MIDDLE CLASS DREAMS । Rafikul Hoque
Mr. Jamaluddin is now in the balcony, looking towards the starry sky. The sky is clear today. He is trying to count the stars, and thinking about the strange pattern of the stars in the sky. In his imagination he is trying to draw a parallel line among the stars and counting the number of stars that can be put in his straight line. In fact, he is trying to keep himself busy with something else than the hard realities of life. That’s a technique he learnt from his recent reading of a book named ‘Principles and Practice of Stress Management’. Jamaluddin is an honest Banker. He has no extra income. So, he has no house or motorcar in his possession. He is growing older and has only 2 years of job remaining. He has two daughters, Marufa and Maya, both of them are extraordinarily meritorious, but they couldn’t continue their education because of the family’s inability to bear their educational expenses. Jamaluddin’s only son, Sifat, is currently studying in Master’s of Environmental Science. He has got a 45% scholarship to study in Concordia University, Chicago, USA. Jamaluddin has another daughter, Shamima, from his first wife, whom he managed to marry off to a school teacher 3 years ago. But he had to sell a big property in village to afford her marital expenses. They have a daughter now.
“Won’t you sleep, Dad?” Marufa asked quietly.
Jamaluddin wasn’t surprised at her sudden entrance; possibly he has lost his power of surprise. Marufa, nowadays is calling him Dad instead of Baba. He doesn’t know why. Possibly because he has become a funny character to his children. Or, she is now learning English speaking from his brother, and she is eager to keep her learning alive.
“Yes, coming”, he murmered.
“It’s 1 o’clock, Dad”
He came to the balcony at half past ten. So, he is here for two and a half hours. Time is running so fast.
“It’s a good thing”, he thought to himself.
Generally time goes slow in time of hardship.
“Aren’t you sleeping, Marufa?”
Is sleeplessness an infectious thing? As he is not sleeping, other family members are also not sleeping. Of course, there is no medical theory for that.
Jamaluddin stares at his daughter. She is looking pale and darker. Her eyelids grew black. She brings down her eyes at once. She is not willing her father to read her eyes. But Jamaluddin can read his children’s mind without even looking at them. He has a wish to ask her, “What happens?”
But that would be an absurd question. Marufa has passed her 26th birthday a few days back without any formal celebration. In fact, she has forgotten her birth date and she wouldn’t remind that unless she logged in to Facebook that morning.
Jamaluddin can remember the celebration of his daughter’s first birthday 25 years back. How gorgeously they celebrated that day! His eyes become wet, but he doesn’t want his daughter to see him shedding tears now.
An application for a big amount of loan has been submitted to the Manager of National Bank. The Manager Mr. Ashraf has loads of work today; he doesn’t have any time to look at Mr. Jamaluddin’s letter. Mr. Jamaluddin is trying hard to draw his attention.
“Sir, I need some loan”
Mr. Ashraf is not talking anything except ‘Hu’ or ‘Ha’ presently. Certainly, that’s not a doctor’s prescription, as Jamal noticed him talking very vibrantly half an hour ago with the newly recruited female receptionist.
“Sir, I have submitted an application for loan”
“Hu”, replies Mr. Ashraf.
Now, Mr. Ashraf stares at Mr. Jamal over the frame of his spectacles with a very disgusting look.
“You see that I am very busy today, come later”.
No high officials in the office like Mr. Jamaluddin, certainly because he is not a helping hand for their illegal monetary persuit.
“Sir, this application is in your table for 7 days”, Jamal speaks with an air of confidence, though usually he is a very shy kind of person. Both the manager and Jamal himself are somewhat surprised at his confident voice. Now Mr. Ashraf takes the letter in his hand. The little success brings a glimpse of joy in Jamal’s mind.
“It’s a very big amount of money and you have only 2 years of job remaining”.
Everybody in the office knows this. Jamal needs 15 lakhs taka for his son’s USA studies and his daughter’s Marriage and he has no savings at all.
“I need to talk with the head office before granting such big loan”.
“Sir, I badly need this money. I need to pay 5 lakhs taka to Marufa’s in-laws; her fiancée is going to open a new business. Sifat has got 45% scholarship; he needs money to migrate to the USA.” Jamal says elaborately.
“I know, but it’s not my money”, speaks Mr. Ashraf.
“Sir, please help me”, Jamal urges.
Jamal thinks himself a beggar when he says that, for the first time in his life. He begged another time in his life; that was a love related affair. Jamal feels some emotion in his heart. A part of his heart is still unfulfilled for not having Anjuman, as his life partner.
“Mr. Jamal, the head office knows that you are a sincere person. They believe you. I think they will assist you”, Mr. Ashraf stated.
“I am sending your application to the head office through e-mail. I will get to you as soon as they respond”, Mr. Ashraf assured him.
“Thank you for your kind help, Sir”
Mrs. Jamila is very curious to know about the loan application, but she is unwilling to ask him anything. If she asks Jamal will think that she is tensioned about the matter. He will also feel her tension, and that will not bring any good at this age and turmoil. She is certain that Jamal will tell her everything. He didn’t hide any little or big incident from her. Even, his childhood memory of losing a pussycat and the sorrow he got at that time wasn’t concealed.
“They will seek evidence of property”, Jamal talks having a sip from the coffee mug. “And you know I don’t have anything except the tiny house back home.”
“Fake documents can be made, I asked Shamima’s husband” Jamila replied immediately as she was ready for this answer.
“That’s not possible for me, I fear Allah”
“I don’t think Allah will ask you on that”
Jamal keeps silent. Never ever in his life he was defeated in any argument regarding ethics. But he lost his arguing power now. He is fearful of the potential sin. But, this time possibly his reason will fail. He can’t but do this for his children’s future. He knows, the guilt will hurt him for the remaining days. Brooding over this, Jamal enters into Sifat’s room.
“Assalamu Alaikum, Abba”, Sifat greets him.
“Walaikum Assalam. What is your admission deadline?” Jamal asks.
“What about your study?”
“Do you contact the university regularly?”
Sifat talks very little. No one presumes his presence in the house unless they see him. He prefers the primitive communicative technique of ancient people. But he is very intelligent and skillful for everything. He is good at studies, good at sports, good at his heart, but not good at talking. Jamaluddin often wonders what his son’s friends think about his silent son. He leaves the room. He thinks of talking with his daughters, but he skips his wish at the last moment. He doesn’t know why.
Currently Jamal is feeling both happy and sad at the same time. Happy because his loan has been granted by the head office; and sad because he didn’t want anything in his life adopting unfair means. But he couldn’t but look over his honesty this time. The hard reality and unfulfilled desires suppress his ideal. The Head office accepted his papers without further investigation, depending on their trust in Jamaluddin. And Jamal gets the desired money on the desired day. It gets evening to end every formality. Jamal is now returning home, imagining the happy face of his wife and children. It brings a beam of joy in his mind. He can hardly remember such happy state of mind in recent years. Jamal takes a rickshaw to reach home. Other times he used to go home by bus; but now he doesn’t want to meet so many people with a bag full of money.
“The roads are not that safe nowadays”, Jamal utters silently. He is not willing to utter such words today, but probably his subconscious foretells him to say so.
Suddenly Jamal begins to feel the weight of the bag; it seems too heavy to carry for him. Jamal heart beats very fast as the rickshaw is passing a tiny lane. Jamal has been passing across this lane for more than 20 years; and never ever he thought this lane having any danger. But today this lane appears to him very perilous.
“Reserve polices must be set in such places. What is their function, just eating and sleeping?” Jamal feels disgust in his heart for not using the armed forces properly, “Keeping these forces are just a waste of money.” Previously Jamal didn’t like to see police personnel. They look at everyone with suspecting eyes.
There are not much people on the street now. Just four people are standing on a relatively darker place. Generally Bangladeshi people can’t stop talking when stay together; but these people are very silent as if they were waiting for someone. However, they are looking very gentle; and as soon as they see the rickshaw coming, they ask the rickshaw-puller to stop; and the rickshaw-puller stops instantly as if he were ready to stop.
“Uncle, please get down”, the leader type man among the four requests.
They had arms in their hand, Jamaluddin obeys them.
“Your bag is looking too old; how old is it?”
Jamal’s bag is about 7 years old. He has been thinking of buying a new bag; and he visits bag shops often, but their pricing isn’t satisfied him.
“The bag is looking too heavy; and you are an old fellow”, they come to the business immediately.
“Give it to us, we will take care of it”, another man with black coat, black face and a black pistol in hand orders.
Everyone knows what’s happening. The rickshaw-puller wasn’t much panicked though. It seems as if it were an everyday event for him.
Jamaluddin also isn’t much panicked; he hands the bag over. He knows his life wasn’t much valuable, but he is shy to turn down their order.
A taxi cab comes to the spot suddenly, which brings a ray of hope in jamaluddin’s mind. But it only carried the robbers away.
With no bag and money in hand, everything feels empty to Jamal. He is about to break down; but he manages himself quickly. He gets into the rickshaw again.
“Will you please bring me to the station?” Jamal urges.
“No, I won’t go to that direction; but if you want, I can call another rickshaw for you”.
He does it immediately and before departing quickly, he gives Jamal a 100tk note. He looks busy; he has more business to do. Another time Jamal won’t take his money, but this time he takes. Situations make little things ominous.
The city is getting quitter quickly; Jamal is heading towards the station. He decides to go to his village home. That is the only destination he knows far from the nasty city. Jamal is now not feeling any sadness for all that happens; but he is upset for his existence on this earth. He is not agreeing with the almighty’s decision to send him on this earth with all those needs. n
The writer is a Lecturer in English, Chaprashir Hat A. Rob Fazil Madrasah.