He was grinning from ear to ear as I headed towards him, his deep-set eyes beaming with joy. All of a sudden, that look of love vanished. He had spotted the man walking beside me, my "bestie", laughing deliriously over some awful joke I'd just cracked. The look in his eyes changed into a glare, full of jealousy, full of hate.
We often encounter such glares in public places—they are not all the same, mind you. Neither do they all bear the same meaning. We could roughly categorise these glances as such:
It was 10:30 pm when I bid farewell to my colleague who dropped me home. As I was entering the building, I was welcomed by the suspicious glare of my neighbour aunty: "Are you new in this building?" she asked. "Yes", I replied, trying to walk away, but her huge structure came between me and the lift. "Who else is in your house?" she questioned. "My parents and my brother", I said trying hard to squeeze myself through her side to get into the lift and end the discussion there. "Where are you coming from?" she inquired. I told her that I am a journalist and I work till 10 pm.
But I am sure my answer did not make much difference to her. She insisted that no office in this country runs till 10 pm or later and kept on glaring at me suspiciously as if I was doing something which her generation considers "not nice". I wasted 10 minutes trying to explain, but finally gave up.
At home that night, and every other night, whenever my Messenger ticks, I see three curious glares coming my way—the three other people in my house are "very interested to know" who I am talking to or messaging with a "sweet smile" on my lips. These curious glares usually come from them because they love to think that I am seeing someone, or that the "unknown person" I am talking to could be a "prospective boyfriend"—and a "prospective groom" in the long run. Alas! It usually turns out to be a random joke from my best friend.
The next morning, when I head out for work, I know the rickshaw-puller will give me a "glare of arrogance". I would keep requesting one after the other to take me to a certain location, and they would all look at me with pity and say "no" as coldly as possible. They won't just stop there; they'd proceed to park their rickshaw, light a biri, and watch me struggle with others. Even if, by some miracle, they agree to go, they won't agree to the fare, thereby ensuring that I am late for work. The same applies to bus drivers when they leave me behind citing "Mohila seat nai" and CNG-pullers who demand three times the fare. Part of life, you see!
As I set out for work, I know hundreds of eyes are glaring at me in the most inappropriate of ways, popping out of their sockets, like in those animated cartoons, and gluing onto me, on every inch and crevice of my body, till I vanish from their sight. Sometimes I glare back with anger; and in some cases, it works—but in most cases, it doesn't. In such cases, I try to imagine myself as a celebrity—after all, everyone loves watching what celebrities do. It makes me feel less disgusted. But only sometimes.
Glares of disbelief
As it turns out, I reach work late almost every morning. In most, if not all, cases, my boss reaches the office earlier than I do, only to find my desk empty. Every time I'm late, I have to think of a new excuse. Last time, I told him that the boat I took from Hatirjheel to come to Gulshan had broken down in the middle of the lake, leaving me in the middle of nowhere for almost 30 minutes. Boss, who is always smarter, did not believe my "detailed lie" and looked at me with sheer disbelief. He knows, even though I don't want him to, that I have slept an extra hour. This also happens when I attempt to leave early, citing "some work". On some occasions though, he smiles, as he knows it's something "very urgent and personal" where he should not interfere.
Sumaiya Zaman is a Sub-editor at The Daily Star.