The Joy of Feminist Agony
"What is our unhappiness? Sakhina, can you tell me? Do you know how powerful we are in this country? The prime minister is a woman; the opposition leader is a woman…in the police, in the army - where are there not women? Moushumi is a woman, Shabnur is a woman, everywhere there are women, and only women. Let's do one thing on this solitary mid-day. Let's shout out a slogan: In every corner what is heard…are echoes of women's victory…"
The above lines are being spoken by a woman, by Jarina, and directed to the lovely, amorous Sakhina. Jarina is dark and mannish-looking. Tall and healthy, she works as the manager of a biscuit and bread factory. Jarina and Sahkina are two close friends, and live together.
Sakhina works as a receptionist in Shuranjana ad firm at Mohakhali. Male hearts beat faster on seeing her dazzling eyes and sexy figure. Sakhina and Jarina have been living in the same room of Adarsha Karmajibi Nari Hostel at Tejgaon for about two- and-a-half years. About a hundred women of different ages, from 20 to 50 years old, live in this middle-sized women's hostel. Most of them are from different villages, having come to the capital city to survive, wounded by poverty or having been exploited and ill-treated by society in their respective lives.
At the end of a straight lane on the left-hand side of Tejgaon Rail Station stands Adarsha Karmajibi Nari Hostel. Gossip and rumours float through the surrounding male population of the locality, and beyond, regarding this pale yellow-coloured hostel. At the hostel's entrance, three guards stand on duty in shifts. There is no trace of any males within the hostel, apart from these three guards, a middle-aged manager and the landlord. The manager monitors on a daily basis the entry and exit of each occupant of this women's hostel.
The rooms are narrow, with two or three women boarders in each room. It is now 10 o'clock at night. In the corner room of the second floor, Sakhina and Jarina are conversing in their normal way. Good-looking, voluptuous Sakhina says to Jarina, "That scoundrel MD Thandu Raihan of my office is bothering me a lot. He often proposes to me to go out with him: 'Sakhina, let's go for Chinese tonight!' I keep teasing the scoundrel on. I am definitely aiming to entice him to come beside the Tejgaon Station once."
Jarina smiles, "We will grab his all money and property. Then you would be the MD of the company, and I'd be the manager." Jarina lights a cigarette and puffs.
Shahajada Biscuit and Bread Factory, where Jarina works as manager, is close to Tejgaon Rail Station. Her office, from where she supervises everything, is next to the rail station. It is from this office that Sakhina goes to hunt one or two big rich customers every week. She is used as a bait to lure in local and foreign rich guys. She also targets men looking for sex from Kamalapur, Motijheel, Dhanmondi, Gulshan and other commercial areas of the city.
There are some professional muggers in Jarina's control. Once Sakhina has the rich man inside Jarina's office room, an elaborate trap is then sprung on the prey by Jarina and her group, using threats, blackmail and hijacking. Jarina's group is equipped with a bogus photo journalist and fake detective personnel. She uses them to threaten the so-called gentleman with exposure and consequent social cost. The rich foreigner or local victim who comes in excitedly usually has to run from the place minus his wallet, mobile, watch, briefcase, passport and all other valuable items. Their faces are distorted. Only the clothes they are wearing are left untouched and safe. They are relieved to find that they will not be socially humiliated. Aside from their regular jobs, Jarina and Sakhina's earnings from this business are not inconsiderable. Two or three male members of their group get a cut of the earnings but the directions and tactics are given solely by Jarina and Sakhina.
At night in the corner room of the second floor of women's hostel, out of an abundance of joy, Jarina whistles long and loudly. The women here are all independent, enjoy freedom in this hostel, and no one disturbs each other. Sakhina brings out a bottle of Carew's gin from a box and sets down two glasses. She pours out the gin and mixes water and 7-Up with it. These two friends start to drink, toasting to each other's happiness. Every night, they push together their twin beds to make one. While drinking Sakhina enjoys looking at her face in the big mirror of the dressing table as tight-bodied, tall Jarina tightens her hands around sexy Sakhina. Then they press their lips against each other and ecstatically kiss each other. Looking at their reflections in the mirror, they burst into laughter. In this world, at nights, they do not feel the lack of male company. They complement each other wonderfully.
Jarina starts singing while looking at the mirror:
I do not know good or bad…
I do not know; I do not know…
Only I know you, I know you;
Oh my fairy…
While the singing goes, behind them at Tejgaon Rail station a train passes in the direction of Gazipur. Where will the train go? How far?
Tejgaon Rail Station seems desolate amid a cruel brick-and-cemented Dhaka city. Passenger trains do not halt at the station, only cargo trains. It is as if the station exists for trade and commerce. There are huge trees and old buildings around the station. In this very place, Shahajada Biscuit and Bread Factory is situated beside a banyan tree. Manager Jarina's office is right next to this factory. The proprietor of the factory is Jarina's close relative, who has been living in the Middle East for a long time. Suranjana ad firm, where Sakhina works, is at Mohakhali. The MD of the firm Thandu Raihan calls Sakhina over to his residence at noon. Where, once again, he recites the same old verse, "Sakhina! Let's go to the Fantasy Kingdom at Ashulia."
Sakhina replies, "Sir, my elder sister would like to meet you for an important matter. Would you please come with me tomorrow to my sister's office at Tejgaon?"
Politics, society, culture - in Bangladesh everything is sunk into corruption. And in the midst of all this, these two women are surviving in Tejgaon Adarsha Karmajibi Nari Hostel in Dhaka city. Now it is 3 o'clock at night. Jarina switches on the light and says "Ai, Sakhina! Won't you get married?" Both of them are completely naked, like humankind in a more primitive age. One is attractive, bright and sexy, while the other one is dark of skin, tall, tight-bodied, and mannish in body structure. On this soothing autumn rainy late night, they have dispensed with all covetous and wicked males of the world.
Sakhina responds to Jarina's words, "Impossible! I will not marry any man at all. I spit on their faces."
The wonderful night is witness to the agony of these two feminists. A gentle breeze passes by the station.
Jarina and Sakhina embrace each other and start to weep. They start singing of freedom:
I have built my nest with you in the pleasure of your company...
Sakhina and Jarina keep laughing. A late-night train runs away from the station towards the direction of Kamalapur.