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     Volume 4 Issue 21 | November 12, 2004 |

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Love on a Blue Afternoon


(Continued from previous issue)

Nouman called when she was getting ready in the morning to visit Nasser. "Mum, we are coming to your flat in the afternoon" he said.

Shormi was surprised; she said, "But, baba, you don't know where I stay, let me go there and pick you up."

"My friend knows you well," he replied and continued, "don't ask me who he is, but he knows you pretty well."

Shormi smiled and said, "Is your friend a Bangladeshi?"

"Yeah mum. Don't cook for us, we will have lunch before coming," Nouman said.

Shormi 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."

Shormi 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.

Shormi 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."

He turned round, holding an apple, and said, "Oh I am sorry."

She patted his shoulder and said, "Don't be. I will be back."

When she 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.

Shormi 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.

Shormi 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.

She smiled 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."

He looked 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."

She said, "Never mind, Nam."

Ifthekhar suddenly stopped scanning the room and said to Shormi, "How's your teaching going on?"

That was 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."

Nouman got up and said, "Mum, we will have tea some other day, when we come to take the photos perhaps."

She smiled 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.

"Didn't know that you liked cats," he said and smiled.

"Its legs are badly bruised, probably the cat has got gangrene," she replied.

When they 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.

Shormi 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.

Shormi turned round and said, "Don't be silly Hasna. Cats are silly animals, even sillier than you. How will they know about the future?"

Hasna did not look at all convinced as she continued, "You know madam, a cat was crying near our shanty the day Karim was killed."

Hasna 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 machetes.

(To be continued...)


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