By Jackie Kabir
One day Ridima’s husband came home with an injured boy with a bandage on his head. There was a small room just before the main entrance of their house, it was mainly used as a guest room, the boy was laid down there by the people who carried him to the second floor. A scream came out of Ridima’s mouth; her mother-in-law pulled her aside and hushed her and told her to be quiet. She stood at a corner of the family space and watched.
The boy looked very frail, he was around eighteen or nineteen years old. She recognised him now. He was an orphan, who was given shelter by Ridima’s father-in-law. He worked in the shop and had become like their family member. The shops were in a building in Old Dhaka, that housed hundreds of small concerns, the interior was designed in such a way that it had a scaffold with white sheets on it and the stacks of material were arranged on the shelves above the scaffold. Everyone took their shoes off while getting inside. The customers sat on small stools that were arranged all around the scaffold.
The boy stayed in the shop while his food was sent from home in a tiffin carrier. It was a family-owned shop selling materials for clothes. That day one of their regular customers came and took one hundred pieces of material for shirts on credit. He promised he would pay the money as soon as he could. When Ridima’s husband went into the shop and saw that a whole stack of material was gone, he felt very happy. He pulled the cash drawer open. He couldn’t see any money there. He asked the salesman about the cloths. As the boy narrated the incident he lost his temper and he took the jock from his car which was parked nearby and hit the boy with it, at the back of his head.
The boy fell unconscious and bled profusely. The boy could have died. Sensing the danger, her husband quickly called the compounder from across the street to get him bandaged. People from all around the shops rushed and advised that the boy should be taken to hospital. Pretending that it was a mere accident Ridima’s husband asked some other boys to carry him to the car. The compounder also recommended that the boy should be taken to the hospital immediately. However, Ridima’s husband took him home knowing that there could be a police case if were taken to the hospital. A doctor was called home to treat the boy. When the doctor saw the boy’s condition, he refused to treat him saying that he had be taken to the hospital. Ridima’s husband first threatened him verbally. When that didn’t work, he went inside and got his licensed pistol and asked him to treat the boy. The doctor got scared and wrote down a list of things that he needed and waited patiently till the things were brought. Another boy was given the money and sent to the nearby dispensary. The doctor gave twenty-one stitches and heavy doses of medicines. He told them to keep the room clean and he told them he needed to change the bandage and do the dressing every day and perhaps, then, the boy would recover, even though his cut was deep.
Immediately Ridima’s mother-in-law sat down on her prayer mat with her long prayer beads. It stayed coiled on her prayer bed at one corner of the long rectangular room. A prayer mat was always spread on the prayer bed. There were about ten thousand beads on the string, she would have to finish it for about twelve and half times in order to do a Khatme Yunus; La illaha illa anta subhanaka inni kuntu minas Zalimeen, which meant, “There is none worthy of worship besides you, glorified are you, surely I am from among the wrongdoers.” It was a one-line prayer which had to be recited one lac and twenty-five thousand times in order to get results. It is said that one of Islam’s earliest prophets was devoured by a whale, he was inside the body of the whale for two and a half days and he recited this prayer and finally the whale gave out everything in form of vomit and Prophet Yunus was saved. Since then, it was called “Dua e Yunus” and Muslims all over the world used this prayer when faced with a big crisis.
Since the doctor was paid a huge sum of money and requested by the family to keep it a secret, he came back every day for a week and treated the boy. Ridima was very scared the first few nights. She feared the boy might die, as he had high fever and was delirious most of the night. He slept and they locked the door with a padlock. They opened the door only to give him food, clean the room and when the boy needed to use the toilet. He had to be helped to go to the toilet. Ridima’s mother-in-law asked her to make chicken soup for him every day, he was given soft rice with fish curry, the types known to produce blood in the body.
After a month, the boy could walk properly but Rimida wasn’t sure if his head injury had fully healed. She tried talking to her husband about it, he said, “You keep quiet! Do not try to act smart and meddle into affairs you know nothing about!”
Ridima’s heart shrank. Her eyes welled with water, and she tried to keep herself from weeping.
A few later, the boy said he was going to take a stroll downstairs. Ridima was doing some household chores, the boy nodded at her and walked out.
After Magrib Azan, her mother-in-law declared the boy was missing. Everyone asked Ridima if she was the one who let him go outside. She denied the fact in trepidation though her mother-in-law would not buy it. When her husband came home, her mother-in-law tried to tell him that it was Ridima’s fault that the boy escaped.
Her husband was taking his socks off and said, “Let him go! He was cured and cannot file any case anymore! Good riddance!”
Jackie Kabir is a writer from Bangladesh. Her collection of short stories Silent Noise was published in 2016. The titular story is being taught in BA English course in colleges under Manomanium Sundaram University, Tirunelveli. Tamil Nadu.
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