প্রচলিত প্রথার শেকল ভেঙে বের হওয়া খুব সহজ নয়। সব সময়েই চেষ্টা করেছি একুশে বইমেলায় একটি করে বই যেন উপহার দিতে পারি আমার পাঠক-ভক্তদের। সেই ধারাবাহিকতায় গতবছর 'পরাজিত মেঘদল' প্রকাশিত হয়েছে জনান্তিক থেকে। এবার শেকল ভাঙার ক্ষুদ্র চেষ্টা। আমার বাংলাভাষী পাঠক-ভক্ত-বন্ধুদের তালিকার সঙ্গে এবার কতোগুলো ভিন্নভাষা বলা মুখ জুড়ে দিলাম।
শেকল ভাঙার এই প্রয়াসেই জনান্তিক থেকে বের হচ্ছে আমার ইংরেজী বই Monga Caravan। নিচের গল্পটি Monga Caravan থেকেই উদ্বৃত করলাম আমার বন্ধুদের জন্য। প্রথা কেটে বেরিয়ে আসার এই চেষ্টায় আপনাদের মূল্যবান উদ্বৃতি / সমালোচনা আমার একান্ত পাথেয়।
সবাইকে আগাম আন্তরিক ধন্যবাদ।
Tale of a little Casanova
I came to Dhaka at the age of 18 to see, to live and to love it. The desire to discover the wonders of a cosmopolitan city and to wear the warmth of generous neon lights took me up skyscrapers. As a child I believed that I would have a better view of the sky from a high-rise apartment. My earlier visits to Dhaka had attracted me with a fascinating kids' park, its colorful rides and the zoo with its caged Royal Bengal Tiger and comic monkeys. Every trip would end in tears as every memorable moment would be dashed to oblivion by the impending journey home. At that age nothing was more boring than home and hometown. Back from every dream-visit to Dhaka, I would sit at my cruel study table and peep through the window above it. Staring at the sky I would dream of riding the clouds all the way to Dhaka.
This school-boy narration of Dhaka must come as a surprise to you. I am at an age neither to write such a paragraph nor to sketch an autobiography. I am writing this because, in contrast, little boy Midrah considers his grandfather's small town of Ishwardi as his heaven. I often wonder how he could realize at the age of seven what I could only perceive at 27. Midrah was born in Dhaka but started to dislike the city the moment he learnt to walk. Out-letting this dislike by wailing, shouting and disapproving of plastic guests in the living room, he easily discovered that urbaners were not at all attentive to a child, whereas a small town like Ishwardi covered up for all the lack of attention. Even an unknown rickshaw-puller had time for Midrah. He was obviously too young to have read the theories of alienation but surprisingly enough he could readily identify patients of alienation in Dhaka.
Life can be cruel. It kept him in Dhaka, handing him only sprinkled moments to bond with and inhale the intensity of his dream town. Thus started his search for warm people who would pay attention to his loneliness. People like drivers, gate-keepers and domestic assistants. He preferred to be with the proletariats hanging around his apartment block. It was an uncomfortable alliance for the Dhaka bourgeois, who were fearful of this strange kid getting declassed and bringing some unknown skin disease into their elite apartments. There must be something wrong with this child, they would think loudly. The civil society would summon roundtable discussions on the sub-altern behavior of the boy who refused to eat, sit or smile, like other urban English medium kids. This rowdy child showed no signs of growing up to be a polished, measured, urban humpty dumpty; one who would sit on a sofa like a robot, watch cartoon channels and have kitkat or strawberry ice-cream with the explicit permission of his patrons.
Midrah didn't have the freedom of choice. So he had to accompany his parents to Europe at the age of two-and-a-half years. At the Bonn-Koln Airport he seemed happy and surprised; repeatedly asking, "Where is Midrah going?" Quite a philosophical question, one a saint would ask of life. It's no doubt a difficult question to answer when you come to think of it logically. Midrah was happy to leave the city of melancholy, Dhaka. He was definitely not at an age to enjoy the colours of Koln but perhaps if he couldn't get his beloved Ishwardi, any other place was better than Dhaka. His father's friends came to greet him at the airport with a huge balloon. He was too small to hold the extra-large puffed-up mickey mouse. Nevertheless, he held on to it tightly. Passing by the Koln Sud railway station he asked if a passing train would take him to Ishwardi. "I have seen such trains in Ishwardi," he cried out. One of his father's friends could not resist but say, "We, a bunch of clowns, are so happy to be in Koln, whereas this little master is missing Ishwardy." Midrah is like master film-maker Satyajit's hero Apu, they all thought, who could relate only trains to his existence. After a while Midrah started to cry as if he had been abducted from his roots. We had to lie, a never-ending lie.
"Where are my grandparents, my dada, dida."
"Out of the city. They will be back soon."
The car stopped near an unknown apartment, 99 Bruler Strasse. Reluctantly, Midrah got down tightly holding the string of his balloon. Suddenly, he released the string, letting the balloon fly back to his grandparents' land. Gone with the wind, someone murmured. He entered a strange flat, a strange life of melancholy. Jet-lagged, he immediately slept, only to rise to an equally unknown morning with nothing but a wide window to look at the sky, the clouds and his would-be chariot to Ishwardi. A reverse journey, some would think. I had the same fascination for clouds but my dream destination was different.
Midrah was taken to new-market, the city center of Koln, as an introduction to the grandeur of
Europe. Clever beyond age, he refused to show any interest. His parents took him to McDonalds to pique his curiosity, a capitalist trick to fish a child. It worked. Music, chicken nuggets and small gift toys brought a smile to his face. But that too ended soon like the charm of a quickie. There was non-stop bargaining for a deal to go back to Ishwardi, more specifically not to go to Dhaka at all. He turned into a scary and stubborn bargainer, his parents at a loss to handle this strange little man.
I tried to introduce him to a few kids. For some unknown historical reason most of them didn't welcome him. A few were friendly but Midrah was unhappy by the refusal of a scar-faced boy his age. The boy's mother apologized for her son's rudeness, casually mentioning that he probably took after his boring and racist father. So hurt was Midrah by the scar-faced boy's behavior that he became indifferent to the approaches of other friendly boys.
He was no doubt, troubled by the German language. He did manage to settle to a comfortable routine in his English-medium kindergarten with friends like Peter, Sophia and Daniel… and a crush on his teacher, Yasmin. He would imagine and make drawings of Yasmin and himself going on long drives in a sports car. Once Yasmin came to know of this, she arranged for such a ride for him. Unfortunately, there was no space at the back to accommodate me. Midrah soon polished his penchant for dating Aunts for their cars. He and his opera-singer Sunanda would sing together during those rides, even though Sunanda frequently objected to his flirtatious looks. Truly fascinated by his musical talent, she put up with the little casanova's smiles.
Casanova he was; finally snatched away my best friend Munazza. They regularly went out for movies and ice-skating, to McDonalds and playgrounds. For someone so young, Midrah seemed proficient in the use of game theory. Lobbying with his Munazza 'Khalamunni', he managed to arrange for his twice-a-year trips to Ishwardi. Every trip would be full of complaints against Emirates for not taking him directly to Ishwardi. He found it hazardous to get down in Dhaka and proceed by train, invariably being forced to spend a few days in the city he disliked so intensely. Dhaka bourgeois were more unbearable than German elites and Ishwardi dandies. For him there was never any difference between Koln Station or Ishwardi Junction, Niagra Falls or River Padma, Dusseldorf or Iswardi Airport, Safari Park near Toronto or the greenery in Paksey Harding. The one place he couldn't tolerate was Dhaka. I don't know why or perhaps I do.
His Dhaka well-wishers suggested disciplining Midrah in their elite dogma. The experiment went on and he was sent to London to check out his former colonial masters. He liked the down town but preferred the countryside. They looked like Ishwadri or Paksey with their dotting of British buildings. He liked the place so he liked little British girls. Why not? They helped him with his English. On the bank of River Thames facing the London Eye he didn't forget to kiss the pink cheeks of the little Briton in ponytails who held his hand and danced along the river.
I decided to discipline this mischievous Casanova, but my father burst into laughter upon hearing his escapades. "Your grandpa was fascinated with the mujras of Lucknow, I used to chat with girls in Calcatta. I don't know much about the colours of your life but Midra definitely has the spirit to conquer," he said, obviously enjoying my discomfort.
I gave up any hope of bringing order into his life. Once back in Dhaka he refused to be around, went on hunger strikes for study strikes. All my plans to settle him down in Dhaka failed. No bribe worked, neither Fantasy Kingdom nor Star Cine Complex. At the age of seven he was equipped with the charms of the west and the deep-rooted fascination for his small-town ancestors. We tried to handle this little charmer with the help of my friend's dazzling Dhaka daughter, an English-medium, six-year-old ulala star, Rodushi. We should have known better. Midra preferred either his wheat-skinned girlfriend Sadia from Ishwardi or the pink-cheeked Margaret. His bold declaration of Independence: "I want to stay in Ishwardi, then I will go to London and quite often visit my grandparents. But no Dhaka, not Dhaka, Dhaka, no way."