সূচনাতে আগেই বলেছি ইংরেজী আমার মায়ের ভাষা নয়। এই ভাষায় সাহিত্য চর্চা করা থেকে বিরত থেকেছিও তাই। আমার প্রবাস জীবনের অ-বাংলাভাষী বন্ধুদের কথা মাথায় রেখেই "দ্য ডেইলী ব্ল্যাক বেইরী"-র পান্ডুলিপি তৈরী। পান্ডুলিপির জন্মের পর আমার পুরনো বন্ধুদের কাছ থেকে উৎসাহ / সমালোচনা পাবার নিমিত্তে ব্লগের পাতায় এর প্রকাশ।
আরেকটি কথা "দ্য ডেইলী ব্ল্যাক বেইরী"কে পূর্ণ উপন্যাস না বলে দীর্ঘ ছোট-গল্প বলাটাই বোধহয় শ্রেয়। এখন থেকে এই দীর্ঘ ছোট-গল্পের প্রতিটি অধ্যায় আসতে থাকবে ক্রমশঃ আমার ব্লগে।
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The Daily Blackberry
- A Long Short-Story
By Maskwaith Ahsan
( All characters and incidents are fictitious. Any resemblance to any one alive or dead is mere coincidence. The author cannot take responsibility for his vivid imagination.)
Luci would have been a very good kindergarten teacher. His instincts to be just that haunt him to the extent that his monthly meetings with fellow journalists reflect a playgroup classroom. Holding court, he feels like none other than Larry King. Point of emphasis being the ‘king’ who owns a harem full of commonwealth probation girls.
Colonial bureaucracy has a parallel system of gradual promotion of clerks to officers, who are affectionately called ‘promotees’. Even non-commissioned soldiers, at times, get commission-brazed as second lieutenants at the twilight of their career. Lucifera’s heading the Blackberry is something similar to that. One fine morning when he unexpectedly finds himself sitting on the king’s chair his euphoric disbelief is a sight for all. God has sent him to this earth to run such a big circus. Why not? I came, I saw, I conquered.
So he enters the classroom like a hero of a mock epic. The biggest gimmick of Luci’s classroom is a power-point presentation. Showing off the tools of journalism, he stands in front of the big screen with the orgasmic smile of Bill Gates’ half-brother. Remember Dr Faustus who believed he was Mr Know All. Luci’s antique English, horde of age-old proverbs and stubborn attempts at proving his intellectual height leave a similar impression. For experienced journalists this classroom is a gas-chamber, whereas the on-probation commonwealth girls eagerly await the Q&A sessions to show their ability at asking stupid questions and put forward laughter-provoking suggestions. Luci’s world order is definitely incomplete without them.
Nanny over and again raises questions and concerns at women emancipation. Tahmida cannot frame questions but her shivering-horse laughter compensates for that. Rakesh is fond of discussions on post-modernism. Towards the end of the class Luci shows his blackberry.“Write me an e-mail anytime. I’ll will be there for you.”Confusing. Is he expecting an e-mail or a fe-mail.
The mail department is run by a pre-old woman, Naira. Of Luci’s age group, she wears dozens of pink butterfly clips on her dyed hair, puts on red foundation to hide the geometrical revenge of age and is politically fond of cooking for Luci. Hot, spicy South Asian food that is a regular concern for all those with delicate stomachs and minds. That’s not all. She is a photograph freak, likes the constant flashes standing next to the boss. She longs to become a journalist and so lobbies for her friend Iqbal’s promotion.
Naira, like those crooked typical mothers-in-law characters in Hindi soap opera’s, and Iqbal, carrying the legacy of those native Brutes-type collaborators who helped East India Company rulers, are both ideal for Luci. He likes to have a bunch of clowns to work as informers in different departments, so that he, Luci, can ensure a colony without fear of revolt.
Iqbal tries hard to win his master’s stone-cold soul; butters and repeats Luci’s proverbs like a parrot. Waiting for the master to phone him, Iqbal practices to talk to the invisible crown.
Luci supports another parasite, Gobi, a good-looking, good-for-nothing Indianized Casanova. Gobi’s aptitude for Indological fantasies is seriously recognized by Luci. Gobi follows him around like a shadow in red tie, roaming the office like a ping pong ball. His actual assignment remains unknown till date. A universal cigarette-seeker, especially from girls, Gobi claims to be a social democrat but, really, he stares at Asians the way a neo-conservative does. Luci doesn’t like unofficial social gatherings. So, from time to time, Gobi is assigned to keep an eye on coffee tables for intra-office dynamics.
This is not an era of alienation, but Luci believes otherwise. No one but the chosen few should have friends in the office. He walks alone, all alone, towards the cafeteria; in desperate times accompanied by Gobi, not a friend but a mere Charlie. Sometimes during lunch hour Gobi is sent for snap checking. To find out if anyone has brought spicy South Asian food to share with colleagues. Gobi tries to smell like a German Shepherd, food as well as any inner politics against his master. The tragic part of Gobi’s life is when he has to make do with a dry sausage with his nostrils still trickled by the alluring fragrance of hot Indian food.
Gobi ignites his own sense of importance by feeding Luci with imaginary conspiracy theories. He tries to cash on Luci’s sense of insecurity inherited from his ancestors regarding Indians. When Luci gets to learn from Gobi of the 1857 armed struggle of Indian soldiers against the East India Raj, he suffers many sleepless nights. Once during a cigarette-seeking attempt, Gobi came to know of some details of that struggle from Rakesh. Later, he collected a bollywood movie, Mangal Panday, to impress Luci with his knowledge of Indian history of independence.
Contract on the table
Atmosphere inside the Blackberry is reminiscent of Alex Haley’s Roots; the way black slaves were brought from Africa, the way they were treated, the life and humiliation of Kunta Kinte, desperate attempts to crush down Kunta’s black identity, in short, the saga of human existence. Those days of hatred and racial discrimination are legally over. But Luci’s colonial hangover refuses to wipe out the past. Hiring a South Asian journalist genetically prompts him to convert euros into rupees. For Luci, that’s the vantage point of human identity. For a brown South Asian the lowest of salary package should be enough, he believes. And why not? Think of Mr Bush: either you are with me or against me.
Remember when Gulliver visited Brobdignag and saw an uncouth huge woman, Diya. Now a days she works at the Blackberry as a section chief. A half-German, she knows everything except journalism. Another insecure woman resembling her master, Lucifera. Diya informs him about a girl in her section, Rodela Singh, who doesn’t show sufficient subordination. Rodela is a Rajput, so blind subordination is the last thing one should expect from her. Luci doesn’t want to miss the chance to fence with Rodela’s defences.“Ms. Singh I have heard that you don’t cooperate with your colleagues.”“That’s not true, Mr. Luci. I think I have optimum communication skills and I know my job well.”“Don’t you think you sound over-confident.”“Look Mr. Luci, I didn’t get any holidays in the last six months. I requested Ms. Diya to at least approve a few days as my mother is visiting. But she refused to do so.”“You should know Ms. Singh that your contract is on my table and I may not extend it if the management is unhappy with your performance.”Rodela cannot comprehend the type of performance Luci is expecting from her. Is it that of Nanny and Tahmida who perform in his crazy office room or on those tantalizing piano evenings to satisfy his mid-fifties masculine ego. Much as she wants, Rodela cannot tell Luci that she joined the Blackberry as a journalist, not an entertainer.