Contemporary Story of Bangladesh
A SHORT STORY BY NEELIM MAHSIN REZA
National Books Fair, 2011. The first day. The Senior and Junior authors are sitting in their stall of their Little Magazine ‘Chalchitro’. The new edition is yet to be released from the press. Presently they have only 10 old copies of 2010, some copies of ‘Liberation and Proverbs’ by Raza Shahidul Aslam, some books by their friends Kadimul Islam Zadu and Khabir Ahmed. Now it is 3.00 pm. Most of the copies are only to be displayed and the last 10 old copies of Chalchitro, 2010 are for selling with 20% reduction. The original price is 100 taka. Now eighty only.
The new volume is still in press. With such wealth and property on February 01 the Senior told the Junior Javelin, Let’s move (for uncertain reason, he addresses the Junior ‘Javelin’). The heroes never fear the rout. We’ll attempt the fair. New write ups are getting on and, meanwhile we can start with the old ones. Yah? The Senior continues.
O.K sir. Says the Junior.
Reza (the Senior) and Raza publish a little magazine since 1987. All the year they usually idle away the time and at the last week of January they feel the need to be active on collecting the write ups, publishing the little-mag, reserving the stall from Bangla Academy etc. Raza manages the most from Nilphamari and Rangpur. And after long period of rest, Reza (the senior) has been shouldered a responsibility by Raza that is ‘to publish a little-mag in English. He is irritated with Raza for hampering his sweet idleness- eating, gossiping and sleeping. From 2011 the Senior adds a thrill to his idleness getting involved in publishing the second one. Every year the stall somehow takes place.
Now it is 3.00 pm. The second day of the fair. Today the main target of the Senior is to hand over some old copies of the little-mag to the readers. He has to talk to the readers, poets and writers of little-mag who visit. He emphasizes communicating with the readers and writers. On the other hand, the Junior (he is a harmless poet) pays attention to frame out a methodology so that he can sell a few little-mags. And the Senior has already taught him that the aim in life for today specially is to sell at least one copy of the old mags and in perspective of the economics, generate income at least 80 taka for the day. Otherwise, there would be no tea etc. etc. However, the Junior begins to give a try to achieve the goal. Till 4.00pm, the result is zero. At five comes a reader. He looks around the little-mags hung and shelved, then asks- how much?
-100 taka. We’re giving 20% discount.
-Aha? The gentleman, like an honors first year girl, speaks through waving his waist. Why brother why is it not 25%? He talks now through his nostrils.
-20%. Little-mags do not allow discount in general. We’re giving only for today for the inauguration.
When the reader is on the horn of a dilemma like to be or not to be…. All on a sudden gets fallen back, “Come away, don’t need to buy…”, his accompanying young lady pushes him back first, then drives toward the neighboring bookstall.
At 6.00 pm a packet of biscuits comes out from the side bag of the Senior. Glory, junior’s friend, has called him on the cell- Where are you?
– I’m in the stall, Little-mag Chattar, Stall no. 02. Get in.
– Oh! No! I can’t. It’s too jam-packed, please come up and help me get inside.
– Ok. Wait. Junior speaks to the Senior, sir, just coming from TSC.
– To bring her.
The Senior sits on. Junior returns with his friend Glory, a banker who fears to walk in the crowd. They become three. The senior says- anything like tea or smoke would be nice. But there’s no water even. Water is getting too valuable. Water is greater than the river itself. Once Dylan cried-‘too many people have died’ and Suman adds-‘in water price’. Now one cannot feel even frustrated by saying like this because price of water is on hike.
The Junior and his friend Glory begin to speak in low voice.
The senior thinks the total collection of both of their pockets may be not more than twenty five taka with notes and coins of 1 taka, 2 taka, 5 taka etc. Is it fit to buy two or a cup of tea? He bring out a biscuit pack and all take part as if they got a lot delicious to eat. After the refreshment the Senior and Junior both feel the dismal absence of tea-smoke.
Senior says, going to Aplu to bring the proof of the novel. I’ll be back in a few minutes. Senior finds no more cause to talk to the Junior about the sale of the little-mags. Senior goes out in a hurry. Glory’s friend Tito comes to the stall at 7.56 pm.
The news at 8 is Senior and Junior’s friend, recently marriage affected, the Lunic-couple has left home for the book fair. The couple has requested on cell to wait for them in the fair even if the night grows up to 9 and even if the fair is shut because it is the couple’s first meet with them. The Senior comes back at 8.26. The Junior by this time begins to feel like potato smash but still not discouraged. During the book fair an extra spirit works in both of them. Now the Senior is simply gossiping with Tito, Glory and Junior.
After a few minutes Senior and Junior get their chairs. Glory and Tito, at a distance begin their divine talks of love and affection, job and promotion, business and profit, affair among the colleagues and so on. They just mutter and understand language of each other.
The Senior feels surprised how man can communicate by speaking in such a severe low voice. The couple is only moving their lips and thoughts are translated into the couple’s brains! And they act! React too so appropriately! Wonderful! Wonderful! After a short while some of the words come out from the couple… business… profit…loan… interest…BCS etc. This time the voice is performing standard decibel.
Senior and Junior are sitting in silence with no hope for any reader. The Senior is little bored now to recurrently listening to the words floating in the air from the couple like- job and career, money and bank, relatives and ornaments, marriage and its problems and prospects and so many domestic irritating things that now hamper his temper. The Senior thinks they’ve no interest at all with literature or little-mag, books or the books fair. They’ve not even seen what literary works their friends have tried at all. They’ve come to the books fair to have a nice time.
Javelin, can you manage some tea- smoke? Senior says with a feeling of getting vexed.
Let me give a try. After all, Gory and Tito are our guests at the stall. It is nice to get them some tea-smoke. Junior says with due Books fair spirit.
Of course! But lift this up for tomorrow my darling. I think your pocket is without any status. What miracle would you play? PC Sarker?
Let me face a tiny challenge. Napoleon said, ‘Impossible’ is the word of fool’s dictionary. This is my mission possible. Junior is in real Spring time spirit and attempts to go for the challenge.
Javelin! Senior stops the Junior. Come to the chair. Junior comes to the chair and sits closely with the Senior. Senior is silent. Junior looks at his eyes. He has, by this time, simply forgotten the challenge, Napoleon and mission possible.
Listen. Senior speaks to him little low. Listen, Glory and Tito are our guests. We have been able to do nothing for these two honorables. We even fail to offer them a common entertainment. It’s not good. At least one copy of little-mag would do. Wao! I think I’ve got a plan!
What plan sir? Junior looks hopeful.
Since the day is passing only an opening air of the fair and there’s no reader at all…a thing can be done!
What? Junior matches his voice with the Senior.
Thus these two honorable have been accompanying us since six. How would this be if we hand over an old copy of our little-mag to each of them?
That means, I understand, you want to gift them, is it not right? Junior smiles.
Idiot! Why to gift for. It is only 2 and half a minute to be 9. Not a single copy is sold. Gifting! How come? Listen, in Rajshahi University there’s Rabi’s tea stall. I saw a poster on the bamboo slate wall of his tea stall. You plan of gifting them well matches with the message of the poster I saw. Senior says.
What’s written there in it?
The subject matter of the poster, the Senior says, is that- a lower class peasant gets loan from Grameen Bank on 38% interest for building up a sanitary latrine with tiles fittings. At the time of repaying the loan, he has needed to sell all his paddy he grows that season. As a result the peasant and his family see no other way but to starve and pass the season with almost no food at all. The writes-
“Proud for so gorgeous the toilet you’ve had by your foods
By eating what are you thinking to waste in it, shrewd?”
Our condition is like that today. You’re plan. Gifting. Senior explains.
Ha-ha-ha, I really understand now. How bad is our condition! Junior confirms.
Let’s think what we can do of them.
What sir? Junior feels helpless.
Idiot forgets things that signify. Haven’t I told you… Senior shouts in whispers… hand over a copy to each of them? As they’re our nearest, they should well wish that our write-ups would rise higher and higher like Michal Madhusudan Datt or someone better than he.
Of course sir! Why not? Junior is firm.
Yes. And they can simply feel sympathetic for us. Senior says.
Sir, they must. Junior assures.
Then give them two copies and have 80/= plus 80/= aggregate 160 taka only. Senior commands.
Yes Sir. We must give them some copies because they’re our friends! Junior exclaims.
Senior says, no no Tito is just a new comer. He’s introduced to us today for the first. Besides he loves…Gl…
No sir. It doesn’t matter at all. Sir, book is holy, knowledge is holy and poetry is the purest thought of the salts of the world. Anyone can offer one a book or a poetry at any time with no hob-nob at all. Sir, you just you just spread your hand to them with a copy of the little-mag and just recite with your masculine voice and poetic tone that-
May the door of the horizon be opened.
May the door of the ways of the world be opened up…
We really desire the opening of sale to be inaugurated in this fair none but
Our first buyers…
Not I, you shall do this on behalf of me. I came to know Glory only yesterday at her bank and this lad Tito or Gito was never seen by me two hours ago. Better you take the step.
Sir. I think your approach will never be denied by Glory. She is quite fine. Junior says.
And Tito? Senior asks.
Sir. Forgive him for the day. He’s just a new comer after all.
Idiot. Just a minute ago your philosophy has captured and ruptured the ground that any time anyone can offer books to any one with no hob-nob…
Sorry sir. I just forget.
No. I love to forgive everyone but the irritators who stimulate giggling. Senior says. What about Lunik ha?
Let me ring them. After a minute of talks, Junior reports- Sir. They’re at Nilkhet now. Sir. We can move out from the fair now. It’s over 9.
Senior and Junior come out to the TSC of Dhaka University. Senior walks up. Junior’s shoulders are filled with little-mags. Glory and Tito follow them. Pushing huge crowd they come out. Meanwhile, Senior brings some editing in the plan of hunting the readers. They are now out of fair. So what! Plan is plan.
Javelin. He says.
Yes sir. Junior is curious.
I’ve a change in the reader hunting.
What sir? Change?
Yes. Change. Look, Lunik is just coming with his half anew. They must be added to the hunt. After all, Lunik is one of our best friends.
Closest sir. Closest friend. Junior says.
Yes sir. He is closest. There’s no doubt about this.
I think so. And besides that there are lots of issues, new marriage, new job, new parents in law, our magazine is also new. And they’re our main hope in such a bad age of literature. If they don’t by literary works of the new generation, who’ll do it? If they don’t understand who’ll do it? Mofiz? Shala most of Mofizes of our country look for the Chikitsa Shamoyikee and crime stories and love stories…
Sir, Junior says, Lunik calls. Hello. Lunik darling, where are you with you better half?
We’re at TSC. Lunik says.
We’re too here where many policemen have illogically crowded like a herd of the crows.
Lunik rings again on Junior’s phone.
Come hurry. There’s a surprise. Junior says.
Within 3 seconds the Lunik couple is manifested out of the crowd.
Sir have you published your novel as book? I thought You’ve done it. Now say- where’s my surprise? Lunik says.
Look through this way. Senior pointed to Glory and Tito.
O! Dear and dear, how’re you? Lunik is thrilled and continues- here it is your Vabi.
Congratulations, Vabi. Glory and Tito twitter.
Congratulations. Vabi replies.
So, sir, where’s my surprise? Oh sorry you’ve already demonstrated the surprises…
No. The real surprise awaits you all. Senior says. After all, after your metamorphosis through the marriage, you first meet me now.
Oh sir, you must tell that. After the metamorphosis I’m just meeting you. Am I right that you’re taking us to a tea stall that means on the occasion of your new Vabi coming? Lunik enquires.
You’re great Luinka. You’re really intelligent. Let us come to the tea stall.
They all come to a tea stall and Senior gives order of Fuska, tea and cigarette. All begin to enjoy eating, drinking, chuckling… Junior joins but Senior does not eat for gastric pain. Glory and Tito have concentrated on whispering again each other with mute voice by the intervals of eating.
Hey! You all listen to me. I’ve a class tomorrow at Shamorita Medical College, language class, have to make up the lesson plan and to do many more works. Senior is already suffering from serious exhaustion, hunger and pain. He says, you all take tea and enjoy the time. We’ll go now.
Senior gets on his motorcycle parked at TSC for last 6 hours. He unlocks the handle lock of the bike.
Bye for today. See you again. Senior shouts out ‘Javelin’.
Yes sir. He runs up to him.
Do it and come back quickly. Won’t you think we’ve to travel a long? Senior instructs softly.
O! OK sir. I just forget. Just coming back.
Junior turns back and walks a second and stops going before Glory and Vabi. He promptly opens up his critical baggage of the little mags and brings out three copies of giant size and spreads to Glory, Tito, Lunik and the new Vabi. He smiles up opening his teeth which are completely un-brushed for a few days. He tells them- ‘Omer Khayam has said:
Breads and butter with wine
All will vanish in vain
But the book with you is with its youth endless…
He goes on-you’re the beginners of this mission of this books fair this year that we inaugurate by you- our honorables: the settled couple and the unsettled couple… You per couple need to pay 200/- taka only for two copies. But please, 160/- taka per copy will do in 20% discount. Junior awaits the money by spreading his hand to Glory and the Vabi.
Ok ok. I must buy this. Tomorrow I must pay you for it. Lunik feels little helpless.
Yes, yes, that’s better… Tito supports Lunik.
No sir. It’s the time of inauguration of our sale. And I promise, the new volumes are coming, and we’ll again inaugurate these by both of you- the honorables. Junior smiles at Lunik for a second and at Tito for the other second. His teeth are quite un-brushed.
Ok. Give me 40 taka back. Lunik spreads two one hundred taka notes.
Tito does the same. He also wants 40 taka back.
Like a hawk or an eagle, the Junior hunts away the notes and smiles with his emerald teeth and says, not a single penny we have the day dear. He slightly jumps up on the back of the bike at the back of the Senior and says, sir feeling very hungry, a restaurant please.
The Senior, waving his hand to all, says- Sorry I just forget…
What? Lunik and Tito say.
The bill of Fuska…
The bike pollutes the sound.
Language Conversion and Composition
Neelim Mahsin Reza. Bangladesh.