Translated by Umme Salma Alam Leena

 

Listen, here you are going to hear a tale about a village wife 

Two leafy Margosa trees are like two stern security guards stood at  the two sides of  Fulbari Lodge casting shadows of unearthly design on the lawn.  The man leaning his back upon the right-sided tree looked somehow very relaxed and pleased with himself.  He was holding a cup of popular sweet milk- tea from local Mojnu Miah’s shop.  All the drug addicts of this area worshipped this tea. Because of Fulbari lodge, this tea held a reputation beyond this area.

Ranjana sent Bablu to guide the man towards the house.  Bablu was scrutinizing the man shrewdly to match with Ranjana’s depiction.  He could be assumed that how easily inexperienced in this affair.   He yet had to develop his skill to that height of Ratan and  Jamal’s in recognizing the clients. Fuck! What a mess he made last time!  Mistakenly showing sister Chandana’s client sister Chameli’s room and sister Chameli’s client sister Chandana’s room resulted in a disaster.  Fortunately, sister Ranjana appeared at the right moment and took him out of that mess.   He couldn’t afford to repeat the mistake this time.  Slowly, very slowly he was approaching near to the margosa tree.  His inner turmoil was slightly shaking him.  Sweat hung upon his forehead.  Surrounding crowd failed to lower his heart’s pumping sound.

Was he moving forward on the said path? Was he approaching the asked person too?  What was sister Ranjana going to think of him if he made the same error for a second time?  No!  His brain was going to explode.  He could not continue thinking in this way anymore. 

 “  Hey! Are you Bablu there?”-  Bablu seemed to get popped up in reality when the person from the nearby Margosa tree shouted at him. 

After dropping his eyelashes for a few times finally when he managed to fix his stare upon that man, then the second question came from him, “You are sent from Ranjana, aren’t you?” Instantly Bablu felt something of a hundred kg weight coming down from his head satisfying him with his mission of responsibility. Smiling broadly he took the man’s hand in. He could easily identify himself with a winner then.

My dearest readers, let the man and Bablu walk in. In the meantime let us become enlightened about the three main characters’ history of life.

We have already got acquainted with our two protagonists’ names. We can easily perceive that man is the third one. By the way, time will tell us his name.

 

Bablu- You cannot write poems in a world marked by chilly hunger.  

A child of eight years. His father drove his mother away from the house when he was only a baby of three months. Hardly the year passed Bablu’s father got married for the second time. To get rid of this burden Bablu his father along with his newly married wife left him with his old grandmother. Scolding Bablu and cursing his parents on a regular basis at the beginning and at the end of the day, Bablu’s grandma struggled to raise Bablu half fed and sometimes unfed till her death. Bablu heard of his father driving a truck from his grandmother. What kind of a vehicle a truck was Bablu went to watch for several times on the highway.

 He could hardly grasp how his father could have failed to afford to raise his tiny physique in spite of dealing with such a huge vehicle.

His grandmother when breathed her last he only added six years in his life.  From that time one thing he knew for sure that hunger was his deadly enemy. In fact, Bablu used to think less except thinking about hunger.   This hunger snatched him from his known world and made him enter into unknown territory. That was the beginning of Bablu.  After that, he only floated away.  Like rootless water hyacinth.  It was that carried away the period when he happened to meet Ranjana.   During that time not Ranjana’s charm but Ranjana’s given food attracted him.  He did not have the time, nor desire, and not environment in his favor to ponder upon Ranjana.  Hunger always followed him.  Where did he have the leisure time enough to think whether it was supplied by Ranjana or Rani?

After a few days  when Bablu’s   sole enemy  was  slightly defeated and  weakened , Bablu  identified an another  second  enemy living in his very self.  It was what we say in the language of literature , “emotion.”  But our Bablu was not very familiar with the scrutinized elite words of literature.  So  he didn’t actually  know why  for Ranjana something coiled up  and was breaking apart inside him.  Now a day aimlessly he remained close to  Ranjana.     Hundreds of thought now occupied that existence of Bablu who never thought anything apart from food.   How, by what work , with what excuse he could be able to  make  Ranjana smile  and smilingly how he could manage her to kiss his forehead  etc  were his major concern.  She smelled of his mother whenever he hugged Ranjana.    Desperately he wanted to call Ranjana loudly as mother not sister  but he  failed to

Bablu noticed too when there was no customer in Ranjana’s room, Ranjan asked for his company.  Adoring him she asked him to sit beside her and treated him with delicious food, searching who knew what in Bablu.  Bablu couldn’t perceive that much.  So he only could manage to wish the client’s absence in Ranjana’s room.   Even he conspired in various ways to drive the clients away.  Bablu wondered about one other thing too.  Previously hunger was Bablu’s only enemy and how he used to feel against hunger he now felt the same against the clients.  Whenever they happened to come, and tears rested upon Bablu’s eyes unknowingly.  Bablu’s feelings surprised to himself.  Never in his life tears shed from his eyes.   Who knew perhaps his monstrous hunger sucked his tears dry!

Beloved readers, the rest of the history when we would go into the depth of the character of Ranjana, the second persona of this story will be known.  give  courage a shape.

 

Ranjana- I will be lost like the way the path does.

 At the age of fifteen   Rahlea got married  to  Hasem Miah , son of Karim Bepari from the neighboring village Deokhali . She entered into her new life holding her husband Hasem Miah’s hand leaving the  forever known village Holdedanga  far away.  Generally  happiness in Rahelas’ life persists lesser period than the duration of the applied henna on the palm.  Ranjan’s life saw no exception.  It had been hardly six months passed Rahela had to face the monstrous masculinity her husband possessed.

Impassivity of nature did not hinder her baby to breathe in this earth though. And the baby’s smile obliterated Rahela’s overwhelming sorrow. After going through day-long exhaustion and suffering her husband’s cruelty when she happened to face her baby as if a gentle breeze cooled her heart.  She wondered what power that tiny hands held to balm her scary scars. She let her fingers touch those and felt a sense of security as if magical protection encircled her.  What an unearthly sensation it was! But it was only for a transient period before her husband snatched away from her so private, secret happiness when he drove her away from home. Shattered Rahela spent her all energy to regain her that shelter of secret happiness. But perhaps Rahela’s helpless tear stained prayer took a bit longer time in its’ hopeless way towards God’s desk.  Broken Rahela did not get shelter in her stepmothers’ house.  She then had to stick to the only option left out-taking the decision to walk an indeterminate path. Consciousness and a tiring physique were her only resource. A much-known train exposed an unknown platform of a vast world to her.  Not so much time it took to get Rahela enlightened that this world had nothing to offer in exchange for her shattered mind. So in her obligation, she had to invest her rest resource. And the demand seemed to exceed supply. 

Rahela realized that this world of hollowness categorized mind as a product that expired a pretty long period ago. So quickly her perception inclined to promote the popular one. She dedicated vigorous effort and replaced her name Rahela with Ranjana at the foremost as a part of it. Her body became her temple now. She could not afford not worshipping it.

That woman was Ranjana, No! I will address her as Rahela. Dear thinker, it’s up to you to decide which name you will prefer.  Let me go on with the story. Rahela never used the underpass. Isn’t it wise and isn’t it girls’ natural intuition to be scared of anything for nothing? But that day was different. The rain came uninvitedly and Rahela had to take the shelter Karwanbazar’s underpass offered. Of course, she entered with annoyance and god perhaps was amused at her annoyance. If otherwise how did a bit of sunray upon Bablu’s cheek make her stop?  Rahela could not just glance away from Bablu’s innocent face marked by helplessness.  Her whole life saw lots of faces from which light of life faded away from the occupation of surviving.  So helplessness was never a stranger to her.

Still, I wonder specifically which part God conspired to let the light fall upon!  Was it really upon Bablu’s face or did it actually find a way to settle upon Rahela’s heart, a location which had to face the drought due to the absence of a child?   The whole world vanished for Rahela’s teary eyes. Only thousands of Bablu were there. Reality touched awestruck Rahela afterward and she was driven towards Bablu. Burning from fever Bablu was laid unconscious there. Rahela then managed buying bread, and paracetamol from the roadside shop, pharmacy within such a short time she could never tell you actually how.

“Kiddo, will you go with me?” Rahela didn’t have to spend words any more than that. No curiosity fell upon Bablu to enquire upon where he was heading, whom he was going with and why he was going. From the time being Bablu was staying in Rahela’s place.  And Bablu’s residing came up with Rahela’s realization of quite a few things.  What she suppressed for the sake of surviving in this indifferent world, what she kept counting out for a long time that thing rising from ashes of so many years seemed to submerge everything. That traitor body for the care of which she never hesitated it agreed to surrender to the mind. And it seemed to feel good for losing its dominance.  Unknowingly Rahela searched for excuses to spend time with Bablu, to treat him with meals, to call him to sleep over at night.When tiny Bablu slept so deeply at Rahela’s bed, and she had to spend a few sleepless nights. She felt like her lost child returned to her in Bablu. Rahela took attempt sometimes to ask Bablu about his parents. But how she would inquire a child of only around six or seven years old stopped her.  Dear readers, I think we should give Rahela time to think and in the meantime let us introduce with our character numbered three.

 

Hasem Miah: Life is nothing but a handful of ashes.

A forty years old man. Truck driver by profession. Every trait that was exclusive for such a truck driver could be easily traceable in him. Uneducated, rustic, ill-tempered Hasem Miah’s first marriage was with Rahela, a girl from Holdedanga village. It was not a life partner Hasem Miah sought in marriage but dowry and gifts. Moreover, to meet up his sexual desires there was no need for a person tagged as a wife because only by half of the expense spent for this extra person of his life he could afford a new vagina every night. So why to bear this extra expense! So it had been hardly six months when this person failed to meet up his whimsical demand she was only an expendable burden for him. Yet when within only one year he became the father of a boy a new idea to invest made him think otherwise. Twice he sent his wife for dowry keeping the son to him.  The third time he drove her away from the house for failure.  Hasem Miah was not late in getting his second prey. And to hold her attention for a slightly longer period so that he could use her later, leaving his mother and little son behind he went to the town with his newly gained second sexual object. Black will take no other hue!  What Hasem Miah was in the village he was the same in the city too.   To ignore his wife in the home was an exhibition of masculinity and so was to sleep with   Fulbari lodge’s the most attractive prostitute, Ranjana.   He became too restless hearing the praise of Ranjana’s beauty. But what to do! It was not so easy to get the most attractive body. The whole town craved for her!  The demand was too high. So he had to sell his second wife’s earring, the last wealth she could offer. He must have had this Fulbari beauty. God could be such a humorist! At last his long waiting had ended. He was now going to afford  Ranjana for one night after only sending the half of the money in advance as per Ranjana’s demand. Being so desperate from the afternoon that day he kept waiting to stand near  Fulbari Lodge under that margosa tree. According to the prostitute’s agent’s information, a boy named Bablu would direct him towards Ranjana’s place in the evening.

 

It did not end at the ending —

Beloved readers, we have come to the last scene of the story.

I do not know whether Hashem Miah will be able to know that Bablu who would direct him is his son and also whether Bablu will be able to know the history of his biological relation, how close he is to Rahela aka Ranjana. Even we do not know how the moving curtain from the real-life drama at Rahela’s room is going to fall upon. Leaving Rahela far behind she had to enter into Ranjana’s life. Will Rahela’s life embrace her once more? Will Hasem Miah’s lust find satisfaction by Ranjana?

That dark humour of nature! So passionate she is about a mystery that  very often she tortures us with a puzzle to make us silent in answering. Does she really demand the reply from her puppets or is she only into the torment?  No!  I do not have the answer, the answer that concludes!

Still today I wonder why all the Hasem Miahs out there care for Rahela’s when they are not Ranjanas! On the contrary, they become so desperate for Ranjanas that being penniless does not matter! Why Rahela had to be Bablu’s mother only when she was Ranjana!

The petals of all human relationships mother’s nature by herself arranges. Time along with the situation is only aware of how, where and when a relationship will develop and how it will perish.  Perhaps about only a relationship she is not so comfortable with. Could that mother’s affection be metamorphosed through the relationship between Rahela and her child got extended into the relationship between Ranjana and Bablu?

Random floating away did not confuse Bablu to reach the right port.

A mother is always a mother. It does not matter whether she is Rahela or Ranjana, does it?             

 

About the Writer

Nahida ashrafi is basically a writer and an editor of a literary magazine ‘Jolodhi’ .She has written four books of poetry, two books of story and edited two books of stories based on the independence war of Bangladesh.She has completed his master’s in English Language and Literature. Besides she has achieved a certificate of diploma in French Language. She has participated in poetry festivals in various parts of the country as well as in India.She has received several awards as a poet, a story writer and as an editor also.She is the member of Bangladesh writer’s Club . She is the managing partner of ‘Kobita Cafe’,  the General secretary of ‘Ajker Projonmo Foundation’ and on the advisory board of a literary magazine  ‘Asha,Bangla potrika'(Calcutta, India).

 

About the Translator

 Umme Salma Alam Leena is basically a writer both in Bangla and English . Her skill in poetry is mostly preserved in Monsoon letters, a bilingual literary magazine. Notably she has translated Richard Conell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” in Bangla firstly appeared in Ekushey Book Fair’ 2016 (http://bpl.bdnews24.com/index.php/books/bhoyongkor-shikar.html) and “Khotipuron” by Selina Hossain as “The Compensation” in English . She also worked as a translator of classical songs ,content writer and gave voice for Youth Forum Programme of Bangladesh Radio(2011-2013). “Pessimists are the Optimists” is a feature of her published in Daily Our Time. She is also a photographer who gets exhibited. Her academic life centered on studying English Literature in University of Dhaka.