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|Volume 11 |Issue 28| July 13, 2012 ||
A Mother's Plight
Why, even after 18 rounds of bullets fired, the majestic animal sat on the raised border of the shrimp cultivation pond is a mystery. Was the animal deaf or was it contemplating shrimp farming? Perhaps it was the mother of the three cubs that were found at a house in Shyamoli, Dhaka. In that case, why did she take so long in coming out of the jungle to look for her cubs? Was she not a good mother? Or has she been searching for her cubs elsewhere?
What could be going inside her head one wonders. Like all single working mothers, our tigress, let's call her Rani (I am sure she has a much better name in her language, which we probably cannot pronounce so I will follow the British example and give her a name easy for us to pronounce), needed to go out daily to earn her bread to feed her three offspring. Her husband had left her right after she got pregnant. Yeah, the male species, same as everywhere, often fail to take responsibility when the time comes. She had raised the three kids single-handedly. She did not go to seek her parents’ support; eloping with the cub's father was her sole decision. Her parents never forgave her for that. In fact they banished her from their part of the forest. So even though the cubs were a handful and often times she felt frustrated by their constant cry for food, she had somehow managed to tackle things until they grew up and learned to walk.
With the cost of living sky-rocketing, Rani could not afford a decent place at a safe neighbourhood. She had noticed the existence of dubious people, who would ogle at her as she went out for work or took her children for a walk. “Don't they have mothers and sisters at home,” she often wondered, but never confronted them. There were times when she contemplated complaining to the forest guards, but then she remembered the cases of Yasmin and other unfortunate girls and her mother's advice, about how the protector became the persecutor. She felt helpless and vulnerable. Yet her motherly instinct gave her strength and she kept her guard up, as far as possible.
However, her children were full of curiosity. They had myriads of questions and on tired afternoons Rani often fell asleep while answering their queries. There was not much that they needed to be taught. Yet between her labourious work and fending for the trio, Rani hardly had time drawing up a plan for their education. She had decided that the cubs would be home-schooled, as she could not afford the cost of a formal education. She heard that you need to send them to a coaching centre and pay huge amount of admission fee to gain access to the free and compulsory primary education.
Once, one of the dubious men tried to persuade her to send her cubs to Dhaka, a far away place full of big promises. “There are people there who will take good care of your children. They will eat American steak, sleep on foam beds much softer than grass, study in the best schools and at the same time earn a lot of money which they will send you back here and you do not have to work everyday. All you have to do is eat and sleep,” he said. His words sounded alluring, but Rani could not imagine sending her young ones to an unknown land just so she could live in comfort. She shooed the man away. But to Rani's annoyance, he kept hanging around and in her absence often tried to have a conversation with the cubs.
On that fateful day, she thought she would take the cubs out and show them the ways of the world. She sensed that the suspicious men were around, but before she understood what was happening, something pierced through her skin and she began to feel drowsy. She does not know how long she had been unconscious. But when she woke up her cubs were gone. Rani went crazy. She howled and wailed and looked everywhere possible. She even went to the guards to complain. They told her that the cubs would be returned in 48 hours, but since then many 48 hours had passed, Rani's lap remained empty. She tried to contact the boss of the guards but the sentry told her that he was busy doing other things. Looking for the cubs of a poor mother like Rani could not be his only task.
When Rani threatened to take action for their inaction, he accused her of making a political issue of the whole thing. He told her that her cubs probably left on their own accord and to tarnish the image of the government she was making up stories of their abduction. “I am sure you belong to the opposition party,” he concluded. Poor Rani, who never voted in her life, let alone understood government and opposition, left with a broken heart.
Rani took the search into her own paws and did everything possible. She even tried calling the Prime Minister, but her phone was always busy. One of the langurs told her that her cubs were seen on the other side of the border. Rani pursued the trail since trafficking across the border was not uncommon in her locality. She ran but crossing the border into the Indian Sundarbans was not easy. She remembered Felani's fate. Rani would not have cared for her life but she needed to remain alive to rescue her cubs. So she waited and on a dark moonless night swam across one of the treacherous Sundarban khals into India. There with the help of some friends and distant family she searched every nook and cranny of the jungle.
While she was there, the 48 hours finally came to an end and the cubs were found. But the forest guard did not think it was important to inform Rani as the cubs could not give the address or the name of their father. After a failed search when Rani came back, risking her life once again, to Bangladesh, she heard the news of her cubs being rescued, from one of the langurs. Instead of going to the guards, she thought she would go directly to the Prime Minister's office and ask her for the cubs. She is a mother, too, surely she would understand. So she ventured out of the jungle on her journey to the faraway land, Dhaka.
Rani defied the bullets in the hope someone would come up and show her the route to Dhaka so that she could be once again reunited with her cubs. Little does she know that there are hundreds of mothers like her — Rahima, Morjina, Jobeda — whose children grow up in the same conditions as her cubs, deprived of three wholesome meals and proper education and then get lost forever in the jungle of Dhaka. The cries of Rahima, Morjina, Jobeda never reach the people at the top. They just accept the reality and disappear amongst the concrete shoddy bushes of Dhaka. And Rani too will have to go back to the jungle with a false consolation that perhaps her cubs are happy wherever they are.