Oi Andhakar Ase
(The Dark Sounds)
A novel by Anisur Rahman
How can be the thing be recovered? Shala is indeed mad. Whenever he receives a phone call, he tells he is in England. Otherwise he does not receive any call. Sometimes on receiving a call, he says, ‘If you can, file a case with the police against me… ’
While entering into the room, Alauddin finished the words and breathed hard. Changing breath he said, ‘I am in great trouble.’
‘What has happened to you?’ I asked.
‘I am telling you about my landlord. He removed us with a one-day notice. Now he has kept my things. Most of the time he is not receiving phone calls. If once he takes a call, he speaks only to talk ill of something.’
Is none else there at his home?
No. The guy is over sixty; he separated from his wife, has no contact with his children.
Ah, the bad guy is a drunkard. He used to make chaos for nothing. They reported him to the police. The court has barred him from keeping any contact with his wife and children. If he denies this decree, the police will pick him up.
Is that so?
Yes, Abdul Bhai. This is Sweden. And that is why I cannot do anything against him. If it were Bangladesh, I would have torn him apart.
Have patience. I think, he has drunk so much — he is perhaps in deep stupor. When he recovers, you will see everything is normal in him. Then you need not be worried of your things.
I understand. But, if he does not return the things, what can I do?
I got a little bit irritated at his words and said whatever you think and wish, you do yourself.
Though he received my phone call once yesterday, today that dirty guy is not taking my call. I went to his house several times, pushed the calling bell many times. But, no response. He was either inside his house or not, it could not be guessed. If he were dead inside his house and I would call the police that would be suicidal for me. Police will rather pick me up. Then that will be an unexpected trouble for me. It would be troublesome either way and I would lose every chance.
Be quiet and sleep. Let’s think of it tomorrow.
Here Alauddin’s little introduction is to be noted. He was in Japan for ten years. Then he came to Sweden with the help of a broker. He has arranged his permission showing a paper marriage with a lady for one million Taka. He works for a Japanese restaurant called Sushi Bar in Stockholm. Two days ago he was evicted from his rented apartment, then he took shelter in our room. On that night, returning home, I found him sleeping at our room. Before this, I saw him once or twice in Stockholm and had a little interaction. After staying one month or so, he will move for another destination. I myself have no more information about Alauddin.
A parcel has come in my name from my country, I mean Bangladesh. I have to go to Visätra to collect it. The postal system here is little bit different from that of Bangladesh. A network of the postal department with grocery or confectionery chain shops runs the postal services. In case of parcel or registered letter, a receipt from the nearby grocery or confectionery chain shop concerned will reach the recipient. Showing this receipt along with his own Swedish identity card, he can collect his parcel or registered letter. But my problem is that I have no Swedish identity card. I have just applied for permanent residency here. I have an LMA card issued by the Migration Board for the time being featuring my photo on it. In one sense, it is an identity card. In another sense, it is nothing. It can be called a ledger reference for the Migration Board. Or it can be called a pass for getting Medicare as it has no personal number. In Sweden this number is mandatory for every deal in life.
Once even showing my LMA card I could not collect my own letter. At last , with the help of Kumra, my friend, who is few years junior to me, but his physical growth is so heavy, that we call him "Kumra", a kind of pumpkin. His real name is Abdul Hamid Khan Chowdhury. I along with him went to the shop and showing Kumra’s identity card, I collected my letter. That is why I am taking Alauddin along with me for getting my letter.
My phone rings. I pick up the receiver and can hear from the other side, ‘I am Jomshed speaking.’
Yes, Jomshed bhai?
Where are you now? Let’s go to the library to do some chatting.
I got irritated, though I controlled myself little and said, ‘I am going to the Post Office to collect a letter. Have you ever visited a library? There is no chance to do chatting in libraries. Moreover, I have a computer at my college office in Dhaka, I had computer at my home in Dhaka. I never have done chatting. To chat is not anything bad. It is simply talking online for hours after hours. I am not fond of it and I do not need to do it. Whenever you talk to me, you raise this. It is not justified.’
Why are you so hot today?
--I am not hot. What do you want to tell me, please say it.
What is the news of your journalist?
--I have not been in touch with him recently.
I asked him to publish a report of my brother’s participation in the election.
--When I talk to him, I will remind him.
How many hours did you work this month?
--Eighty to ninety hours
The month is over. Today is the 4th. Have you not yet counted?
--I will do it soon.
Listen to me, I don’t care what you have been doing!
--‘I will submit it on Monday, I will count the working hours before that.’ Though I was angry, I did not expose it.
Jomshed Miah again started, ‘I am telling you something. Listen carefully.’
Bangladesh’s eminent economist and Rabindra singer M Anisur Rahman used to teach us Economics at the Islamic University. Then the university was shifted from Gazipur to Kushtia. One day, one of our friends took a budding singer to introduce her to Anisur Rahman sir.
Sir addressing the girl said, ‘Like you there are many singers helter skelter in Karwanbazar, Dhaka. You first concentrate on your studies.’
‘You told me this same story once before. You are telling me again. What does it mean? Please listen to me. For my study and writing, I could come to Sweden. Now I am in trouble and applied for residency. If I get it, it is okay. Otherwise what will be, will be.’
Let me give an introduction about Jomshed Miah as he will appear on many occasions in my story. This Jomshed Miah speaks excessively – far more than required. But the man is really a good soul, hospitable and doing good to others. In his absence some call him ‘Thick tailed Mofiz.’
Jomshed Miah is ten years older than I am. His father was a famous moulana. In his early stage he studied at Madrassahs. He has done his Dakhil (Matriculation) and Alim (Higher Secondary) from Madrassahs. He became the superintendent of a madrassah at very young age. Later he got admission in Accounting Department at the Islamic University. He has also done his Kamil graduation from Madrassah board. During his university days, he was involved in student politics. He became vice president of a students’ organisation against the Islamic Chaatra Shibir, a pro Jaamat-e-Islami Bangladesh. His elder brother is a big leader in the Awami League. Jomshed Miah came to Sweden using another’s visa in 1990. He was deported in 1994. After five years he could come to Sweden again through his wife. Prior to this, his wife came to Sweden, this northern land, by becoming a spouse on paper.
Jomshed Miah is now a famous cook in Stockholm. This is his curriculum vitae. His appearance will be covering many aspects in our tale.
‘Are you very busy?’ My wife Urboshi’s SMS.
‘No, I am not busy. It is late night now. Have you not yet slept?’ I responded to her by sending this SMS.
‘My sleep has been disrupted as a mosquito bit me.’
At this, I just went back to Dhaka for a while in my mind. There is a saying in my country, ‘Flies by day, mosquitoes at night, we are living in Dhaka among all these.’
Is it the normal Dhaka or is urban life crowded with flies and mosquitoes? One can add more to these – power disruption, traffic jam, automobile horns — blaring as long as the traffic is alive. Dhaka is a composite of all these.
There are no such things in Stockholm. Everything here is run by design and according to switches. And time is set by the watch. Trains and buses will follow hands of the clock. One can imagine such scenes in Dhaka after fifty years or so. #
ENDING . . .
I have no sleep. I have no hunger. I have no work. I have no relief too. I have restlessness. I have no place to go. I had a shelter with Nabanita. She has gone to Spain. I had a friend Henrik. He has gone to Belarus on a official visit. It is uncertain when he will return. I had a friend Maria. She is now in Egypt. Her return too is uncertain. Azar is in Germany, Firat is in Denmark, Sinikka is in Paris, Clara is in Finland. All have gone abroad for their own purpose – in the winter vacation. It has been clear to me, everything is over. I can recollect a childhood memory at our village home. When a blind beggar used to visit our home for alms, my mother arranged some rice, some red chillies and some coins on a winnowing fan or kula made of bamboo strips for separating the husk from the rice. The blind beggar would be seated on the other side of the main gate of our house. The blind beggar took the kula with a smile and kept it before him. Then he prayed for our health and fortune.
‘The expulsion of evil spirit is in Ali’s hands,
the arrow is in Fatema’s hands.
The evils and troubles go back the same way
you have come.’
My situation is the same. The way I have come, I have to be deported.
I took many sleeping pills and slept. I am dreaming a dream. A new government has taken the power. I have got temporary release from the police. From Dhaka University campus, I along with my writer friend Sheikh Firoz Ahmad, am going to Nirob Hotel on a rickshaw. When our rickshaw has come near the International Mother Language Day Monument, we witness a sudden attack on our rickshaw.
Catch the bad guy.
Beat the bad guy.
I cannot understand anything. I am not saying anything.
They are copping me.
I can hear-
Beat the bad guy
Catch the bad guy
I can hear
We are all Taliban
The Bengal will be Afghan
I gasped for breath
My sleep disrupted
I begin to tremble
My trembling does not last for long.
Taking sleeping pills, I go to bed. Nights are over one by one in illusion, in bad dreams in bad thinking and in disillusion.
Is there any end to bad dreams? On some one nights, snakes come to me extending their hoods. I am running away from the snakes, but they are mostly close to my feet. Further a python coming towards me is blocking my way.
I see I have come quite far from the snakes.
The snakes target my daughter. My daughter Tuntuni is shouting,
Save me Baba (Papa)
Don’t be afraid, I am coming Mamma.
I am running towards the snake, running and running
I continue running and the way continues to be long.
This is the second week of January 2009. Knowing about my deportation to Bangladesh, Urboshi has written me a letter.
I know you are not happy at all at your end. There is no cause too to be well in such a situation. I am not well too.
I am writing this letter for a particular need. I could even tell you over phone. I avoided this willingly as it would be a difficult moment for both you and me. I have decided after deep thinking it is time to choose my own destination considering the future of your daughter Tuntuni and my own.
I do not want to be the Winnie Mandela, wife of Nelson Mandela. Whatever happens in your life, my best wishes will always be with you. If you are alive, we will definitely see each other.
You know the man, Firoz Shahid Khan. For many years he was waiting for me. He has returned from Australia after completing his PhD.
Love for you,
I was not prepared for such a letter. I was truly mentally shocked. But I started to feel instantly relieved as if negative and negative was making it positive for me. It is good for Urboshi as she got a good way out, Tuntuni will definitely get a safe shelter. And, I myself perhaps will survive as a dead river in their life.
Tomorrow morning I would be deported. I went out to see Stockholm for the last time. Right now all of Stockholm is covered with snow. Sweden has become white. At snowfall, her trees, soil, stones, roads, homes, buildings, streets, all have got covered with white snow. She is a white Sweden. Her past has got covered by snow, her days and ways to future is also covered by snow. I come back home walking over snow.
I am mentally free today. I will cook hotchpotch and egg-omelette. After my dinner, I went to bed and slept while reading Humayun Azad’s novel Shobkhichu Bhenge Pore (Everything has collapsed).
I dream a dream.
I am at the airport in Dhaka. I am being taken to cantonment in police cordon.
My daughter Tuntuni along with her grandfather was standing on the other side of the grill at the airport. I can hear Tuntuni’s grandfather is telling her, ‘You see that is you father.’
Instantly Tuntuni started to call me and is shouting
I am running, Police are pulling me back.
I run away suddenly and forcefully from the police and attempt to run to Tuntuni. My head gets pushed against the wall, my sleep gets disrupted, I wake up.
What am I lying on? I cannot understand.
Am I lying in a room in Dhaka or Stockholm?