Volume 6 | Issue 14| July 14, 2012|


   Salty Air
   Ponds Women's Day
   The Art of Bonsai
   Nearing Evening
   Shanaka’s Family

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Shanaka's Family

Madol Hasan, born in 1976, is a teacher by profession. He currently resides in Jamalpur and published his first book, a collection of poetry, “Kanna dae grosto” (2001). It was followed by many more publications, including Ondho Okhkhorgulo (2004), Ghum ek Nishshorto Premer Desh (2006), Bishorongorer Barta (2008). Basically a poet, Madol Hasan has also gained expertise in other fields of literature.

Madol Hasan

Having spat a mouthful of cough into the black water of the Subarnakhali, Shwapon said repentantly to Chan, “Despite getting an opportunity to enter a country like Libya, you returned empty handed brother! I was expecting you to make way for the rest of us”. He again withdrew another throw of cough from his ganja addicted mouth as if intending to aim at the invisible, unknown darkness. The darkness of the moonless night remained unaffected. This was the darkness which was inaccessible, cruel, and harsh. In a pale accent he asked again, “How did it all happen Chan?”

“Why was I named Chan (moon) when in reality my life is nothing but darkness?” lamented Chan. “I live in a world of darkness. There is no light around me.” It was strikingly true as the absence of light made it impossible to see each other's face other than the sudden rush of light from the holy light enlightening the faces of the followers of Shiva occasionally. This is partial enlightening which had an essence of spiritual horror. “Please tell, how it all happened?'' asked Akul. Chan Mia sighed in disappointment. With a sarcastic tone he began, “What to say? I had gone there accursed by my ill fate.” At other times this statement would have caused a rush of giggle in Akul and Shwapon, but Chan whined in pain as if he had been dropped to the dirty world of mortals from the purity of immortality. “I had gone spending two lakhs forty thousand taka. Of these two lakhs were from father's farseeing fund to which I was the nominee. My sister borrowed from Uttam Karmakar, one of the goldsmiths at a rate of twenty percent and gave me the rest. The amount seemed quite less to me and I had believed to be able to return it. In fact I had sent around one lac only during my time there. I had dreamt to toil, earn a good living and eventually reach the peak of success. An honest way of income it was to me, but it was all in vain. Multiple criminal activities in our country do not bother anyone. But there it created havoc. The entire Middle East faced political and social instability. It was not possible to identify who stood for Gaddafi and who stood against him. The Libyan Government closed down the borders too. Staying in Libya meant inevitable death.

Thankfully the owner of the company I worked in was a good hearted man. Those of us who did not want to stay there taking the risk were sent by his men to the Salome port, in the Mediterranean. What a dread it was! We jumped in the water borders of Libya and Egypt wearing life jackets. We somehow managed to get access into the Matrooh port. It was the country of the Nile and the great pyramids. We secretly went to Cairo which was also politically unstable then. You have no idea how many times I lied about who my father was in order to survive. Once I had to claim myself to be a Sunni and or to be a Shea or to be an Ahmadia. You must have heard of the Suez Canal, the reason for so many wars. We could see the Sinai Mountain from the ship. I have lied a lot in my life, but I swear today I will not lie again and no matter what I do in Bangladesh, I will not even think of going abroad.” All this seemed like a story to the young minds of Shwapon and Akul, but their eagerness to know further about the rescue journey of their brave and bold older brother made them ask again enthusiastically, “What happened next?''

After having crossed the Suez Canal, there was not much to worry about. Crossing just the Red Sea, Eden Bay and Arab Sea would take us to the Bay of Bengal. I realized that there were some good people still alive in this world of immorality”. Just as he was about to proceed with his story he hushed everyone saying his sister Josna had called, and unnecessarily held his index finger to Akul's lips.

“Hello sister?”
“Where are you?”
“I am in the market.”
“Do not come home unless I call you.”
“Mother is there, right?”

“Yes, she is, we will manage. You don't worry. Your presence might enrage her further. Come when you get a missed call from me.” After hanging up, Chan Mia expressed his rage for the greedy usurer and asked the other two, “Isn't there any left?” Akul nodded positively and took out from the sleeve of his shirt a triangular packet filled with ganja and placed it between them.

Today is 1st of July (Friday), 17th Asharh of the Bengali calender, 1418, 28th Rajab 1432 according to the Islamic calender. Harun ur Rashid quickly glanced over Prothom Alo. Today there is news about reformed Parliamentary Bill, Middle Eastern political turbulence, France's booming interest in the trade of war elements, multiple cases of accidents, murder and rape. The Security Commission of oil, gas, port, electricity and national resources have called for a half day strike in the city on the 3rd of July as a protest against alteration of incomplete constitution and leasing of the gas block to an American company named Conco. Just when Harun was to read the literary section of the Prothom Alo named Anya Alo, Uttam called him over the phone. Local town's shop keepers take no delight in literary section of the newspapers and neither have enough time to spare. It is appreciated and relished by some inquisitive students and teachers of the schools and colleges. “Come to the tea stall”, said Harun and hung up. He borrowed Anya Alo from the chemist Ranjit Saha. Harun is the teacher of Social Sciences in a local college and also teaches in the Pyramid Coaching Centre. Uttam is his childhood friend who quit education and is now a goldsmith at Nikhad Jewelers in the district. He rented his house in the Thana. But since the district has better prospects of earning, he lives in the district. He is the cashier of the community of the goldsmiths, and aspires to make his own shop after making an ample amount of savings. He invests money in different places at high rates of interest.

He also has a CNG three-wheeler to collect rent from. Therefore, every Friday he comes to the Thana to monitor these activities though he claims that it is his love and determination for his friends which brings him there. Relishing his tea, he said, "In my profession, the more you work, the more you earn. Still I have come here to meet you only, didn't I?" Harun does not answer these questions. Some questions are often unanswerable, or rather rhetorical. The question itself carries the feature of not wanting an answer. "Bhaj, quickly fetch sir a Benson." Bhaj rushed to the order. For himself, Uttam took out the crumpled packet of Gold Leaf. Overexcited at the extra tip he received, Bhaj handed over the special beetle leaf to Uttam, who, while relishing it, asked Harun if he was busy. Harun said, “It is a Friday, therefore, I have neither college nor coaching.”

“Let's go somewhere then”
“Get up. I will tell you on our way. I have to collect money from somewhere.”

As Harun had already admitted that he was not busy, he had no other option other than accompanying Uttam. The toughest word to utter in the world is “no”. Not only is it difficult to say, but it also hurts to hear it. However, Harun asked Uttam, “From whom will you get the money?”

Harun responded casually, “You are already aware of the fact that I run a community. I am considering leaving it and opening my own jeweler's shop. Even if I want to leave it I need to pay them back the money which I invested as the majority of my investment in lending comes from the committee. So I need to collect the money.”

Harun asked inquisitively, “So where are you going?”
“Do you know Josna, the one who teaches music?”

“Yes, I do,” Harun said it regretfully as they approached the Ispahani colony, “The place has become quite congested since the last time I had been here. I had come here last during the elections. Wait, let me call her up.”

Though Harun was a teacher of social science, this abruptness of the society had struck him straight when he realized the presence of the beautiful Josna amidst the muddy puddles of the congested colony. “How are you Mr. Harun?” Harun was suddenly brought back to the reality, “Yes, I am fine. How are you?” Josna made an ambiguous reply to this and said, “Please come in”. As the three of them treaded the muddy dirty path, Harun was awe-struck at viewing a slum in the town. Both the teacher and the interest-claimer had to lower their heads before entering the house of a poor, music teacher. How to bring about the topic of money? Just then Josna's fatherless daughter woke up in tears. Immediately she patted her hand over her assuring her presence. Josna's mother was walking around vigorously in the adjacent room; her reluctance to come out of the room was obvious. It was quarter past ten. The Bengali channel “Star Jolosha” with a program named “Behula” was on TV. There was an advertisement break and Uttam thought it to be the opportune time to bring up the matter. He asked her straight, “It is getting late, we should be leaving. When are you planning to return my money?” Just then her daughter urinated in her clothes, and without paying heed to the words of Uttam she indulged herself in changing the clothes of her daughter with utmost affection. Just then there appeared an advert on the television on Horlicks. Her daughter, taking advantage of her mother's over indulgence of affection and the presence of guests, said, “Mother, I want Horlicks”. Josna patted on her back lovingly and immediately she fell asleep. “Behula” started again. Uttam was not the least interested about Shanaka's living; rather he eagerly waited for Josna's reply and was also looking for a chance to involve her mother in the conversation. “Khalamma, say something.”

“She won't come”, said Josna indicating that her mother is reserved and does not come in front of other men.

“So give me a date when I shall come to collect the money.”
“I cannot give you a date now, I need some time. It is odd if I tell you come on a particular date and fail to give the money”

“How can you say that? It was not my personal money. It belongs to the committee.”

“So far I have given interest amounting to twenty thousand taka. Delay is a problem more crucial to us than to you”.

The teacher of Social Science, Mr. Harun ur Rashid had two types of dialogues audible to his ears. One was that of Uttam and Josna, and the other being the violent speeches of Josna's mother. On the other hand there were the dialogues of Shanaka's life. The one to whom Chand merchant had mortgaged his house has come today with his men to take over his house. Shanaka has rushed to the inner court. The armed men already made their entry to the house. Entry has been made into the temple of the house as well. Where are the gold coins and the ornaments? He felt numb. What could he do? Just then our Chan Mia received the important missed call from Josna. Chan Mia does not follow the directions of Josna and falls to the addiction of darkness. “Isn't there any left?” he asked Akul and Shawpnil desperately.

Translated by Nuwaira Raiyan


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