Categories
Stories

Odysseus & Me: A Quest for Home

 By Marzia Rahman

You once thought naively, oh no, not naively, but foolishly that the hardest thing to do was to sever the ties. To uproot. You did not know the true meaning of uproot back then. Or what it meant to sever the ties. You only wanted to leave your home. Your town. Your mother. Or maybe, you were just being a teenager with an insatiable thirst for freedom.

*

The mornings were the worst, gray and interminable, and you fought a lot with your mother. And at nights, you stayed awake. You imagined yourself as a princess, trapped in a palace waiting for a prince or maybe a demon to release you. You pretended to be a solitary prisoner some days, whose date of execution had been announced, but all she cared for was looking out of her cell window at a clear blue sky where a lone bird flied up, up, above until it turned into a dot. 

*

You thought you didn’t belong in that small town with half-finished buildings and mud houses that had faded and where people, too, had faded, and looked more like the forgotten characters of a history book. You wanted to run away from that godforsaken place. You knew there was a world out there, bright and shining, living and breathing, bursting with cafes and restaurants, salons and boutiques and with freedom sprinkled in the air.        

*

And then, one day you did walk out of your home and stepped into the new world. This new world—how much did you know about it? Was it a kind place? Sane and sympathetic? Or was it more crowded and chaotic than your old hometown? Could you read it the way you read the palms of your town? Did you know the name of the streets or the people of this city, the colour of its sky, the trees, the birds, the lyrics, the signs and the symbols?

No. You knew nothing.

You thought that you’d learn to navigate the roads, the twisting alleys and gullies, the hundreds of shops and days and nights. You thought you would slowly and gradually adopt to the new life of this new world. But it would take time, perhaps months and years. And in all those months and years, you’d peek into your old world sometimes just to see how things were! But you would not gaze at it for long, or you might miss it. Because you could never sever the ties forever. Forever is such a tricky adverb, an unsure word. But you did not know it back then.

You thought once you entered the city,  you would forget all about your past life, the white walls of your house, your mother’s sewing machine, the poems, the songs and the rainy nights. You thought it was fine to lose some memories, a few books of classics and the old school diaries. You wanted to build new memories, new friends.

You worked two jobs, one full time, one part-time. You cut your hair, painted your toenails, ate yogurts, made ginger tea and sang new songs. You thought you were content, and no memories of the past would ever come muttering after you in a soft November night when you were cooped up in your room, alone. You thought you would never wake up in the middle of the night to the pitter patter rain pouring outside and your heart would not ache for the starry night sky you used to watch, lying next to your grandmother on her cot in the open courtyard of your home. 

But you were wrong.

*

You were wrong to presume that you could erase the past. That you would never feel the urge to go back to your town. And you realised it when your little brother, a grown up now, showed up at your door one rainy morning. You never thought one single knock would usher so many memories of yesteryears; and made you ache for the home you left years ago.

*

When you decided to go back to your old town, you remembered how you’d once thought naively, oh not naively, but foolishly that the hardest thing to do was to cut the ties. When it was tying the cords that seemed to be much harder, a colossal task. Was it even possible to go back? You felt the pain that Odysseus must have felt. The quandary the great hero was in! You grasped why he though spent a lifetime at war, but found the biggest struggle was finding his way back home?

*

You were the new Odysseus, puzzled, lost. What if the house, where the bougainvillea bloomed on the roof in white, pink and yellow all the year round and a cat often came to sit, wagging its tail, in the wide courtyard failed to recognise you? What if your family had already filled the vacuum? They would be no longer willing to open an old wound.  

You boarded the bus, packed with people and your fears and a throbbing heart on a sunny morning in late June. And when the bus dropped you onto a dusty road of your old town in the afternoon, you were surprised to find yourself surrounded by a sea of green. The leaves of the trees on both sides of the road rustled and murmured, and the scent of some wildflowers wafted in the air and you wondered: Do you walk ahead? Or wait for a return bus? Go back to the city?

The dust beneath your feet twirled and swirled, and you bit your nails and looked at the sky, filled with clouds and your doubts. You stepped off the main road and walked down to a muddy field, flanked by bamboo and coconut trees. You suddenly remembered there was a short-cut path snaking through the bamboo groves and coconut trees. And you realised that you found your freedom, you needed to find your home now.

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Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi writer. Her writings have appeared in several print and online journals. She is currently working on a novella. She is also a painter.

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Categories
Musings

The Significance of Roll Numbers

By Shahriyer Hossain Shetu

“What is your roll number in the class?”

I was never able to answer this question. At a very young age, I realised that the importance of having a roll number is highly significant in our society. This significance includes three important aspects that reflect a student’s life: First, on a scale of balance, the weight of a roll number placed next to a grade is heavier than any other qualities of a student. Second, it adds an enormous impact on careers availing people to differentiate between the best and the worst. And third, it clarifies who deserve all the importance as well as compliments from everyone.

Back then, I was not familiar with the concept. Due to my unfamiliarity with the term, I ended up questioning my Abbu (father), “What exactly is this roll number thing, why does everyone keep on asking me this question?” His answer, being straightforward as always, was, “Ask your Ammu (mother).” His reply was very much expected considering how hasty he has always been because of his work as a journalist. Asking my Ammu would have been a waste because she too would give me a similar response to Abbu. The scenario was like a football match where I, like a football, was being passed between one player to the another from the same team, unable to determine where exactly I was going.

Before getting admitted to a school, I mostly spent my time watching television. CN (Cartoon Network) was my best mate with whom I had spent most of my childhood. I got so obsessed with the fictional characters of CN that I started to draw them on papers using pens of different colors. My obsession started to develop into a habit and gradually to an escape from reality. But my escape route had to be closed as I was told by my parents that it is religiously prohibited to draw human figures. Plus, there is no particular future in such an obsession. “The real talent only lies in books and knowledge.” And to have a bright future, the first step is to reach the top position in the classroom. Thus, I stopped drawing.

I did my schooling in an ordinary English Medium institution located in Dinajpur. Because of my father’s job as a district correspondent, I was lucky to spend my childhood in that beautiful region. One well-known place in Dinajpur is the Boromaath (literally, Large Field), a huge green field that can be considered as the heart of the district. My school was close to Boromaath and we would often bunk our classes to play cricket or football on the big field. Our school was the only English medium institution in that locality and the idea of O and A level was not much appreciated by people who lived outside the capital. Thus, very few students in our vicinity were English medium students because people were also suspicious of the system in such schools.

As we were fewer student, the idea of having roll numbers was futile. Although, instead of roll numbers, we had registration numbers that were not given based on any academic excellence, capability, or talent. These numbers were like a code that they had shared with us as evidence for being a part of that institution. One can say that the numbers were an unnecessary adjunct, occupying an extra space in our school identity cards right under our long names.

The idea of classifying students was visible, even though we had no discriminating term as the roll number next to our grades in school. This categorisation of students based on academic grades came with extraordinary packages that concerned only the top candidates — too much care from the teachers, applause from parents, and the privilege of having too many friends. Unfortunately, I was not among the good ones to receive such privileges as my marks were never satisfactory and the dream of achieving the “extraordinary package” was never a reality for me. Due to my incapability, I had to go through an extreme ordeal of taunts and insults from my surroundings. I was already declared as the “worst” kind.

The ordeal phase was mostly because of a particular distant relative who could’ve been a millionaire if criticising could be called his full-time vocation. I still can recall the face of that overly concerned person who loved to critique my every action like a war hawk. He assumed that I was too embarrassed to share my roll number with anyone because of my poor grades. I wasn’t sure of the reason for his fantastic assumption. His way of speaking seemed too absurd to me, and I ended up raising my voice to prove my point, wrecking all traditional beliefs. As a result, I received the title of a “discourteous” child in the family. He even informed my other relatives about my “rudeness” just to prove his point.

Being raised by a middle-class family that only follows ethics and traditions, I am not supposed to defend myself from elders (not even to save my dignity) as it is religiously as well as societally prohibited. Although, using the code of “seniority,” an elder can cut and split me into two with his sharp-edged words.

He still reprimands my parents for not raising me properly because of that particular reason. How can defending ourselves from senior citizens who are almost toxic, wicked, and torturous be wrong? What does it have to do anything with our parent’s nurturing method? I still couldn’t figure it out.

The importance of roll number is still high in our country. Is it necessary to analyze a child’s future just by seeing his academic grades and categorizing him/her in first to last numbers? I don’t know. But I do know that this idea is destroying lives before it even started.

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Shahriyer Hossain Shetu is a student in the Department of English & Humanities, ULAB. Some of his writing has appeared in Daily Star, Bangladesh.

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Categories
Index

Celebrating Nazrul’s Anniversary

Born in united Bengal, long before the Partition, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) was known as the  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. His birth anniversary is observed on 25th May in Bangladesh and on 25th or 26th May in Tripura, India. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. He was charged with sedition by the British for his fiery writing and jailed repeatedly.

We celebrate his anniversary with powerful translations of his prose and poetry. May his works help us move towards a better and more enlightened, borderless world as envisioned by him.

Temples and Mosques

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s fiery essay translated by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

Purify My Life

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poem, Purify my Life, translated by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu. Click here to read.

Categories
Nazrul Translations

Purify My Life

A translation of Kazi Nazrul Islam’s Shuddho Koro Amar Jibon by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu

Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) Known  Bidrohi Kobi, or “rebel poet”, Nazrul was born on 25th May in united Bengal, long before the Partition. Nazrul is now regarded as the national poet of Bangladesh though he continues a revered name in the Indian subcontinent. He was a Muslim, married a Hindu and wrote songs mingling Hindu and Muslim lores. In addition to his prose and poetry, Nazrul wrote about 4000 songs. He was charged with sedition by the British for his fiery writing and jailed repeatedly.

Purify My Life

Purify my life, like dawn let me rise

anew each morn.

Let me be the sunrise,

redefine my life; make me thrive

I’ve been like a depressed widow, a hurtful drop

from Bakul.

Place your hand of blessing on my head

so I grow like a verdant tree when the summer rain

pours on my bosom.

Purify my life like sunrise,

so I become the waking sky.

Turn me into every child’s book of first letters,

and the song of early birds.

Purify my life, so that I

become an island;

Or, childhood, or a new stream of rain;

I’ve drowned in pain and loneliness

And stood like a debdaru.

Purify my life like a fresh blooming flower

so I wake up like a morning’s sleepy eye.

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*Bakul and Debdaru are both trees that grow in Bengal. Bakul bears flowers that are fragrant and white.

Shahriyer Hossain Shetu is a student in the Department of English & Humanities, ULAB. First Published in Daily Star, Bangladesh.

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Categories
Poetry

Before my Curtain is Drawn

By Tasneem Hossian

Tasneem Hossian
Before my Curtain is Drawn


Do not shed tears when I am gone.
Give me a moment now, before my curtain is drawn.
Stay with me for a while,
Sit silently by my side.
Take my hands in your hands,
Let me rest on your shoulder.
Talk to me with your sweetest words.
Smile at me with your eyes, twinkling stars.
Let me listen to your whispering heart, 
Engraved will remain these moments. 

If you cry, when I am gone with
My life’s curtain already drawn,
What meaning would it hold for me?
How will I know that you cared for me?
How will I tell you what you meant to me?
Let these moments of love be an eternity.
 
Come sit beside me and love me now.
If you love me, then make me this vow:
You won’t cry when I am gone, 
For you will never be alone.
I will be with you -- very near,
Wiping away all your tears.

Do not shed tears when I am gone.
Give me a moment now, before my curtain is drawn.

Tasneem Hossain is a multilingual poet, columnist, op-ed columnist and training consultant. She is the Director of Continuing Education Centre, Bangladesh.

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Categories
Slices from Life

Pohela Boishakh: A Cultural Fiesta

Sohana Manzoor shares the Bengali New Year celebrations in Bangladesh on April 14th, pausing on the commonality and differences with Poila Baisakh, the Indian version of Pohela Boishakh celebrated in the Eastern part of India

Happy & Prosperous New Year or ‘Shubho Nabobarsho’ in Bengali script

“Shubho Nabobarsho” (happy and prosperous new year) is the traditional greeting for the Bengali new year. The upcoming April 14 will herald the beginning of the Bengali year 1428 in Bangladesh, but in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Odisha and parts of Assam it will be the 15th of April. In Bangladesh, Pohela Boishakh is one of the biggest occasions of celebration, next to perhaps the two Eids.

Whereas the celebrations of Pohela Boishakh is now a regular thing, its history is somewhat unclear. According to most historians, the Bengali year or Bangabda was introduced by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. In those days, agricultural taxes were collected according to the Hijri Calendar. But then the Hijri calendar is a lunar calendar and naturally, it did not coincide with the agricultural year. The tax collecting time was not a time when the peasants and farmers could pay the taxes. It only added to the confusion of the people who tilled the land in various capacities. To streamline the tax collection, Akbar ordered a reformation of the calendar. As a result, in 1584 Bangabda was born. But the year started from 963, the Hijri year it was modeled on. According to some historians, however, it was adopted by another Muslim ruler called Hussain Shah of Bengal. There is yet another group that alludes to Shashanka, a seventh-century King of Bengal, for inventing Bangabda. It is quite possible that it existed before Akbar’s time and the Mughal Emperor reinvented it with the help of his royal astronomer and other pundits of his court.

An interesting aspect of Bangabda is that the names of the months were different in those times. The story of how the months of Farwardin, Urdibahish and Khordad became Baishakh, Jyoshthyha and Ashar is lost to us. But we do know that just as he had helped in modernizing the Bengali language, Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah helped in modernizing the Bengali year. Partially accepting his reformative suggestions, the Bangla Academy saw that the first six months had thirty-one days each and the last six, thirty. Hence there is no further confusion about which day of the Gregorian calendar Pohela Boishakh coincides with. In Bangladesh, it is always 14 April. But in West Bengal and other parts of India, it can be either 14 or 15 of April.

When the Bengali new year was first introduced, the most important activities on the first day of the year involved halkhata, opening of a new book for zamindars who would treat their tenants with sweets. On the last day of the old year, there would be Chaitra Sankranti, a day celebrating the end of the year. Actually, in rural areas, this day was more colourful than Pohela Baishakh. Charak Puja, a Hindu festival honouring the god Shiva is central to this celebration. The actual puja used to take place on the midnight of Chaitra Sankranti, and it was a very special kind of ritual and not too many people even know about it anymore. The preparation would start a month ahead of the actual puja and a total of twelve devotees would take part in it. There would be different kinds of festivities through the day, and snacks like puffed rice, ground gram called chhatu,  dry sugary sweets like khoi, murki, batasha, kodma, and many varieties of leafy vegetables would be available. In today’s Bangladeshi scenario, Chaitra Sankranti has almost disappeared except in some distant villages. Only lately, some initiatives are being taken in Dhaka to reintroduce the fair, even though it looks like any other fair and very different from the original Chaitra Sankranti.

With urbanization, the more secular Pohela Boishakh became popular. However, some elements from Chaitra Sankranti have been integrated in Baishakhi celebration. For example, there are fairs that still showcase puffed rice, khoi, murki, batasha and kodma. There are products made by rural artisans. Performances on musical instruments like ektara, dotara and dhol by rural artists are show cased. Riding the nagardola (a mini and wooden version of the Ferris wheel, reminiscence of the charak) is a central attraction of the fair.

It is impossible to conceive of any Bengali festival without food. The first food item that comes to mind regarding Pohela Baishakh, is hilsa fish. Different preparations of mouth-watering taste are prepared with hilsa. Then there are panta bhat (fermented rice) with green chili, all kinds of bhartas (mashes) starting with potatoes to tomatoes, sweet pumpkins, lentils, beans, shrimps and different types of fish, chutneys, shutki (bitters), authentic Bengali sweets, savoury snacks like fuchka, chotpoti and even traditional ice-creams, kulfi. Bigger cities find fairs and programmes in almost every locality.

Chhayanaut, an institution devoted to the propagation of Bengali culture, started celebrating the Bengali Nababarsha under the Ramna Botomul (a historic banyan tree) in 1967. Since the Liberation War of 1971, Pohela Boishakh has grown into a national festival for all Bangladeshis irrespective of religions. In Dhaka, the Pohela Boishakh procession begins from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka. The students start taking preparation for the procession from days ahead. They make masks and banners and wear elaborate costumes. This is known as the festive Mangal Shobhajatra, translated procession showcasing good fortune. In 2016, this festivity organized by the Faculty of Fine Arts was listed as UNESCO cultural heritage. Specific roads around Dhaka city are decorated with white and red alpanas, elaborate designs made with rice flour mixed with water.

At the break of dawn on Pohela Boishakh, people gather at the Ramna batamul festival ground. The day starts with singing the famous Tagore song, “Esho he Boishakh*” along with many others. The whole day is spent in celebration. Radios and TV channels air special programs on the day too. People dressed in white and red and other colourful attire flock around the city. It is also observed as a national holiday and a fun-day for everybody.

Sohana Manzoor is an Associate Professor of English at ULAB. She is also the Literary Editor of The Daily Star.

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Categories
Poetry

Birth of an Ally

Smoke and Fire by Alia Kamal

By Tamoha Siddiqui

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Yesterday I heard the sound of colourful feet

to Indonesian beats, in the middle of Michigan:

white, black, brown, all were one

pitter-patter paces in a conference hall.

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You thought I wasn’t looking, but I was.

You were smiling a late November sun

stubborn in joy, fresh in giving;

a horizon broadening in deepening twilight.

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Your grey hairs picked up the song, 

The music bent down for a kiss.

Immigrant spices dissolved

ladling a new tone on your tongue

As you threw up your pink arms

And danced.

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Somewhere, your soul alighted;

Moonlight on a tulip,

Wind on the sand dunes,

Mellow in a melting of colours,

You danced.

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Tamoha Siddiqui is a teacher-researcher and poet from Bangladesh. She’s a Fulbright awardee currently housed at Michigan State University as a graduate student.  In 2018, Tamoha founded a bilingual poetry collective in Dhaka, working as a performer, organizer, and facilitator of local poetry shows and workshops. Furthermore, she debuted as a performance poetry artist in America in 2019 through events hosted by the The Poetry Room, Michigan. Her work has been highlighted in a number of Bangladeshi newspapers and anthologies.

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Categories
Stories

House of the Dead

By Sohana Manzoor

When Shefa Nanu died, I was about fourteen years old. It was an awkward age to be honest. I was neither a woman, nor a girl. When people said, “O my, isn’t she all grown up,” I felt awfully conscious of myself. Sometimes I wished to be invisible, and half the times I didn’t want to go visiting. But Shefa Nanu’s death was an unavoidable occasion and I had to tag along with my mother and grandmother.

Shefa Nanu was my maternal grandmother’s first cousin. She was also the widow of a well-respected lawyer and the mother of an important political figure. I had been to their large house in Elephant Road many times. Even though she was the mistress of a very busy household, she always had time for my Nanu. They were not merely cousins but bosom friends as well. I used to play with their two cats, Abby and Minnie while the two grandmothers chatted away like teen-age girls. Shefa Nanu was the only person alive who could call my Nanu by her first name. I would feel guilt-ridden if I did not go. So, I braced myself for the inevitable.

You can only guess that my Nanu had cried her heart out by the time we reached the two storied house near Mallika Cinema Hall at Elephant Road. Shefa Nanu had died in the middle of the night and it was around 9:30 in the morning when we reached the house of the dead as they call it. The entire house was full of people and I could not spot one face that looked familiar.

This is one reason I hate visiting the dead. There are always too many people; all the forgotten and half-forgotten relatives and friends turn up when someone dies. Suddenly, a woman in shabby brown threw her arms around my mother and cried, “O Runu Apa, you’ve come at last! What will happen now that Amma is gone?” At her wailing I realised it was Shefa Nanu’s daughter-in-law, Naina Auntie. I gaped at her in surprise because she was all covered up. A well-endowed lady, she had always shown too much skin. Shefa Nanu was forever criticising Naina Auntie’s ways, while Auntie too was always complaining against her mother-in-law. But why was she crying like this? Didn’t she want to go away from this hell-house and live elsewhere?

Then I saw Lubaba and Shababa, her two daughters. Shababa was about eight years old and Lubaba was slightly older than me. Both of them were attired in old, wrinkled clothes and I was even more surprised because Naina Auntie always made a point to keep them spotless and well-dressed in company. What had happened to them?

I was about to ask something when Lubaba motioned us all to go inside. We learnt that the body was in the freezer and not inside the house. They would bring her in as soon as Shefa Nanu’s eldest daughter and youngest son arrived. I remembered Shefa Nanu’s youngest son Tushar Mama quite well. He went abroad to pursue higher studies and among his six siblings he was the only one not yet married. So, he was flying in from the US and Samina Auntie from Australia. Both were supposed to be coming in by mid-noon. They had boarded the planes as soon as they had heard about Shefa Nanu’s hospitalisation.

Lubaba whispered to us that Tonuka Auntie wouldn’t make it as she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. Her husband would not allow her to travel all the way from New York. I saw Tuhin Mama and his wife greeting the guests. They seemed composed even though I could see that both of them had been crying.

As we occupied three chairs in the room adjacent to the drawing room where the men were seated, my eyes fell on a tall woman dressed fashionably in a black lace saree. She had sharp features and a complexion too white. Did she put on make-up? I had never seen anyone wearing make-up when they attend funeral or visit a house where someone has died. I could not help staring at her when I heard a most interesting thread of conversation.

A fat lady in pale green shalwar-kameez started to prattle, “I don’t know why Shakil is still missing and why Naina is putting up all that show of grieving. She must be awfully relieved that her mother-in-law is gone.” Then she lowered her voice and asked another lady sitting right beside her, “Did you hear, by the way, about Shakil’s affair with that other woman? … the young widow of Pintu Shikder? Now that his mother is not there anymore, I wonder ….”

“Shush,” replied the other lady, “Don’t talk about these things now.” She paused and said rather philosophically, “But what will happen, will happen.” Then she too lowered her voice and whispered loud enough for me to hear, “I doubt Naina has anything to fear right away. The elections are near, and he won’t get nomination if he divorces his wife now.”

My mother and Nanu were too stricken to pay attention to any of these. But I was gobbling up the bits of gossip round-eyed and wondered how much truth they contained. My still young heart could not fathom why Shefa Auntie would stop her son from getting married to another woman when his current wife was a wicked one. Suddenly, we heard some male voice wailing in the next room, “O Bubu, my sweet Bubu, why did you leave me like this? I am a useless creature—who will feed me now? (Sound of sobbing) My children and I will perish in the streets… O Bubu…”

I sat astounded. Now, who was that? Then I remembered that Shefa Nanu had a younger brother called Shamsul, who was the black-sheep of his family. He had gambled away his share of the property inherited from his father. Shefa Nanu provided his family a regular allowance to save them from destitution. He even lived in the apartment Nanu had got as her share in her father’s property. What a scumbag!

At this point, several ladies entered the room where we were sitting. They had prayer beads in their hands, and they were asking people how many times they had recited the Darud Sharif. The women stopped whispering and started nudging each other and speaking in more audible tones. A young woman with downcast eyes was writing down the figures. When she left the room with another woman, my mother asked, “Who’s she? I don’t think I’ve seen her before.” 

“Oh that?” A lady in hijaab replied, “That’s Tultul’s wife.”

“Tultul’s wife?” echoed both my mother and Nanu. “And who’s Tultul?”

Suddenly, people around us looked confused. Nobody seemed to know who Tultul was. Someone muttered, “Well, she introduced herself as Tultul’s wife. And since nobody objected, I assumed everybody knows Tultul.”

An old lady in white said, “Probably, he is one of the distant cousins. What does it matter? She is very helpful.”

Then we heard fresh commotion outside. Someone screamed, “Samina has arrived. Ah, Sami — your ma is no more. You’re all orphans now…” A fresh bout of wailing started and in the middle of all the hubbub, the lady in black asked, “Is there a landline somewhere? I need to call my husband in Chittagong. My cell-phone charge is gone.”

The way she moved and spoke, out of the blue I was reminded of a snake. This woman could easily be dubbed as Rupashi Nagin (beautiful snake woman). Then suddenly, my eyes fell on her wrist: a tattoo of a green snake in the shape of a bangle entwined one of her wrists, and on the other was a fat red frog. This time, my jaw dropped, and I could not take my eyes off her tattoos.

Then someone showed her a land phone hanging on the wall in the far-end of the room. There she continued to talk oblivious to her surroundings.

I frantically wished I could go home. I never liked being in the house of the dead, but it is one of those responsibilities one cannot avoid. I wondered miserably the point of attending such a farce where most people were actually acting crazy. Around 2:30 we were all ushered in a large room near the kitchen and had lunch that consisted of khichuri (porridge of dal and rice) beef, salad and fried eggplants. Someone was sniffing, “Khala (aunt) loved fried egg-plants. She just loved to eat and she had to be diabetic too! She suffered so much!’

A wave of hysteria was bubbling inside me when someone cried, “Tushar is home. Ah, Tushar, your mother missed you so much….” I wondered if I was going crazy too like the rest.

So, everybody that was expected to arrive, had come. I felt tired and down. I could not understand why people acted so strange under these circumstances. Someone announced that the dead body was brought in and my Nanu and mother went to see her for one last time. I shook my head and went to stand in the veranda. I was feeling really sick.

As I watched the crowd, as I saw the ridiculous way people acted, I did not know how to react. I felt awkward and out of place. But as I kept on looking, suddenly, a strange idea came to my mind.

I thought I could discern how death was one phenomenon nobody really knew how to deal with. I felt awkward and out of place. We were so afraid of death, of the unknown, we just acted strange. Our regular thoughts went awry, and we did weird stuff. We talked of scandals, weddings, regular activities that we engage in everyday. Those regular everyday things seen from perspective of the death, verged on the border of ridiculous. The normalcy disappeared. And yet, wasn’t everyday life bubbling around the corner?

 I spotted my grandmother standing on one side of the yard, crying silently, holding on to my mother. I felt like hugging her, but I was rooted to the spot with the knowledge that someday in near future, I will lose her too. The world became hazy and I, too, started crying.

Sohana Manzoor teaches English at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.