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Fiction>The Butchers -Nazib Wadood
The soft golden afternoon rays of the autumn sun were reflecting over her fresh whitish cheeks. She was looking so shining, nice and charming as if a hur had descended from the Heaven upon the worldly compound. How could such a beautiful girl have taken birth in a poor family of such a marginal farmer like Harezuddin? thought Akber Mollah, the chief of the village. The bridegroom, a black, stout, healthy young chap of about lovely twenty years, had kept his shameless unblinking looks upon her, being unmindful even of the presence of so many people including the elders sitting around him. Nobody could dislike the girl; it was certain, Mollah thought. And if the question of family was raised, undoubtedly it would be, then one should know the name and fame of the Gharamis had not been a matter of very distant past. Concern of the present was that the Gharamis had fallen on evil days. Harezuddin’s father, Shafiuddin Gharami, had developed a deadly disease and sold almost all his farmlands, mango gardens and ponds to get money for his treatment. After his death, he had left only one and a half acres of farmland for his son; and Harezuddin took lease another one acre of land as a sharecropper. He had a pair of bullocks and a plough for cultivation of his own lands; and used to plough other’s lands too, to earn extra money. Thus, Harezuddin Gharami was hardly managing his family. Nosimon was sitting on an armless chair in their square courtyard fenced by jute-stalks on all three sides. She was positioned in front of their two-roomed thatched house to face to the west to let the golden sunshine of the dying afternoon kiss her cheeks and made the face more beautiful and charming. The bridegroom and his relatives, and the invited senior villagers were sitting in front of her in chairs and benches; some friends of her, along with an old grandmother-like woman, were crowding around her to maintain courage of their girl before such a gathering of unknown and honorable persons. Her face was glistening with reddish luster. Her body structure, unlike to the average Bengali girls, was some taller and slender, with long black hairs on the head spreading down to the waist. The Creator has created the fortunate girl with His own hand and poured inexhaustible beauty and youth on to her, thought the village chief, and admitted that despite his poverty, Harezuddin had nourished and brought up his daughter with much love and care. Akber Mollah looked back over his shoulder to see the position of the sun. The mango tree spread its branches over the roof of the thatched house as if it had held it with its huge and innumerable hands. The sun was being seen through the gaps of the branches glittering with fading glow. It was yet to set, but was rushing to the horizon. Taking his eyes back to the courtyard, he examined the shadows on the ground to assess whether the time of the afternoon prayer was yet on. Then he said, `Time of asr prayer is going to be over; I have to go, brothers, if you permit, please.’ Everybody was moved at his assertion; all they had so far been unmindful of passage of time. Especially the bridegrooms party got very much ashamed understanding that they had really wasted much time. The village chief noticed it, and to let them get rid of it, he said, `If you have no more questions to ask, or nothing to see about, I think the girl should go.’ Questionnaire phase, the main part of the matrimonial interview, was finished earlier. So the head of the bridegrooms party, a bearded old man with a white tupi on his head, said, `Yes, brother, we have to go a long distance. We should be brief.’ He looked at the girl and asked her to show her palms open to them; and like an experienced palmist, he bent forward and attentively examined her palms and fingers for a while, and nodded his head positively. Then another middle-aged man requested the old grandmother-like woman to show them her hairs. The old woman did it merrily and confidently. Her hairs were abundant and long enough to touch her waist. The old man said, `You may go now, my sweet little mother. Now go walking…!’ `I came here walking, and will leave the place certainly by walking, as I have no wing to fly, then why comes the question of walking in such a demanding voice?’ Nosimon thought, but kept her lips tight enough not to speak anything or even utter a soft sound. A girl poured some water on the courtyard, and Nosimon walked slowly on the wet ground in the little space in front of them. They examined her footprints and smiled with satisfaction as they found the feet well formed. They also expressed satisfaction over her good and humble gait. `Well-done, my daughter, well-done. Now go, and take rest,’ said the village chief. What a word of relief! What a terrible time of troublesome heartache it was! –Sitting before the crowd to be shown, to answer to their absurd, confusing, unnecessary and even harassing questions, and giving bodily examinations before them! It is shameful, Nosimon thought, and moved slowly to leave the place. The old woman whispered to her, and she then turned back and raising her slender right hand to about her forehead, greeted the crowd with salam. While doing it, she had a sudden and unexpected chance of casting a glance to the bridegroom, a black but healthy young lad, still looking at her with his spellbound eyes. Not bad! Especially for a poor girl like her! Nosimon said to her, and her whole body shuddered with a warm thrill; her mind suddenly became full of euphoria; and she could not keep her standing there. She almost ran to leave the place to hide her unusualness; while she was briskly walking, she could have not even imagined if she was stepping on the ground, or flying in the air. Harezuddin had collected all necessary details of the bridegroom and his family earlier before. Parila was not a very distant village. He himself had gone there and secretly learnt everything. Roistullah had been a medium sized farmer; the villagers knew him as a rich man with his twelve acres of land. And Mohibullah, the eldest of his two sons and three daughters, was well-known for his modesty and endeavors, and religiosity. The boy passed class nine, and then devoted himself to farming in his father’s lands, not to waste time in study that would not perhaps confirm an employment for him. Harezuddin was very much pleased with all those, and was at the same time anxious with the question of the choice of the other side. The matchmaker had assured him that they had been seeking for a beautiful girl– only a fair-looking bride, and a good family, and nothing more. They would not demand dowry, the matchmaker had categorically said, as he was expecting more clear and specific information. He had full confidence in him that they could not have but chosen Nosimon, for her fair complexion, attractive body figure, lovely face, long hairs and big enchanting eyes. She could also read and write, though not much. His daughter was intelligent enough and very much social, and skill in cooking and sewing. But Roistullah was something miserly and greedy by nature, somebody told him. He might expect something from him that would at least be honorable for his social status, if he really would not openly demand dowry, Harezuddin had thought, and despite that, he had screwed up his mind in hope. He had earlier explained everything to the village chief and informed him of his heart’s wish. Now he whispered to him, and said, `Well, now, you, elder brother, please try to manage the marriage. Put a little pressure, if necessary.’ Mollah had a business outside; he wanted to go, but kept sitting to serve his duty as the chief of the village. Moreover, Harezuddin’s father was very much close to him, like a relative. They had always been cooperative to each other, in all events, bad or good. He was telling those stories to the bridegroom party to highlight the social status of the Gharamis just sometimes ago. So he should not go away at the last moment of the event, he thought, and again looked behind at the setting sun. The sunrays were rapidly growing shadowy and dodging with dark green leaves of the mango tree. He stopped chewing betel-leaf and threw spittle with a habituated skill, and turned to the head of the bridegroom’s party. `Well, dear honorable brothers, the sun is running quickly, and I have to leave for another business; we can now speak briefly on what we have already seen about the bride, off course if you have no objection, can’t we?’ he said. The old man looked at the face of Roistullah, and said hesitatingly, `Well, then… yes, I should say…, hi, brother, couldn’t we take some time to think and discuss the matter within us?’ Soon he gathered his own dignity and tactic, and said, `It would be better if we say it later, some days after returning home, isn’t it, sir?’ Mollah knew– his hairs had grown white settling all these business every now and then– that the bridegroom party would try to take a little bit time for making final decision. His experience said, once it would go beyond the courtyard, it would begin to be complex– one would say this, another would say that, to make the bridegroom and his guardians perplexed. So he turned to Roistullah and said, `Why later? You yourself and the other important relatives and villagers are present here. If the bride is chosen, we can start forwarding, I think. Good thing should not be delayed, our honorable elders say.’ Roistullah looked at the old village chief for help. Mollah noticed it and assuming his attempt had acted positively, he threw a direct look at the old man and said, `Why, the chieftain, you rather say, if the bride is not disliked, what is deterring us from moving forward?’ The bridegroom was trying to convince his people with his piteous gaze, but all they were exchanging indeterminable looks among them. Mollah could guess that none of the members of the bridegroom party could have rejected his proposal, as all they had been charmed with Nosimon’s beauty and figure. He advanced a little bit, saying, `Problem is that, frankly speaking, there are two more proposals in our hand, and both are good enough to be accepted; and more to say, one of them is pressing hard.’ Then he discussed how difficult a marriage had become presently, especially for a girl. `We couldn’t have made much delay,’ he said. This grave indication made Mohibbullah so anxious that he instantly had whispered to one of his friends. Then whispers continued, and finally the old man said, `Let us go outside and have a discussion among ourselves.’ Akber Mollah smiled with pride and with some others had the asr prayer performed. The sun was about to set. A dimming light coming from the west was wrapping the world. They soon came back and took their seats again in the courtyard. A bright smile was shining in the face of the bridegroom. The old man said, `We have liked the girl. You may now advance as you wish.’ He pushed the ball to the court of Harezuddin. `Al-Hamdulillah!’ said the village chief in utterly joy and asked Harezuddin to serve tea. The lunch was over just before the interview; now came some light foods including fruits, sweetmeats and obviously tea. All they took it happily and began to fix the date and all other related matters. Burgaining for mohrana took some time. It was finally fixed at Taka 50,000; Taka 40,000 would be paid as gold ornament, and the rest would remain outstanding. Demand of the bridegroom side was not too much, as they did not like dowry. Their village recently had connection of electricity, and television had become a very necessary commodity. So a color TV! OK. One of the bridegroom party indicated that Mohibullah had a longing for a motorbike. `Is it possible? For a man like Harezuddin? And if you don’t mind please, what he would do with a motorbike?’ None could answer. Therefore, Akber Mollah directly rejected it, and put a new proposal before them, `We can hardly give a bicycle.’ `And a rickshaw,’ said another man. `Yes,’ said Mollah, `It is a good proposal; it could be put out on hire to earn a regular income.’ The Sugar Mills authorities last year extended its brick-built road up to Parila. Now rickshaw had become a very popular vehicle. After a brief discussion, they consented for a new bicycle and a rickshaw. In addition to these, as per tradition, Harezuddin would give cotton-quilt, mattress, pillow, mosquito net and metal crockery. `And the bride’s father would give their daughter whatever they like, we wouldn’t like to say anything about it,’ lastly said Roistullah. Then the date was finalized. Everybody said, `Al-Hamdulillah.’ On the next Friday noon, after the jum’a prayer, Harezuddin formally informed the jamaat of his daughter’s marriage. `I pray you, the jamaat, would be present in the matrimonial ceremony to offer do’a for the couple.’ Then Mollah intervened and said, `You all know ins and outs of Harezuddin. He has no ability to feed the jamaat. He rather needs help from us. So take it sympathetically.’ The imam added, `It is now our task, not only Harezuddin’s, to accomplish the ceremony smoothly so that the guests doesn’t feel dishonored.’ Harezuddin heaved a sigh of relief. Everything was so far going smooth. Harezuddin and his wife Saira Banu had become very happy and satisfied with their fate having an unexpectedly good bridegroom for their beloved daughter. To speak the truth, the amount of demands was also less compared to the family status of the bridegroom. But calculation of total costs of the ceremony soon broke their heart. At least Taka 40,000 was needed for TV, bicycle, rickshaw and other things for the bridegroom. There would be other costs of feeding and other formalities. The bride should have been given some cloths and ornaments. All those would cost at least another Taka 25,000. Besides, there would be frequent visits of the relatives, especially from the bridegroom’s side for about two months. At the beginning, as per the tradition, those relatives should have been honored with gifts. `How will you collect such a huge amount of money?’ said Saira Banu; her voice was almost chocked up with anxiety. Worries had made the already dark face of Harezuddin more blackish, as if someone smeared his face with soot and smut. `I will manage…, don’t worry!’ he said, but his voice rang with absolute aimlessness. `But how?’ `I shall sell the mango tree,’ said he, in a mood of solving all the problems. His grandfather had planted the tree in his young age. Very good variety of Fazli mango. Bigger in size, but very tasty, juicy and sweet. It used to grow fruits every year, in plenty amount, and protected the weaker thatched house from Kalboishakhi. The larger tree, with its huge branches and leaves, afforded them also with abundant shade in the hot and long summer days. The wife got dumbfounded. None of them could speak until a gust of cold air stroke their face. Saira Banu said, `How much will it bring?’ `Such a large tree…! It shouldn’t be less than ten thousands, I think.’ `Ten thousands! … the rest?’ `What can I do other than selling or mortgaging some lands?’ `What will we eat if the lands are sold? You rather sell the bullocks.’ He startled with sudden shock and looked at his wife. But in the darkened light of the moonlit night, he could neither see his wife’s face nor utter a word. Saira Banu continued, `Bullocks could be bought after harvest of crop, but how could you get the lands returned back?’ Harezuddin tried to keep him quiet and normal and said in a low arguing voice, `What a real fool you are saying! Cultivation is not so much profitable now. The bullocks and the plough bring sufficient income. And think attentively… how would you cultivate your lands if you haven’t bullocks?’ `Can’t we? Why?’ …the wife strung her arguments together to convince her perturbed husband. `Once the marriage completed, we would have no burden in near future. Our two sons would soon be brought up to help you. We have to suffer a lot, no doubt, for one or two years, but everything would be alright then, Insha-Allah, you see.’ Harezuddin did not answer. It was not such that he did not know it. He stared to the darkness beneath the sloping thatched roof of the verandah, but saw nothing. `Won’t you speak?’ He heaved a deep sigh that broke the silence of the night. Jackals suddenly barked in the nearby crop fields to announce mid-night and stir up the village dogs to quarrel with them. `What are you thinking?’ `I can’t sell my bullocks.’ His voice was soft, something trembling, but firm and confident. `Why?’ said Saira Banu, being wondered and disenchanted. She knew what a headstrong man her husband had been. Harezuddin felt some annoyed and agitated, `Why! Don’t you really know?’ Then he paused a while to swallow his bursting emotion and said, `Those bullocks bear on their body the touch of my beloved eldest son. I feel him touching their bodies. Have you forgotten it?’ Saira Banu could not reply. She kept looking at the face of the man, though was seeing nothing. Harezuddin continued in a heavy sobbing tone, `I sense my son’s smell when I go near the bullocks …I feel my son haven’t died … he is still alive!’ He stood up, silently got down from the verandah and went across the courtyard to the cowshed. The two bullocks and the only pregnant cow were standing and ruminating there. He approached close to the bullocks and began to hug together. The animals also responded to their master’s love swaying their heads. Harezuddin’s father had left him with a grown up cow during his tragic death. After few years, she had given birth to a black male calf. Then Shahjahan was a mere school-going boy of about twelve years. He loved the young calf with all his heart, like a good friend and gave him the name Kala for his black color. To meet his demand, and seeing it profitable, Harezuddin soon bought another calf of the same age. He was called as Lala for his reddish color. Kala and Lala, and, off course, the adolescent boy became good friends. Shahjahan had begun to spend his leisure in the house, after coming from school, with the two beloved creatures. He had used to take them to the fields for grazing, bathe them in the pond. He had taken it as a daily routine to chop paddy straw, and sometimes other fodders and green grasses, and mix them with oil cakes, grain-husks, salt and water in a manger. The two calves used to eat them up to their throat and rapidly grew healthy and strong; and had been very fond of him. With days passing, Lala and Kala grew young and ultimately became ox. Shahjahan too became young, got admitted into the nearby college but why and how he could change himself had been unknown to the family and the villagers. He began to spend most of his daytime outside, in the town and distant suburbs and villages. On an afternoon, when, just after returning home, Shahjahan was to take the oxen to the field for grazing, Harezuddin said to him, `What’s the matter, my son? What are you doing now-a-days… spending even nights outside?’ His voice was so cloudy and the face so gloomy; the son tried to make the situation easy and tidy by offering a fresh laugh and said, `Oh, no, my dear father, nothing worrying! I attend my classes regularly, and everything is going quite well … but you know, we shouldn’t think only of ourselves, should we? We have a country, and a huge mass of people, much poor, neglected, deprived and oppressed… shouldn’t we work for them… being a member of the same class?’ he tried to pour much affection and sincerity in his voice. Harezuddin could not answer, as he did not understand what his son was trying to mean. The boy had rapidly grown young, strong and knowledgeable, and had seemingly been gradually growing unknown to him, he thought, and said, `I am an uneducated, ignorant man… I know nothing. I would only say, don’t do anything wrong and harmful.’ `Oh, no! Don’t worry, I won’t do that. You should be confident that your son wouldn’t do anything that could hang your head in shame.’ His oratory convinced the father to believe that his beloved son had learned a lot and that filled his heart with joyous pride. `Once my son would become a great man, as his school teachers had earlier predicted,’ he said silently to himself. Shahjahan was a meritorious and persevering student; and well known for his benevolent character. But he could not recently manage much time for the villagers; he remained very busy with other functions of his own. But even in such tight engagements, he could not forget his friends Kala and Lala. Whenever he came home, whether in day or night, he used to go to the cowshed and caress them. That was a day of the last week of Agrahayan. The middle-aged couple had become tired with taking the harvested paddy to the granary on the verandah. The sunset and the evening began to wrap the world with growing darkness. They hoarded the rest of the paddy at the centre of the compound and covered them by bundles of straws and mats made of date-leaves to protect them from dews. After performing the magrib prayer, they sat on the verandah. Saira Banu said, `We could have managed the rest too, if Shahjahan were to assist us.’ The boy had gone away in the very dawn and was yet to return home. `This night you have to sleep on the verandah along with Shahjahan.’ Harezuddin understood the hint and said, `What terrible days are coming! As if, there is no law and order in the country! Are the thieves, robbers and terrors are ruling the nation? What a reign of terror really it is!’ The night began to wrap up the nature with cold mist. Saira Banu drove her ducks and chickens to the cell. The oxen and the cow finished their eating and were standing beside the mangers. Harezuddin took them to the shed and wrap up with jute-Hessian. Then he fumigated the shed with smoke of dhup to drive away mosquitoes and gadflies. The cattle kept standing and ruminating, awaiting return of their friend, who, coming back home, would fondle them before washing his face, hands and legs, and taking his foods. Then they would lie on the ground covered with fine ashes. Saira Banu was very tired of working all day long. She was dozing sitting beside her sleeping husband on the verandah. Nosimon was sleeping inside the northern room along with her two younger brothers. The mother was waiting with rice and curry for her son. All others had finished their meal earlier. The jackals barked to announce midnight. The village dogs began to cry. A night bird flew away across their compound leaving a ghostly sound. Saira Banu was about to droop in sleepiness; she could not keep awaking and sitting, and felt some angry with her son. `Why the boy makes so late! Almost everyday? What the hell he does!’ She thought she should go to bed, as she would have to rise very early in the next dawn. Soon she realized that it had already crossed midnight and Shahjahan was yet to return home. `Oh, no! It is quite unusual. He never makes so late!’ A house-lizard cried– tik-tik-tik! She trembled with a shiver and began to slap her husband to awake him. Harezuddin got up with a tremble cry– `Thieves… thieves… bring my stick… catch him…!’ Nosimon and her two younger brothers came out with sticks in their hands. Saira Banu, being stunned at that, soon said, `No, no, it’s not thieves, listen! Come to your sense!’ Harezuddin regained his self and got very ashamed. `Then why were you slapping me? What’s the wrong?’ `Your beloved son has not returned yet.’ He knew she used to use those words `your beloved son’ for teasing him; he did not mind it because he really loved his son. `Make your son married; otherwise he wouldn’t be homeward. Aren’t you seeing he is becoming extrovert day by day?’ `Oh-ho! What foolish talks you are talking! Have you broken my sleep for telling these stupid words? He will definitely call you after returning home. Now go to your bed and sleep.’ Sometimes, very rarely, it happened like that… Shahjahan would return home in the night and awaken them from sleep. But it was unusual, and rare, she thought. Harezuddin again lied down and soon fell asleep. Nosimon helped her mother to take the utensils with rice and curry to their room. Finally, they too went to bed. Her sleep was disrupted by a disturbing dream, probably something furious, Saira Banu could not remember, but sense it. She was trembling like the flame of the lamp that was flickering on the shelf of the window a little away from her. The utensils, rice and curries were lying unused as had been kept there. Soon she could recall everything. Then Shahjahan had not returned yet? She asked it probably to herself, or might be to none, so aimlessly it was uttered. She speedily got out of the room with the lamp in her right hand and saw that her husband had been in deep snoring sleep. She began to slap him on the shoulder. `Strange! He hadn’t come back yet? Really? How it could be!’ The oxen stood up and lowed. Some dogs were out to bark in the near distance. The seven stars were about to set. The sky was becoming silvery in the east drawing the dawn nearer. Lala and Kala were kept standing with frequent lowing. But Shahjahan, unlike to his daily routine, had not returned that day. After three days of his missing, a Chowkider of the local Union Council conveyed a message for him from the Rakkhi Bahini camp at Katakhali Bazar. They asked him to pay a visit there without any delay. Harezuddin had failed at first sight to identify his son, his own beloved son, whom he really loved very much, lying on the Katakhali High School playground where he had learned his secondary education and played and sang and danced with his friends. His face was covered with blood that dried up to be black; his skin was peeled up from his chest; his hands and legs were broken and crumbled; and his whole body was marked by numerous bruises. Harezuddin had forgotten even to weep, to lament for his dead son, in fear, and grief, and anguish. They wanted to bury him without ceremonial formalities. But the Imam had dared to demand that a dead muslim should have been paid just honor by offering namaj-e-janaja and du’a for him. Their prayer had at last been granted on some conditions. Shahjahan had been laid down behind the house near the mango tree. Rakkhi Bahini members were patrolling there not to allow anybody to cry. The villagers kept their lips tight and even breathed cautiously. Only the two oxen, Lala and Kala, denied the reign of terror and kept lowing to mourn for their dead friend. They did not even eat for some days. `What a love in the mind of such poor animals! And what inhumane men are!’ said Harezuddin weeping secretly. `Why they killed my son without any trial? O Allah, the Almighty Judge, You Yourself make the justice!’ When they, despite being parents, could have not been able to protest the cruel unjust killing of their own son, could have not cried loudly to mourn for their piece of heart, then the two oxen did it; they had protested in their own language, though very much incomprehensible their utterances were. –`Can my heart bear selling these oxen? They are like my sons, aren’t they? Tell!’ Saira Banu knew all those things. She did also know that he had loved the oxen very much. She knew all farmers loved their cows. What Harezuddin used to do in this regard sometimes seemed excess, but he had made it very usual, regular and natural matter. She did not mind it. However, it was completely unknown to her that Harezuddin had loved them like his son, that he quenched his thirst of parental love for Shahjahan through Lala and Kala. Now, coming to know the news of her husband’s mind, she hugged the oxen and burst into a sudden heart-rending cry. Harezuddin slapped on her back to solace his son’s mother, and said, `Don’t cry… What would be achieved by crying? Rather offer du’a for him… May Allah get satisfied to confer our beloved son with residence in Behest.’ He too began to weep. Harezuddin mortgaged two bighas from his farmlands and sold the mango tree instead of the bullocks. He had also to sell the food grains he kept stored for use in future. Still he fell short of about Taka 10,000. Mollah managed the bridegroom’s father to keep it dues, as Harezuddin made a commitment to pay the arrears very soon. After the marriage was over, Harezuddin found him penniless. He had to have the loan of Taka 2000 from a usurer at a very higher rate of interest for managing costs of cultivating his lands. He engaged himself in cultivation with his heart and soul. He would have to repay the loan and pay the dues of dowry by selling crops. He began to sell his labor in other’s lands, when it was possible, to earn extra money; and tried his best to achieve the highest possible rate of production. If the crops would not grow well he would fall in awkward position, he began to think, and that anxiety robbed of his sleep, even after his hard labor all day long. Despite all those prevailing problems, Harezuddin and Saira Banu had been satisfied seeing their daughter happy. Nosimon used to come to her parents’ house every now and then, often with her husband. She looked more beautiful; shining glamour of her face was expressing her happiness. But one day, after about two months of her marriage, she was not seemingly glittering much like in the past. Saira Banu thought she might be sick or pregnant. She drew her daughter close to her and said in a mixed voice of anxiety and happiness, `Why, my dear child, are you feeling sick, or…?’ She looked at her belly. Nosimon felt offended, and instantly said, in an irked and rude voice, `Why aren’t you paying the dues of your son-in-law?’ A thrill of delight like a light whitish cloud in the autumn sky was about to startle Saira Banu with an expectation of hearing a good news from her beloved daughter, but her words confounded her. She very hardly digested the words. Nosimon could not be able to pull her eyelids; some hot drops of tears rolled down her cheeks. She said in a choked voice, keeping her look on her feet, `What can I do… when I have to hear insults?’ The mother turned her eyes around her; the whole house, with its rooms and fenced courtyards, began to look deserted. She could not understand how it could be possible that she could have not felt the emptiness of the house even in absence of their beloved daughter and the large mango tree. Now her heart began to cry in dreary emptiness. `I thought…’ `No thought…!’ interrupted Nosimon, in a seemingly weeping voice, and said, `Manage the money without any delay. I don’t want to hear… from where and how...!’ After a pause she furthered, `Don’t spoil the happy life of your dear daughter, please!’ She broken down in tears and ran away. The Gharami couple could not sleep that night. How could they collect such a good amount of money? Within such a shorter period? These were their concerns. Saira Banu denounced to hear any excuse, and said, `I only want to see the money… from where and how, I don’t want to hear. Don’t spoil our beloved daughter’s life, please!’ She began weeping. The next dawn, just after finishing the fazr prayer, Harezuddin rushed to Akber Mollah and requested him to take the rest of his lands mortgaged. –`Mollahji, please, save my daughter’s life!’ Mollah was eating gur-muri sitting on a chowki on the verandah of his outer-home. He pushed the bowel of gur-muri to Harezuddin but he took nothing, as he was not in a mood of entertaining. The village chief said, in a normal voice, as if he did not notice his indifference, `Are you certainly going to sell the land?’ `What can I do?’ `I am now in short of money. Why aren’t you selling the bullocks? Would it be right to sell the lands? How?’ The bullocks were larger like buffalos, and stronger, and still looked younger. They would certainly sell at not less than Taka 15,000. He could have a handsome amount of money in his hand even after paying all claims of dowry. Better he should buy two calves by that rest of money to compensate the loss of the bullocks. The suggestion seemed good, and profitable, but Harezuddin’s mind did not consent to it. He did not respond to the advice. Akber Mollah knew his cause of dissent. He said in a sincere and fatherly sympathetic tone, `Human beings are like the earth, can you understand? He has to endure everything… all the agonies, shocks and sufferings. He can do everything whatever difficult and pain striking it may be. And you should not forget that this is the strength and ability of the human beings that keep the world run.’ He took a pause and said, `Think of your son, didn’t you overcome that great loss and sorrow? Do you think that your love for the bullocks is far more valuable than your beloved daughter’s happiness, do you? Saira Banu supported the arguments. `Will the bullocks live forever? Just some years after they will grow older and become weak. Then you cannot but sell them, isn’t it?’ Harezuddin found no words for protest or disagreement. Nosimon’s weeping voice began to echo in his ears, – `The mother-in-law often makes cutting remarks. Your son-in-law is also now-adays giving reminders. This has become a permanent cause of harassment for me.’ He wept hugging the bullocks. Really, they are becoming older and weaker, he guessed. They will be worthless within a few years. Akber Mollah and Saira Banu gave him right and justified suggestions, he admitted. He made his mind hard and said to himself harshly, `If the marriage breaks, will you be able to rebuild it?’ His inner man said, `Possibly no.’ `Then why are you going to take such a risk just for two ordinary animals?’ he asked. No one answered. Harezudin burst into tears. The two animals perhaps realized the dilemmas of their master, as they also began to shed tears. Lalmon, a famous butcher, appeared just one day after. Harezuddin said straightforward that he would never sell the bullocks to a butcher. He wanted to have been condoled at least seeing his beloved bullocks living well in a farmer’s family. He would even be able to visit them when his mind would be impatient for seeing them. He was seeking a buyer keeping those two thoughts in his mind. However, the fact was that he had found no such buyer immediately. Two or three buyers came but they were not ready to pay much. The said, `It’s not a matter of size and weight. We want work. They are really older enough to take retirement within a very few years, aren’t they?’ Harezuddin, an honest man, could not deny that reality that recently came to being in his mind too. Insisting Lalmon said, `What kind of man you are, really, brother Harez? You need money. You should sell them to a man who would give you the highest price, isn’t it? Why are you hell-bent on not to selling to someone else?’ He proposed Taka 16,000. Even that ever-highest price could not convince him. He raised the price by another Taka 500 but failed to bend him. The neighbors tried to convince him arguing that Lalmon had not offered unjust price. If he really wanted to sell the bullocks, he should accept his offer. His dogged perseverance would make no profit in the end, they warned; and requested the butcher to further raise the price a little. To honor them, Lalmon added another amount of Taka 500. But Harezuddin was not a man of selling his love for money. `I won’t sell my beloved bullocks to any butcher,’ he categorically said. They became annoyed with him. Specifically Lalmon got very shocked and felt insulted. Out of an uncontrolled rage, he hiked the price by another amount of Taka 500. Even it failed to bend his rigid neck. Nosimon was expecting to go to the in-law’s house taking the dowry-money with her. She tried but could not laugh at the time of her departure seeing her dream not realized. Harezuddin himself had also consultations with her wife that they would send their daughter with the dowrymoney, but he failed. Every body was angry with him, he could understand. He said to the son-inlaw, `Don’t worry, I would manage the money within a very few days. Please make your father understand.’ Mohibullah said, `Oh, no! We are not pressing you. Give it when you can do. The problem is actually lying with my father. What can I do?’ Harezuddin wanted to believe him but could not forget the gloomy darkness that soon covered his face. Nosimon said, `Please don’t make much late, father. Pay the money immediately if you really wish to pay it.’ Harezuddin was struck with wonder and shock at her words. He could not think how such a very short period could change their beloved daughter. `Have I refused to pay the money? Do they not trust me?’ He asked himself but could not found answer. A cold soothing air was blowing, but Harezuddin began to sweat. He went to the crop field after sending them off silently, with looking downwards, and returned after performing the magrib prayer in the mosque. He lied down on the bamboo-platform in the outer courtyard of his house. After a while, Saira Banu found him almost asleep. She became angry. `How can you sleep, ah? You would recover your senses only when the family of the daughter would break, I see! Do you want that?’ Harezuddin kept his lips tight. Saira Banu continued, `What’s the problem with selling out the bullocks to the butcher? When the matter is selling, the buyer should not be the concern. The question is of money, having the highest price. We should not find what the buyer would do with them. Why are you feeling headache with such an abnormal thought?’ The husband’s silence alerted the wife. She kept her hand on his forehead, got ashamed and shocked seeing him sweating. She wiped out sweats with the loose end of her sari, and said, `I do feel your mind, my dear, but I lose myself when I think of our beloved daughter’s future. What will we do if she falls in trouble for the money? Don’t you see what are happening around us?’ Great affections and love choked her voice. Harezuddin did not answer. He took and held her hands tightly. Saira Banu responded too. They felt and sensed each other. The night became darker under the black sky twinkling with crores of stars. She began to comb his hair with her fingers and said, `You are a reasonable man, and an affectionate father. Well, wait for another few days and see if any farmer comes. If not…’ Instead of completing the sentence, she pressed her warm palm on his forehead. Harezuddin tried but could not see his wife’s face in the darkness. He closed his eyes. A buyer came on the following day. Haru Kabiraj of the neighboring Dewanpara proposed Taka 18,000. `It will cause a little loss to me, but I am willing to bear it as your bullocks are good in works,’ he said. Harezuddin did not object. Kabiraj pushed Taka 3,000 to his hand as earnest money and said, `I will take the bullocks this afternoon paying the rest of the money.’ Harezuddin moved his head to the right side, like an innocent child, to give his consent. Suddenly Kala cried out with a low, and Lala followed him. Harezuddin could not but burst into tears like being scared in fear of doing something wrong. He held the buyer’s hands tightly and said, `Not today, brother, I myself took them to your house tomorrow morning.’ `Oh, well, that wouldn’t be bad! Come tomorrow with the bullocks and take the money. That would be good too!’ Kabiraj said. Harezuddin did not go to work that day. He went to Katakhali Bazar and bought oil-cakes, grains and husks. He chopped straws into small pieces and mixed them with oil-cakes, grains, husks, water and salts. After long days, Lala and Kala had such a tasty and rich food. They sank their noses and ate it greedily with making hissing sounds. Harezuddin caressed on their body and poured affections– `Eat, eat my sons, eat it well, have it up to your satisfaction!’ He could not manage his tears. He took the bullocks to the pond at noon and cleansed their body with straw. `Hi, brother Harez, are you going to make Lala-Kala marry?’ said a villager. He did not mind it. Saira Banu wept inside her feeling her husband’s sorrow, but said nothing as if she was not seeing all his childishness. That morning of Agrahayan, the month preceding the winter, was some cold. Drops of dews were shinning on the bean leaves on the roof of the kitchen like silver pieces. Saira Banu lifted the lid of the poultry-coop. Harezuddin was feeding the bullocks. The sun was rapidly rising above the long trees of the village. He was still then busy with nursing of Lala-Kala. `The breakfast is ready. It has already been too late!’ Saira Banu said. `Oh, yes, I am coming.’ He did not look at her, and became busy with rubbing mustard oil in head and horns of the bullocks. `Don’t make further late,’ she said reluctantly. `Well, I am coming.’ He showed a delighted mood that lasted not more than a while. At last, Harezuddin took his breakfast. Saira Banu pressed him for hurrying but he could not somehow complete his duties. The sun rose almost above the head. Saira Banu dismantled the knots of ropes of the bullocks and pushed those to her husband’s hands. He stared at her with a blank look. Her heart shriveled with throbbing pain seeing his pale face. She could not hold tears. Harezuddin was looking at her helplessly; now seeing her crying, his face and eyes, his whole body, began to swell and tremble, as he tried to hold his agony. But soon the held-back belching cry exploded out through his obstructed larynx– `I love them… I love them too much! They were like my sons… They were symbols of my martyred son. I loved them like my son…! Oh Allah!’ All they knew that they had love for Lala and Kala, but none of them knew that they had so much loved the animals. They began to lament as if their children had died. Yes, that was like that to them. They had not allowed them to cry aloud to mourn and protest the killing of Shahjahan, their beloved young son; now, all the ices of sorrows and grievances remaining frozen in their chests for last seven years, began to melt and swell up in form of warm tears. Haru Kabiraj had been out just half an hour before. `You have made too late. He has asked you to keep the bullocks here and go to the Bazar for the money,’ his wife said. Kabiraj had a grocery shop in Katakhali Bazar. Harezuddin knew it. But the behavior seemed bad to him. However, that was his fault, he thought, and returned home. Mohibullah was sitting on the verandah. Saira Banu had sent a message to him. They wanted to hand over the money immediately to the son-in-law instead of keeping it in house. After the johr prayer, they had their lunch and set out for Bazar. Haru’s son said, `Go to the cattle-market. He would have been there waiting for you.’ `The man seems not fair, I think,’ said Harezuddin. Mohibullah did not commend. He followed the father-in-law like an obedient boy. The cattle-market was a mere name; it was actually a meat-market. The canal of Rajshahi Sugar Mills passed along side the market. The butchers slaughtered cattle on the bank of the canal and pushed the wastes into it. Those wastes spread bad smell. Nosimon was very fond of beef; Harezuddin remembered and decided to buy some beef for her just after having the money. He would also buy some sweetmeats. Haru Kabiraj was chewing betel leaf sitting in Lalmon’s meat-shop. He smiled and welcomed him– `Come on brother, come here. Who is this boy? Is it your son-in-law? Well, very well. Come on my son, sit down here.’ Harezuddin nodded his head. Kabiraj said to Mohibullah, `Listen, son, you should invest the money in a profitable job. Your father-in-law is giving you this money out of very troubles. Don’t waste it.’ His words were full of guardian-like affections, with no tone of sarcasm. Despite that, the man seemed very cunning to him. Harezuddin sensed the son-in-law’s discomfort and took the comment as an unnecessary over bearing manner. `We are on a hurry. Please pay the money and let us leave for our own job,’ he said. `Yes, money,’ Haru became hasty; `We have kept it ready for you. Brother Lalmon, come here for a while, give me the money, please.’ Harezuddin followed his look and saw Lalmon, the butcher, along with his companion, peeling up skin of a just-slaughtered cow. It looked like Kala. He got startled. `Kabiraj, isn’t my Kala?’ He sprang to the slaughter spot like a mad man not wasting time for Kabiraj’s reply. `Lalmon? It’s my Kala. Isn’t it?’ Lalmon showed his teeth of blackish red color like seeds of watermelon. `Yes, it was yours, no doubt, once upon a time. Now I own it.’ Kabiraj and Mohibullah rushed to them. `What happened?’ Harezuddin became dumbfounded. Tottering tears soon overflowed his two eyes. Kabiraj said with great astonishment, `You are crying, brother Harez?’ He began to explain his position, but Harezuddin listened to nothing. He was looking at the dead body of Kala, as if his eldest son Shahjahan had been lying dead in front of him: the whole body reddened with dried, blackish blood; skin of the body peeled up every here and there; arms and legs broken and crumbled; and the face pale and bruised. At first, he could have not identified his son. The commander said, `Can’t you recognize? It’s your son! Shahjahan. Take him straightly to the graveyard, and don’t try to create any scene. Understand?’ He sat down beside his son, touched his forehead, and tried to tell him, `Have you bathed in blood, my son? Wasn’t there water in this country of rivers and ponds?’ However, he could not utter the words. He fell down unconscious. `What happened? Brother Harez? Come on, take the money,’ said Kabiraj and Lalmon almost at the same time in the same hasty tone. Mohibullah sat beside his father-in-law, held him in his arms, and anxiously said, `Are you feeling too bad, father? Come on, let’s go.’ Harezuddin slowly raised his head, and looked around, as if he was in an unknown place and finding someone known. Some shadowy faces began to reflect before his tottering eyes, and were rapidly changing their appearance like snap shots. He tried to recognize them. Sometimes they were looking like the commander, sometimes like Lalmon, sometimes like Haru Kabiraj, and sometimes like Mohibullah. He tried hard to detect each one of them. He simply failed. At last, he attempted to differentiate the butcher from among them. But all the faces were looking alike in his tearing eyes. # Glossary: 1. hur – virgin of the Heaven. 2. asr – the afternoon prayer. 3. tupi – one kind of cap wearing by religious men, especially during prayer. 4. salam – a greeting with prayer for peace (As Salamu Alaikum– Peace be upon you). 5. Al-Hamdulillah – means Allah deserves all the praise. It is said after having performed a good work or heard good news. 6. mohrana – a sum of money or wealth that is given to the bride during marriage as part of the legal contract of marriage. 7. jum’a – the noon congregation for prayer on Friday. 8. jamaat – congregation for prayer. 9. do’a – prayer for welfare. 10. imam – the appointed or designated leader of the daily prayers of a mosque-based society. 11. Fazli – a good variety of mango. 12. Kalboishahkhi – a summer thunderstorm in Baishakh, the first month of the Bangla year. 13. Insha-Allah – means `If Allah wants.’ It is said to hope perform a work in future. 14. Agrahayan – the eighth month of the Bangla year. It is the last month of the autumn season. 15. magrib – the evening prayer. 16. dhup – an aromatic smoke used for driving away insects like mosquitoes. 17. Chowkider – civil police of the Union Council, the lowest tier of the local government. 18. Rakkhi Bahini – a paramilitary force formed in 1972 by the then government of Bangladesh. It tortured and killed thousands of people, especially opposition party activists without any trial. 19. muslim – Follower of Islam. 20. namaj-ejanaja – prayer for a dead man before burial. 21. Behest – Heaven. 22. Fazr – the prayer just before sunrise. 23. gur-muri – gur is a kind of sweet made from sugarcane juice and muri is a kind of cereal of rice parched on hot sand. 24. chowki – four legged bedstead made of wood. 25. sari – one kind of long cloth worn by women. 26. johr – noon prayer. About the author: Nazib Wadood, born in 1961 at Rajshahi in Bangladesh, is a medical graduate. But he started his career as a full time journalist and served so far many regional and national newspapers and news agencies like United News of Bangladesh (UNB), The Telegraph, The Daily Star, The New Age, etc. He is the founder editor of the Rajshahi-based regional daily Dainik Natun Provat. He is now advisory editor of that daily. Nazib was elected president of Rajshahi City Press Club and Rajshahi Union of Journalists several times. He is now serving in Rajshahi University in the post of Deputy Chief Medical Officer. He is an eminent fiction-writer and translator. He has nine books so far in his credit. He was awarded many prizes including Bangladesh Parishahd Ekushe Literary Prize in 1981, National Youth Day Literary Prize in 1987 and 1988 and Shobdashilon Literary Prize for Fiction in 2008. He edits a monthly literary magazine Nirjhor and two literary little magazines Porilekh and Nandan. He has nine publications of short stories, novels, rhymes and translations.
Readers' Comments :
comment : 1
"The soft golden afternoon rays of the autumn sun...." - the beginning lines create so beautiful visual imegary that I feel spell bound to read the whole story. - Md. Nazmul Haque.
comment : 2
Very nice work.
comment : 3
I agree with comment 1. But I could not read very much, because of the awkward and sometimes incomprehensible translation of certain phrases. This became too annoying. (One simple change would be to talk of someone's "hair" - aa collective noun - rather than someone's "hairs" which would be more appropriate for a laboratory specimen under a microscope. "a ... chap of about lovely twenty years" is not proper English. Do you mean 'a lovely [handsome] chap' or '20 lovely (beneficent, enjoyable) years.'? "Concern of the present" "Questionnaire phase ... was finished earlier" are not proper English and do not convey the idea clearly. "She was looking so shining..." is an unfortunate choice of phrasing, perhaps "She looked so shining" which is still a bit odd, and still not really clear: it might mean 'she was glistening', 'the sun was shining on her' or 'her eyes were shining' or .....? "had not been a matter of THE very distant past" "H. had took [taken] lease of ..." should read "H had leased ..." or "H had taken a lease on ..." etc. A shame because the story, as comment 1 said, is very inviting. But if you want to write in literary English you either need to know English usage (and not just its Grammar) or else work with a collaborator who speaks native or near-native English. Or else write in your native language. I took the time to make these comments bcs I sense the writer has a lot of talent and should not have the talent hidden behind a screen of incorrect syntax and usage. I hope this can be helpful.
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