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A Little Fairy

Ma, please tell me the fairy's story." Tina had been annoying her mother by saying this for about half an hour.
"Tina can't you see I'm busy? You have already heard the story more than a hundred times".
"Ma, I want to listen to it again"

"Later, Tina, later. Now go to your room and draw a picture".
Tina takes her drawing book and begins to draw a fairy. Tina loves fairies. She wants to be like them- beautiful, good and she wants to fly in the sky on beautiful wings like them and to live in the fairyland among the clouds. Once her uncle asked her what her aim in life was. She said that she wanted to be a fairy.

In two week's time Tina would become 4 years old. Her parents told her that if she could blow all the candles in one breath then her wishes would come true. Last year, she failed to do so. This year she was determined to succeed. She listed all her wishes in her dairy. Who knows if she forgets the wishes! Tina was going to invite all of her friends and relatives in her birthday, so she'd get lots of gifts. Oh! Why do birthdays come only once in a year?

In the birthday, Tina had blown all the candles in one breath, and wished lots of wishes by closing her eyes. Her friends began to ask her what she has wished but Tina said nothing. Ma gave her a beautiful pink dress and papa gave her a big teddy bear. Wow! Tina had wished for all these things! So she began to think that all of her wishes would come true. At night ma told her "Cinderella's story". Tina began to wonder if the fairy Godmother would come!

At night suddenly Tina woke up. Some one was calling her. The voice was so sweet! She opened her eyes and saw that her room was full of a beautiful blue light. Tina became frightened. She was going to call her ma but at that moment a very beautiful lady stood before her. The lady began to say, "Don't afraid of me. I am your fairy Godmother. I have come here to fulfill your wishes. Tell me what's your wish?"

Without a second thought Tina said, " I want to be a fairy."
"My dear, it's impossible. You are a human being. You can't be a fairy. Wish for something else."
"No, I want to be a fairy. You have to fulfill my wish"- Tina said with her eyes full of tears.
"Ok, I will turn you into a fairy but first you have to take permission from your parents. I'm warning you, though, once you have become a fairy; you won't be able to live with your parents. I will come tomorrow."

Tina became very upset because she knew her parents wouldn't give her permission to be a fairy. Tt was also not possible for her to live without her parents. Tina couldn't sleep anymore that night. Early morning she ran to her mother's room and began to tell her the previous night's experience.

"Ma, you know what, last night a fairy came into my room, she said that she will fulfill my wishes. Isn't that amazing?"
"Yes, that's amazing."
"Ma, can I become a fairy?"
"Yes, dear you can. You are a little fairy for me. Now, little fairy hurry up else you will miss your class".
"She is reading too many fairy tales too much. Stop telling her stories. She should be attentive in her studies," said Tina's father.
After dressing up, Tina asks her father "If I become a fairy I wont be able to live with you. Will you miss me? Would you let me…."?
"Tina, now it's too much. I don't want to listen another word. Get into the car. Right now!"

Tina became very upset and began to cry. "Papa and Ma, nobody loves me. They don't even care whether I live with them or not. I will go to the fairy land and never come back.
At night the fairy godmother came. Tina told her that she had got the permission. She was ready to go. Then the godmother told her to close her eyes and hold her hands. Tina looked around her room for the last time and closed her eyes. After a few minutes the godmother told her to open her eyes. Tina found herself in a beautiful place. It was full of moonlight. There were many beautiful fairies around her. All of them had beautiful wings. Tina quickly looked at her own back. Yes, there was a pair of beautiful wings. She could also move them. "Oh my God, I can fly!" Tina begins to fly here and there. It was an amazing feeling. The Godmother introduced her to the other fairies. They welcomed her to their fairyland. Tina also found a friend there. Her name was "Pixie". They played and flew together for a long time.

As time passed on, however, Tina began to feel bad for her parents. Missing her parents, Tina began to cry. Other fairies became surprised to see her crying, so they take her to the Godmother. Tina requested her to send her back.

Godmother says, "Tina, I told you before that once you have become a fairy it's not possible to live with your parents. Tina, fairyland is the most beautiful place in the whole universe and all the fairies love you a lot. Why do you want to go to earth?"
"I want to go to my Ma" Tina cried.
Other fairies requested the godmother, " Fairyland is full of happiness and joy. Nobody has ever cried here before. We all think if Tina is not happy here, then please send her back."
"Yes, I also think so, but I have to see the rule book. I hope I find a solution".

Searching for a long time, at last the Godmother finds a way.
"Tina dear, don't cry. We have decided to send you to your parents. I know you are too little to understand all these things, but it's my duty to tell you that once you go back to earth, you will forget all the experiences you have got here. All these things would be like a dream to you. I will never come again to fulfill your wishes. We will always remember you and we all love you."
"I love you too" says Tina.
"Hold my hands and close your eyes."

After waking up, Tina finds herself in her bed. It's early in the morning. She is feeling very strange. She runs to her mother's room and hugs her.

Tina is now 16 years old. She still loves fairy's story. In each of her birthdays a strange thing happens. She finds some beautiful roses on her table with a card signed by the name of "Pixie". Tina doesn't know who Pixie is and how these roses come into her room. Till now she couldn't solve this mystery.

By Desert Rose


Drip, drip, drip… the constant, rhythmic beat of water pattering on the asphalt outside has almost lulled me to sleep. Inside the air conditioner is in dire need of repair; it seems to do little except for making swishing noises to remind us of its presence. The carpeting is horrendous, a matted red as rough as sandpaper. The curtains are even more repulsive_ somehow their cheap, transparent flimsiness stimulates an urge within me to escape from this house. I try burying this urge underneath all the garbage in my mind and think about something else. Undoubtedly, it doesn't help.

This is my fourth visit to my father's new house. Although, as you have probably guessed by now, there's nothing new about the house. However, in a way it is new since my father has moved into it three months ago. The purpose of the shift was to join his second wife; my stepmother. The previous three visits have been carried out in great secrecy, with my father inviting me only at times when his wife was out of this house. The visits also had not lasted very long with my father's fear that she might return unexpectedly early and find the two of us in the comfort of her living room. This visit is being carried out with her permission. She greeted me rather over-jovially at the door and has now gone to bring me some delicacies, leaving my father and me alone in this room. But, I am beginning to wish that we could resume to our old format of meetings; I'd rather have a secret father-and-son get-together than this nervous father-son-and-stepmother reunion.

"So how's your school going, son?" my father managed to say, licking his lower lips.
"Not too bad," I shot him an apologetic smile.
"Study hard. You have to get a scholarship like your cousin and study in some university abroad. We don't have that kind of money, you know that."
(At this point, I am wondering who he means by "we").

He seems a little bit more comfortable now. My father feels very comfortable talking about money. Throughout my sixteen years of life, he has spoken to me about money very earnestly. From my childhood I have come to know of money not only as a medium of exchange; but in our house, it was synonymous to the word "happiness". I was constantly reminded of every cent that I had the privilege of spending and at the same time reminded of money that I was not born with the privilege of spending. Ours was never a rich family; but we were not paupers either. We were the average upper-middle class of this city.

At this point, my stepmother enters carrying a silver tray laden with the usual comestibles_ dry biscuits, some apple slices and a tumbler filled with an orange liquid, presumably Tang.

"You don't drink tea, Anouk, do you?" She smiled sweetly at me.
Lying, I shook my head and sighed with relief inside. So she hasn't started calling me her son. That's good. That's good.
"I thought so. I gave him Nutri-C," she told my father.
Oh, so it's Nutri-C. Well, I was close. What difference does it make anyway?

***I have decided to take a walk for a while before getting onto a rickshaw. My pocket has a very slight bulge from the crumpled five hundred taka note my father has folded into my reluctant fists. "Your rickshaw fare," he had whispered. I smile wryly. I wonder if he has conveniently forgotten where I live because no rickshaw-puller would charge such an amount for the thirty minute distance that was my house. Guilt is a foolish thing, I think.

It looks like it's going to rain any second. But for some reason, I wouldn't mind getting soaked. Not after the humidity of the morning. I walk on the pavement, which has chicken poxes of rain in between the edges of the pebbles. The traffic is thin on the streets and the street lamps have just been switched on; though some of the grey-gold sunlight still seems to filter through the clouds. May be I should get a CNG and not a rickshaw, I think.

But before that, I stop to buy some cigarettes. The seller is a little boy, about ten years of age. The whites of his eyes stand out against the blackness of his skin. Somehow, he and I share a silent mutual understanding; of what, I have no idea. He hands me the golden packet with his small hands; but in his bony fingers, I see an adultness that my adolescent fingers do not show. My hands are babies beside his.

I walk some more, stop and squint to find a CNG. There is none in sight and I settle for a rickshaw instead. He charges a ridiculous fare, I refuse and he reluctantly tips his head to one side, gesturing me to get on the rickshaw. I do.

By the time Anouchka opens the door, I am soaking wet. Anouchka is not my sister if that's what you are thinking; though I know the similarity to my name, Anouk, can be misleading. Anouchka is nine, female, always smiling and works at our house. Where she got such non-traditional a name from, we could never find out. She'd just smile and say her father has kept the name. Before I have even taken off my muddy shoes, she gives a little jump and asks, "Bhaiya, can I watch the TV?" All smiles. I notice that one of her canines are missing.

"When did your tooth fall off?"
She giggles, covers her mouth and mumbles, "It has been ten minutes."
"Oh, I see. Yeah, you can watch TV."

I pass the TV room where I find the local television channel showing some prehistoric cartoon. The door to my mother's room is open and inside she is sitting on her bed and staring outside the window pensively.

She turns around, surprised, and asks, "When did you come back?"
"Just now."
"You are soaked."
"I know."
"Why didn't your father drop you off in his car?" She is upset.
"I refused the lift," I lie.
"Oh, did you? Why did you?"
Dinnertime and it's raining in full volume outside. I have started sitting in what has always been my father's chair at the dinner table so that my mother does not have to stare at an empty seat while eating. Pre-divorce, they would face each other while eating. Gave them an advantage while having mealtime fights.
"You know what I should have done?"
She doesn't wait for me to answer, assuming that I cannot reply with the food in my mouth.
"I should have continued with my education, son. Then I would have a job now. And you wouldn't have to eat fish everyday."
"I do not eat fish everyday, mother," I smile.
"I did a foolish thing, son. I got married too early and then I had you. Never took studies too seriously. Girls shouldn't do that. They should be educated, very educated, so that they can earn by themselves… do you want some daal?"
At my vigorous shaking of head, she continues.
"Or else, men fool you. Men take advantage of women who cannot stand up on their own feet. We can be easily deceived. I have been too dependent on him."

My father is referred to as a third person in our house. I want to tell her that her not holding a degree has nothing to do with my father leaving her or with me eating fish six days a week. Oh, and I also want to remind her that she was talking to a man here; so she could stop all that "man-slaughtering" talk.
But I keep my mouth shut and chew on the fish.
I think I have made no noise, I think I won't wake her up. But she switches on the corridor light as I am heading for the doorway.

"Where are you going?" Her eyes don't squint at the sudden brightness of the light. Instead, they look puffy and red.
"To the roof," I reply calmly.
"It's 1:30am. The roof's too wet."
"I'll be alright, mother."
"You don't smoke, do you?" Her voice trembles.
I laugh softly, "No, mother. What gave you such an idea?"
"Anouchka found two cigarette butts in your veranda."
"Oh, those. Some of my friends smoked while they came over the last time."
"You have friends who smoke?" She is appalled.
"Doesn't everybody?" I smile.
"But don't be influenced by them. Please, my son. I'll feel like a complete failure. You are the only person in my life who has not fooled me."
I smile at her and say, "I'll be back in a few minutes. Just want to take a walk."
"Take a flashlight. I know, you won't fool me. You are a good boy."
As I start climbing up the stairs, I hear her say to herself, "My son is a good boy."
I am sitting on the top of the water tank. The moist cement is cold and the wetness is seeping through my jeans. It is cold up here but I can see the city from here. Asleep. I inhale the smoke, then let out a grey line of smoke through the gap in between my lips. The orange tip where the ash keeps on forming and disintegrating is like the rising and setting of a minute sun. And then it reminds me of life: of everything glowing for some time, then becoming ash and then after a gentle shake, it glows brightly again and then it's ash again and this alternating act continuing till at one point it's just ash, you've reached the end of the paper stick and you have nothing but the filter left and there's no more glow. Now it's just me, the darkness, the sky, its vastness, the city, its shallowness. As I stare at the clouded sky where not a single star twinkles, a teenage boy is being stabbed in some house, a young girl is being raped somewhere, a child is being thrown acid at, a man and a woman are fighting at someplace, a man is cheating on his wife somewhere, a child is being abused somewhere and a woman who has given birth to me is crying in her pillow downstairs. And yet, despite knowing all this, I am strangely calm. For being a human being, I have adapted, accepted and moved on. I fling the cigarette butt as far as my aim can possibly make it go, take out the five hundred taka note and start tearing it till I have torn it to such small pieces that they fly away, like happy confetti to the peacefully sleeping city.

By Maliha Bassam







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