EKUSHEY FEBRUARY - TWENTY FIRST FEBRUARY
- Wednesday, 28 October 2009 16:15
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A few drops of dew floats on arum leaves.
A kingfisher is sitting in the intensity of morning mist. It is brooding in the winter coolness.
A naked boy walks with a slate under his arm. And a round cap on his head. A wrapper is on his body.
He is walking to the school by a clammy moist path.
A flock of birds are chattering among themselves continuously in their own language.
Thirty or forty, may be fifty.
They are speaking incessantly. Nobody is listening to other. Only speaks on.
A few faces.
Some faces of the procession.
Dank with perspiration.
Burnt with the brilliantly-lit rigid promise.
Are advancing ahead.
Ignoring the glare of the piercing burning sun.
Abruptly a few faces.
Faces of cruel law, atrocious forces, brutality.
Barrels of rifle and firearms glisten in the sun.
Unexpectedly fire erupted.
Thunderous sound vibrated the area.
Sounds of firing.
Dew drops slipped out of the arum leaves.
The kingfisher flew away from the branch with terror.
The slate fell down from under the arm of the naked boy and broke into pieces.
The birds became silent.
The girls glanced at each other silently.
A bunch of krishnachura1 dropped down the branches of the tree.
Under the burning rays of the sun – not one, not two.
Countless black flags.
Flattering like hooded serpent.
Nineteen hundred and fifty two.
He used to plan small things.
Gafur, a son of a farmer.
A small arable land.
A little thatched hut.
And a cute little wife.
A man of agriculture
He didn’t go to school.
He used to work whole day in the cropland.
And sing in full voice.
And when the whole village is fast a sleep in the dead of night he used to recite punthi3 by lighting small lamp.
He used to recite melodiously Sahi Boro Sonavaner Punthi. Soiful Mulluk’s punthi.
One day he saw Amena by the side of the pond.
She was wearing green and red striped sari4.
A cute little face under her ghomta5.
Her completion was like unripe turmeric.
He liked her very much.
Her father gave his consent, when he proposed to marry her.
Matrimonial list was prepared.
Gafur’s happiness knows no bounds.
He embraces the ripe sheaf of paddy of the field with great affection.
He takes down the pitcher full of khejur ros5 from the date tree and drinks the juice to the lees in one breath.
He takes out the two lean-and-thin cows from the yoke, makes them free and speaks out, go, today take a leave.
Gofur will go to town.
With the matrimonial list.
He’ll buy all the items by himself.
Sari, churi6, alta7, hansul8i.
He took with him a few very hardly-earned greasy paper money wrapped in a handkerchief.
Gafur will cross the Buriganga River by a kheya9 and come to the town to buy his matrimonial goods.
Gafur’s eyes are full of dreams of having his own family.
Father’s name Ahmed Hosain.
He didn’t get promotion.
Because Taslim is engaged with politics.
Give lectures in the student gatherings.
Criticizes the government.
He tried his utmost to persuade his son.
Many branded thieves, dacoits, murderer and criminals shiver would fear for his power, but many of his punishment, rage and storm couldn’t shake Taslim’s mind.
He is a man of procession.
He remained in the procession.
Argued, day by day.
Relatives requested a lot.
Said, think of your old father, leave you path. Look at your brothers and sister, they are growing up. Needs of the family is growing day by day. Whereas his promotion is restricted.
But hard-hearted Taslim ignored father’s promotion, mother’s tears, requests of the relatives; family needs remained in to the procession as a person of the procession.
But under his hard-heart he had a soft corner.
He loved Salma.
Salma is his cousin.
She used to stay in the same house.
Moved, worked, walked in the same house.
Still he used to feel Salma is staying remote – a far away person.
She never paid heed to this small scar in the heart of Taslim. May be she didn’t want to know.
Taslim tried to communicate many a-time.
Wanted to express. But in front of Salma’s cold glance he couldn’t tell anything.
Some day earlier he used to write good poems.
Now he writes down millions of taka in the ledger book of the government.
Poet Anwar Hossain.
Now a clerk Anwar Hossain.
Still occasionally his poetic mind peeps out. Specially when he quarrels with his wife at night after he comes back to his house after office.
He becomes tired of quarreling.
When his body, mind, his life and this planet seem to him a worn-out, rugged and torn quilt, he likes to write poems.
Anwar Hossain has many-a pain in his life.
He has no peace in his house. Wife’s depression.
House does not have required furniture. Pain of possession.
He has not ample income to maintain his family. Misery of living.
He could not stimulate ample feelings while writing poems. Despair of feelings.
He has only one happiness left in his life.
When he comes out of his office and buys a pan from a nearby pan-shop and starts to chew it in his mouth. And while walking back to his house remembers his poetry-writing days. Then his turns into a joyous mood.
Poet Anwar Hossain does not goes to anywhere else, except from his home to office and from office and to home.
He does not like to go anywhere else.
Some day when he meets with a friend or two. He exchanges a few words of welfare. Then avoids completely.
He does not feel meeting people.
He does not like anything at all.
Here is the assemblage of wealth and affluence.
There’s no place of dearth of anything, in Moqbul Hussain’s life.
He has houses.
Has ample of money in the bank.
A good number of insurance policies in the names of his children.
He has not a single business.
Many. A good number of them.
Business of pan.
Business of oil.
He is busy all the times.
Sometimes in the chamber of the ministers.
Sometimes in the houses of the leaders.
Sometimes in the meetings of the Secretaries.
He too has some pains in his mind.
He planned to set up two jute mills. He couldn’t complete even one. Despair of labour.
He wished to send his elder son to England for higher education. But his wife did not wanted to part with her son. Anguish of earthly affairs.
Workers of the oil mills regularly voice for increasing their pay, they threaten to go on strike. Misery! Unhappiness of production.
Some young students and hoodlums take out processions in the roads-parks and open areas. They criticize the government arranging meetings. They claim to distribute the money of the haves to the have-nots. Discontent of the country.
Among all these despairs he has one single happiness in his mind. When after whole day’s busy schedule, he sits at a desolate corner of the club-house and empties bottles after bottle, his eyes fill with weird kind of happiness. He seldom meets with his wife Bilquis. He stays in the same house. Sleeps in the same bed. But due to pressure of work and ringing of the telephones he left no time to exchange a few words with her. Still he loves his wife dearly.
He looks after her requirements and satisfies those all.
Bilquis Banu has no grievance against her husband for not getting his company. Because she has no dearth of friends.
Selim too has his dreams.
He dreams of buying his own rickshaw.
He became tired of driving hired rickshaw of the chief trader.
After whole day’s toil after earning three taka, he has to give away two taka to the trader.
He has only one taka left for him.
This he spends for food for his wife and child.
Monthly rent of the room.
And going to cinema house.
He does know what a nation is.
He could not make out the meanings of the activities of the people and much fuss about so many meetings and processions.
He stares with great wonder when the police mercilessly beat the students. He does not make any comment.
He has only one thought in him.
To buy a rickshaw.
He has another thought in his mind. Sometimes he thinks of it too.
When his son grows up he will train his son to paddle the rickshaw.
Gafur entered the city coming out of the kheya-ghat.
He has a bundle under his arm.
There is one extra lungi, shirt and some pitha.
Entering the town he was surprised to find the people are weird- boiling with excitement.
Here and there they are crowding together and speaking heatedly.
Newspaper hawkers are walking rapidly excited.
People are buying newspapers in hastily.
Everybody is buying and reading the newspapers.
Urdu will be the State-language of this country.
Poet Anwar Hossain shouts out.
I don’t accept.
He was shivering with excitement.
His hand turned into fist.
His wife looked at him with surprise.
She didn’t experience before her husband can shouts so furiously.
Why, what happened?
They say they will discard Bangla. Urdu, only Urdu will be the State-language. You know Saleha, they want to discard the language we speak, the language we write poems.
Oh, my God. Then which language shall we speak?
Saleha glanced at his husband in a frightful sight.
No, no. I will not speak in other’s language. I want to speak in my own language.
Poet Anwar Hossain shouts again.
Taslim speaks out taking sounds from the thunder.
We do not accept this decision.
In the assemblage of the students under the aamtala cried out-
The children do not accept something easily.
They have to be obeyed.
Moqbul Hossain said in carefully coined words in the meeting of the bureaucrats. At first they have to be tamed by fattening them up. If they are not tamed then to take up whips. Why don’t they agree? They have to agree.
Some fisted hands are raised towards the sky and shouted slogan-
We want Bangla as state language.
State language Bangla required.
Today Anwar Hossain forgot to chew pan. His eyes glared looking at that sight.
He forgot – that he remained standing in the middle of the road.
He is looking at the faces of the procession.
State language Bangla required.
Somebody moved him from the road.
O, sir, what are doing at the middle of the road? Can’t you hear bell is ringing?
He takes his rickshaw further. The boys are shouting. Let them do that. He has no interest in that matter.
They will not succeed. Just see. They will not be able to push their Urdu upon us.
In ecstatic voice poet Anwar Hossain tried to explain his wife. The boys are agitated. They will not stop without making Bangla our state-language.
His wife is chewing pan.
She added a bit of chun and said, Hey, if Bangla becomes state-language, then shall you get a pay-hike? How much you will gain, tell me, dear?
What will happen to this country, I don’t know. Whole country is flooded with foreign spies.
After quite long time Maqbul Ahmed is talking with his wife.
They are shouting for Bangla. Is Bangla Musalman’s language? That language belongs to the Hindu’s. Hindu’s will take this country into hell.
Bilquis Banu commented with anger.
Where’s Urdu and where’s Bangla! Urdu is the language of the aristocrats. Our forefathers in our family talked in Urdu.
I don’t understand what’s Urdu or Bangla. I want to speak straight. Tell your son to be careful. If he attends the meetings and joins the agitation, then I had my promotion stopped to this day, but now I will be sacked.
Taslim’s police father shook with rage.
His mother shivered.
Her eyes filled with tears apprehending ascertained future.
What a hard-hearted son are you!
She started to persuade her son.
Can’t you refrain yourself considering you father-mother and brothers and sisters? If your father’s service is gone, how could we survive?
Taslim didn’t reply.
Uncle has almost stopped taking his food, thinking only about you. Can’t you leave such activities? What’s good in doing these?
Taslim looked at Salma in astonishment. He wanted to say many a-things to Salma. But he told nothing. He only said,
You won’t understand.
Gafur sat on a piece of brick just near the place where many kheya boats remain assembled in Sadarghat.
He felt hunger. He will eat.
He opened the packet slowly.
He heard people speaking, tomorrow is hartal.
All the shops and markets will remain closed.
Cars and vehicles won’t ply on roads.
Gafur do not understand what hartal is.
While munching a pitha he started to paint a picture of hartal in his mind. But he could not make out a perfect picture.
He thought, its may be a system or procedure of the city. May be the inhabitants celebrate sometimes.
He went up and drank some water from the river with his palms. Wiped his mouth with a gamchha. Then he took out his rumal and counted the money.
Tomorrow the shops will remain closed.
He have to complete is purchase today.
All on a sudden he thought of Amena.
What she is doing now?
May be taking water from the pond.
Or husking paddy on the dhenki.
Or picking up kachu shak roaming through the kachu field.
They will marry after seven days.
Gafur felt pleasure.
Suddenly Gafur was startled with a dreadful sound.
He saw a group of boys are shouting by keeping a funnel on the mouth. Tomorrow’s hartal.
They want to snatch away language of our mouth forcefully.
But we won’t bow down.
We will not make them snatch away our language.
We want Bangla as state language.
And in protest tomorrow’s hartal.
Everybody observe hartal.
Gafur listened with awe.
He thought of asking somebody about this matter. But he couldn’t dare to ask.
A man was showing tricks with playing cards.
Many kinds of tricks.
Weird looking tricks.
Gafur pushed through the crowd to see the tricks from close.
What’s a hartal?
I don’t believe in hartal.
Brake of the rickshaw is out of order. Selim grudged under his breath while mending the defect.
If I can’t ply the rickshaw how could I earn?
How can I eat?
What my wife will eat?
What my child will?
I don’t support that type of hartal.
After mending the brake he was about the run the rickshaw, he heard someone say from behind,
Shall you go on hire?
Selim looked back, a young man.
May be a student.
He is holding some book in his hand.
A bunch a rolled paper under his arm.
Where shall you go, sir?
Hop on, sir.
As soon as Taslim boarded the rickshaw Selim spoke out,
Why are you observing hartal tomorrow, sir? How could we earn if we can’t run rickshaws. Can we live on air?
Taslim contemplated for a few minutes. Then spoke timidly,
We want our Bangla as state language. They want to make Urdu as the state language. If Urdu becomes state language the Bangla language will be forgotten forever. You, me, all of us shall have to speak Urdu.
I know something about Urdu language.
Selim spoke intelligently,
But my wife does not know it. She belongs to Munshiganj. But I am teaching my son both Urdu and Bangla.
We do not have any grudge on Urdu. We want Urdu and Bangla simultaneously,
But why are you observing hartal, then?
We want to lodge our protest through this hartal.
Selim nodded his head understanding almost nothing.
As a civil servant have we all pawned our freedom of making comments? Are we their slaves, so that we have to move at their will?
Poet Anwar Hossain moved like a tiger in the cage, sitting in his chair.
Senior official issued order; everyone should be present in the office tomorrow. No one have to observe hartal. Those who will not come will be suspended.
Why? They will take away our mother tongue by force? And we will remain idle? Even dogs and cats have their own language. Why don’t you stop their voice! Shall they spare you? They will graze and scratch you to pieces. I don’t just obey such order. If my job is gone, let it be. I will do menial job. If needed I will sell newspapers in the street. But you will make me slave, that I don’t let you do that.
Poet Anwar Hosain grudged in subdued voice.
Okay, tomorrow’s hartal. I will not come to office, that’s final.
He closed the ledger book and kept it aside.
The country will not be in order if we bow down to the threat of hartal. Hartal should be stopped. Meetings should be dispersed. Processions in the streets should be prohibited. Then they will be calmed down.
Maqbul Ahmed delivered a long lecture in front of the bureaucrats.
Ministers are in great haste.
They had not a single moment’s rest.
Leaders locked into heated debate.
Storm of discussions and criticism are going on.
By any means this hartal should be stopped.
Processions of the streets should be banned.
Local leaders are called.
Their consultations are sought.
We will supply all the men.
We’ll provide as much money needed.
If needed we will supply police force.
You will get everything.
This hartal should be stopped.
The procession should be disbanded.
The leaders bowed down their heads.
As if giving sijda in the namaj.
Some obstinate faces.
Shouted in unison.
We don’t agree.
Government will stop our voices by issuing section one hundred forty-four.
We will be devoid of our right to protest. We will not accept this unlawfulness by bowing down our head.
They want to chain us with law. We will crash that chain into pieces.
We are not domesticated animals that we will be kept closed into a pen.
Debates and discussions went on for a long time.
Storm of discussions and criticism went on.
It is not fair to break the law.
This law is for oppression. We do not accept this law.
Old night became more aged.
Nobody knows what will happen tomorrow.
Police came out in the street. Police vehicles are plying.
Roads and streets are lifeless.
Gafur lie down on a small terrace of a house.
He bought two saris,
One bottle of alta.
He kept these near his bosom and thought of many a-thing.
How he will live with Amena.
If they have child what he will do.
He could go back to his village today, if he liked. But he didn’t. Because he wanted to see hartal.
May be he could not come to the town again. So he wanted to see hartal.
One or two little things remained to be bought.
He wanted to buy a red lungi.
He went through some shops.
But they wanted very high price.
Gafur thought if he could buy one at cheaper price. If one or two shops are open then he will buy that.
Amena is very fond of red lungi.
While lying Gafur saw two police vehicles rushed from one side of the road to another.
Gafur closed his eyes.
Poet Anwar Hossain is pacing up and down the room irritatingly for a long time.
Saleha called, Hey, won’t you sleep?
The poet replied in a cold voice.
You know Saleha, after a long time it came to my mind that my life is a total failure. U wanted to be a poet. I used to write poem. Poetry was my dream. My worship. I thought I will dedicate my life in writing poems. But, now I have become tired of jotting down the ledger pages.
Saleha looked at him sympathetically.
Why don’t you write? From now on write poems when you like. You have made me wild by your poems, don’t you remember?
Hearing this poet Anwar Hossain laughed.
I remember, Saleha. Shall I forget that? Only, you know, I have lost my feelings, with which I used to write. Those feelings of my mind have been crushed under the pages of the ledger. It is lost.
Come, sleep now. Saleha beaconed.
Again Anwar Hoassain said.
Weird kind of restlessness covers his entire face.
He came near his wife and sat beside her.
Saleha, I’ve decided that I will not do that work anymore. These government services make people slaves. I’ll leave that job. Why should I work like a bullock, where there’s no freedom? I’ll again write poems, Saleha. I’ll write such poems again, that made you love me.
Saleha’s whole face turned dark, like bitumen.
No, no! It’s not fair to leave the job. How can our family live, then? You won’t get money out of your poems.
Money! Is money everything in life, Saleha? Is there anything like mind and heart?
Listen. Leave those bizarre thoughts.
Saleha touched her husband with care.
Come let’s go to sleep. You have to rise early in the morning.
I won’t go to office to-morrow.
Tomorrow I will observe hartal. They have forbidden it. They threatened to expel from the service, damn it! I don’t care. Job is not bigger enough than my language.
No one knows what will happen tomorrow. May be something fatal incidence may happen.
Fir the first time this kind of feelings came to his mind.
Section one hundred forty-four should be violated. If not, the whole movement will collapse.
They will crash Bangla language for good.
And if section one hundred forty-four is being violated then police might open fire on them.
May me Taslim will face death/
He seems to see his death at this moment in front of his own eyes.
Won’t you take your food!
Taslim startled at Salma’s voice.
Foods are getting cold, come.
Salma was going back after uttering these words.
Salma, please listen! I’ve something to say.
Salma turned back.
Asked with her silent glance-
What is it?
Taslim couldn’t look at that stare for a long period of time. He shifted his eyes down and timidly said
I don’t know how you will take my words, may be you will get crossed-
Salma is silent.
A few silent moments passed.
Suddenly Taslim again said-
I thought of telling you many a-time. But couldn’t. May be I couldn’t ever told you. But today, I don’t know why I feel of telling you.
Again Taslim becomes silent.
Salma shifted her eyes to the ground, silently waiting.
It seemed that her face turned crimson like krishnachura.
Salma said, Come, have your food.
No, no, Salma, if something unusual happens tomorrow? Think if I am dead. Then?
The girl shivered.
All on a sudden her eyes filled with tears.
Cut it! What are you telling? Why should you die now? Come take your food now, come.
Won’t you hear what I want to tell you?
No, not now. Later, I’ll listen later.
Salma left the place rapidly without waiting for the reply.
Will you go out, or remain at home?
While rubbing cream on her face, Bilquis Banu asked her husband before going to bed.
Sure, I will go out? Why should I go out?
No, I thought, hartal has been called, then?
There will be no hartal. You can be rest assure.
Maqbul Ahmed replied like an expert.
We have closed all the paths of hartal.
We will confiscate license if anybody is with hartal. If anybody doesn’t attend his duty, he will be dismissed. We have give orders. We’ve told everyone in clear voice. Do you think anybody will be dared to observe hartal?
Wearing his sleeping suit Maqbul Ahmed lay down in his bed.
But students can start some agitation.
That too has been taken into account.
After completing her make-up Bilquis Banu switched off the light and came to the bed.
Do you know, I think, there might be some unusual incidence might occur.
Where-ever you go, please do not go to the places of the students.
Don’t think in a silly way. Go to sleep.
Maqbul Ahmed tried to sleep closing his eyes.
Gafur woke up just before morning.
He found the streets and shops are deserted.
Two dogs are fighting on the middle of the road.
Gafur sat up.
Checked the materials of is bundle.
Eastern sky is turning whiter gradually.
High-rise buildings are like shadows behind the sky.
One or two crows are calling out in high pitched voice.
Sometimes they come down the ground to pick food crumbs.
Then fly up on the telegraph wires.
The girls are sweeping the road turning the dusts into the air.
Cleaning the dirt.
Gafur washed his face from the road-side tap-water.
By that time one or two rickshaw started to ply.
One or two shops stats to open their shutters.
Town-service busses moved fast with passengers.
Gafur looked at all sides with astonishment.
Selim came out in the road with his rickshaw.
Before going out he said to his wife, don’t let Kalu go in the road. There might be some trouble.
Kalu is the name of his son.
Maqbul Ahmed too came out of his house.
Along with his wife Bilquis Banu.
He instructed his driver to go to Secretariat turning Race Course.
He plans to go through the city.
He also wants to go to the factory.
And visit the commercial area too.
He wants to see whether hartal has failed or not.
Bilquis Banu suddenly laughed out.
Look, there, a bus is plying. Two rickshaws. And a horse-drawn carriage. That’s a private car, too, isn’t it?
Both of their faces are smiling.
They are looking at all sides.
When they see a vehicle or an open shop they become exalted.
Haven’t I told you before?
Maqbul Ahmed looked at his wife with pride.
Nobody will observe hartal. Nobody will join the enemies of the country.
Bilquis Banu took up one hand of her husband in her palm.
Do you really decided not to go to office?
Saleha asked before he is going out.
How many times I will say you the same thing.
Poet Anwar Hossain got irritated.-
I said I won’t go.
Then where are you going?
Saleha came to his path.
Let’s see how the hartal is going on.
Then I will go to the university. And see what the students are doing.
No. I will not let you go.
Saleha spoke out in bold voice.-
I don’t know what you’ll do; police will arrest you, then what will happen to us?
Look, don’t talk rubbish. Let me go. Police will arrest. I don’t care them. If anything happens to me just go to your parent’s place.
Anwar Hossain didn’t wait for reply.
He went out.
Father went out fully dressed up in police uniform, adorned with pistol.
He will be having a busy day.
Taslim too is very busy.
As he came down the stairs swiftly he met with Salma.
Can’t you not stop going out today?
The girl was waiting by the stair only to say this sentence.
You know everything, Salma. Then why are you stopping me.
Salma shifted her stare down.
Khalu was telling there’ll be trouble today.
Her voice faltered as she speaks.
Taslim observed that.
He wanted to say many a-thing at that time.
But couldn’t say a word. He only said-
Salma, I’m going. Be seeing you again.
Saying so he didn’t looked at Salma again. He went out silently.
Are they human beings!
Are they human beings, or animals!
Poet Anrar Hossain spat on the road.
All are ruffians. They have called off the hartal by accepting bribe. You will feel it later on. When yoke of Urdu will be thrust on their shoulder, then they will understand, dirty-fellows!
Poet Anwar Hossain was trembling with anger.
Shall you go, sir?
A rickshaw-puller asked him asked seeing him standing by the side of the road.
Suddenly poet Anwar Hossain cried out vehemently.
He wished to break the nose, eyes and face of the rickshaw puller in one blow.
He spat on the road again and walked fast.
It is noon.
There’s not a bit of cloud in the sky.
The sun is burning hot.
The students left the schools and colleges and congregating under the aamtala of the university.
Before the Madhu’s canteen.
Before the Union Office.
Beside the pond.
Countless voices rumbling.
Some police cars came to a halt in a row under the eucalyptus trees in front the university.
The police officers are walking to and fro on the road.
The constables are waiting for the orders.
The barrels of the rifles are glittering in the sun.
Countless leaves of the eucalyptus trees are dropping down like raindrops.
Suddenly police officials startled with the shout of thousand voices and looked at the aamtala.
A meeting has just started under the aamtala.
We won’t listen to anything.
There’s no need of any speeches.
We will disobey the section one hundred forty-four.
Yes we’ll disobey!
Many voices echoed in unison, like thunder.
The leaders said-
No, section one hundred forty-four should not be disobeyed. It will not be justifiable to break the law. We will start campaign in collecting signatures. We will lodge our protest by collecting signatures.
We won’t abide by your instructions.
They are all traitors!!
We do not want to listen to your words.
We will disobey section one hundred forty-four.
We will break the chains of law.
We’ll break down!
At the shouting of the thousands the police officers got startled.
They caught hold of their revolvers.
Petty officers rushed by the side of the constables.
The sepoys have no reaction on their faces.
They are the slaves of the orders.
They are looking at the officers in indifferent way.
The sun is burning.
The barrels of the rifles glitter in the Sun.
Leaves of the eucalyptus are dropping down incessantly.
We won’t listen to any leaders.
Taslim suddenly leaped up on as table and shouted
We will break the section one hundred forty-four. But not in a disorderly manner. We will go out in the road in groups of ten. We will go to the Assembly in procession. This is our decision.
We want Bangla as state language!
Amidst shouting of thousands voices, senior official of the police came out quickly of his car.
Junior officers didn’t have time to read the orders of the boss from his stare.
Instantaneously, they looked at the constables.
The executors of the orders, the sepoys advanced at the middle of the road, towards the gates of the university.
First group of ten students are gathering to disobey the section one hundred forty-four.
One student is writing down their names and addresses.
The iron gate opened with great rumble.
Police advances a few steps more.
The ten students are burning with determination.
Ten burning faces.
Moving their fists to the sky above they came out in the road facing the police.
We want Bangla as state language!
The sepoys came rushing and circled them.
All of them have a shiny rifle held in front of their chest.
On the bank of the pond.
Slogans are heard from everywhere.
We want Bangla as state language!
By that time the second group came out in the road.
And the fourth group.
The sepoy’s caught hold of them one by one and made them ride the truck.
Apprehension engulfed the eyes and face of the Senior officials of the Police.
How many shall we arrest?
How many will we take to the jail?
The students are coming out like waves after waves.
Suddenly their eyes stared to burn.
Everything became faded.
Tears coming out like rains.
Somebody cried out-
They have lobbed tear-shells.
Sprinkle water in your eyes.
Many students jumped into the pond of the university..
Eyes are burning.
Tears are coming out gushing.
The whole area became cloudy.
Students leaped over the wall of the university and went to the other side to the medical barrack.
The shirt of Poet Anwar Hossain tattered by trapped in a spike of the gate.
He didn’t looked back.
His eyes are burning too.
Let that be.
The students have disobeyed the section hundred forty-four.
The agitations have just begun. This can not to pacified with the smokes of the tear-gas
Suddenly Taslim shouted out,
Don’t run in such a disorderly manner. Please come to this side. Let us gather in the medical barrack again.
Police vehicles, by that time moved from in front of the university and took position in front of medical barrack.
Senior officials order has been passed on that this movement should be subsided by any means.
After some times Assembly session is going to start.
MLAs be coming by now.
Roads should be cleared before they come.
The students should be driven out of this area.
Senior officials required more sepoys.
Demanded more vehicles
More vehicles came.
More sepoys are deployed.
More ammunition was brought.
At the same time more students gathered.
Their faces were stone-hard with great vow.
Road in front of medical barrack turned almost into a battle-field.
The students seized Bilquis Banu’s car from all sides.
What’s going on there, Bilquis Banu wanted to see for herself.
But she didn’t think that she will be caught by the students by that way.
Tires of Bilquis Banu’s car were deflated.
Windshields were broken to pieces.
How dare you? Roaming around with lipstick on.
Don’t you know today’s hartal?
I don’t know anything. Nothing, please, believe me.
She felt immense thirst with horror and fear.
She trembled like drenched crow.
We are sparing you because you are woman. Car will stay here. Go away walking anywhere you like.
Bilquis Banu tried to forget her car.
Her life is dearer than her car.
If alive she can have many cars.
Was there not a single police?
Maqbul Ahmed’s face turned red with anger.
Bilquis Banu is shedding tears.
The students snatched my hair.
The students spat on my face.
They have broken down our car.
Maqbul Ahmed took up the receiver shivering with anger.
He started to abuse the senior police official on the phone.
Hoodlums and ruffians are insulting the womenfolk in the streets.
Can’t you see that? What all of you are doing?
If tear gas and baton do not work then shall you stay idle? Why can’t you break their skulls with bullets?
Countless tear-gas shells were lobbed towards the medical barracks.
The stream turned into a tidal wave after it was obstructed.
Taslim is delivering speech over the microphone turning its face towards Assembly building.
Looking at the him poet Anwar Hosain muttered –
Agitation just began. Who else have enough strength to pacify this?
Many brickbats are strewn on the road towards medical college.
Police and students are at war with the brickbats.
Packet under his armpit Gafur gazed at that site mesmerized.
What is going on?
He started to contemplate.
Understand the matter.
But he could not make out its cause with his little knowledge.
The Sun is going to the west.
There’s not a bit of cloud in the sky.
Golden rays of the Sun turned crimson on the branches of Palash and stooped on the roadsides.
A few crow are calling in cracked voice sitting on the cornice of the medical college.
There was a breeze flowing.
A few seconds earlier it stopped altogether.
Suddenly there is a sound.
Sound of firing.
All on a sudden everybody was stunned.
A gush of wind suddenly came from nowhere and collided with the mango tree standing in the corner of the barrack.
Many flowers fell down on the ground.
The crows suddenly stopped crowing and looked at each other.
Then a single crow opened its wings and flew away in the sky in terror.
Sky is burning with heat.
The crow went on flying all over the sky.
There is pin-drop silence all over.
Only a single terror-stricken crow went on flying with the frightful cry.
A dark-black cloud came floating from the north-western sky.
Suddenly the Sun covered his face behind that cloud.
The news spread all over the town like wildfire.
They have fired.
They have opened fire on the students.
How many were killed?
May be one. Or two. May be many. Many.
Stores and markets were shut down within a wink of an eye.
The shop-keepers came out in the street.
Busses stopped plying on the roads.
Factories were closed down.
Blowing long whistle Drivers came out of the railway engines.
Today the wheels are stopped.
After keeping the rickshaw Selim goes to the pan-shop by the roadside to justify the news.
He too will not run the rickshaw.
Had they opened fire on the students? How many died?
We don’t know.
All of them went to the university to know the news correctly.
And to the medical college.
We will not tolerate this discrimination.
As they drew near the medical college, the group turned into a mob. A large procession.
The people almost burst into agitated wrath.
We want capital punishment of this murder.
We want trial of those who killed our brethren.
Gradually evening drew near.
Whole city is drowned with darkness.
Under cover of this darkness some police officers came in front of morgue behind the medical college with two ambulances.
The dead bodies should be taken away quickly by the nightfall.
These will be cremated in the Azimpur graveyard before dawn.
All of them are sweating profusely.
Ahmed Hosain wiped his mouth several times with his handkerchief.
Write down names and addresses of the corpses, if there’s any.
Nothing is available, sir.
Replied one of the assistants.
A small packet from one. Two saris, some churi and a bottle of alta. What shall we do with these?
Keep with you. Submit them to the office tomorrow morning. Take the bodies in the vehicle. Is will not be wise to stay here too long.
Will you look at the bodies, sir?
Ahmed Hosain replied in a cool voice.
He wiped his face again.
His promotion was held up due to the idiocy of his son Taslim.
May be now government will be sympathetic about his case.
The bodies were dumped in the vehicles.
Suddenly, while he was lighting his cigarette, he startled.
His whole body became paralyzed all on a sudden.
Instantaneously there’s an earthquake.
He staggered a few steps like a drunk advancing to a corpse.
Torch! Give me a torchlight!
A subordinate lighted the torch and pointed it on that corpse.
Ahmed Hosain was dumbfounded, he stared at the blood-strewn face of dead Taslim.
Do you know him, sir?
Ahmed Ali looked at the man’s face speechless.
He found his tongue freeze like a stone.
He tried utmost, but couldn’t move his tongue.
No sound came out of his mouth.
Mother cried out with loudly.
Oh, what a destruction! How could we survive?
Younger brothers and sister cried out too.
Salma remained motionless standing beside the window.
She looked at the sky outside.
She felt great pain in her heart.
Couldn’t Taslim stay alive just for another day?
Why he died in such a way?
Saleha visited all the wards of the medical college hospital.
He is not there.
She went to police station.
Went to jail-gate, went through the list of the prisoners.
He is not there too.
Saleha returned to the empty house and waited whole night in vain.
Saleha broke into weeping.
May be he is not in this earth.
Taking pitcher on her waist Amena stood motionless beside the pond.
The day waned.
The man went to town to buy wedding materials such a long ago, but did not come again.
There’s so many flowers in the nakshi kantha.
So many birds.
Amena sew with coloured threads.
Amena starts at the sound of recitation of punthi at night in some other’s house.
Tears drops on the pillow.
The man went to town, but did not return again.
Sun went down.
Sun rose again.
And again went down.
Sleek stream passes on like a thread over the sand in gentle current.
In the early morning a pair of feet came out in the street.
Threadlike rivulet is now passing on in a brook.
A few naked feet are advancing timidly on the concrete path.
The brook turns fast flowing river and advancing towards the sea.
There’s a vast ocean in front.
An ocean-like crowd.
Going towards the Shahid-minar.
Numerous black flags
Fluttering in the sky.
The procession is advancing forward, like the innumerable waves of the ocean.
Leaves of the eucalyptus are falling down like rains. On the earth.
Every year they fell down.
Still they never end.
1. Krishnachura- Brilliant red flower that bloom during February-March.
2. Ekushey- Twenty first
3. Punthi- Ancient epics of rural Bengal
4. sari- Six yard-long cloth woman of Bengal wear
5. sijda- bowing head to the ground, a part of daily 5-times prayers of the Muslims
6. Namaj- any one of the daily five-times prayers of the Muslims
7. ghomta- last end of sari, which is wrapped round the face and head.
8. khejur ros- Date juice, extracted from the date tree in the winter
9. churi- bangles
10. alta- red-coloured liquid to adorn the feet of bride
11. hansuli- ornament wore by the damsels on their neck
12. Buriganga- major river by the side of Dhaka city
13. kheya- small boat used to carry passenger from one side to another
14. bidi- indigenous smoking stick
15. pan- betel-leaf - chewed with supari (betel-nut),
16. chun – chun (calcium oxide) and khoyer (catechu), is an adictive of Bangladesh from time immemorial. Tamak-pata (tobacco leaf) is also added to make it more addictive.
17. aamtala- Aam- mango tree, literary ‘under the aam tree’. There was a mango tree in front of Dhaka University, famous for students' meetings of the University. The place turned historical.
18. Madhu’s canteen- A famous meeting place in the Dhaka University
19. kheya-ghat- landing-place of kheya.
20. lungi- ankle-long men’s wear bound manually on the waist.
21. pitha- home-made small sweet cake.
22. aamtala- featuring famous mango bough of Dhaka University
23. hartal- general strike
24. gamchha- towel made of thin cloth
25. rumal- handkerchief
26. dhenki- A long piece of wood placed as a lever to husk rice.
27. kaschu shak- arum greens
28. Section one hundred forty-four- under this order more than ten persons is not permitted to assemble in one spot
29. Khalu- Uncle, husband of maternal aunt (sister or cousin of mother).
30. Palash- Crimson coloured flower that bloom during February-March, like Krishnachura
31. Shahid minar- Martyrs memorial, specially built in memory of the martyrs of the language movement of 21 February
Last Updated on Monday, 23 July 2012 21:44
One Cold Winter Night
- Thursday, 02 April 2009 19:07
- Hits: 1617
Even after all these years, I am perplexed by the story. L related it to me in 1981, when we were both at Fletcher School in Boston. His story was so startling that I have kept his name secret even now. Like yours truly, he was from a foreign country, a blithe spirit who much preferred sampling life to the drudgery of heavy-duty studies. He expended the minimum effort required to get by with decent grades. For him, that was adequate academic achievement.
On a bitterly cold night, relaxing in the warmth of my dorm room, staccato knocks on my door made me open it to a visibly agitated L.
“What I'm about to tell you,” he confided, “can't get out of this room. Actually, I didn't want to tell it to anybody, but I had to talk to someone.”
“Go ahead.” And I have kept my end of the bargain, until now, after more than a quarter of a century.
“I went out last night with P.”
“Must have been fun.”
P was a Vietnam vet, who did a two-year stint there straight out of high school, was demobilized, finished college, and enrolled at Fletcher. He was a fun character, given to drinking, and driving around in a beat-up, sky-blue Chevrolet convertible all over his native Massachusetts.
L was a good friend of mine, and he and I would occasionally hang out together. “More like a nightmare,” therefore, confounded me.
“Then listen.” He stared at me for a while before beginning. “You know of General O.”
“The American army commander in the Second World War? Of course. What's he got to do with it?”
“Nothing directly, but indulge me. P asked me to accompany him on a long spin away from Boston. Said he knew of a great seafood restaurant...seafood, a long drive, and great company. I didn't have to be asked a second time.”
The two went in the car. A couple of happy-go-lucky men in their mid-twenties. Driving without any fixed destination in mind, shielded from the biting cold outside, listening to rock on the car's FM radio. L's stomach began to emit growls of hunger when P veered off onto a road heading to a small town. He pulled up in front of a jeweler's store. He obviously had planned on going there.
“Sorry buddy, I'm also starving. Have to take care of some business. Why don't you come along?”
“OK, what do you have in mind?”
“I'm running a little short of cash. I'm going to sell a couple of Krugerrands.”
L knew what the South-African issue Krugerrand was, although he had never seen one before. His curiosity aroused, he was going to ask further questions, but they were already inside the shop, and the owner had come out from behind the counter to greet P. The two obviously knew each other. L was not introduced, and he was a mute, but very interested, spectator. His friend brought out two fairly large, round pieces of metal from pocket. He knew the colour of gold, and was certain that he was looking, for the very first time, at a pair of Krugerrands. L wondered. P he knew to be tolerant of all races, but apartheid was in full swing in South Africa, and here he was in possession of the system's blood money.
“How much for one?”
“OK. I'll sell both.”
The buyer handed over seven crisp one-hundred dollar bills to P.
As the two got in the car, P chortled: “OK buddy, now let's go get some dinner.”
At this point I interrupted L's narration: “Didn't you ask him how he got those Krugerrands?”
“No. Of course, I wondered. But the only bit of information that he volunteered was that he had more of those at home, but said nothing more on the matter.”
P drove on, and then stopped in the parking lot of a restaurant nestled in the woods. L wished he could have come during the daytime. He was certain that the view would have been marvelous. The food was first-rate. While they were eating, P said, “I'm going to visit an old friend and her husband. They live close by. Want to come along? It'll be fun.”
“As if I had a choice,” L told me. “I didn't know the place, and P had the transport. I was pretty sure the visit was pre-arranged, and I was selected to go along for God knows what purpose.”
As they were finishing dinner, P told L about them. “She's General O's niece - his brother's daughter. Her marriage is under severe strain.”
“Her husband blames her for it, and they've asked me to come help them if I could. Sorry I didn't tell you all this before, but thanks for coming along.”
“Well it's too late to be thinking of doing anything else. Anyway, what's wrong with their marriage?”
“Her younger brother was raped and murdered by a former college football star.”
“Like I said. It has broken her down, and her husband can't take the strain anymore, especially now that the jury acquitted him of the crime.”
L was incredulous. A few weeks ago he had read in The Boston Globe of the acquittal of a former star running back of the exact crime that P had just talked about. The running back was an African-American, and L recalled the name of General O in the report. He asked P if it was the same case.
“Yep. The very same.”
The two pulled up in front of a bungalow, and were met by a rather disheveled-looking woman and her bearded husband. They greeted L, and made him welcome in their living room. They offered him a beer, and hoped that he wouldn't mind if they took P to the kitchen and talked over some urgent matters with him. L distractedly watched TV in the living room as snatches of loud conversation came from the kitchen. It seemed as if they were planning a hit on the alleged rapist-murderer, and the husband-and-wife team was commissioning P to carry it out. L now concentrated all his attention on the voices from the kitchen in order to hear every word. Caught up in their planning, they had forgotten him in the living room, and were clearly audible in the living room. The words were chilling. L was in a state of panic. He was a foreigner who could be implicated as an accessory to murder. The consequences could be severe.
“You got to do this, P. I want that bastard dead for what he did to my brother,” the woman's voice reached L.
“Don't worry. I'll take care of him.”
L heard some more on the theme, and then the husband's voice came over: “P, your friend must have overheard everything.”
“Let's go talk to him. Don't worry about him, he won't talk.”
And then they filed back into the room. The husband began: “You must have heard some of what we said. We were pretty loud.”
“Yes, some of it,” L said, thinking it would be futile to deny, and would only arouse their hostility towards him.
“I'm sorry you had to hear all that,” said the wife. “But I've got to avenge my brother.”
“I'm sorry for your loss.”
“You know, my husband and I were in the courthouse when the jury let him off. He walked past us, looked at me with his yellow eyes and smiled. The bastard was gloating over what he had gotten away with. That's when I decided I would have him killed.”
“Our marriage was falling apart,” the husband volunteered.
“We've saved to pay for his death. P's a trusted friend, and I can't tell you how happy I am that he's agreed to do the job.”
“You're going to keep quiet, now, aren't you?” the husband eventually voiced the most important words.
“You can be sure of that.”
“Don't worry,” P jumped in. “L's my buddy. He won't talk.”
The party broke up soon after, and they said their goodbyes. The husband and wife were particularly nice to L as they bade him farewell. L was mostly quiet during the long drive back to the dorm.
P was ecstatic. “Hey buddy, my very first contract!” And, after a while, “You're going to keep quiet about it. Otherwise, I'll have to take you out too.”
“Don't worry about me. I've nothing to do with it.” L settled back in his seat to ponder all the ramifications of the past hour or so, breaking out in a cold sweat underneath his ski jacket. That feeling of dread followed him to his room, and his dream when finally, mercifully, sleep overcame him. He woke up late, and finally decided to talk to someone. And so he knocked on my door. He was in obvious turmoil, and did not know what to do.
“Just don't think about it. And act normally with P,” I counseled.
“Look, don't worry yourself to insanity. You had nothing to do with it. So don't act like you did.”
“You're right. I'll try. But it won't be easy.”
After he had left, I went over what he had told me. The whole thing seemed incredible, but L could not have been letting his imagination run wild. At the very least, his demeanour told me he was not.
In the evening, as I was about to go out for a lonely dinner, I heard knocks on my door. P was standing outside. “Want to go to Charlestown?”
“Thought you told me I wouldn't last five minutes in that Irish-American town.”
“Neither would I. But Fitzi will come with us. We'll be OK.” Fitzi - Fitzpatrick - was the Irish-American dorm janitor. The legend was that Charlestown did not welcome non-whites. Or even the 'wrong' kind of whites! I thought that it hid IRA fugitives and operatives, and could not trust anyone but Irish-Americans. But I had always longed to sample its delights. Here was my chance.
“Fitzi will be with us. We'll be OK. Let's go.”
I put on my ski jacket, winter gloves, and walked out with P to the parking lot.
Shahid Alam is Head, Media and Communication department, Independent University, Bangladesh.
Last Updated on Monday, 23 July 2012 21:16
- Friday, 20 February 2009 13:53
- Hits: 1859
(Translated by Hasan Ferdous)
Koshkin called me on the morning of 3 December. Koshkin, that is Andrei Pavlovich Koshkin, is a young diplomat at Dhaka's Russian Embassy. I had met him in Moscow where I once lived as a university student. I have returned home some five years now. These past years I have had no contact with him, until last year when we unexpectedly met at an international conference in Dhaka. I learned that he had been reassigned here from New Delhi only the previous month. We soon renewed our old friendship and spiced it up with vodka. These days we see each other once in a while, and speak quite often over the phone. Each time he goes home, he returns with a bottle of vodka for me. There are days when we also eat out at restaurants.
Koshkin, whom I call Andrei, is crazy about birds. In fact, not just birds; he has a deep curiosity and love for all kinds of animals. His hobby is taking pictures of birds and animals. He has an expensive camera fitted with large lenses. Koshkin has traveled to many countries to take pictures of birds and animals. On the 3rd of December morning, he told me, “My dear friend, winter birds have arrived. I want to see them, let's go.”
So we went out together. Andrei himself drove from Gulshan to East Raja Bazaar to pick me up. Inside his air conditioned car, with his stereo playing music by Alla Pugacheva, it felt like early spring in Moscow. Andrei offered me potato chips and Heineken beer.
Forty minutes later we arrived in Savar and stopped next to a chor a sliver of sandy land rising out of a dying river - by the road. At the end of the sandy strip stood a swamp, which was somewhere between a river and a bayou. Beyond the swamp, amidst the morning fog, there lay faint dark lines of a village. Soon the sun rose with all its glow; its crimson light spread out all over the marsh, slowly replacing a misty blanket that lay over it.
I asked Andrei, “What about the birds, where are they?”
Andrei smiled. Pointing a finger in one direction, he said, “There, right there. So many of them, can't you see them?”
From a distance, the birds looked somewhat like a mass of water hyacinth or lotus floating over the water below.
Andrei smiled again, “Yes, those are birds.”
Now it was my turn to be surprised. Never in my life had I seen so many birds in one place. I had no idea that so many birds could actually flock together to cover an entire body of water. We left our car near the sandy strip and walked closer to the swamp. We could hear birds chirping, as if they were whispering among themselves. Some birds merrily hopped from one place to the next. On the other end of the landscape, about twenty birds flew in a colourful formation. Some of the more sporty ones flew up and down, splashing aloud into the water. Andrei, ever ready with his camera and telelens held on a tripod, began taking pictures. Rejoicing aloud in Russian, he began clicking his camera shutter. At times he would remove his fingers from the shutter and clap, speaking to the birds in Russian, “Go, go, fly. Don't you know how far you have come? Look around and see how beautiful it is.”
Andrei danced, coaxing the birds to dance along and to show their grace. As if reciting a poem, he said, “Pretty, how pretty! Look, there is a little village, and further down, there the sky is descending to kiss the earth.”
Suddenly we heard the sound of a gunshot. Andrei, startled, looked around; my eyes followed him. Afar, on the left side of the swamp, stood a man jumping in delight with a gun in his hand. Andrei, carrying his tripod on his shoulders, began running towards the man. I followed him. As we drew closer, we saw an elderly man. With a shotgun in his hand, he was pointing something at the water excitedly, “There, there.” On the water lay a wounded bird, still fluttering its wings. A kid, aged 12 or 13, was swimming towards the bird.
I turned to the gentleman, “It seems you are an educated man, and yet you have no respect for law. Don't you know it is illegal to kill migratory birds?”
“Who are you, boy? How dare you teach me about law? Where do you come from?” the man hollered.
“Please, don't call me a boy. I am 32 years old and a father of one child.”
“Do you know who you are talking to?”
“I could not care less. The fact is you have broken the law. I am a journalist. OK, tell me, who are you? Are you a parliament member, chairman of the local union council, a retired military officer, or a former senior government official? Which one are you?”
“Look young man, you sound rude. I am perfectly aware of the law. Who says it forbids hunting a few birdies?”
“Can you break the law deliberately? You don't look to be poor; neither are you in need of hunting birds to make ends meet. You have done it wrong, do you admit?”
“You better watch your words. It seems all journalists feel we owe them an explanation for everything we do.”
“Not an explanation, all I wanted was to ask you whether you knew that killing migratory birds is an offense punishable by our law.”
“Look, you have been rude from the outset. I am much older than you, you can't scream at me like that. In fact, I could be as old as your father. I won't tolerate it that some guy like you could show off his journalistic credentials and insult me. No, I won't tolerate that.”
“Are you trying to threaten me?”
“My people have little regard for journalists and such people.”
“So, you are threatening me, aren't you?
Meanwhile, the kid swam back to the shore with a rather large duck. It was already dead. With blood dripping down its body, the bird's head hung down and its pupils motionless. Andrei ran to the boy and hurriedly grabbed the bird. Holding it close to his chest, he moaned, “My God! How cruel!”
The hunter gentleman, startled at Andrei's howling, looked up at him with surprise. Andrei, lifting a leg of the dead duck to examine it, saw that it carried a plastic ring. On it was written, “Moscow Zoo, Duck, Series No. 3,009.”
Moaning audibly, Andrei fell on the ground.
I stood face to face with the gentleman, “Now, you see, this was a bird from a zoo. You are nothing but a brute, a butcher.”
The gentleman, obviously embarrassed, could not find words to respond. He held on to the barrel of his gun and glanced guiltily at Andrei.
Andrei slowly rose from the ground. Bringing the dead bird close to his heart, he turned to face the multitude of birds on the swamp. Addressing them in a somber and anguished voice, he said, “Friends, now go home. Not a moment more at this place.”
Andrei's words reverberated throughout the swamp, fading out slowly. Soon thereafter we could hear the birds fluttering. With their wings and feet, they began running on the water. The sound of their wings flapping could be heard all over. As they began flying up above the swamp, the sky became covered with countless chirping birds, drowning the earth with the sound of their flapping wings. They began flying towards the north. All around one could only hear the birds tweeting and their wings flapping.
When the last batch of birds faded from our vision, we looked at the swamp. Not a single bird was left. Only the morning sunlight shimmered on its yellow, muddy water.
The next day, newspapers reported that the migratory birds that had taken refuge in Savar had left the swamps and nearby ponds. Experts fearing that this might have been caused by a serious environmental pollution urged immediate investigation of the water, soil and other natural elements in the area.
Two weeks later on a Sunday morning, Andrei telephoned me. “My friend, I have been transferred. I am leaving you country for Poland.”
“Don't people in Poland kill birds,” I joked.
Andrei laughed, “You're being silly.”
Mashiul Alam is a novelist and short story writer. Hasan Ferdous is a columnist for Prothom Alo in New York.
Last Updated on Monday, 23 July 2012 21:18