26 August, 2012

জিপির সিক্রেট প্ল্যান ফর অ্যা সারপ্রাইজ

একটি গল্প-
রাজশাহীর বাঘা থানার গাঁওতলী গ্রামে মাত্র সকাল হয়েছে।
গ্রামের সরকারী প্রাথমিক বিদ্যালয় মাঠে কোলাহল নেই, শিশুদের হৈ-হুল্লোড় ছুটোছুটি নেই। কারণ, দু'দিন পরে ঈদ, স্কুল বন্ধ। আসন্ন উৎসবের নির্জন প্রস্তুতির সকালে হর্ণ বাজিয়ে, ধুলো উড়িয়ে গ্রামে আসে সাদা রঙের মাইক্রোবাস।
উৎসুক জোড়া জোড়া গ্রাম্য সরল চোখ যখন বাড়িগুলোর উঠোন পেরিয়ে, বাংলা ঘরের সামনে দিয়ে কালামের চায়ের দোকানের দিকে যায়, তখন সবাই দেখে তালুকদার বাড়ির শহুরে বৌ-নাতির গাড়ি নয়, অচেনা মানুষের গাড়ি থামে এসে - সিরাজুল ইসলামের ভাঙা ঘরের সামনে। সিরাজুল ইসলাম গ্রামের গুরুত্বপূর্ণ কেউ নয়, স্কুলের মাস্টার নয়, মেম্বার চেয়ারম্যানও নয়, এমনকি মসজিদের ইমাম-মুয়াজ্জিনও নয়। সিরাজুল ইসলাম কাজ করে ঢাকা শহরে, ছয়-সাত মাসে বাড়ি আসে, দু'তিন মাসে টাকা পাঠায়। সব ঈদে বাড়িও আসে না। ঘরে তার বৌ,  তিন সন্তানের দুই মেয়ে যারা ক্লাস এইটে ও সিক্সে পড়ে যথাক্রমে, ছোটজন ছেলে - ক্লাস থ্রির ছাত্র। ঘরে আরও আছে সিরাজুল ইসলামের বৃদ্ধা মা, যিনি চোখে তেমন কিছুই দেখেন না।
গাড়ি থেকে নেমে আসে, ফর্সা ফর্সা টেলিভিশনের বিজ্ঞাপনের মতো, দুজন তরুণ-তরুণী। সঙ্গে ভিডিও ক্যামেরা হাতে লম্বা চুলের যুবক।
তরুণ-তরুণী জানায় তারা গ্রামীণ ফোনের পক্ষ থেকে এসেছে, তাদের মাথায় গ্রামীণ ফোনের ক্যাপ। চারপাশে সমবেত জনগণ দেখে সাদা মাইক্রোবাসেও গ্রামীণফোনের চিহ্ন।
জানা যায়, ঢাকায় সিরাজুল ইসলামের সঙ্গে গ্রামীণফোন যোগাযোগ করে জানতে পেরেছে - গত বছরের মত এবছরও সে বাড়ি আসতে পারবে না। তাই সিরাজুলের পরিবারকে গ্রামীণফোন ঢাকা নিয়ে যাবে। তখন ক্যামেরার সামনে আগত তরুণী বলে যাচ্ছে, "Grameenphone takes up a secret plan for a surprise...!" ব্যাকগ্রাউন্ডে চমকিত সারপ্রাইজড  সিরাজুল-পরিবার।
সিরাজুলের দুই মেয়ে বেশি উচ্ছ্বসিত। কারণ, পাশের বাড়ির দত্তকাকাদের বাড়িতে টিভি দেখতে গিয়ে তারা গ্রামীণফোনের এমন বিজ্ঞাপন দেখেছে। কিন্তু, কখনো ভাবেনি তাদের জীবনে এমন সৌভাগ্য নেমে আসবে!
সমবেত গ্রামবাসীদের কেউ কেউ সিরাজুল-পরিবারের এমন সৌভাগ্যে ঈর্ষান্বিত হয়। কেউবা ক্যামেরার ফ্রেমের মধ্যে থাকার জন্য ধাক্কাধাক্কি করে, যদি টিভিতে নিজেকে দেখা যায়!
ঘটনা দীর্ঘ হয়নি।
ঘন্টাখানেকের মধ্যে ব্যাগ গুছিয়ে তারা সাদা মাইক্রোবাসে উঠে বসে, টেলিভিশনে দেখা বিজ্ঞাপনের মতো। মূল রাস্তায় উঠতেই আবার ক্যামেরা চালু হয় - "সিরাজুলকে না জানিয়ে আমরা তার পরিবারকে ঢাকা নিয়ে যাচ্ছি একত্রে ঈদ পালনে..."
না।
সে গাড়ি ঢাকা যায়নি।
সিরাজুলের পরিবার ঢাকায় পৌঁছেনি। লোকগুলো গ্রামীণফোনের কেউ ছিল না। কোনো পত্রিকায় তাদের পাচার হওয়ার খবর আসেনি।
সিরাজুলের মায়ের মতো গ্রামের সবাই ভেবেছে, শহরে সিরাজুলের কাছে ভালোই আছে তার পরিবার। ওদিকে সিরাজুল ভেবেছে - তার পরিবার গ্রামেই আছে।
হয়তো, কোনো এক নিষিদ্ধ জগতে সিরাজুলের স্ত্রী-কন্যাদের সামনে আরেকবার ক্যামেরা ধরবে, হিউম্যান রাইটসের ডকু নির্মাতারা-  লাইফ ইন ব্রথেল কিংবা সেক্স ট্রেড শিরোনামে।

গল্প এখানেই শেষ।

বাস্তবতা হলো-
প্রিয় পাঠক, গল্পটি সত্য হয়ে যেতে পারে। শুধু গাঁওতলীতে নয়, এমন ঘটতে পারে - আরো বিশটি গ্রাম, বিশটি পরিবারে।
প্রতারণার পন্থাটা শিখিয়ে দিয়েছে গ্রামীণফোন।
দেখুন, এবারের ঈদে প্রচারিত গ্রামীণফোনের ৩টি বিজ্ঞাপন-



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গ্রামীণফোন বলছে-
"The spirit of Eid creates a magic of closeness as we unite with our families. However there are a few who have a huge responsibility to serve us even during Eid Day. Although they cannot be together with their near & dear ones, Grameenphone takes up a secret plan for a surprise...!"

Read more...

16 August, 2012

ঢাকামেট্রো ১৬-০৮১২

মানুষের মৃত্যু কতোবার হয়? কেউ কেউ বলেন, সাধারণ মানুষ একবার মরে, আর অসাধারণ মানুষ অমর হয়। অমরত্ব মানে কি বেঁচে থাকা মানুষের স্মৃতিতে লেপ্টে থাকা? নাকি বেঁচে থাকা মানুষের মনে কখনো কখনো জেগে ওঠা? সংবাদ শিরোনাম, টেলিভিশন কিংবা ছাপা কাগজে, নতুন হয় প্রতিদিন। থাকে কিছু চর্বিত চর্বন। সংবাদও কি মরে যায়? শেয়ার বাজারের পতন, রেলমন্ত্রীর কালো বিড়াল কেলেঙ্কারি, ইলিয়াস আলীর গুম, তত্ত্বাবধায়ক সরাকারের দাবীতে বিএনপির আল্টিমেটাম, ইউনূস ইস্যূতে সরকার বনাম পশ্চিমাবিশ্ব, হুমায়ূনের মৃত্যু-দাফন জটিলতা, শাওন-গসিপ, স্বরাষ্ট্রমন্ত্রীর তালাতত্ত্ব, নতুন যোগাযোগ মন্ত্রীর ঝটিকা সফর, মেডিক্যাল কলেজে ভর্তি পরীক্ষা হবে কি হবে না - কতো কতো খবর। বলা হয়, 'একটা ফুলের তোড়া এবং একটা সংবাদপত্র একই রকম, মিলটা এখানে যে - পরদিন সকালে দুটোই বাসি হয়ে যায়।' ইদানিং সংবাদ শিরোনামেও একঘেঁয়েমি; ঘরমুখো মানুষের ভীড়, টিকিট নেই, সময় মত বাস ট্রেন ছাড়ছে না, মানুষের ভোগান্তি, শত কিলোমিটার যানজট।

মানুষ শহর ছাড়ছে, ফিরছে গ্রামে পরিবার প্রিয়জনের সঙ্গে ঈদ আনন্দ ভাগাভাগিতে।
আজ সকাল থেকে ঢাকায় যানজট একটু কম।
মিরপুর থেকে নিউমার্কেট যেতে গাড়িতে ২০ মিনিটের মতো লাগলো। মনে হচ্ছিলো - ঢাকা শহর যদি এমন থাকতো সারা বছর!
ক্রেতার ভীড় নেই, ফুটপাথের বইয়ের দোকানগুলোয় হাল্কা ক্রেতা সমাগম। বাতাসে তেহারীর ঘ্রাণ। লক্ষ্য করলাম - ইংরেজী বইয়ের পসরা বেড়েছে। ছোটোভাই বলেছিল তিন গোয়েন্দা ভলিউম-১০ কিনতে। ভলিউম-১০ দূরে থাক, তিন গোয়েন্দার বইয়েরই সংকট। অবশেষে মার্কেটের ভেতরে পুরনো এক দোকানে এক কপি পাওয়া গেল, অনেক পুরনো। দামও রাখলো তিরিশ টাকা। এর আগে বাইরের দোকান থেকে কিনেছি ভলিউম ১০৬/২।
হুমায়ূন আহমেদের বইয়ের কাটতি সম্ভবত বেড়েছে। আফটার-ডেথ-ইফেক্ট। টিভিতে প্রতিবেদন দেখছিলাম, 'আজ রবিবার', 'শ্যামল ছায়া'- এসব নাটক সিনেমার ডিভিডির ব্যাপক চাহিদা। হুমায়ূনের কিছু বই পড়ে আক্রান্ত হয়েছিলাম অনেক আগে, ইচ্ছে ছিল - ওগুলো সংগ্রহে রাখব। পেয়েও গেলাম কয়েকটা। আশ্চর্য্যজনকভাবে খেয়াল করলাম, বইয়ের দাম অনেক বেড়ে গেছে। ৮০ পৃষ্ঠার "শংখনীল কারাগার"এর দাম ২০০ টাকা, আর ৭৮ পৃষ্ঠার "নন্দিত নরক"এর দাম ১৫০ টাকা। শুনেছিলাম, একটা হিসাব আছে এরকম - প্রতি ফর্মা বইয়ের দাম সর্বোচ্চ এখন ২৫ টাকা। দু বছর আগে ছিল ২০ টাকা। সে হিসেবে পাঁচ ফর্মার বইয়ের দাম ১২৫ টাকা হতে পারে এখন। তাহলে, নরক-কারাগারের দাম এত বেশি কেন? পাশাপাশি "কোথাও কেউ নেই" "এলেবেলে" "প্রেমের গল্প"র দামও দেখলাম। পরেরগুলোর দাম ঠিক আছে, ক্ষেত্রবিশেষে কমও। ২৫৪ পৃষ্ঠার "কোথাও কেউ নেই"এর লিখিত মূল্য ২৫০ টাকা।
পরে বুঝলাম, কাহিনী অন্যখানে - নরক আর কারাগারের প্রকাশক "অন্যপ্রকাশ"। হুমায়ূনের বইয়ের প্রায় মনোপলি পাওয়া এ প্রকাশনী ইচ্ছামত দাম বাড়িয়েছে। দোকানী জানালো, গত দু'সপ্তায় নতুন যা ছাপা হয়েছে তাতে দাম বেড়েছে, সামনে আরো বাড়তে পারে। জানালো, আগের সংস্করণে নন্দিত নরকের দাম ছিল ১২০ টাকা, এবার সেটা ১৫০ হয়ে গেছে।
হুমায়ূন মরে গেছেন।
সবাই বলছে তিনি অমর থাকবেন- পাঠকের মনে।
অবস্থাদৃষ্টে মনে হচ্ছে - হুমায়ূনকে আবার মারবে "অন্যপ্রকাশ"। এভাবে দাম বাড়িয়ে হুমায়ূন সাধারণ পাঠকের আয়ত্বের বাইরে চলে যাবে...।

এ প্রসঙ্গে আরেকটি বইয়ের কথা উল্লেখ করি - "বঙ্গবন্ধুর অসমাপ্ত আত্মজীবনী"।
বইটির প্রকাশ করেছে ইউপিএল। ৩২৮ পৃষ্ঠার বইটির লিখিত মূল্য ৬৫০ টাকা। গতকাল ছিল পনেরো আগস্ট, জাতীয় শোক দিবস। বিভিন্ন মিডিয়ায়- বঙ্গবন্ধুকে নিয়ে আলাপ হয়েছে অনেক। শোক-স্মৃতি-স্তুতি ছিল। আমার প্রবল বিশ্বাস অনেক পাঠক পড়তে চায় - বঙ্গবন্ধু নিজের জীবন নিয়ে কী বলেছেন, জানতে চায়। কিন্তু, দামের দিকে তাকালে হতাশ হতে হয়। সরকার কতো দিকে কতো টাকা খরচ করে, এই বইটির ব্যাপারে আওয়ামী লীগ সরকার কি একটু ছাড় দিতে পারতো না? পারতো না কি প্রকাশক ইউ পি এল? শুধু শহর হয়, মফস্বলের কতো নতুন প্রজন্ম আগ্রহ নিয়ে কিনতো এই বই। হতে পারতো - স্কুলের বার্ষিক অনুষ্ঠানের পুরস্কার এই বই! বাড়তি দামের কারণে তা সম্ভবত হবে না। ইউপিএল আগামীতে কোনো সুলভ সংস্করণ বাজারে ছাড়ে কিনা তার অপেক্ষায় রইলাম---।

বলছিলাম, ঈদে ঘরমুখো মানুষের কথা।
আমাদের নগর জীবন কষ্টের জীবন। কাজের সন্ধানে মানুষ শহুরে হয়ে ওঠে। সারাবছর বিদ্যুৎ-পানি-গ্যাস-যানজট-নিরাপত্তার সংকটে কষ্টে পার করে। উৎসব আনন্দের উপলক্ষ খুব কম। ঈদে তাই মানুষ ঘরে ফেরার অপেক্ষায় উদ্গ্রীব হয়ে থাকে। এবারের ঈদে অর্ণবেরও এভাবে ঘরে ফেরার কথা ছিল। অর্ণব আমার দেখা তুখোড় ছাত্রদের একজন। পাস করার আগেই এক বিজনেস কেইস কম্পিটিশন জিতে চাকরী পেয়েছিল নামকরা বহুজাতিক কোম্পানীতে, পোস্টিং ছিল ঢাকার বাইরে। যাওয়ার আগে একদিন দেখা করে গেছে। পরশু আবার এলো, চেহারা বিমর্ষ। জিজ্ঞেস করলাম, কী খবর। বললো, খুব ঝড় ঝাপ্টার মধ্য দিয়ে যাচ্ছি।
বসতে বললাম।
অর্ণব জানালো, গত ৪ তারিখে তার বাবা মারা গেছেন। শুনে চমকে উঠলাম। বছর দেড়েক আগে আমার এক বন্ধুর বিয়েতে অর্ণবের বাবা মা দুজনের সাথেই হঠাৎ দেখা হয়েছিল।
আমি সমবেদনা প্রকাশের আগেই অর্ণব জানায় তার আম্মার ক্যান্সার ধরা পড়েছে, ইন্ডিয়ায়ও গিয়েছে - ডাক্তার তেমন আশার বাণী দেয়নি।
আমি চোখ বড়বড় করে অর্ণবের দিকে তাকিয়ে থাকি।
এবার সে আমাকে বলে, "আমি নিজেও স্ট্রোক করেছিলাম, মুখের একপাশ অবশ হয়ে গিয়েছিল।"
অর্ণব ফিজিওথেরাপী নিচ্ছে। মুখ স্বাভাবিক হয়ে এসেছে, এক চোখ একটু বড় এখনো, ডাক্তার বলেছে ঠিক হয়ে যাবে।
আমি কথা বলার ভাষা খুঁজে পাইনা। এমন বিপদাপন্ন একজন মানুষকে কী বলতে হয় আমার জানা নেই। অর্ণবের কষ্ট এখানেই - চাকরী পাওয়ার পরে ইচ্ছে ছিল প্রথম ঈদটা বাবা মার কাছাকাছি খুব আনন্দ করবে, সেটা আর হলো না! বাইশ বছর বয়েসি অর্ণবের দিকে আমি নিশ্চুপ তাকিয়ে থাকি। দেখে মনে হয়, শোকে কষ্টে তার বয়স অনেক বেড়ে গেছে। এরপরও কিছু টুকটাক আলাপ হয়। যাওয়ার সময় হাত মিলিয়ে বলি, "তোমার এই ব্যক্তিগত কষ্টের সময়ে সান্ত্বনা দেয়ার ভাষা আমার নেই, শুধু এটুকু বলি, ভেঙে পড়ো না- বেঁচে থেকো।"

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11 August, 2012

Three Bangla Short Stories in English

গত কয়েকদিনে তিনটা ইংরেজী ছোটগল্প পড়লাম, যেগুলো বাংলা থেকে ইংরেজীতে অনুবাদ করা হয়েছে। ছাপা হয়েছে Daily Star পত্রিকায়। প্রথম দুটো হুমায়ূন আহমেদের লেখাঃ Mr. Jalil's Petition, বাংলায় পড়েছিলাম জলিল সাহেবের পিটিশন  শিরোনামে। The Man who would not Die সম্ভবতঃ অয়োময় গল্পের অনুবাদ, মনে পড়ছে না। সৈয়দ মঞ্জুরুল ইসলামের Tabizwala আগে পড়িনি।
ভবিষ্যতে আবার  পড়তে ইচ্ছে হতে পারে, তাই এখানে কপি করে রাখলাম।
___

Mr. Jalil's Petition

(Translated from the Bengali original, Jalil Shaheb-er Petition, by Hasan Ferdous)
With a smile, he said, “I am a father of two martyred freedom fighters. Two of my sons died in 1971.”
I looked up at him with surprise. There was nothing out of the ordinary in the gentleman's face or demeanor. He was around sixty years of age, though he looked rather fit for his age. He sat with his back held erect, wore no eye glasses and seemed to have very clear vision. I asked him, “But what brings you here?”
The gentleman remained seated, unmoved. Displaying no apparent emotion, he said, “We found the body of one of the boys. We buried him in Malibag. You see, my youngest daughter lives there.”
“I see.”
“Yes, near Chowdhuripara in Malibag.”
“But what brings you to me?”
“Just for some chit chat. After all, you are new in this neighborhood; we should help you settle down.”
Still smiling, the gentleman quietly sat there. I felt he was not really smiling; he simply had a smiley face. In a quiet voice he said, “I live in the alley next to your house.”
“I see.”
“Yes, at 13/2, there is a coconut tree right in front of the house. I hope you have noticed that.”
I had not noticed it. Yet I nodded, suggesting that I had. I was beginning to recognize the kind of person he was. He must be a retired man, with not much for him to do these days. On a holiday like this, he was out here looking for some neighbor to idle away his time.
“My name is Abdul Jalil.”
I was about to say my name, but held off at the last moment. The gentleman, in a raised voice, said, “I know, I know.”
“How about tea? Would you like some tea?”
“No, thanks. I don't drink tea. In fact, I am into neither tea nor cigarettes. The only vice that I have is chewing paan leaf.”
“Sorry, no one uses paan here.”
“Don't worry, I always carry my own paan.”
He stretched his hand inside a carry bag and brought out a small paan container. It was quite colorful. Like a food container, it included two or three compartments. I managed not to exhale a deep sigh of frustration. Clearly, the gentleman had come with a plan for staying long. He would probably spend the rest of the morning here, narrating the story of his two sons. There are many who enjoy recounting their life stories to others in great detail. The gentleman, leaning forward, said, “My dear Professor, would you like to try a paan?”
“Thanks, no.”
“But paan is good for your health. It keeps your gall bladder cool. Those who take paan regularly suffer no trouble with their gall bladder.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes, sir! Juices from paan and honey, these two are the best medication for gall bladder.”
I glanced at my wrist watch. It was half past ten. I had no classes today at the university, though it would have been better if I had some. Then I could have said, “Look, I am sorry, I have a class at 11:00. Maybe you would like to visit me some other time, when you and I could have more time to spend.” But on a holiday, this could not be told.
The gentleman brought out various condiments from his container. He sniffed each condiment. Then, with great care, wrapped his paan. It was clear to me that someone who spent so much time in preparing a paan would find no reason to leave my place before noon.
Yet strangely enough, he stood up as soon as he slipped a paan into his mouth. Smiling, he said, “Sorry, got to go. I wasted so much of your time.”
Overcoming my surprise, I said earnestly, “Please, stay a little longer. Are you in a hurry?”
He declined to stay. I walked him up to the staircase. On my way back, I found my landlord waiting at the porch, his eyebrows crinkled. With obvious seriousness, he asked, “So, he was after you too, Professor. What, did you put your signature down?”
“What signature?”
“Why, didn't you sign Mr. Jalil's petition?”
“What kind of petition?”
“Oh, I don't have to explain all that to you. Soon you will know it all by yourself. He will bore you to death. My advice to you, don't encourage him.”
Feeling rather prickly, I returned home. Moving to a new neighborhood can be quite hazardous. You have to introduce yourself to complete strangers, something not always a pleasant experience. However, with regard to Mr. Jalil, such a fear was rather unfounded. Since our first meeting, I saw him only twice. He turned out to be quite a nice gentleman. Once I met him in front of Green Pharmacy. Seeing me, he came forward with a broad smile, “Ah, Professor, how are you?”
“Fine, thanks. How about you? How come you never visited me again?”
“I am hard pressed for time. Very busy with the petition.”
I chose not to continue the conversation. Saying I had to attend a lecture, I hopped onto a rickshaw. The second time I saw him was at a news stand at New Market. Sitting on his heels, he was busy scanning newspapers. The newspaper boy kept staring at him coldly.
“What are you reading so attentively?”
Mr. Jalil looked up at me; it seemed he did not recognize me instantly. He had his glasses on.
“I see you are wearing glasses?”
“Oh, yes. I get headaches in the evening. These are reading glasses anyway. But, how are you, Professor?”
“Thanks, fine.”
“Will visit you soon, I would like you to see my petition. I already have some 14,300 signatures.”
“What sort of petition?”
“You will know once you read it. You are a learned man. You should have no trouble finding it out.”
I thought it must be a petition to the government, appealing for money, though I was not sure about the 14,000 signatures he mentioned. I showed no particular interest in finding out. After all, there is no dearth of crazy people in the world. If collecting signatures gave him some kicks, I saw no reason to be concerned about it.
However, the matter did not end at that. One evening Mr. Jalil arrived at my place with the files containing all the 14,300 signatures. With a smile pasted all over his face, he said, “Please read it carefully, Professor.”
I began reading. It said, about a million Jews were killed during the Second World War. Everyone found guilty of this heinous crime was prosecuted and continues to be prosecuted. Why did the criminals responsible for killing over three million people in this country go off scotfree? How is it possible that no one thinks it necessary to raise their voice against it? In his rather lengthy petition, Mr. Jalil asked the government to take action.
I looked squarely at Mr. Jalil. He spoke quietly, “I am not doing this because I lost two sons. My boys were killed in the war. I seek no retribution for their death. I demand justice for those who were dragged out of their homes and killed. I hope you understand what I want.”
“Yes, I do.”
“I knew you would. You are a learned man. But there are others who fail to understand. There are some who seek forgiveness in the name of humanity. They say, forget it, forgive them. Why, is forgiveness so plain, so cheap?”
I remained silent. Mr. Jalil took out his paan container and started wrapping a paan. In a quiet voice, he said, “Do you think I will give up? Never. Two of my sons went down fighting. I will fight, too, until I die. If necessary, I will collect the signatures of each and every one in Bangladesh. Three million people lost their lives. How is it possible to remain silent? Are we human beings, or what?”
I examined his signature file. It was very well arranged, with present and permanent addresses neatly written next to each signature. It also included the names and addresses of relatives of those killed in the liberation war.
“Some say I have gone crazy. The other day I went to a newspaper office. The editor refused to see me. A lad there told me, 'Why bother about bygones? Better forget them, brother.' I must be as old as his father. Imagine, he called me 'brother'!”
“And what did you say?”
“'Don't you want these people to be put on trial?' I asked. He said nothing. As a matter of fact, he did not dare to say 'no'. Just imagine, kids of his age had gone to war and fought so bravely, haven't they?”
“Yes, you're right.”
“Take your landlord, for instance. One of his brothers-in-law was snatched out of his home and butchered. Can you believe that this man refused to sign my petition! Such people don't even want to know what exactly I am asking for. One of them said, “You better apply for an abandoned property. You have lost two sons in the war, you have every right to get a house.”
“What did you say?”
“What is there to say? Am I petitioning for property? Why do I need a house? The lives of my sons are so cheap that they want to pay me off with a house? How dare they? All I want is a trial. A fair trial, that's all. It should be held as per rules of civilized societies. Got it?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I know you are a learned person. It is easy to convince someone like you. Unfortunately, most are unwilling to understand. Sometimes I have to visit three times for a signature. Well, that's no big deal. I am not going to give up, no matter what, you bet.”
He left after collecting my signature. Several days passed before I saw him again. I was very curious about his campaign. Each time I saw him on the street, I inquired, “So, how far have you gone?”
“I am still continuing, Professor. Please pray for me.”
“Are people putting down their signatures on your petition?”
“Not everyone. Many are scared.”
“Why, scared about what?”
“One really can't tell. For some, fear is in their blood, it is in their nature. However, I am not the one to give up. I am determined to force them to a trial. What do you say? Isn't it the right thing to do?”
“Yes, yes.”
“I have now divided people by districts. I plan to visit each and every district. It's not easy, but what to do! What do you say?”
“Yes, that's right.”
“Besides, collecting signatures alone won't be enough. You need evidence to pursue a case. You have to prove that those who were killed were innocent. I know they will hire tough and seasoned lawyers. Right?”
“Quite likely.”
“Do you know some good lawyers?”
“Not sure, let me find out.”
“Of course you will. After all, you are not blind. You know what grave injustices were done. But most people don't. It's a country full of ignorant fools.”
Since that meeting, I lost track of Mr. Jalil. I thought, with the fat file under his arm, he must still be canvassing for signatures in districts around the country. Signatures must be piling up, leaping from 12 to 15 thousand, then to 20 thousand. Who knows, maybe he has already reached half a million signatures. If he is able to do so, that would carry a lot of weight.
At the beginning of the monsoon, I learned Mr. Jalil was suffering from asthma and rheumatic fever. My landlord commented, “Oh, he is nuts. He has never taken care of himself. He is unlikely to survive this time.”
“What, are you sure?”
“Ya, the doctor at Green Pharmacy told me so. I also visited him the other day.”
“Is his condition really that serious?”
“He won't survive the rains, I think.”
“Oh, no!”
“It's really very serious.”
However, Mr. Jalil survived the monsoon. Soon he was out on the street, his file under his arm, seeking more signatures. I met him one day in the afternoon. I could hardly recognize him. He came forward to greet me, “Why, isn't it the professor?”
“My, my, you look terrible.”
“Looks like I won't survive much longer.”
“What do you mean? What about your project? This is a heavy responsibility.”
“That's the only reason I am still alive.”
“How far are you with collecting signatures?”
“Some 15,000. Can't collect more than three or four hundred per month. Getting old. But remember, I am not ready to give up.”
“Please don't.”
“I will put each and every swine on the dock. The Jews have done it, why can't we do the same? Right?”
“Yes, absolutely.”
“They killed three million people, not just a few. Bangladeshis are not cheap. They have to pay a price for this.”
I lived in that neighborhood in Azimpur for about two years. During that period, I got to know Mr. Jalil rather intimately. I visited him several times. A widower, he lived off the income from the rent of part of the two-storied house that he owned. His eldest son's wife with her two little daughters stayed with him in the same house. Probably the girls were twins. They were very jovial. I really loved visiting them. Mr. Jalil's daughter-in-law was always very caring.
It seemed the two kids knew everything about the petition. With utmost seriousness, one of them once told me, “After grandpa finishes writing his notebook, the people who killed my father will be put on trial.”
Little girls like her aren't supposed to understand such a grave matter. I thought Mr. Jalil must have spent time explaining everything to them.
I often visited them even after I moved to another neighborhood. As time progressed, these visits became few and far between. Soon I left for a long trip abroad. Before leaving the country, I went to see him. He was in Faridpur collecting signatures, I was told. No one knew when he would return.
When living abroad, one always feels a different kind of affection for home. That could be the reason why I often thought of Mr. Jalil. I found myself agreeing with him that it was not right that those responsible for killing three million people would remain untried. What Mr. Jalil was doing was the right thing to do. After all, we did not live in the Middle Ages, such crimes should not go unpunished now.
On the weekends, expatriate Bengalis would gather at my place, most of them undergraduate students. Among them was also a professor of Mathematics at Muirhead University, Mr. Afsaruddin. Everyone agreed to support Mr. Jalil's project. If necessary, on behalf of the people of Bangladesh, we would raise the matter at the International Court of Justice, and write articles in foreign newspapers to organize international public opinion, we resolved. We even formed “Abdul Jalil Action Committee” at Fargo, a city in North Dakota in the US, with me as its convener and Professor Afsaruddin as president. Expatriates always love thinking about the welfare of their motherland. There is always a desire to do something that would make a difference.
I returned home after six long years.
In the years gone by, Dhaka changed significantly, but Mr. Jalil's house remained the same. It had the same pock-marked walls. The same coconut tree stood in front of the house. As I knocked on the door of his house one day, a pretty young girl, aged around 15, opened. She stared at me inquiringly.
“Are you Mr. Jalil's granddaughter?”
“Yes.”
“Is he home?”
“But grandpa died two years ago.”
“Oh, really! I am an old friend of your grandfather.”
“Please come on in.”
I spent sometime there. I was very keen to speak with her mother, but she was not at home. The young girl wasn't sure when her mother would return. Before departing, I asked, “What happened to the signatures your grandpa was collecting? Do you still have them?”
“Yes, we do, but why?”
“I think the work that your grandpa had started should be finished. Don't you think?”
The girl seemed rather surprised. “I will come again,” I said, rising.
“Okay.”
The girl walked me to the door. In a soft voice she said, “Grandpa often said, there will come a time when someone will ask for this file.”
That was the last time I saw them.
My interest in the matter soon disappeared. There were other priorities to look after. In fact, there was an abandoned property in Mirpur, and I was busy negotiating to purchase it. I had no time to waste over Mr. Jalil's file and his signatures.
Mr. Jalil's granddaughter is perhaps still waiting for my return. Perhaps she dusts off regularly her grandpa's file. After all, most girls her age tend to believe in everything people say.
Hasan Ferdous writes fiction and is a columnist and critic.
______

The Man who would not Die

Humayun Ahmed
Translated from the Bengali: Niaz Zaman
Badrul Alam was on his way to taravi prayers that Ramzan evening, but paused in front of the bungalow and peeped inside. The room was dark. Badrul Alam was surprised because, just before beginning his magrib prayers that evening, he had expressly ordered that lights be placed inside the bungalow. None of his servants ever seemed to obey the orders he gave them. He started trembling in his fury. Recently every time he became angry, he started to tremble.
It was impossible to stand too long inside the bungalow. The smell was nauseating. Who could imagine that when the human body started to rot it would exude this dreadful smell? The smell assailed one's nostrils and went right up to one's brain. The head started throbbing. And one felt nauseated. Badrul Alam covered his nose with his handkerchief. He should have covered his nose before entering the bungalow. He had just eaten and might throw up his entire dinner. He had told his wife not to give him food. He would eat after taravi prayers, but his wife would not listen. Nowadays no one listened to him.
With his handkerchief to his nostrils, he called out, “Ai-ee, ai-ee.”
Photo: Amirul Rajiv
There was no response. He wondered whether the man was dead. Strange, that he should still show no signs of dying though half his body was rotting. The doctor at the Upazila Health Complex had written him off. He had said, “What's the point of keeping him in the hospital? Two days at the most? Take him home. He will die in peace among his relations.”
And the asses had to bring him and put him inside his bungalow. How ridiculous! Is this his house? He was astounded at their audacity. The bungalow is used for several purposes. People come to visit. And they leave a half-dead man here! The terrible smell exuding from the bungalow will ward off visitors. One's gorge rises at the stench.
He called a little louder, “Ai-ee, ai-ee.”
There was no response. He tried to listen carefully. There was no sign of any breathing. No sign of any movement.
I do believe he's dead. Strange, the utter callousness of my servants! A man is about to breathe his last any moment, and they have not bothered to give him a light. Despite my having told them, just before magrib prayers, to give him a light. Who knows how long ago he died? The place is dark. Maybe dogs and jackals have dragged the body away and eaten it up.
He removed the handkerchief from his nostrils. Immediately the smell assailed him, but he didn't allow the smell to bother him too much. He lit a match. The room brightened up slightly.
No, he's not dead. He's staring at me. The doctor said he would not last more than two days. The doctors of these days seem to know nothing. How can a patient who is supposed to live for only two days, survive for thirteen?
Badrul Alam asked, “Are you alive?”
Yunus replied, “Yes, I'm alive.”
“When I called out a moment ago, why didn't you answer?”
Yunus did not reply. He had not answered because he had been afraid. He is very afraid of Badrul Alam. On top of that, he is not even a daily labourer in this house. He used to work in a neighbouring village. They had not been willing to keep him, so they had brought him over here. Even Badrul Alam had not been willing to keep him. He hadn't said anything because he had heard that the man would not last more than two days. On top of that, it was Ramzan.
Badrul Alam said in an angry voice, “Didn't they give you any light in your room?”
“They did. It went out.”
Kupi lights tend to go out in the breeze. Not many people come to the bungalow, so it's risky having a hurricane lantern. A thief might come and take it away. This man will just keep on staring. He will not be able to do anything.
“Did they give you something to eat?”
“Yes, they did.”
“That's good.”
Before Badrul Alam left the room, he lit the kupi once more. Let the light last as long as it could.
Everyone was waiting for him at the mosque. The taravi prayers started as soon as he entered. The prayers themselves did not take too long, but it seemed as if the doa would never end. The same doa was repeated in Bengali, Urdu, Arabic – several languages. The maulana's job was still temporary. It would be made permanent after seeing how well he performed his duties during the month of Ramzan.
That is why the rascal is trying to impress me through a lengthy, multi-lingual doa. On top of everything, at the end of the doa, he has burst into loud sobs. How irritating!
Badrul Alam thought of giving the maulana a piece of his mind. He was the chairman of the mosque committee. Though it wouldn't seem proper on his part to say these things, nevertheless, he would have to. People have their own obligations. It wasn't possible for them to spend their whole nights in prayer. The maulana reached the final portion of the doa. “Oh dear friend of our dear prophet, if we do not raise our hands to you in prayer, to whom can we turn? You yourself have said in the Quran Majeed, 'Marajal bahraini yaltakeian,' that is, He it is who has maintained the two huge expanses of water. 'Bainahum barzakur' that is, between them is a natural curtain.”
Badrul Alam grew even more irritated.
It seems as if tonight's prayers will never end. It is necessary to say something to this maulana. Because I have said nothing to him earlier, he is doing whatever he pleases.
Finally, the doa came to an end. Badrul Alam said in a sombre tone, “Maulana Sahib, I'd like a few words with you.”
The maulana felt nervous at the tone of Badrul Alam's voice. Not waiting for Badrul Alam to speak, the maulana quickly said, “I went to him as you had ordered me to. He is unwilling. This work cannot be done by force. If you wish, I will go again today.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You told me to administer the taoba to him. He is unwilling to do taoba.”
Finally Badrul Alam realised what the maulana was talking about. He had told him last week to persuade Yunus to do taoba. If one does taoba, the job is completed within three days. He was under the impression that the maulana had made the man do taoba. Now he realised that the maulana had done nothing.
“Why doesn't he want to ask for pardon?”
“He's afraid. He doesn't want to die.”
“What relationship does living or dying have to do with his doing taoba? Life and death are in God's hands. Come with me immediately. Make him ask for God's pardon. He will not be unwilling to do so in my presence.”
“Very well, Sir.”
“On top of everything, it would be better for him to die at this time. The gates of Paradise are wide open for all who die during the month of Ramzan. What do you all say?”
Everyone nodded agreement. One piped up, “Sir, even his own father and mother have not done what you have for him. You have done more than twice what his parents would have done.”
Badrul Alam asked in a grave tone, “Who am I to do anything? God does everything. We are only the means. The other day Kuddus Sahib came to me and said, 'What are you doing? Go and throw him somewhere else.' I said, 'Kuddus Sahib, don't say such things during the month of Ramzan.'”
One rebuke was enough to make Yunus Meah agree to do taoba.
The maulana said, “This time God will save you from the tortures of Hell. You are now as pure as a seven-day-old child. You will go straight to Paradise. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Have you relinquished all earthly claims?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“No, no. You must say, 'I relinquish all earthly claims. No one owes me anything.'”
The maulana sahib was staying inside the mosque. The mosque committee was supposed to have built him a house next to the mosque, but it had not been built yet. Of course, everyone was expecting Badrul Alam to build it. If he said, “Yes” once, it would be enough.
The maulana sahib paid a visit to Badrul Alam on his way to the mosque.
Badrul Alam asked, “Has the taoba been properly taken care of?”
“Yes.”
“What is his condition now?”
“The end is approaching. No one lives more than three days after the taoba. But he'll go sooner.”
“What is wrong with him?”
“I don't know. What I see is that his body is rotting. The stench is terrible.”
“On the twenty-seventh day of Ramzan my daughter and her husband will be coming to stay.”
The maulana said confidently, “He'll not last beyond a couple of days.”
Photo: Amirul Rajiv
But Yunus Meah was still alive four days later. If anything, he was even chirpier. But it was clear that his condition was very bad. Previously, the stench had only surrounded the bungalow, but now it started to enter the house itself. On the advice of the Sanitary Inspector, phenyl was generously sprinkled around the house. The smell, however, still persisted. Jackals started prowling around the bungalow. They were unable to resist the smell of putrefying human flesh.
Badrul Alam went to see him, handkerchief clamped to his nostrils. “How are you?”
“Well, Sir.”
“That's good.”
“I feel very afraid at night.”
“What's there to be afraid of?”
“Something prowls around at night. I don't see it. I only hear it.”
Hearing this, the maulana sahib said, “The time is swift approaching. Azrael is prowling around.”
Badrul Alam was disgusted at the maulana's words. What nonsense! Azrael prowling around! Who knew whether the rascal had made him say the taoba properly?
“Maulana Sahib?”
“Yes?”
“Has the taoba been administered properly?”
“Yes, definitely.”
“See whether you can have it done once more. I'm only saying this because of the man's suffering. For no other reason.”
“I'll make him say it once more today. There is no problem. The taoba can even be said twice in one day. There is a hadith of our Prophet's in this connection. Our dear prophet has said . . . .”
“Never mind all that. I will hear you another day.”
The maulana sahib said, “Occasionally, when there is some secret longing, the soul does not want to leave the body. It is necessary to find out if there is anything he would like to eat. Or if there is someone he would like to see.”
“Very well, I'll find out.”
Yunus was astonished when he heard that he would have to repent a second time. He chirped up, “But I've done taoba once. I have not committed any sin after my taoba.”
The maulana said irritably, “Don't be sacrilegious. It is not up to you to judge whether you have sinned or no, but up to God Almighty.”
The taoba was administered once more.
After the taoba was over, Badrul Alam visited the dying man. “You there – how are you?”
“Very well.”
“Do you feel like eating anything?”
“No, Sir.”
“If you do, just say so.”
“I'd like to have rice with tamarind water.”
He was given rice with tamarind water. As soon as he had finished eating, he started having difficulty breathing. His chest heaved rapidly. His eyes seemed to be popping out. Badul Alam sent word to the maulana. If anything happened it would be better to have everything done during the daytime.
Nothing happened during the day. At night the breathing became somewhat easier.
The maulana retired for the night. Before leaving, he told Badrul Alam, “We will have to wait for another day.”
Badrul Alam said drily, “What will happen after one more day?”
“It will be the dark of the moon. His wheezing will become unbearable then.”
Badrul Alam said in an irritable tone, “Sometimes you talk about Azrael, at other times you talk about the dark of the moon. Does Azrael see whether the moon is full or no before he appears?”
On the twenty-seventh of the moon, the condition of Yunus was really grave. A rattling sound came from his chest. He started foaming at the mouth. It was easy to see that he would not last till morning. Mrs Badrul Alam also paid him a visit, with her face muffled in her sari anchal. He had left his food uneaten on his plate. He had not even touched it.
Mrs Alam said, “Give him some water to drink. Can't you see that his lips are parched? Poor soul.”
Towards morning, Badrul Alam came to see how he was.
“You there! How are you?”
Yunus chirped up, “I'm fine, Sir.”
“No difficulty breathing?”
“No, Sir.”
Badrul Alam's face grew grave.
Yunus said, “At night a jackal entered. He bit my hands and feet. Please tell them to keep a stick near me. A hurricane lantern also.”
Badrul Alam said not a word. As it was, during Ramzan his temper was always high. Today his temper rose to the high heavens.
During iftari he told Majnu, “See that a stick is kept by Yunus's bedside. And a hurricane lantern.”
Majnu was a worker in Badrul Alam's household. His work was to tend Yunus. This work was not to his liking because by this time Yunus could not feed himself. He had to feed him. Majnu felt like throwing up in disgust.
Majnu said, “That Yunus is a rascal.”
Badrul Alam looked at him. “Why?”
Majnu replied, “The maulana sahib made him do taoba twice, but the rascal did not say the taoba even once. Whatever the maulana asked him to say, he said the opposite in his mind.”
“Who told you this?”
“He told me so himself. One dies after saying the taoba, that is why.”
“What are you saying?”
“He is a real rascal.”
After magrib prayers, Badrul Alam dropped in to see Yunus. There was a stick next to Yunus. The hurricane lantern was lit.
“How's everything? I hear you haven't said the taoba.”
Yunus remained silent.
“Why didn't you say it? Are you joking with God? You're a real rascal.”
Yunus murmured softly, “I don't wish to die.”
For a long time Badrul Alam kept looking at Yunus. One of his legs had swollen up like a bolster pillow. Most likely the jackal had bitten that leg.
Yunus said, “If you insist, I'll say taoba once more. Properly.”
“Never mind, there's no need for that any more. If you are so eager to live, let me see what I can do. Come, I'll take you to Mymensingh . . . . Let's see what happens.”
Yunus did not quite understand. He kept staring blankly.
Badrul Alam arranged for a bullock cart that night. First they would have to go to Netrokona. From Netrokona to Mymensingh. If the doctors couldn't do anything there, they would have to take him to Dhaka.
The bullock cart started at eight that night. Badrul Alam surprised everyone by accompanying the cart himself. A lot of running around would have to be done. It would not do to rely on others.
“Yunus?”
“Yes?”
“Hang on there. Don't give up. I'm here.”
Yunus's eyes grew wet. He tried to hang on with all his might. The cart started to gain speed.

____

Tabizwala

Dr. Syed Manzoorul Islam (born 1951) teaches English in Dhaka University. His interest ranges from Shakespeare to Postmodern literatue, cultural studies and literary theory. Besides academic articles he has written extensively on Bangladesh art and culture, and contributes a regular column for the daily Prothom Alo where he comments on political and social issues.He is an award winning fiction writer who has published five volumes of short stories and four novels. He received the Bangla Academy award for literature in 1996 and one of his short story collections, Prem O Prarthoner Golpo received the Prothom Alo best fiction award and Kagoj literature prize in 2006.
.................................................................................................
Dr. Syed Manzoorul Islam
Selling Tabiz (locket with holy Verses, supposedly does miracle) was not Ubaidul Mabud's primary profession. He was a hardware trader, selling hammer-anvil, nail-screw, nuts-bolts, locking wire and sand paper. Having a shop at Purbodhola bazar (market), his earning was not negligible. It was enough for two souls; his mother and him. He had some extra cash that he saved in a local Shonali Bank in Islamic way.
Selling Tabiz was his passion, or can be said to be an obligation that he found in his dreams. One night, his dead grandfather, known in the market as Umedul Bepari, who also was the founder of Ubaidul's hardware shop, appeared in his dream. In the dream, he said to his grandson “take the Tabiz!” A surprised Ubaidul asked “why grandfather?” Umedul replied “because I said so – take one for yourself and also for others.”
“For others too?” A surprised Ubaidul asked.
Umedul yelled at his grandson in the dream, and said “dummy, do I have to tell you everything? It is for the people around you, the ones who are in pain, distress and in trouble. But not for free, nothing works for free, free food puts in Char in your stomach, go start working.”
Ubaidul took advice from the madrassa teacher, Abu Bakkar, about the dream. He gave him few holy verses from the Quran, and also explained which ones do what kind of miracle. But, he was not approving the fact that no money would be taken for the Tabiz. He mentioned that it is not fair to take money for Tabiz especially from the needy – he even used the word “inhuman”.
Ubaidul told Abu Bakkar that in his dream his grandfather had said “anything free is not good, free food puts in Char in your stomach”.
“What is Char?” Abu Bakkar wanted to know.
Ubaidul looked around for a moment and admitted that he didn't know either.
Ubaidul studied in the madrassa for a few years, and then went to Purbodhola high school. He finished his School Certificate from there but didn't study any further. His writing in Arabic is not bad.
Later, he went to Mymensingh to get supplies for his hardware store, he also bought a few Tabiz lockets; some were square and some round shaped.
2
It is a common saying, and he also read in the books that a “a baker doesn't eat his own bread”. That is why he never got a Tabiz for himself, even after his dead grandfather's advice to do so. He didn't have any problems in his life anyway to have a Tabiz for himself.
People from all are around were buying Tabiz from him. He was selling at least two a day – even five to six during examination times or when there was a outbreak of a disease in the villages. To respect both his dead grandfather's wishes and the good-man Abu Bakkar's advice, he didn't charge much for the Tabiz he sold. He saved the money he received from the sale, but not in a bank anymore, inside a small hole of a bamboo pillar of his house. The saving was for his sick mother. Within two months, he found the saving had become quite large. So, he paid his respect to his heavenly grandfather and to the madrasah teacher, Abu Bakkar. He was the one who campaigned in the villages, saying “buy Tabiz from Ubaidul, he has received the Tabiz divinely in his dreams.” Therefore, Abu Bakkar was the biggest contributor for his large client group.
Ubaidul thought, may be it was because of his mother that his dead grandfather appeared in his dream. His mother, all her life took care of the old man. At the end of his grandfather's life, for at least a year, Ubaidul' mother became the sole care-giver of his grandfather. His grandfather was not unfaithful, maybe this was his payback. Otherwise, why would his Tabiz gain such popularity in such a small period of time and at such young age of his? He was not even married yet.
3
He still didn't take the Tabiz his grandfather advised him to take – he didn't feel the need to. It made him worried sometimes, and then he forgot all about it. He was a busy man – there was a lot in his mind.
But suddenly, one day he clearly realized why his humorous grandfather wanted him to take up the Tabiz.
It was actually Rowshon Ara who gave him the realization. One day she came to his hardware store to buy nails and wire.
For the readers, the “behind the story” should be known. Purbodhola Bazar was not Bashundhara shopping mall, where a 20/22 year old girl would show up by herself to buy nail and wire, driving a car wearing jeans tops swinging car keys.
Rowshon Ara or Rowshon was a singer of a Jatra (village drama) group. It was no more proper to call it Jatra. The word “Jatra” carries an anti-religious connotation. It was therefore, preferred to call it a “cultural group”. Cultural groups were usually invited by the local officials or by the youth supporters groups of the government in power. It served both the villagers and the organizers. Villagers enjoyed music and dance while the organizers had their pockets full with by selling tickets. Rowshon was in the village to sing in her maternal uncle's “cultural group”. Her uncle was a good person - took good care of her. They were preparing the stage for the program to be held soon in the village.
Seeing Rowshon, Ubaidul's heart started to beat faster. Is she merely a girl or a fairy? Rowshon threw a sweet smile towards him. That smile made her even more appealing to Ubaidul. For two straight days Ubaidul attended the “cultural show”, but eventually, Rowshon left after it. But, during these two days, Ubaidul gathered all the information about Rowshon; her hometown, her father's name and almost her full “curriculum vitae”. It was not fair to say that he decided, rather, he promised to himself that he wanted to see the end of this – his infatuation towards Rowshon. He started to tell his dead grandfather “I don't need Tabiz” – he started to laugh out loud.
4
Like every night, after dinner, he sat beside his mother to talk. He started to say “listen mother, my blood starts to dance when I look at Rowshon, I go insane. I want her in my arms. What should I do? Oh! mother, how appealing is her eye, her nose, her neck, her cheek and her breast. Even you would go insane had you seen her beast. Feels like fondling them with my two hands. Her belly is like the one of a Boal (Catfish); white and soft. And, her waist is like the one of a lizard.”
He continued to say, “honestly, mother, I have never seen such a beauty in this earth. What should I do? I am having wet-dreams thinking about her. I just can't take it anymore”.
His mother just kept gazing, like she had been doing for the last three years. She was in a vegetative state, couldn't speak, only made groaning sounds through her vocal cords. Three years ago, she slipped and fell on the concrete floor of the pond ghat (quay), and broke her hips. From then, she was in this condition – the lower half of her body is paralyzed – the bed was her world.
5
The next day Ubaidul told his mother his plan. In a week, he was going to go look for Rowshan. Her hometown is in Oshtogram in Kishorganj.
Who was going to take care of his hardware store?
Who else but Altab, Ubaidul's cousin, almost same age as him, or could be a year or two older than him. Altab was the lazy type, never had any education – he loafed around with a fascination to fashion. But, he had no money to realize his passion for fashion. Ubaidul gave him a job in his hardware store, let him live in his house, and paid him some pocket-money. Altab loved Ubaidul's paralyzed mother. He regularly used to rub oil on her mother and also took good care of her.
Ubaidul's father died the year he was born. Without a father, his grandfather raised him. He has no memories of his father – all memories are about his grandfather. He once said to his grandfather that he would give Altab a Tabiz, which would lead him to a straight path.
One night, while speaking to his mother, Ubaidul realized that his mother wanted Altab to get married. A girl at home will be a great help at home, taking care of his mother.
He kept the one-way conversation with his mother “Altab should get married? You are saying so mother?” He kept laughing out loud saying that. There are reasons to laugh. For the last four years Altab himself tried to get married but with no avail. What kind of father would give away his daughter to no-good man like Altab? How can a man take care of a wife when he is living on the mercy of his cousin brother?
Unwillingly, because of his mother's wishes, Ubaidul gave Altab a Tabiz. But, it was not for a better future but for marriage. A Tabiz, that was full-proof. He told “get rid of all the dirty thoughts off your mind. Men with dirty thoughts never get married”.
Ubaidul knew, what he said was not true. It was actually people with bad thoughts who get married having grand ceremonies. And, people with pure thoughts like Altab, sits at home sucking their thumb. Once, while rubbing oil on his aunt's back Altab said “my skin is becoming a wrinkled paper, and there is fire on each groove. Still, I can't get a wife, what a life I have!”
6
Grandfather Umedul Bepari was was always proud of Ubaidul for his wisdom and bravery, and also for his street-smartness. The readers too, should be proud of Ubaidul for his quick success of having Rowshon Ara in his life. How was it possible? A girl, only six months ago came to Obaidul's store with her uncle to buy nails, gave him a neutral smile looking at Ubaidul's his lewd look ­–agreed to a proposal of the man. Wasn't Rowshan Ara Pretty? Didn't she have a heavenly voice? Then what fault did she have that she could not deny such a mid-income man like Ubaidul? Rather, in the second day, she said “you are a good man, I like you”.
If it were you (readers) or I, unlike Ubaidul, we would've done something drastic knowing that Rowshon had agreed to the proposal. But, Ubaidul was a responsible man – he approached in a practical manner. No matter how eager he was to have Rowshon in his life, he kept his cool. He told Rowshon's uncle, “give us gifts of any kind, I have no demand”.
Some political leader of a government supported youth group wanted to marry Rowshon. She would never agree on a marriage like that. She would've been kicked out of the marriage within a week.
Rowshon Ara wouldn't do the same mistake three times. She was married twice before. Her first marriage was with a contractor from Kishorganj named Nabiullah. Second one was with a Homeopathy doctor from Ostogram named Anasuddin. Her first marriage lasted only for three months. At beginning of the fourth month of the marriage, Nabiullah came home drunk, beat her with Khorom (wooden slipper), and kicked her out. Even in the second marriage, within few days her husband's other wife kicked her out.
Rowshon Ara's uncle wanted Ubaidul to know about her past, but she insisted he didn’t do so. She knew the world. Life was hard singing in a “cultural group”, most demands in life can't be met.
One rainy day, Ubaidul brought Rowshon Ara from Ostomgram to Purbodhola. The journey for him was like walking through clouds on rose petals. Having her sit beside his mother, he said “look mother this is your daughter-in-law, my Rowshon”.
Rowshan startled touching her mother-in-law's feet, it was stone cold. She took the duty to start a new life on those stone cold feet. Ubaidul watched in amazement that Rowshon was going to devote her time to his mother; rubbing oil on her body and feet, giving her baths, combing her hair and feeding her, sleeping with her for the afternoon nap.
He prayed to God with heart full of debt. He told Altab, “brother, marriage is a gift from god – it fulfills one's life.”
Taking a long breath, Altab said, “what is the use of telling me all these? I will never be able to get married.”
Ubaidul felt ashamed, and thought about giving him another Tabiz, this time he would take the least possible fee. He remembered what his grandfather had said “free food puts char in the belly”.
At night he brought the matter of Altab's marriage to his mother. “The helpless guy, Altab, should be getting married soon, don't you think?” asked Ubaidul to his mother. He is burning inside, anymore of this burning will turn him into coal – he will not remain a human being anymore. Mother! What a pleasure, having a life partner at home. Every night now, I am in a trance. Whenever I touch Rowshan, I feel electricity in my body…”
Seeing Rowshon entering the room, Ubaidul stopped talking, he felt shy. To hide his shyness, he started to talk about Altab.
Rowshon smiled politely and said “It would be great if Altab Bhai gets married, I will gain a friend to hang-out with.”
Ubaidul brought the issue of his mother's illness into the conversation. In the month of Poush-Magh (Bangla calendar months), he will take his mother to Dhaka. “A proper treatment will surely make her able to walk and talk, I am sure” he said.
Rowshon felt pity for Ubaidul – she combed his hair with her fingers and said “it requires a lot of money for that kind of treatment.”
“I know that, but I have saved enough in my bamboo bank” replied Ubaidul.
Rowshon started murmuring a song. She knew, whenever she sang the mother shuts her eyes off.
Maybe the mother once liked songs or to sing. She has to ask Ubaidul about it, but not now. Now he was in a trance, holding her tightly with his mouth near her neck.
She saw, Altab peeking at them from a cover with tear in his eyes.
7
One morning, Ubaidul woke up from sleep a bit late. He felt a heightened sensation from the Oghrayon (Bangla calendar month) air. Moreover, he had a splendid night with Rowshon. They decided to have a child after treating his mother from Dhaka. He felt sorry for missing the Fazar prayer.
It was not going to happen again tomorrow, he said to himself, and laid his hand on Rowshon – or he thought he did. But, she was not there – nowhere. Springing up from bed, he laughed at himself thinking Rowshon was in the bathroom. Then, he looked around for her for a while, and realized she didn't go the bathroom– she went to with Altab – they eloped.
Eloped with Altab?
Yes, readers. We are not exaggerating any bit. Rowshon eloped with Altab in the early morning. Neither Rowshon nor Altab was found at home. Also, with them, gone was the saved money in Ubaidul's Bamboo bank. He couldn't tell how much money was saved, not less than 4,000 taka for sure.
No, it was more than that. When Altab was counting, we (readers) saw, it was 4,820 taka.
8
Few days went by after the incident. Don't ask Ubaidul how those days went by, but they did fly away. Like he always used to, one night he sat beside his mother. There were a for few days gap in between the sitting with his mother. The mother must've been worried and surprised not to see her son sit beside her. Ubaidul said, “mother, I am feeling very happy now. Do you know why? My Tabiz has worked on Altab. He is now a married man.”
Whatever the mother replied was not understood, but Ubaidul said “Don't worry about me mother.” Like my grandfather told me, I will get one Tabiz for myself now. And it will not be for free. I will save that money in my bamboo bank. What do you think? It will not take time to fill up a bamboo Bank.”
“If you ask me mother, I am really not into slim women. Didn't you see Rowshon? She was thin as a stick, not an ounce of fat in her body. Thin women like she have small breasts, they produce little milk for a baby. My Tabiz will be for a healthy woman – they are good wife and mother. They produce lots of milk, a baby can drink as much as it desires.”

Illustration by Ujjal Ghose
Translated by Zia Nazmul Islam

 

 


 

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08 August, 2012

বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের বিজ্ঞাপন

  • বিজ্ঞাপন ছাড়া ব্যবসা করা মানে হচ্ছে, আপনি কোনো এক অন্ধকার ঘরে সুন্দরী এক তরুণীর দিকে তাকিয়ে হাসছেন। কেবল আপনিই জানছেন আপনি কী করছেন। অপরপক্ষ কিছুই জানছে না।
  • বিজ্ঞাপনে সত্য কথা বলুন, কিন্তু বলুন খুব আগ্রহ-উদ্দীপক ভাবে, যাতে যে শুনছে সে মনোযোগ দেয়। ("মূল ইংরেজীটা এরকম - টেল দ্য ট্রুথ, বাট টেল দ্য ট্রুথ ইন অ্যা ফ্যাসিনেটিং ওয়ে।")
  • বিজ্ঞাপনে এমন কিছু লিখবেন না, যেটা আপনি আপনার পরিবারকে পরিজনকে পড়তে দেবেন না।
এগুলো হলো বিজ্ঞাপন নিয়ে কিছু জনপ্রিয় কথা।
ব্যবসায় প্রশাসনের ছাত্র হিসেবে বিজ্ঞাপন বিষয়ে অল্পস্বল্প পড়ালেখা করেছি। বিভিন্ন সময়ে নজর রাখার চেষ্টা করেছি বাংলাদেশের বিজ্ঞাপনগুলোর দিকে। (এইটুকু পড়ে বিজ্ঞাপন-পেশায়-জড়িত প্রিয় পান্থ রহমান রেজা তেড়ে না আসলেই হলো!)
আল রাইজ আর জ্যাক ট্রাউট যেমন বলেন, আমরা একটা ওভার কম্যুনিকেটেড সমাজে বসবাস করছি। এখানে প্রয়োজনের অতিরিক্ত কথা বলা হচ্ছে। ফলে শব্দ এবং অর্থ দুটোরই অপচয় হচ্ছে। এই ব্যাপক কোলাহলে দর্শক-শ্রোতা-পাঠক মনোযোগ রাখছে না। এক গবেষণায় (তথ্যসুত্রটা খুঁজে পেলে পরে দেবো) দেখা গেছে টেলিভিশনের দর্শক গত রাতে দেখা মাত্র ৬% বিজ্ঞাপন পরদিন স্মরণ করতে পারে, বাকী ৯৪% বিজ্ঞাপন মানুষ ভুলে যায়।
আগে কোনো এক পোস্টে লিখেছিলাম, বিলবোর্ড আমাদের শহরকে নোংরা করে ফেলেছে। শক্তি কবিও সম্ভবতঃ লিখেছেন, মুখ ঢেকে যায় বিজ্ঞাপনে। পত্রিকার পাতা ভর্তি বিজ্ঞাপন। টেলিভিশনে বিজ্ঞাপনের ফাঁকে ফাঁকে চলছে সংবাদ-বিনোদন।

যাক, কথা না বাড়িয়ে শিরোনামে আসি।
বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের বিজ্ঞাপন কেমন হওয়া উচিত। ঔচিত্যের প্রসঙ্গে যদি আপত্তি থাকে তবে প্রস্তাবনা রাখি, বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের বিজ্ঞাপনে কী থাকলে ভালো হয়।
এ ক্ষেত্রে প্রশ্ন আসে, বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় বিজ্ঞাপন দেয় কেন?
আমাদের দেশের প্রেক্ষিতে সরকারি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়গুলো - কখনো বিজ্ঞাপন দিয়ে বলে না, "এসো এসো আমার ক্লাসে এসো।"
বিজ্ঞাপন দেয় বেসরকারী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়গুলো।
বিক্রেতার সংখ্যা বেড়ে গেলে, ক্রেতার নজর আকর্ষণে সজোরে চিৎকার করতে হয়। জানাতে হয় পণ্যের কথা, পণ্যের গুণের কথা। প্রতিদ্বন্ধী বিক্রেতার পণ্যের তুলনায় আমার পণ্য কেন ভালো - সেটাও বলতে হয়। বেসরকারী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়গুলো শিক্ষা/জ্ঞান কতোটুকু সৃষ্টি করছে, আর কতোটুকু বিপনন করছে - সে তর্ক এখন থাক।
প্রায় পাঁচ ডজন বেসরকারী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়, অসংখ্য ভর্তিচ্ছু ছাত্র; সব মিলিয়ে বেসরকারী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের চাহিদা মন্দ নয়। বাজার প্রতিযোগিতামূলক হচ্ছে, তাই বিজ্ঞাপনও দিতে হচ্ছে হরহামেশা। বছর তিনেক আগেও বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়গুলো বিজ্ঞাপন দিতো - ভর্তি চলছে। সেখানে বিভিন্ন বিভাগ ও বিষয়ের সাথে নামকরা প্রফেসরদের, যারা ওখানে পড়ান তাদের, নামের তালিকা ছাপানো হতো। থাকতো ক্রেডিট ট্রান্সফার, বিদেশী বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের সাথে চুক্তি; এসব প্রসঙ্গ। এগুলো থাকতো মূলত ছাপা সংবাদপত্রে।
যতোটুকু মনে পড়ে, ২০০২-০৩ এর দিকে টেলিভিশনে বিজ্ঞাপন দিয়ে নজর কাড়ে স্ট্যামফোর্ড বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়। এমনও হয়েছে, দেখেছি - এক চ্যানেলে এক ঘন্টায় ৭/৮বার স্ট্যামফোর্ডের বিজ্ঞাপন প্রচারিত হয়েছে। অনুষ্ঠান স্পনসরও করেছে তারা।
এরপর হুট করে ছাপা বিজ্ঞাপনে আসে, মেধাবীদের জন্য স্কলারশীপ, ওয়েভার; এসব। কিন্তু, কিছুদিন পরে এ শব্দগুলো হয়ে যায় - ডিসকাউন্ট!
এ যেন পণ্য বিক্রয়ের বিজ্ঞাপন, ডিসকাউন্ট ফর সিবলিংস, ডিসকাউন্ট ফর ফিমেইল স্টুডেন্টস!! হায়!!!
আরো পরে যোগ হয় - ফ্রি ল্যাপটপ।

এভাবেই চলছিল।
বছর খানেক বা তারও একটু আগে গ্রীণ ইউনিভার্সিটি অব বাংলাদেশ এক টিভি বিজ্ঞাপনে আবার চমক দেখায়। ভবিষ্যৎ পেশার লোভনীয় অফার। আপত্তি ছিল, বিজ্ঞাপনের মডেল নির্বাচনে। হয়তো, তারা সঠিক টার্গেট মার্কেটকেই নির্বাচন করেছে। কিন্তু, বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের ছাত্র বললে আমাদের মনোজগতে যে চেহারা ভাসে, বিজ্ঞাপনের ছাত্রটি মোটেও সেরকম নয়। বরং উঠতি ডিজুস জেনারেশনের আদর্শ প্রতিচ্ছবি। আর ছাত্রীটি? ক্লাস সেভেন নাকি এইট? বড়বড় বিলবোর্ডে তাদের ছবি দেখা যায়। তিন পর্বের ধারাবাহিক টিভি বিজ্ঞাপনগুলো দেখুন এখানে-



এ প্রসঙ্গে, আরেকটু যোগ করি। অল্প কিছুদিন বিদেশে থাকার সুবাদে সেখানকার কিছু বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের বিজ্ঞাপনও দেখেছি। তবে বিজ্ঞাপনগুলো ছিলো - চাকরির বাজার সংক্রান্ত তথ্য সমৃদ্ধ। যেমন একটা কলেজের বিজ্ঞাপনে দেখেছিলাম, ওরা বলেছে - " পাশ করার পরে আমাদের গ্র্যাজুয়েটরা গড়ে ছয় মাসের মধ্যেই চাকরী পায়।" আরেকটি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় নিশ্চয়তা দিচ্ছিলো, এমবিএ করার পরে ১ বছরের মধ্যে বর্তমানের চেয়ে ২৫% বেশি বেতনের চাকরি পাওয়া যাবে, নইলে সব টিউশন ফি ফেরত দেয়া হবে।

আজ ভাবনা আবার মাথাচাড়া দিয়ে ওঠলো বনানীস্থ ইউনিভার্সিটি অব সাউথ এশিয়ার দুটো বিজ্ঞাপন দেখে। একটা ছাপা হয়েছে প্রথম আলোয়। ঐ বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় থেকে এমবিএ করার পরে একজন গাড়ি কিনেছেন। বিজ্ঞাপনে গাড়ির সাথে সুন্দরী নারীও আছে।



অন্যটি ছাপা হয়েছে ডেইলি স্টারে। বলা হচ্ছে, সৌলফ্রেন্ড পাওয়া যাবে ওখানে -


দেখে ভাবছি, শিক্ষা-গবেষণা কিংবা ক্যারিয়ার নয়, এবার ফ্রয়েড রাজত্ব শুরু করলো বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের বিজ্ঞাপনে।

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03 August, 2012

গল্পের চরিত্র, লেখকের দায়

রমজান আসতেই পর্দা পুষিদা বেড়ে গেছে।
বিটিভি এবং এটিএনের সংবাদ পাঠিকার মাথায় ঘোমটা উঠেছে। ঘোমটা টেনেছে রাস্তার পাশের দোকানগুলো। হাড্ডি জিরজিরে শরীরের শ্রমজীবি মানুষ কলা পাউরুটি পানি খেয়ে তাঁবুর ভেতর থেকে বেরুচ্ছে। ঘামে লেপ্টে যাওয়া শার্টের জীর্ণ শার্টের বোতাম খুলে রিক্সায় প্যাডেল মারছে। মিরপুর দশ নম্বর গোলচক্কর থেকে ১১ নম্বরের দিকে যেতে ফায়ার সার্ভিসের পাশের ফুটপাথ।
পুরনো বইয়ের ভ্রাম্যমান দোকান।
চোখ বুলিয়ে দেখলাম, সেবা প্রকাশনীর পেপার ব্যাক বইয়ের সংখ্যা কমছে। গতবার আরো বেশি দেখেছিলাম। এবার বেড়েছে নীলক্ষেত প্রিন্টে শংকর, সুনীল, শীর্ষেন্দু, আশাপূর্ণাদেবী আর ইসলামী বইয়ের বাহার। স্কুল কলেজের বইয়ের সংখ্যা বেড়েছে। ধীর গতিতে দেখছি, আশেপাশে আরো কাস্টোমার আসছে, যাচ্ছে। কয়েক কিশোর কিশোরীকে দেখলাম টেস্ট পেপার খোঁজ করছে। এক তরুণ-তরুণী জুটি জোকসের বই চাচ্ছে।
১৯৮৪ সালে প্রকাশিত সেলিনা হোসেনের উপন্যাস 'পদশব্দ' পেলাম ভালো কন্ডিশনে। শাহরীয়ার শরিফের সায়েন্স ফিকশন, বেপরোয়া, নিলাম। কোনো এক সামিয়াকে লেখক অটোগ্রাফ দিয়েছিলেন হাতে আঁকা কার্টুনসহ। বইটি উৎসর্গও করা হয়েছে সামিয়াকে। এক অথবা অভিন্ন মানুষ।

চোখ আঁটকালো, 'তালাক' নামের বইয়ে, লেখা আছে 'এক তালাকপ্রাপ্ত নারীর আত্মকথা'। লেখকের নাম দেখে উলটে পালটে দেখলাম।
গত সপ্তাহে ফেসবুকে এক বন্ধুর স্ট্যাটাসে আলাপ দেখছিলাম এ বইয়ের। ফ্ল্যাপে লেখা ভূমিকা পড়ে আগ্রহ জাগলো। বইয়ের কাগজ বেশ ভালো, এর আগে হয়তো একবার বা দুবার পড়া হয়েছে এ বই, এমনই ঝকঝকে অবস্থা। দরদাম করে বেশ সস্তায় পেয়ে গেলাম।
বাসায় এসে পড়া শুরু করলাম। ২০০৫ সালের বই মেলায় প্রকাশিত। এর আগে নাকি এ উপন্যাস ধারাবাহিকভাবে এক ট্যাবলয়েড দৈনিকে ছাপা হয়েছে ২০০৪এর অগাস্টের দিকে। তারপরেই নাকি তোলপাড় হয়ে গেছে। পাঠকের চিঠি ফোনে বাংলাদেশের প্রকশনার ইতিহাসে নাকি এক অভূতপূর্ব কান্ড ঘটে গেছে। প্রমাণ স্বরূপ কয়েকটা চিঠিও শেষে ছাপা হয়েছে, নির্ঘন্টে জানানো হয়েছে - সব লেখা ছাপালে বইয়ের দাম বেড়ে যেতো।
যাক, পড়া শুরু করলাম। গদ্যরীতি খুব সাদামাটা। অখন্ড মনোযোগ দেয়ার মতো কিছু নেই। তাই চোখ বুলিয়ে দ্রুত পড়ে ফেলা যায়।
বইয়ের পরিচিতিতে বলা হয়েছে - এক সেলিব্রিটি লেখক উচ্ছৃঙ্ক্ষল জীবন যাপন করতে গিয়ে ত্রিশ বছরের সংসার ভেঙে স্ত্রীকে ডিভোর্স দিচ্ছেন। সেই স্ত্রীর আত্মকথার ছায়া অবলম্বনে লেখা।
হায়, আত্মকথা! হায় ছায়া!!
পাতার পর পাতা - গুল-ই-স্তান, হিমালয়, ঢা/বি-র শিক্ষক, তিন কন্যা, এক পুত্র, মুক্তিযোদ্ধা পরিবার, লেখকের ২ ভাই, ৩ বোন, কলোনীর বাসা থেকে বিতাড়ন, বাদল দিনের কদম ফুল, কোথাও কেউ নেই, আনিস, আবুল খায়ের, শাল্মলী পল্লী, এবং শাওন্তী।
এটা কি আর ছায়া থাকে?
হুমায়ূনের বিভিন্ন আত্মকথা টাইপ বইগুলো থেকে কাহিনী ধার করে, এর পরে সদ্য ডিভোর্সী স্ত্রীর মুখে ইচ্ছামতো কথা বসিয়ে গল্প ফাঁদা!!!
হুমায়ূন আহমেদ এতটাই নন্দিত এবং নিন্দিত যে তার বিগত স্ত্রী হয়তো কোনো এক কালে নিজের স্মৃতিকথা লিখতেন! সে দায়িত্ব নিজের কাঁধে কী করে নিলেন মিলান ফারাবী?
শুনেছি, মানবজমিনে ধারাবাহিকভাবে ছাপা হওয়ার সময় নাকি গুজব রটেছিল গুলতেকিনই লিখছেন ছদ্মনামে। অথচ 'তালাক'এ এমন অনেক শব্দ এবং সংলাপ উল্লেখ করা হয়েছে যেগুলো শুনলে গুলতেকিনও হয়তো অস্বস্তিবোধ করবেন।
ছায়া অবলম্বনে বলে- লেখক কতোটা দায় এড়াতে পারবেন জানি না। তবে অন্য মানুষের, বিশেষ করে আলোচিত মানুষদের, স্মৃতিকথা কেউ এভাবে রঙ মিশিয়ে লেখার স্বাধীনতা পান কিনা সেটা বড় প্রশ্ন।

পাঠক হিসেবে বলবো, গল্পের মানুষগুলো এভাবে পুরোটা চেনাজানা হয়ে গেলে ছায়া সরে যায়। লেখকের দায়িত্বশীলতা নিয়েও প্রশ্ন আসে সামনে।

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