Translated by Jahidul Alam & Abdullah Al Musayeb
I understand everything. The chap, sooth to say, has a voyeuristic gaze at the graceful body of the bride. He watches her daily as his shop is close to Kuyotala. Seeing her every day, he has lost all sanity, got on trance. Be it intoxication or stupefaction, Kalu Mian doesn’t want to believe this kind of shameless slandering chap anymore.
Sultan says, ‘I’ve witnessed in my own, why again?’
‘You buck, get lost.’
‘Don’t you believe me? Swearing by god.
I feel like landing kicks on his back. He’s the colony chap, so I leave him this time. But Sultan realizes that it won’t be fair to make chaos. He leaves the place silently.
Batashi and Majidi were fluttering at the Kuyotala. Lukman, wearing red-glossy dress in the betel-leaf shop, has been enjoying music with high volume. There’s a huge branch of Tulsi tree on the wayside of Banamali colony. Two hens are roaming under the tree, clucking. Behind it, Baidar’s wife is waiting, perhaps in fear of the crowd, with a pitcher in her hand.
The Bioscope hero Lukman comes forward and asks, ‘What’s up? You’ve come for water?’
She nods her head; probably she’s scared.
‘Hey Batashi aunty…!’
Lukman shouts ‘What’s the problem? Don’t you see others on the queue? Hurry up, hurry up…’
‘Ok, come on, you chap!’
Angry, Batashi says, raising her hands ‘Don’t try to be overact; I’ll slap you.’
‘Hey, what’s wrong with you? It’s from my good heart.’
Lukman shouts, throwing slangs. Hearing chaos, Hero and Sultan peep in to get pleasure. The quarrel turns tenacious. All at once, I see the main attraction is gone. She’s left.
I knew it. They have been living here, three feet away from my house, for more than one and a half years. She’s peon Baidar Ali’s wife. So far, what I have seen isn’t deceptive. These girls are not just the source of happiness, they’re great companies at crisis. She’s no match with Batashi, Majidi, or Aguni’s mother. Only Kalu Mian’s first wife Mayna was sort of a good match. Yes, a good-match with Mayna. Though not in appearance, it was in manners. Driven by their lust and greed, Sultan, Hero and even Lukman gaze at the woman. But if they had known that this kind of woman isn’t artificial, they wouldn’t have spread scandal anymore.
I was about to forget Mayna. That day, seeing Joigun, I remembered Mayna. Like Mayna, Joigun also wears veil along the forehead, walks jerking waist. Good in manners, she talks less. The forty-one-year old body gets thirsty. No, the gratification isn’t like that gained seeing Fuli’s body. It’s different. Its taste is distinct. This thirst is like a desire to dive into river in the month of Chaitra, to sleep under a rain-tree at midnight in the month of Ashwin. This bloody Sultan will never understand this. If he knew that I were such a hard nut crack, would he come to do away with such will?
Sultan says, ‘Boss, see how she walks jerking her waist, wearing a milk-white silk Sari…See…how…’
This chat takes place on the first day. I signal him not to do it. He’s an errant rascal, but can’t understand this. Malu Mian, Chunnilal Babu, who were playing cards in the house, laughed. I also come out.
It’s not a shame for me, still I feel humiliated. It hurts. Mayna is no one’s wife. Likewise Mayna, a bride, enters the colony just three feet away from my house. Her house is very close to mine. I can clearly see the house through the ceiling of my room. I’ve been watching this for one and a half years, now and then, morning and afternoon, always. But I haven’t seen anything like that. You Sultan are always in your shop, so when have you seen that? Speak, speak honestly. You bloody, swear literally and vilify the people in return! Do I dare believe you anymore?
No, I don’t. Hey, one day I entered the house in absence of Baidar, carrying a bottle of bus oil. I gave the bottle and got surprised to see that she offered a kind of respect bending on my feet and addressed me as Brother! I came out and gave the bottle to Fuli. I couldn’t help laughing for a while. Baidar’s wife is different from any other girls in this area. She’s a veil-wearing perfect wife. Hearing their fantasy gossip, I smile lying down on the bed.
Baidar says ‘Stop… you’ll be a circumcised goat in the coming month.’
‘Ah … it sounds much. Joigun smiles hearing the talk.’
Baidar swears and continues, ‘don’t you trust?’
‘What a bluff…’
Joigun laughs, ‘Hold your tongue and take your meal, oil is burning up.’
‘So what if it burns.’
‘What do you say?’
‘I’ve said what’s wrong if oil burns. It’ll burn my money and it’s none of your business.
These are the talks in time of merry-making. Besides, I sometimes hear the sounds of breaking things. When Biadar becomes angry, he breaks plates, dishes, and tortures his wife holding her lock. The wife sobs but never cries loudly, lest she should be the subject of public humiliation. Baidar says, ‘How many times have I asked but got no attention?’ Joigun says, ‘I don’t talk to such people.’
Baidar rebukes, ‘Where have you seen the people? Abu brother, Master uncle, are they alien? Well what would they think?’
I understand everything. When Baidar’s relatives visit, Jaigun doesn’t come out in front of them; she even doesn’t exchange greetings. This is why Baidar is enraged. He swears again, ‘Wait until I send you home…’
The repressed tears of Jaigun are rolling down her cheek now. Her reluctance to go home isn’t difficult to understand. Baidar repeatedly insists on the topic as the medicine starts working. Her sob deepens and then slowly comes to a stop. Jaigun’s lips, tear-filled red-eye and restless body become stand still. The night becomes darker. Baidar speaks, ‘God sends no peace.’
After murmuring, he expects the answer hopefully. But Jaigun is absolutely silent. Baidar tries to make excuses. He is so angry that whatever he does, he finds no way. He jerks, slaps mosquitoes lying on the side of the bed… and seeing no results from the other side, Baidar asks about the meaning of her name.
‘I do not know.’
Baidar laughs, and requests for the reply. Then he lowers his voice and says, ‘May I put out the lamp?’
‘No, send me home.’
Baidar laughs and speaks, ‘Do you believe that I’ll send you home?’
The amorous hands of love fondle her body. The amorous excitement starts running through veins. Jaigun whispers again, ‘Send me home.’
‘Jaigun, it’s a trick, a false talk. Well, I won’t talk about it anymore.’
Baidar tries to convince her cordially, but Jaigun doesn’t respond. Baidar continues. The flip of amorous breath is heard over the conversation. The lamp was put out long ago. No words are heard. Instead, bangles’ amorous sound is overheard. I hear the sounds when my time matches with their nights, sometimes less and sometimes more. The chorus of Jaigun’s bangles denotes her sexual appetite. Jaigun likewise Mayna surrenders and outpours completely, the sound bears this testimony. Anyone can understand that no one can hear the sound of a woman’s bangles in a dark night if there isn’t love.
I know everything. Sultan, Hiru, and Chunilal are crazy about Jaigun, peon Baidar’s wife, and her body. I’m their close neighbors; hence, they come to me. Though they’re attracted to her, nobody has that power to get her unless and until Kalu agrees. No bird is there to take rice.
I go to Fuli’s house to flirt. But I can’t forget my number one wife Mayna? If time matches with their time, I overhear Baidar and Jaigun, lying down on my bed. I hear the sound of their sweet quarrel and the sound of Jaigun’s bangles. Then everything is clear. I smile, laugh at myself and talk to myself – she is the real wife, not Fuli or Atarjan.
The mood seems to have cut in the night. I go to bed late and rise up the next day at nine. Turning round the hole between the doors, I notice that the mountainous snow-ad girl smiles on the lips. From the high post to the sky, the sky has fallen down the trees, on the roof of the house – from there, on the dome of the heavenly mosque.
I open the door and come out to see one more thing. Sultan’s shop lies on the east side of the left lane of the mosque. I see Sultan and Chunnilal gossiping on the verandah of the shop. Seeing me, they turn away. It isn’t difficult to get the reason after turning to the opposite side. Jaigun, bending down, is sweeping the porch of her house.
I have tried to rebuke them heavily but stopped thinking that hot-temperament is not the solution. Kalu Mian also belongs to the same group. If I show the magic of my wrists, then after the evening, when I’ll be playing cards, what would happen then? Will it be just to be a foe with a bosom friend?
Blow indiscriminately. No time to care anything. Having seen the world for forty years, Kalu Mian is that of scintillating Iranian knife. I’ll accept the defeat on that day when the body will grow pitch-water instead of blood. Now enjoy in a full swing, but be aware of the betrayal. Yes, anyone can betray but Kalu Mian won’t do anything like this. Without it, there’s no boundary to have any pleasure.
Lamentation was heard in the time of making fun. Kalu Mian was intoxicated with liquor. Then wailing was felt similar to the howling of puppy shivering in cold. Then the sound is recognized. Jaigun is crying. Baidar speaks up, ‘Silence, silence.’
Jaigun requests crying, ‘Please, let me go home! Send me home. I can’t bear this burden anymore.’
‘Oh, send me home…. Don’t you like the cheap rice? Have you become a namby-pamby…?’
‘Oh God, what can I do … why no death!’
What’s this? Why does this girl cry at the dead of night? But Jaigun doesn’t want to go home earlier.
Unable to control my emotion, the next day, I ask Baidar, ‘Why did your wife cry at night?’
Baidar continues to speak while smoking, ‘It’s all about luck, the luck of a poor-wretched, Kalu bhai.’
Yes, Baidar is poor. His wage is tk. 63. After paying the house rent, he has still tk. 56 to buy rice, dal, oil, salt, and other daily necessities, including clothing and medicines. So who is solvent in this colony? Everybody has a leakage rice pot, all of them are fake sahibs. So why is this quarrel and noise?
I hear the cry for some days more. Jaigun’s words are only to go to home. Baidar abuses and beats her for this. Jaigun cries without making any question. Exhausted to hear this, my day becomes spoiled when I stay at home. What else should I do as I’m a day laborer too and hence I understand that Baidar has nothing to do.
All the inhabitants of this colony share the same condition. Peon Baidar has a way for the balance of 63 taka at least, but many of the inhabitants have no such way. They have to rely on the mercy of God.
I’ve prayed a lot but, the luck plays a trickster. One day, I get surprised to see Baidar dressed with a luxurious attire. And another day I see him getting down from rickshaw with a handful bag of shopping. What’s the matter!
Sultan also wants to say one day, ‘I saw Baidar’s wife was going to cinema. But, do you know what she wore? Silk sari … silk blouse…’
I prohibit him winking at my eyes. But Sultan doesn’t pay any heed. Rather, he mimes how Jaigun’s wife walks wearing silk sari. Malu Mian says, ‘What? Wife of a peon wears silk sari?’
‘Don’t you understand…?’
Sultan jests with a satire, ‘Small roast, big boast… huh.’
Chunilal, Malu all burst out into laughter.
Strange. All are strange and fraud in this world. A few days ago, I rebuked Sultan for Kalu’s wife, but now I see that the rebuke has been the blessing for Kalu Mian. I’ve nothing left to understand now. The reason why she wants to go home is completely clear. Jaigun now wants to fly. The lusty gaze of a young rich man… Baidar is now like a leakage penny.
I see, after a few days, Abu Mian and Master uncle in a relaxed mood sitting on the veranda, Jaigun with betel-leaf comes after a while to serve them.
Master uncle says, ‘I have to leave, Baidar. Do you want to go out?’
‘How can I go out uncle? My temperament is very hot.’
‘What has happened to you?’
Baidar then tells that there is no food in the house. Jaigun is very eager to buy a sari but there is no single penny in my pocket. Is it just to have a fancy hobby?
Master uncle earns his livelihood by contract work. After hearing this, his fat belly starts floating with his laughter. Taking three notes out of the pocket he says, ‘Buy this right now. Empty pocket cannot be an excuse. So why are we here?’
Mayna’s face glitters now. She tries to bring Kalu Mian to a good life, and after failing, she dies from fasting and of illness. She uses the veil like Jaigun and talks less. She has a heart full of piety and affection as well. But, why am I comparing her with Jaigun? Is Jaigun like this?
Immediately after evening I see Abu Mia, Master contractor and a new guy gossiping and sipping tea sitting at the verandah. After Esha prayer, Abu Mian, the stranger and Baidar start walking to the left lane of the Banamali colony and go out of the eyesight. I understand that the person who is smoking cigarettes with whispering smiles, this Master Contractor is Jaigun’s man, who will put out the lamp tonight!
Mayna is flapping inside the heart of Kalu Mian. Those who are in three-hands away from my house get very amorous. I hear the closing of the door. The lamp turns out. I stand for a long time motionlessly. I hear. I hear the chaotic voices of cot and a heavy breathing. Then all stops. But alas…! I don’t hear the sound of silk bangles in Jaigun’s hands.
Kuyotala: The space beside a well. The village girls & women generally gather here to collect water from the well.
Assistant Professor (on Study Leave), Department of English, Comilla University
At present pursuing PhD in English Literature at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA
Abdullah Al Musayeb
MA Student, Department of English, Comilla University
Illustration : Rajib Datta