Maya used to sit up in the morning on her bed waiting for Manik to rise, tossing and turning in bed till noon. Now she doesn't wait for him to wake up. She has accepted the fact that they will never get to have breakfast together except for on Fridays.
Maya can't make herself look at Haowa today. She seems very distant somehow. From the night before the last, Haowa has been in a lovey-dovey mood. She is always smiling. She is getting married in a short while. It is indeed something to be ecstatic about. But did she have to express her excitement like this all the time? Even Manik noticed the changed expression that Haowa was wearing on her face all day long. Yesterday morning, Manik called up Maya and asked, “Did you know the guy from before? What are you so ecstatic about then?”
No. She did not know this boy that she was about to marry. But that didn't seem to cause any hindrance to the joy that she was feeling. It's surprising how she can keep her mind off of the little boy that she raised from childhood. From yesterday, Maya didn't see Haowa give enough attention to Badhon. Doesn't she feel any sadness for leaving behind this family that she lived with for so many years? How can she be so happy about it? It appears as though she is counting her hours left in this house. All she has been talking about all day has been regarding leaving this house. Everything about her now is centered on her upcoming wedding. Maya feels a rage fueling up inside. All her love for her Didi, where did it go now? Was the bond they shared just another selfish acquaintance? Maybe Maya mistook her obedience for some real feelings. She's leaving this house forever, yet not a hint of sadness in her. How is it possible? It makes no sense to Maya.
Maya takes the cup from Haowa without looking at her. She takes a sip without saying a word. Today the tea doesn't taste the same. She puts the cup down to the bed side table after just two sips.
Haowa looks at the cup, doesn't say a word and leaves the room. She understands that Didi isn't feeling alright today. If Didi wasn't sad today, she would have at least complemented her on her new saree. She would've closed her eyes before taking a sip and would have exclaimed ”Ah” in appreciation just like every other day.
This afternoon, Maya cooked lunch herself. She prompts Haowa to help her with the preparations.
Continued to next issue
Translated by Sadia Khalid
Illustration by Ujjal Ghose
(R) thedailystar.net 2012