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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Salty Air

Born in Bagerhat in 1971, Prasanta Mridha, a prolific fiction writer, is a College Professor in Sylhet. He graduated from Jahangirnagar University, studying Bangla, and he has been writing since he was only sixteen years old. Growing up in a cultural environment, he fell in love with writing short stories. He was honored with the Kagoj Tarun Kotha Shahitya Award in 2000 and HSBC's Kali o Kolom Award in 2010. He has published 18 books and writes articles and journals.


Prasanta Mridha

Near the pond, Biplob's tear is absorbed into the salty air and gets swallowed into his throat. In the dark, he opens his mouth for a while, and the tear shoots straight into the middle of his heart. Staring in the pitch dark, Biplob realizes his heart is becoming heavier and there is no strength in his legs. He can barely stand – the darkness is surrounding him. He can neither cry nor walk back home anymore. And, the tear stuck in his heart is almost giving him a heart attack. Honestly, he felt, it should happen – he should have had a heart attack and drop dead right where he is standing. There is no point going back home. Yet, even so, probably just because finding the reason as to why he is staring at the dark for so long – once again he looks ahead. Only darkness, he doesn't see anything.

At that moment a hand touched his back, a very slight touch. This slight touch on his back felt like the consoling touch that he needed.


Biplob doesn't look back to see who it is. He keeps staring forward – the way he was before with his back muscles stiffed. He knows, he is not capable enough to answer. He knows it is his father who is behind him but how can he look straight at his father?

His father, Brojeshshor calls him once more. This time, with more strength in his voice, in a low pitch with a longer tone;


The slight touch on his back turns a bit harder and the hand moves to his shoulder. That touch almost makes him fall to the ground. The hand moves away from his shoulder for a moment, his father moves a step closer and puts his hand on his shoulder again. Biplob touches his father's hand that is on his shoulder. Still looking forward, with a very low voice he asks “Father, what just happened?”

There is no answer to his son's question. Brojeshshor doesn't say a word – in a moment like this, no sane person would bring back memory of what has gone by. Maybe, it is the result of showing off too much, then again maybe it isn't. If it was because of that, then why has nothing happened to anyone else? It only happened to his son. Biplob knew if anything like this happened, people around him wouldn't come for help.

In this darkness, Biplob is sitting alone, facing westward, behind him – his father, not knowing when to bring back Shanti, his wife. With him, only his father, no other relative there to help him. Brojeshshor feels like screaming out to his son saying “none of the people you used to hang out with are coming to help you. Your enemies take away your wife and ruin your home while you sit in the dark and cry. There is only me, your old father, a little brother and your sick mother at home, where are those you used to flock with, those who put you in this situation?” But Brojeshshor realizes that there is no one left in the village to save them – all have left the village, to hide. Who knows where all are hiding, scattered in different places to save themselves. Brojeshshor standing right beside his unfortunate son knows there nothing he can do now but lend his consoling hand on his son's shoulder. He can't afford to complain at a moment like this. Rather, it is important that he forgets the near past and deals with what is to come. He has nothing to say to his son, so he also looks into the darkness ahead. With his hand on his son's shoulder, just for the sake of saying something, he asks “Biplob, did you go by yourself?”

Asking that, he realizes he shouldn't have said anything at all. Brojeshshor knows very well that Biplob took his wife with him on the boat – he knows when his son put his wife on the boat through the muddy waters. Silently, keeping a fair distance, he followed them to see his son and his daughter-in-law, Shanti leave. Brojeshshor was weeping. He felt his heart breaking into pieces like the strong water current breaks away river banks. He was never in a situation where he didn't know what to do. He wanted to stop them and say “Go away wherever you want to.” But for some unknown fear he couldn't say or do anything. Listening to the sound of his son paddling the oar, he could see himself in it. Brojeshshor knows, it is not possible for his son to leave or sell whatever he owns. Even if he does run away, he will never get them back – all will be gone. Brojeshshor knows so many are hiding away. He has to go to the village market now and then to buy things for Biplob's sick mother. He listens to people talking and hears how horrible the situation is for the party Biplob is a member of – almost all are in in hiding.

Biplob himself could've gone hiding as well. But, like others, he couldn't afford to run away. All of who are in hiding have relatives of some sort or have someone to bribe their way out. Biplob, he has no one apart from his family on this side. His only sister has been married for years. He can't afford to leave behind the shared business and the house. Brojeshshor too gave him the idea to hide for a few days. Even a few days back someone came and took away the motorbike Biplob had. Before taking away the bike he told to him to meet up with someone at Agricultural College after two days. That meeting never happened – talking to a few in the market, he thought a few times to go and visit the Agricultural College. What is the use, he thought, he wouldn't find anyone there. Even if there was someone, maybe that someone is the one behind his bike theft.

There is no one left to give him courage. Before, different people who used to suck up to him pretend not to know him at all. Some even make fun of him behind his back, saying “before the way his head was in cloud, the same way now he is stuck in a deep hole.”

He surely is now in a void, like many others of his party. But is he in so deep that someone can just come to his home and steal his motorbike without any questions asked? Biplob was feeling horrible for having his bike stolen like that. Later, he felt a bit relieved when he heard that he would've returned as a corpse had he tried to get his bike back.

There is also a rumor that his Gher (enclosed pond for fish farming) would be flooded. This is not about old hostility but about a starting a new one. Moreover, setting up a fishing-net on the floodgate would do the trick. All the shrimps and other fishes worth Lakhs of taka will be caught in one night by the people who want him harm. Biplob knows, the amount of money he spent the Gher this year, if anything happens to it, he will be in ruins. Brojeshshor also has heard all the rumors. He often talks about it with his son and sometimes he doesn't. Some rumors he keeps within himself for a while and gradually brings it out to his son. When Biplob doesn't return home, he talks to Shanti about all the rumors. Recently though, even Shanti looks gloomy and always sad, probably she and Biplob had an argument, he thinks.

Incidents suddenly start to happen in a quick pace, so quick that, there is no comparison between yesterday and today. In the last ten days, he has heard a lot of good and bad things. He cannot decide what has to be done – no calculation can be made on what should be his next move. And, there is no way to discuss the matters with Biplob's mother. The few times he used to have a talk with Shanti have completely stopped in the last two days. Now the environment at home is gloomy and heavy. The state of affairs between outside and inside of his home has created such a situation in Brojeshshor's life that he is losing the sense of time. One moment keeps on going forever and there are other moments that just pass him by – he has no track of the moments in between.

He has only seen tears in Shanti's eyes. She never told Brojeshshor the reason behind the tears. She has hidden her tears even when she was talking, taking care of her mother-in-law and during dinner. Maybe Shanti already knew what is to come or Biplob told her things that she had to accept. These last two days have gone by thinking what is going to happen. Biplob probably thought he could manage the situation. Probably, the couple tried to get away from it all somehow or they were trying to figure out a way these two days. Now, that the situation has spiraled out of control – he has no other way.

Biplob took Shanti to the boat. He is now standing beside the pond. Near the banana garden at the edge of the field where the boat is tied at. Maybe in an hour he will go to get Shanti back.

Brojeshshor wants to ask “What is happening?” But he doesn't. Then again, he wants to ask “Who did you leave your wife to?” Though he knows the answer yet, it can't be asked. How can a father ask his helpless son, whom he has been forced to give his wife to. There are no words to phrase that question. Brojeshshor moves a bit closer to his son and puts his hands on his shoulder. Biplob, to get away from his helplessness tells his father “Father, you go home”.

Brojeshshor doesn't move an inch. The way Biplob asked him to go home made Brojeshshor put his hand on his shoulder again.

Biplob again said “Father”?
“Yes, son?”
“Go home!”
“I am going.”
“Not going, just go!”
“There is no use of you being here, rather you should be with mother. It is getting late.”

Brojeshshor has nothing to say. He takes his hand off of Biplob's shoulder. He thought for a moment that his son is right, immediately again he thought maybe Biplob is feeling uneasy to express himself – he must be hiding something. He couldn't understand why Biplob would. He probably should go back home to leave Biplob from this unease. But, he doesn't have that strength in his legs – he moved back a few steps and moved forward again and put his hand on his shoulder and asked “When is Shanti returning?” Immediately he realized that he shouldn't have asked that. Biplob doesn't know the answer to that.

Taking a moment, spiritless, like not taking to himself, he said “Shanti will return, you just go back home.”

Taking his hand off Biplob's shoulder, Brojeshshor starts walking beside the edge of the pond. In the light of the torch even his own feet feel different to him. He never heard his walk making such sound. He stands for a while, looks back. There nothing to see in the pitch dark behind him. Brojeshshor thought maybe because of him Biplob didn't go and bring Shanti back.

Stepping into his house, the light from the flashlight fell on the corner of the bed on the porch. Brojeshshor's eyes fell on a pair of Shankha and a red Pola (conch bangles and red bangles, symbol of a Hindu married woman). Brojeshshor freezes there for a while and looks at the Bangles Shanti left behind. The sound of Biplob getting on the boat came from the pond, and then, the sound of the oar!

Brojeshshor's flashlight was still on.

Translated by Zia Nazmul Islam

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