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Erratum, Misery

Insidious in its swelling, probing gently the surface of slightly flaking skin, a pellet under layers of stratified cells. When I put my finger to it I can almost feel a pulse, jerky, unstable, straining against the nerves of my skin. Here is Life, rushing past slowly constricting veins, past carcinogens flooding these tiny vessels, tumbling over white blood cells that tried, feebly, to fend off the cancer.

I trail my finger down the length of my ulna, wasted bone beneath stretchy scar tissue. I am slowly fading.

“Are you awake?” he stirs next to me, still slumped from last night, sleeping upright in the uncomfortable plastic chair, feet propped up on the edge of my bed. He scoots in closer, the metal legs squeaking vehemently against the linoleum floor. The scrape and scuffle bring unexpected smiles to our weathered faces.

“How long have you been here?” I ask. Or so I try to say, even though my voice escapes my lips in a ragged whisper, snagging at the corners of my cracked lips. He lowers a glass to my mouth and I feel the cool rush of water coursing down my neck. “Not too long,” he says, and I know he is lying. From the way his hand wraps around the guardrail and the slight quiver as his arm lowers the glass, I know it has not been a short while.

“I don't know why you even bother,” I say. Craning my neck, turning my head, my once-upon-a-time upturned nose now a squashed button against the sagging folds of my skin. He grins, the same look of mild amusement creeping into his crinkled eyes, and reaches over to ruffle my balding head.

“It makes you smile.”
“Well, you don't know that.”
He shrugs, conceding. “True, I don't.”

The twenty-five years melt away, tuck themselves under the blankets that are draped over my wasted legs. Wrinkles fade and voices regain their vigour, the rich timber of youth and joy and vibrancy, and the chemicals that drip resolutely into my arm recede into their IVs. Slowly my veins are emptied of their wearisome baggage, the cancer and the chemo and the gentle flaking of my dying innards.

We are young again.
“What are you going to do now?” we could have been making plans, any plans. For a movie, a dinner date, a shared platter of leftover birthday cake, a TV show watched in the glimmer of a single lamp at three in the morning. We could have been sitting across the dining table, the scratched-up surface strewn with bills, calculator and pen at hand, foreheads creased in consternation. We could not have been at this junction at all, this crossroad of uncertainty and absolute misery. We could have not stepped over this threshold; we could have shut our eyes against the white of the hospital walls and the disinfectant that seeped into the floor cracks. We could have done it all. But we didn't.

“I don't know.” This time the truth, the hand that was grasping the guardrail now seeking out my bony fingers. Familiar grasp finds familiar grasp, two spoons nestled against the scratchy fabric of hospital bed linen.

“Did you even do the dishes?”

A glimmer of sheepishness in his eyes, and I shake my head in admonishment. “You'll never learn, will you? You'll never do without me.”

“I know I won't.”
“You're never going to pick up that duster.”
“I won't even remember where it is.”
“And my china, our wedding crystals, what about those?”
“We have wedding crystals?”
“How long have we been married?”
“What, it's not like we ever eat off the wedding crystals.”

“Don't be logical with me!” and I wrap the skin on his wrist and pinch, the slight effort draining me more than I would like to admit. He winces, convincingly, and swats my arm away, manoeuvring around the IV that is taped to my hand.

He sinks down into his chair again. Takes my hand. Cradles it. “What am I going to do, lovelove?” I ask him.

“I don't know, lovelove.”
“What are you going to do?”

A chuckle, tinged all over with a colour we both are intimately familiar with. The grey, grey despair of inevitability, of helplessness, and he lowers his forehead to mine and we are poised, forehead to forehead, for days or months or seconds or decades.

“At least,” I say, “you'll set that keyboard on fire. Misery was always your muse.”

He chuckles. A splatter of salt water rolls off my cheek.


Verbal 'Khichuri': A Tribute

"You see this bottle,” explained the Bangali to the foreigner, “This bottle here had a mukhkha, and the mukhkha has been uira gase.”

The foreigner, with an almost terrorised expression, stuttered, “I beg your pardon?”

“No, no, the mukhkha has been uira gase. So, this, you falaya dao and go buy arekta. Understand? Good. Kaifa Haluka.”

Now this writer doesn't understand why people complain about this country so much but yours truly is actually thankful for being born a Bangladeshi. Where else on this sweet Earth will you see a scene this epic, unfold before your eyes in this day and age?! “Or maybe it's because of 'this day and age' that I got to witness something like this,” thought the amused me, as I watched the poor foreigner reeling from shock, trying to decipher whatever the hell the words just hurled at him meant. I went up to the Bangali and whispered in his ear, “Bhai, I don't think he understood what you said to him.” He replied with a blinding grin, “Tailei bojhen ki jobbor angreji koisi!!! (Goes to show just how good my English is, eh?!)”

The 'khichuri' phenomenon (mixing Bangla-English-Hindi-Arbi-Chinese-Japanese… etc.), as we may so affectionately call it, has been around for some time as a much-discussed and much-written-about topic. Let's hope you all know the infamous jokes of “Cutting the basher bera, dhooking the chor, take all maalpotro, out of the door” or “He went and went, amonbhabe went that ar never came back” etc. Therefore, this article will not delve into the usual dire criticisms that tend to follow a phenomenon as unique and controversial as this. Instead, let's focus on the more positive side of the matter for a change, shall we?

We Bangalis should be proud of ourselves, the ever-confident and undaunted bunch that we are. We are an amazing people, the coolest of 'em all, the Hip, the Happening. We never back down from speaking our minds, from expressing ourselves, from BEING ourselves. Take the brave Bangali of the 'mukhkha' incident for example. Gone are the days of hiding in the corner and shying away from foreign languages: if we can't speak their language, meh, but by the end of the day we'll make it so they'll speak ours for sure. That's the mark of a true rockstar, people. Respect.

Hence, it would be safe to admit that we Bangalis have an in-built 'Naruto-syndrome' inside all of us: we rush into things like over-enthusiastic idiots (and frequently get into trouble), we say the first thing that pops into our minds (and so, we're still looking for 'shotrus') and yet we still get to be the hero of the story (because it's OUR story, duh!). Try to visualise the scene with the Bangali and the foreigner: the foreigner with his bulging eyes, open-mouthed and terror-stricken, cowering before the beaming Bangali in 'Superman' mode (his magenta Hawaii shirt blowing in the air) sprouting verbal Kungfu: “Hoyaar (where) theke come from? My country good? Say to CNG-wala 20 taka more will give and he will nia jabe. My country-people bohot achchha hai, but CNG-wala gulan moha pechgi-baaj, ha ha ha ha…”

Seriously, Gotham Comics should hire the guy as their newest breed of superhero. His superpower, of course, would be the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the mutant verbal 'khichuri' (a catchy tune like 'teenage mutant ninja khiiichuri' or something of the sort will work). Once he opens his mouth, he leaves everyone else scratching their heads and feeling like an idiot. When he speaks, he leaves all at the receiving end in tears. And when he takes even a step toward his opponent trying to explain something, the poor guy cries 'Mommy' and runs for his life with all his might.

Now that's the power of a mighty Bangali. All hail the 'khichuri'-man. Amen.

By Kokoro-chan


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