on a Blue Afternoon
was still out when Shormi came back home after a long walk.
Bobby was sitting idly on the bed watching her put on the
white shirt. As she finished doing up the buttons it lost
interest and leaped up to stretch lazily. She had changed
the quilt while going out; Bobby strode down the hibiscus
pattern on it and stood between the pillows. She walked to
the washroom while thinking about the things that had happened
a while ago. Immediately after she had finished talking to
the man, Nouman called.
I am fine. Can we meet tomorrow?" he asked excitedly.
was buying some candles in the street; trucks howled past
the makeshift-shop and she had to put a hand on the other
ear to hear properly. She asked, "Where are you Nam?"
was a silence on the other side, a muffled voice in English--
probably of Nouman's friend's-- was heard, for a moment Shormi
thought she had lost the line.
God, say something," she screamed.
voice, meanwhile, argued with Nouman in a furtive manner;
the boy seemed to have agreed with the man to do something
and said to Shormi, "We are staying in a hotel mum, we
are fine, don't worry."
do you want to meet? You and your friend can stay in my house,"
she said. The vendor put the candles and the cigarettes in
a package and hunched forward to give it to her. She paid
the man and walked briskly to cross the road. Silence, meanwhile,
resumed on the phone again; and as the whispering got louder
and became almost audible it sounded more and more like Ifthekhar's
voice. She knew it could not be him. Funny she had been thinking
about Ifthekhar for a month or so, especially since Nouman
had started contacting her through email. In her mind, she
had pictured Ifthekhar in London working with a multinational
bank, happy and contended. So far, Nouman had deliberately
avoided talking about his father, which Shormi found rather
amusing. Her eleven-year-old son had been growing up and,
unlike the Ifthekhar she knew, had learnt not to poke at a
the street; Nouman replied after a brief pause, "We are
fine mum"; "Can me and my friend come to your house
in the evening tomorrow?" he asked.
smiled at the street urchin who offered her a bunch of dahlia.
"Of course we can. Will your friend be there too?"
she tiptoed on the street to avoid empty potholes.
sorry for that. So, tomorrow, at six mum?" he asked.
problem," she replied.
will call you in the morning," Nouman said.
that night when she had finished typing the class-lectures,
Shormi got up and randomly picked up an old-newspaper. She
sat on the rocking chair and sipped at her tea: Muslim Fanatics
Razed an Ahmadiyya Mosque; An Alleged Outlaw Lynched by Mob;
EU Leaders Trumpeted Historic Constitution; Girl Raped in
Kushtia. Her eyes fixed on a news piece; sandwiched between
the news of a rape and the EU constitution lay the man's smiling
photograph. She stared pointedly at the photo and smirked;
now she knew where she had seen his feminine face before;
he looked strong and macho in a short spiky beard. "Young
Writer Gets Death Threat", said the heading. She read
writer Nasser Hussein got death threat today from the zealots.
In a letter sent to Nasser's home in Banani, Shaukat Osman,
leader of a little-known group Harkat-ul-Zihad Al Islam Bangladesh
(HJAIB), wrote, "Your days are over; get ready for the
final day of judgement". The twenty-seven-year old writer,
in fact, earned the wrath of the fanatics, when his first
book "In the Name of Allah" was published this year.
The book depicts the story of a Muslim man who falls in love
with a Hindu woman and gives her shelter when riots break
has been known about the HJAIB and its elusive commander Osman
who is also known as Sheikh Farid. The group is thought to
be an umbrella organisation for radical Islamic groups that
operate in the country.
sources in the home ministry said extra police force had been
deployed in and around Nasser's home. Different political
and cultural organisations condemned the threat describing
it as an attack on free speech. Attack on intellectuals is
on the rise after a small member party in the ruling coalition
government tabled a blasphemy law in the parliament.
further and put both her hands on the arms of the chair. The
electricity went out with a loud bang; the cat, disturbed
by the sound, sprung up from and scurried to and fro on the
carpet. She lit a cigarette, took a long drag and closed her
went to the hospital to visit him, she found three policemen
standing at the cabin. She peeped into the room; Nasser was
lying on the white bed wearing blue jeans and a black T-shirt.
A nurse stood at the bed and leafed through a stack of papers.
Both of them did not notice her presence; she turned round
slowly and saw Dr Mizan walk down the corridor with a file.
He said Nasser was doing well and would be able to leave the
the doctor and followed him into the cabin.
was awake and smiled at her. Sunlight came through the white
curtains in abundance; a grey shadow of the grille fell on
bunches of flower that was put idly on the bedside table.
smiled back and sat on the chair; "So," she said,
"How are you?"
was talking to the nurse in a low tone while browsing through
the pile of papers, which she was holding when they entered
the room. He did not take his eyes off them and said, "He
is fine ma'am."
smiled embarrassingly, first at the doctor then at her; she
was wearing a purple sari and a blue blouse. "The room
looked pretty clean," she said and looked at the apples
on the table at the side of the flowers.
it seemed, had made Dr Mizan uncomfortable; he gave the papers
back to the nurse, waved her to go and said, "The minister
came to visit Nasser sahib last night. She brought the apples."
laughed and said to Nasser, "You have become quite famous;
do you like apple?"
up smirking and drank water from a plastic bottle. Mizan came
forward with the file in hand and put the back of his other
hand on Nasser's forehead.
fever has gone," the doctor said and told Shormi that
he would be back in an hour.
up, thanked him again and said, "Nasser, he says you
will be able to go home after two days."
(R) thedailystar.net 2004