Majid is four and a half year old. At this age he is a devoted fan of his father’s talent. Today his fascination has touched the sky for his father Kuddus Mian has caught a mouse for him. Not only has he caught it, but also he tied its tail with a red thread. When the thread is unleashed, the mouse starts walking in its own mood. It can be brought closer by pulling the thread.
Majid, in his short life, has got many surprising gifts from his father. But nothing is comparably surprising than this one. Holding the thread of the mouse, Majid nearly feels like crying out of enjoyment.
Kuddus Mian has been watching his son’s enjoyment for a while. Then he lit a cigarette unmindfully. Only three cigarettes he has for today. The day has just begun. By this time spending one of them aimlessly is a mere stupidity. Yet, Kuddus Mian does it for he has become wistful seeing the enjoyment of his son. When his mind becomes wistful, he feels for a cigarette.
Looking at his father, Majid asks, “Baba, does a mouse bite?”
Kuddus mian nods his head that denotes ‘no’. He talks less with his son. It is customary to talk less with children. Talking more means giving more indulgence. It is no good giving indulgence to children. Where there is indulgence, there is decline of fear and respect. Kuddus believes that the best way to bring up children is not to give them any indulgence. Not to talk to them unnecessarily so that in no way they can feel the love of father. Love is not a matter of showing off, rather it is a matter of hiding. The more hidden, the deeper the love is. That Majid is playing with the mouse, it sounds pleasant to him. But it will be a great mistake letting Majid understand this pleasure. So he keeps smoking looking at the sky. That the sky is seen from his home is also a matter of happiness. But it is unwise to call it a home. Rather it is a pipe house. It has been more than one month they took shelter on the sewerage pipe. In the beginning, Kuddus protested a bit. Do human beings live in a pipe? Once the pipe starts rolling, what will happen to them? He wishes to make a serious quarrel with Monoara.
At last, he does not quarrel, what is the benefit of quarreling with womenfolk? They do not understand any logic. Allah has not given them the power to understand. Moreover, Monoara is toiling hard for the family. She becomes happy when Kuddus pays heed to her. There is a blessing in making others happy.
In front of Mirpur Electric sub-office almost fifteen pipes are stored. In one of them they have taken shelter. Apparently the pipes seem to be smaller. But they are not as small as they appear to be. During rain it is comfortable here. No single drop of rain comes inside. Shading from side of the pipes serves the purpose. The most remarkable fact is that there is no torture of mosquitoes. On first two nights, they found it a bit difficult to sleep. They felt suffocated living there. At one stage Kuddus told to Monoara, “O’ bou, it seems we are lying in the grave. Mankir and Nakir have started interrogation here.” Monoara did not reply. She doesn’t speak in reply to her husband mostly. It is a kind of abuse. On doomsday, Monoara has to account for this to Allah. Kuddus has planned to share the matter with his wife in a convenient time. He cannot find any such opportunity. Nowadays, Monoara’s temperament is blowing cold and hot.
Although Monoara does not utter anything in reply, Majid asks enthusiastically, “Who are Monkir – Naker, baba?”
Kuddus feels elated at his son’s eagerness. He goes for detailing about Monkir- Naker-
“They are two angels of Allah. After coming to the grave, they will ask for the first time, ‘who is your creator?’ Then they will ask, ‘who is your messenger?’ Then…”
Monoara stops him shouting and says, “Go to bed silently. Do not make a fuss.”
This is also a violation of courtesy. Scolding husband! Husband is a person to be adored most. He cannot be scolded. For this also Monoara will have to fall in danger on doomsday.
At Monoara’s scolding Kuddus becomes a bit indifferent, but he doesn’t get nervous. She who toils so much for the family has to be pardoned for trivial mistakes. That they have been able to settle down in the pipe, all this has been possible because of Monoara. Who keeps records of these matters? In the last winter, municipality gave some blankets. They were not great in numbers though. Monoara collected two blankets from there. It is an incredible matter. They sold one at forty-two taka. They got a good price. Many people sold at twenty to twenty-five. That forty-two taka is in their savings.
One day a rickshaw will be bought. Monoara thinks, if they own a rickshaw of their own, everything will be solved. How stupid womenfolk can be, this is a great instance. Does he have the energy to pull a rickshaw? One of his legs is literally numb. He doesn’t willingly sit at home idly day and night. Finding no other way, he is compelled to stay at home. If, his legs be cured, is it possible to cope with the busy traffics in Dhaka? It is a matter of life and death. If it were a baby taxi, it would be better. Taxi is a motor run vehicle. It is comfortable to run a taxi, there is some glory in running it. Everyone regards rickshaw pullers in a mean way. But people show at least some courtesy in regarding the taxiwalas. Prestige is not a matter of less importance.
Of course, Kuddus is silent now in this regard. Let the time ripe. He will talk timely. He won’t make any fuss. Womenfolk are frail in nature, there is nothing good in going wild with them. They need to be made understood. But Kuddus believes he won’t have to make her understand it. It is not a matter of joke to save money for buying a rickshaw. Is there any end of troubles and miseries in life? All of a sudden there might come a danger. Then spend money. Like last Vadro. Thinking of danger makes him feel awful. They had been more or less happy then in a building. An eight-storied building was on the make. For some reason, the construction work had been stopped for few years. People like him rented different rooms of the building with advanced pay. They also took a home in the 4th floor by advancing four hundred taka. There was no railing on the stairs and that had been a problem. They used to feel frightened at night while climbing the stairs. The environment there was not safer, moreover some flirty women also lived there.
People used to create turmoil, even at night. This is not a good place to set a family. Despite, they stayed there finding no other alternative. Then their elder daughter fell sick one day. All of a sudden, she fell prey to serious fever. But they left no stone unturned in treating her. Monoara spent every pie of her savings. The flirty women living there also helped them. After the death of their daughter, the flirty women also moaned. On doomsday these women will be punished. If it worked, Kuddus would recommend for them. He would say to Allah, “Hey Almighty, forgive these girls. They have gone astray being subjected to poverty. This poverty is also given by you. They have failed to win your intricate test. But they were good hearted girls.”
Kuddus often recalls his elder daughter. Then he feels indifferent to life. The girl was so good looking. She was an ardent lover of watching cinema. She used to irritate Kuddus often, “Baba I want to watch a cinema”. Watching cinema is a matter of expense, moreover Monoara doesn’t like it.
Kuddus has taken her to cinema several times secretly. There was nothing to be learnt from them. Wastage of money, yet it was the wish of his child. Children are not to be given shelter, but some of their wishes are to be fulfilled. Prophet (sm) has given a strong indication to be affectionate to the children.
Kuddus loved his daughter according to the instruction by prophet(sm). He loved her more than necessary. It was not a wise task. If he cared a bit less, he would get less hurt. But Allah’s done the right thing. The girl was so beautiful. He would have to fall in danger with this girl when she grew up. He has shown much affection to her. He has to lessen affection at any time by scolding her harshly.
“What do mice eat?”
“Whatever they get: dried rice, sugar, puffed rice, paper, iron what not they eat. Mouse and goat is of the same class, boss at eating.”
Majid listens to his father with wide open eyes, Kuddus feels so good at this sight. Nowadays, Monoara doesn’t pay heed to his words. If he goes to say anything, she replies, “Stop! Do not make a mess.”
Majid desires to talk to her. To live as a family you need to talk to each other. Talking to each other increases love. If there is no word between the two, how will love form? Monoara doesn’t understand this simple truth. She always thinks of earning, she feels it pleasant to be a beggar in the street. Our prophet (sm) was also, in a sense, a pauper.
“The mouse is hungry.”
“Are you hungry?”
Masjid produces a shy smile. Kuddus feels pity.
“Let your Ma come, she will arrange.”
Kuddus himself also feels a bit restless of hunger. He is feeling terribly hungry. There was some dried rice at home. Majid was served with those at noon. Kuddus thought that Majid might keep some for him. He did not keep any. If his elder daughter were there, she would keep something for him. The mother rose in girls that’s why they cannot eat without thinking of others at home. This also happens by the dictates of Allah. He is omnipresent.
“Are you hungry Bapjan?”
“I heard it once. It is of no good telling same thing again. Do not pain me.”
Majid loses words. He keeps playing with the kid of mice. He keeps it hanging holding the thread tight. The little animal suffers. Majid gets pleasure at this sight. Kuddus lit another cigarette. The smoke of cigarettes is very handy in bearing hunger. But he feels a little insecure lest Monoara might come bare handed. What will he do? She won’t spend from the savings. She is a tough woman. She has to buy a rickshaw with this money. Who will paddle that rickshaw? Nothing can be told to her. It may happen that she herself will ride the rickshaw. Nothing is impossible for her. She is a tough guy. Maybe she has gone a bit insane nowadays. She doesn’t find any way out for living. She doesn’t tell anything to Kuddus. But he understands it well.
Monoara returned by 9pm. Seeing her Kuddus’ heart trembles for she is accompanied by a gentle man like stranger. He is a Punjabi worn man with a handkerchief at hand. He is using the handkerchief often to hide his nose. That man is scrutinizing everything with a suspicious look and coughing frequently. This sight, this use of handkerchief and dry coughing is known to Kuddus. He feels lost.
Kuddus releases a great sigh. He thought that he would enjoy a nice family in the Eden; a nice family with Majid, Sharifa and Monoara. If there were a cinema palace, he would go there with his daughter. After having dinner, the four would start a long gossip. Certainly there would be a moon in the Eden. The pleasure of gossiping at a moonlit night is priceless. Now it seems that in heaven there will be no room for Monoara. She will fall in a great danger on doomsday. Her husband’s recommendation won’t be counted on that day. If counted, he would say to Allah, “This woman loves her family much. Whatever she has done is for her family. As a husband I have forgiven her. You too also pardon her please.”
Looking at Kuddus, Monoara says, “Take Majid with you and have a go around.” Kuddus takes Majid on his lap. Monoara keeps standing lowering her head. Kuddus feels sad seeing her. The kid of the mouse is hanging at Majid’s hand. At the cruelties of humans, the mouse feels very helpless.