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.
This morning, after consulting with Manik, Maya gave ten thousand taka to Haowa's father for wedding expenditures. On top of that, she gave three month's salary, a locket and a gold necklace to Haowa yesterday. She doesn't want to keep things waiting till the last minute. Haowa was very happy to receive a gold necklace as a wedding gift. She gave Maya a tight hug without saying a word. The earrings that she wore all the time were also gifts from Maya.
After lunch, when Maya puts Badhon to sleep, she usually takes a nap herself. But today is not like other days. So she couldn't sleep. Leaving her little boy with pillows on all four sides, she goes to the roof. There she stirs the pickles in jars with long spoons. Then sitting in a corner of the roof, she starts basking in the sun. She doesn't recall how long she had been sitting like that. She suddenly realizes that someone is touching her hair from behind. Then she feels a comb going through her hair. The combing continues for a long time. Maya's eyes become heavy. It is hard for her to hold back her tears any longer. After the combing is done, her hair is tied into a braid. Mala doesn't turn back to look.
Haowa sits in front of her with a bottle of dark chocolate coloured nail polish.
“Let me see your feet.”
At last Maya looks at her, but doesn't move yet.
“Where? Let me see.”
“You don't feel the least bit sad, do you?”
“How do you know that? Come on. Give me your feet.”
Hoawa pulls out Maya's right foot and starts putting nail polish on it.
“Didi, aren't you happy that I'm getting married?”
“Of course, I am happy. But it'd be a lie if I said I wasn't feeling sad for you are leaving. “
“I'm also feeling sad.”
“Where? I don't see any sadness in you. You have been very lovey-dovey lately. You don't yet understand that marriage isn't all fun.”
“I understand, Didi. But you don't realize that these four days are the only days of my life when I get to be so happy. Today is Monday. Then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I know it'll all end after Friday.”
“Why do you say such things?”
“You have seen my elder sister. Right? Do you remember her?”
“I remember all about her marriage. My dad promised her husband a bike, but he couldn't afford one. So one year later, her husband left her at our home with a daughter. He never showed up again. I don't know what my father promised my fiancé. I will suffer the same fate, mark my words. Or maybe he will marry someone else within a year or two. So my happiness is only for these four days. Let me enjoy it while it lasts. Please don't be mad at me.”
Maya never thought of it this way. She doesn't realize what to say.
Are those tears in Haowa's eyes? Or is it just the rays of the sun creating the illusion of tears.
“Why don't we ask your father what he promised to give to your fiancé?”
“There's no point in asking that, Didi. If we give them something now, they will think that we have a lot of money. They'll ask for money again in two or three months. You don't have to do anything; what you have done for me is more than enough. Just don't be mad at me.”
It felt like Maya is seeing Haowa for the first time today. Haowa never seemed so prudent. It is hard to imagine that that Haowa's mother had left her family for her rich uncle. Now her mother is still married to that rich man with two other wives in a far away village. Haowa and her sister grew up without a mother struggling with extreme poverty. Even though both of the sisters are illiterate, they both have an instinctual prudence that is not present in many people. Haowa has taken care of Maya's household so far. Such trustworthiness and lack of lust is truly incomparable.
Seeing Maya so quiet, Hoawa speaks up.
“Didi, you can't quite understand our condition. Imagine, you don't always have to worry that your husband might leave you anytime. You don't have to fear that he'll ever throw you out of the house. In this peaceful life of yours, how can you understand our condition?”
Haowa thinks that Maya has endless leisure; only peace and happiness in her life.
Haowa has just left. Her old father came to show his gratitude towards Maya with a salam (touching the feet to show respect). “What are you doing?” Maya pulls away her feet. Haowa's father said, “I can never repay what you did for my daughter, Ma.”
Haowa hurries out of the gate with her bag holding back her tears. She never looks back. Maya stands by the door carrying her little boy in her arms. She watches silently as Haowa leaves.
Maya looks at the clock. Haowa must be on the bus by now. The bus must be going through Rajendrapur towards Mymensingh by now. Amidst the bumpy road, in a half asleep, half awake state, she must be dreaming of that man who she never met, who is soon going to become her husband.
Now, Maya will wait for her husband too, who will not come home before tomorrow morning. He will be home when Maya will be sitting on the bed having a cup of tea.
Then suddenly the thought strikes her; to be able to enjoy a cup of tea from tomorrow morning, she has to make it herself.
Translated by Sadia Khalid
Illustration by Ujjal Ghose
(R) thedailystar.net 2013