on a Blue Afternoon
from previous issue)
called when she was getting ready in the morning to visit
Nasser. "Mum, we are coming to your flat in the afternoon"
was surprised; she said, "But, baba, you don't know where
I stay, let me go there and pick you up."
friend knows you well," he replied and continued, "don't
ask me who he is, but he knows you pretty well."
smiled and said, "Is your friend a Bangladeshi?"
mum. Don't cook for us, we will have lunch before coming,"
stared at her watch; she was getting late. Nasser, meanwhile,
was staring at the flowers, he said, "The minister has
assured me full police security. But what I really don't get
is why these people have been trying to kill me."
looked up and saw Nasser get down to his feet, fumbling. "The
book is only an excuse; religion is a mere pretext,"
he whispered as if talking to himself.
got up; somehow, she felt a strong affinity with Nasser. In
his eyes, she had seen a sense of vulnerability, which she
was so familiar with, though she did not know the source of
it. But she said, "Nasser, I have to run; getting late
for an appointment."
round, holding an apple, and said, "Oh I am sorry."
his shoulder and said, "Don't be. I will be back."
entered the room, there was not any sign of Bobby's. But the
cat came back later in the afternoon when Shormi was having
lunch. It was limping badly and was dragging itself on the
floor. She got up, half way through her food, and walked closer
to Bobby, but as soon as she reached down to grab the cat,
it sprung up the window and sneaked away through the grille.
sat down on a cane-stool in front of the dressing table and
looked in the mirror. While talking to Nouman in the morning,
for a moment, she thought her son had been talking about Ifthekhar.
Shormi opened the drawer at the side of the table and looked
down at the things: a small red box, full of her earrings;
a big make up box; an Omega watch, a gift from Ifthekhar on
their second anniversary and a small revolver. The gun was
licensed under Ifthekhar's name; he had never used it, all
the bullets were still in the chamber, unused for eight long
years. Shormi had never thought of renewing the gun-permit
and did not deposit the gun to the nearby police station either.
She smiled and put on a pair of clay-earrings. A shrill cry
came through the window, she got up and looked down; it was
Bobby. The cat was lying on the sunshade, licking its paws.
The doorbell rang; Nouman was standing at the door hand in
hand with Ifthekhar, who was smiling coyly.
did not know what to say or do. An inexplicable numbness,
had grasped her as she stammered and ushered them in. Both
of them followed her to the hallway and sat on a big sofa
bed in the drawing room.
meekly at Nouman and said, "You look much taller than
you did in the photo you sent. I have some baby-pictures of
yours...I want you to take them; remind me to give them to
you." Then she added, staring at Ifthekhar, "I forget
things quite easily now-a-days."
around the room, as if trying to find what had gone missing
since the last time he had been here. An uneasy silence followed
before Nouman broke it by saying, "Mum I'm sorry; I didn't
mean to hurt you."
"Never mind, Nam."
suddenly stopped scanning the room and said to Shormi, "How's
your teaching going on?"
the last thing she expected to come out from his mouth; she
could not help smiling. "Fine," she said and hurriedly
added, "My maid hasn't turned up today; let me go and
fetch you some tea."
got up and said, "Mum, we will have tea some other day,
when we come to take the photos perhaps."
and looked at Ifthekhar; he got up and was staring at Bobby
through the door. The cat was standing at the window of the
bedroom and one of its hind legs was badly infected. It screeched,
sensing unwanted human attention, and jumped to the ledge.
know that you liked cats," he said and smiled.
legs are badly bruised, probably the cat has got gangrene,"
were both gone, Shormi looked down the window to see Bobby.
The cat was standing on the ledge and croaked weakly after
seeing her. She looked at its gangrened legs--one of Bobby's
limbs was completely decayed and the cat had to put its back
on the wall for support; the other limb had started to decompose
and Shormi could smell it rotting. She called the cat but
it only gave out a high pitched cry.
did not realise that her maid had come and was standing at
the window, gripping the grille. "Something bad will
happen madam; I am quite sure about it. When cats cry, bad
things happen. They come to know about bad things beforehand
and start crying," she said ominously. She was in her
mid-twenties, and was wearing a yellow Shalwar-Kameez.
turned round and said, "Don't be silly Hasna. Cats are
silly animals, even sillier than you. How will they know about
did not look at all convinced as she continued, "You
know madam, a cat was crying near our shanty the day Karim
had had numerous paramours and Shormi had caught her going
out with different men. She had once introduced Karim to Shormi;
he himself had told her that he had been a petty thief. Karim
was beaten to death by a mob after being caught pickpocketing
near the shanty. Hasna had watched the mob pin Karim down
on the street and beat him to death with bricks and blunt
(R) thedailystar.net 2004