A faded image

Published on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My high school situated in a country town was a boys' school, for that reason we scarcely saw girls nearby. There was also a girls' school not really far from ours. Often the teaching period of the girls' school came to an end before the proper time, most often in our tiffin period, for the authority of the school was not sound. This was a great opportunity for us to look at the girls of the girls' school through our classroom-window while they were going back, walking in groups, dressed in their school uniform (A blue color chemise, white color pajamas and a white color scarf) to their homes along the earthen road going beside our school premises. This was our only enjoyment in the midst of our tedious lessons, and we kept ourselves waiting ardently for them to come. But having overwhelmed us with distress, now and then they came after our session had been over.

However, I passed HSC examination with star marks and got admission, hoping to get also star marks at the HSC Examination, at a college nearby our former school which was a combined college for both boys and girls. For the first time, we came to a good luck to enjoy the beauty of young girls thoroughly for a long time with ease. Sometimes, in our unconscious, we happened to be startled at having seen the girls sitting beside us because we were not used to that. Many girls of our batch were well-formed and shaped and looked beautiful. But there was a girl named Deepa more handsome, blonde and striking than others, and even she was the most attractive girl of the whole country town. She was a girl with grassy skin, lofty nose, almond eyes, robust body form, and her lips were as slim as a pencil. Deepa came to college everyday wearing different kinds of colorful dresses, for there was no dress code for the students of the college, and she was more fashionable than others. Many boys of our batch became admirers of her at first sight, and in return she was very generous with each of them and never showed any kind of ruthless manners unlike other bonny girls full of ostentation because of their glamour. However, within six or seven days, I perceived well that I had fallen in love with Deepa desperately, and I seemed to be more devoted to her than any other followers of her. I as well as everyone else who loved her in silence was fortunate to see her whenever wished during the teaching period of our college because she came to the college every day and attended almost every lesson. She enjoyed the madness of her admirers, particularly mine. Since I was not accustomed to amuse myself with the lectures of the teachers frequently so that enjoying of her stunning beauty appeared to me with a burden of attending classes instead of having a jolly conversation or roaming with friends and smoking cigarettes newly habituated with. Nevertheless, I was bound to be present in every lesson to see her lovely face. Therefore, I would attend the every lesson, though I couldn't concentrate my mind due to my unaccustomedness of paying attention to the tedious lectures and my enchanted mind with her dazzling beauty.

My home was in a village two miles away from the college, and every day I came to the college riding bicycle like almost others who also lived in the villages around. Apart from us, the students that had been lived in the country town would come to the college on rickshaw driven by rickshaw puller. This difference between two groups of students made two kinds of social status. We were in low status, and they who lived in the country town were in high status. Deepa had lived since her birth in this town, for her father was a teacher of Bengali literature of our college. So me and Deepa were from different social ranks: low and high. The love affair between me and Deepa was not possible since she had not been sexually attracted to me, as on my face, whole body and manner a rusticity had been stuck. This rusticity was the basis of the things which drove her away from me.

Consequently, I didn't even dream of telling her about my adoration for her. I apprehended well that she would not engage herself with me, and I was right about that. Though I hadn't revealed the inner state of my mind to her, but in the short time she could realize it by noticing the feelings of my mind to her graved in my eyes so deeply as it is said that the eyes are the windows of the mind. Now I discern properly that she had really one pair of acute eyes. However, I saw in her eyes that in response she had refused me. Notwithstanding, I didn't restrain myself from being devoted to her. As if I was a planet like the earth in a solar system where she herself was the sun placed in the center of it, and I was bound to orbit her owing to a great love force like gravitational force in the real solar system.

She had been allured to a boy named Shaibal of high social status and of good looking, who had passed his childhood in Dhaka city because of his father's job. So there was no rusticity stuck on his face and manners. Moreover he also looked metropolitan. Sometimes I saw her having a conversation in a grave mood with the boy in a secluded place of our college corridor. At the time of walking along the corridor to the class-room, whenever I came near her, she paused to talk to him and waved me to come close to her. She tried to talk to me with a smile spread on her face and almost every time taking out from her purse, gave me some chocolates. In spite I was reluctant to take these chocolates, I couldn't restrain myself to do what she bade since I was totally capitulated to her. I pondered, alas! What a farce! Instead of love I got some chocolates! I became angry, though had not the slightest valor to uncover it before her, but screamed vigorously inside my breast, and my whole body shook like the buildings at the time of earthquake in high Richter scale.

One day, while walking on a shabby road going beside Thana health complex, I noticed them together, both of them in a heavy mood, upon a rickshaw running to a village just beyond the country town. Later, I heard from a classmate that they had gone to a house of their mutual friend to date. Thus they continued, and every one of our batch knew about it well. After some days, I heard from some classmates that the boy had ignored her because there was a rumor that she had a sex scandal in her teenage. She felt torment of having been refused from the boy. I had nothing to do, but just to feel sorry for her. After that the boy made an affair with a girl from another college, but lived in the same town and also had studied in the girls' school in the country town. They continued it and at last got married.

Anyway, after the incident had taken place, having forgotten entirely the social difference between me and her, I guessed that now there came a chance of conjugating with her. But in my agony, I realized by noticing her attitude to me that she was too rigid to involve with me as a lover and didn't feel even the slightest temptation to me. Notwithstanding, my frame of mind for her was the same, which had been getting dominion over me for long. I didn't see no way to come over it and even hadn't the nerve to combat against it. So I left myself to my fate since I knew from the depth of my heart that it couldn't be avoided. As before, still now almost every day in my college life during our lessons, I always squinted to her appealing countenance without hearing any word from my teachers. I still continued trying to be seated beside her.

One day during the lesson, I was looking at her face sitting on a bench just behind her. No sooner felt my glance with a sixth sense than she turned her face to me and gazing into my eyes in a solemn mood, said, "Do you feel any urge to say something, okay, then just tell me whatever it is, I am ready to hear you." There was something very dangerous in her expression, and I got afraid of that. I told her promptly in a fright mood, "No, no, nothing; please concentrate to your lesson." Then taking her face near my ear, she whispered, "So why have you looked at me for long, tell me what you have in your mind. When you continue staring at me for a long time with your mouth wide open, do you know, I feel humiliated?" From then on I didn't dare to stare at her for long, but just looked at her face for one second or more than turning my eyes in another direction.

Every day in the afternoon, after the class has been finished, I went back to my home with an aching heart, for I would not be able to see her charming face till tomorrow. Every moment when not beside her, only one sentence whirled in my brain "when I am going to see her? When I will have got the chance to be near her again?"

Notwithstanding, time passed away. We came very near to our HSC examination. Because of the images of Deepa in various gestures dwelling in my mind nearly all the time, and sometimes these images having linked with each other, moved continually before my eyes like movie reels, and I saw her on the pages of books as we watch the images of characters of a cinema on the screen of a movie house, I couldn't concentrate my mind on study. What I would have become of me, for my mind was still scattered! Sometimes I reflected I lost my studious mind forever and wouldn't be able to revive it again. And I started considering of another kind of work such as doing some business instead of study. Though I knew that if I couldn't have passed the examination, my whole life would have been collapsed, and the hope of my family member about me also would have been ruined utterly. So I sought and sought to pay attention to study, but failed repeatedly. As the time of the examination approached towards me, it seemed to me that a northwester was coming so frantically.

One day, I was wandering, lonely, through the college campus. Suddenly I met a friend who asked me to go with him to another friend's house to take some notes from him. I agreed, and we set off immediately. The friend, whose house we went, told us that he had studied a great deal as a preparation for upcoming examination. At these words, I become green with envy of him because as a student, he was no better than me. Well, this malice to him conducted my mind to be engrossed in study. No sooner I got jealous, I left his house. I remember going home like a bird flying through the wind and with my heart throbbing tumultuously. After reaching my home, I entered straight my study room and started getting prepared for the imminent examination. The more I read, the more deleted the images of Deepa which had been bothering me for a long time. After one week, I perceived that the images of Deepa became few in quantity and too weak in quality. Yet there was no hope to pass the examination because mere forty days were left before the examination, and the time was too small to get preparation needed to pass the examination. Nonetheless, I studied with the heart and soul forty days continuously almost twelve hours in a day. In those days, I didn't go outside of the home for a single hour. Anyway, finally I passed the examination in the first division; this was even beyond my imagination. Deepa couldn't pass the examination as others, of which everyone was in high social status. Who passed the examination in the first division or the second division except one or two every one of them was the students from villages with low social status.

Just after the end of the examination, we some classmates came to Dhaka city together to get admission at varsity, medical and engineering college admission coaching centers swarmed in Dhaka city. We, four friends- me with low social status and three others of high social status- rented an apartment in Merul Badda in Dhaka through a friend whose name was Shamim and who also had lived in Dhaka. Deepa also came to Dhaka and rented a room in a lady hostel with some other girls of our college. In the meantime, Deepa had made a love affair with Shamim without letting me know. This boy considered that he had some right upon the apartment we rented as without his aid we couldn't have rented the apartment. So Shamim started to come to our apartment now and then accompanied by Deepa to date with though he knew that I adored her and because of that their conjugation before my eyes would cause me great grief. They used to go into a room that I shared with a friend and closing the door, passed a long time dating. At that time, in another room, the other three residents of the apartment chatted or played card sitting on the bed. On the contrary, I, sitting beside them in silence, imagined various kinds of sexual activities would have been happening between them and felt acute pressure on my heart.

One day, while they were in our room dating, we heard a hard knock at the main door. Generally, there used to be no hard knock like that at our door. So, we got skeptical if the guardians of Shamim came. With time the knock was getting louder and harder than before, and this appeared very strange to us. Then we came to a conclusion that it must have been someone among his guardians. When someone, whosoever it was, knocked at the door, we were bound to open the door unless they were dacoits or mischievous people. By means of our common sense, we were sure that it was not that kind of people, because in open daylight in Dhaka city they would not venture to do their job. So I went to the door and the moment I opened it, his mother and maternal uncle entered the apartment like a storm. They tried to enter the room in which the couples were dating. But the door was closed firmly from inside. So they started bumping at the door like mad and at the same time calling the boy by his name. "Shamim, Shamim, I am your mother. Just open the door otherwise I will enter forcibly." But no one in the room seemed to listen their yell and the door was closed as before. After a long time had passed away, finally the door opened. Followed by them, we entered the room too and saw Shamim sitting on the floor with his head downward and his face sullen but didn't see Deepa. His mother was somehow informed that her son must have been dating with a girl here. So at first not seeing her in the room, she searched for her and in a moment found out her hidden behind the door. She looked at her fixedly for some time. Then she, Shamim's mother, comes to him and holding tightly by the collar of his shirt, dragged him out of the room then the apartment followed by her younger brother. They didn't like him to make love with a girl who had had a sex scandal in her adolescent age. However, Deepa sobbed for a long time sitting on the floor and putting her face between her knees, in the room alone. Then one of our friends accompanied her to go to her residence.

Following year, I got admission at the University of Dhaka as for the first time I had failed to get admission at any varsity. After passing the HSC examination for the second time Deepa got admission in Eden girls' College. After my lessons had come to an end at the University of Dhaka, I would go to her college gate and await her in uncertainty. After six months, keeping myself wait at her college gate, one day, I happened to see her crossing the college gate covered from head to toe with a hijab only with her face barren. I noticed that she got chubbier. I shouted to her by name. She was more or less astonished at having seen me. "Hey, don't you have any work to do? What are you here standing about at the gate of a girls' college, crazy boy?" she said to me smiling. "I was waiting for you and also have been waiting for 6 months" was my brief answer. "I don't believe you, you are a liar. However, what you want from me or wish me to do?" She said quickly. "Just only for once, give me a chance to be seated beside you for a moment." I told her beseechingly. She said, "Oh, sorry, I can't do it today because I am in a hurry. But you can leave me your phone number, I will contact with you later, and I may go to your campus tomorrow or day after tomorrow. Okay, bye for now, see you later."

She kept her promise by coming to my campus and meeting with me. I was not satisfied fully because I desired to be perfectly alone with her. This was not possible because she came accompanied by a girl of her college. When she was parting off, I entreated her to give me phone calls later on, so that I could keep her in touch. Saying, "I will try to contact with you." She set off. But she hadn't called me ever until, after giving birth to two children, one of seven years of age and another 2 years of age, last time I met with her.

Two years after this, one day at noon, I was going by foot along the road by the arts faculty of our campus to the bus stand so as to go home. Just as I reached in front of the second gate of the arts faculty, I heard a vivid sound of a girl's giggling. At once, I recognized the giggling I had been familiar with. Her giggling was like the rising of the bubbles of the water into a pot getting heated with the fire. She was seated upon the staircase of the second gate with her senior friend who was busy making love with her boyfriend. Later, she told me that often she had gone outside with couples familiar with her as at that time her boyfriend had been about to break-up the affair, and she had felt very deserted. Instead of going to the bus stand, I went to Modhur canteen with her. We, sitting at a table of the Modhur canteen, took tea and had some words about prosaic matter. At that time I was very shy because my acquaintances peered to me, for they saw me for the first time alone with a girl. Well, after tea and some usual words she asked me to conduct her to the couple. The luck was in favor of me. Gone to the second gate of the arts faculty, we noticed that they had already left the place. Then we strolled only side by side, but not hand in hand through the campus for some time. Later, she told me that she had longed for to walk with hand in hand. She was hungry and me too, so that we went to a restaurant in Chankharpul adjacent campus boundary. We had our lunch there. Afterwards, she had to go back to her hotel. And I came back to my hostel in order to lend some money since my bus fare had been totally consumed due to lunch.

I didn't have a chance to meet with her until the time when her father died in a deadly road accident. The day was the second day of Ramadan EID. That very day at night I met a college friend while roving through a bazaar not very far from our village. He said to me that Deepa's father had a severe motorcycle accident, and he didn't even know if he was alive or not. As said before, Deepa's father was our college teacher in Bengali department. At these words, I phoned Deepa's younger brother in order to know how the physical condition of his father was. He told me that his father was no longer alive and would be buried in half an hour in the cemetery of their country village. Resolving in mind that I should go to attend his funeral, I asked him to tell me their exact country house address.

Well, after finishing up with him, I asked a village friend over the phone to set out to the market place the moment cut the phone call. After he had come, I told him about the horrid consequence of our teacher and now what I wished to do. Her country house was adjoining Ghatail cantonment area. In order to reach their house, we would have to go some way by bus to Ghatail bus stand and then some way by rickshaw to their house according to the direction of Deepa's younger brother. So we kept ourselves waiting for the bus that would go via Ghatail bus-stand. As the day was the second day of Ramadan EID, there were a few buses on the road, and every bus was Dhaka-bound. Since Ghatail bus stand was in the opposite direction of Dhaka from that place, so that we had to wait for a long time until when came a bus that would go via Ghatail though the bus was reserved for groom passengers of a nuptial ceremony. Well, we made the bus stopped with the signal of the hand and requested the conductor of the bus to let us get on the bus otherwise we would not be able to join the funeral in proper time. At these words, he allowed us easily since in our social conscience everyone is bound to help them who wish to attend a funeral.

Getting out of the bus in Ghatail bus stand, from which we would have to get on rickshaw in order to reach their home, we saw a few rickshaw standing at the junction between highway and subway. We rented a rickshaw with the fare three times more than other time because of the religious festival. The rickshaw puller knew the direction of their house because her paternal uncle was familiar with people around due to his leading position in local politics. After we had passed a long way along an uneven earthen path riding in a rickshaw, at last we arrived at their house. There was a marriage gate adorned charmingly in front of the house. That day was scheduled to be the day of Gaye Holud (pre-preparation of marriage ceremony in our society). She was not to get married to her lover named Shamim because this boy also under the pressure of his guardian had abandoned her because of the rumor of her sex scandal. She was going to get married to a boy nominated by her parents. However, that day at noon, her father was going to a market to buy some essential things for her Gaye Holud riding on a motorcycle driven by his niece. The motorcycle, along with them, collided with an express bus on the highway and was crushed by the massive wheels of the bus. As a consequence, they just died on the spot. After reaching their house, it seemed to me that festivity of marriage and mourning of death stood shoulder to shoulder, life and death coexisted in concert.

Some rural people with spotted face and dressed in ragged shirts and lungi were strolling in the backyard of the house. One of them came to us and said in a bucolic tone, "Who are you? And where have you come from?" we told him tenderly, "We are the students of the late man and Deepa's class-mates. We have come from a distant place to attend the funeral." The man said, "Oh, the funeral finished just only five minutes ago, you should have come before." I said, "Okay, then tell her that her two friends have come to attend the funeral and now wish to talk with her." The man entered the house and after a moment coming back to us, said, "She is having her meal for a whole day with others, and after that she will come to you." Just as the man pronounced his last sentence, I saw Deepa coming to us in a newly bought yellow colored Shari. She came to us from the middle of her dinner and we saw under the electric light the vestige of food stuck to her right hand. She said in a very low and shaky voice with her face downward about her father and the incident which caused her father's death. And also pleaded us to forgive him if he, when was alive, would have made some mistake and offended us by his any action or word. As she was speaking, I was totally mute with my head downward, but my companion tried to console her in her mourning with some solace words in a very sympathetic tone.

Her marriage ceremony was supposed to be held on the next day. But due to the death of his father, the scheduled date of her marriage lingered some days. After one week she got married with his supposed groom, who had a chartered account degree and was a job holder in a multinational company.

When she was pregnant for the first time, I collected her phone number from a college friend. On getting her phone number, I phoned her, "Hey, how are you? I haven't seen you for many days and I am dying to see you." She said with her accustomed giggling from other side of the phone, "you are a great liar, you saw me only some months ago when you went to my country house." I said, "I went there not to see you, but to attend your father's funeral." "No, I don't believe you, you must have gone there to see me." I didn't know whether she was right or not as to that matter. Thus I continued to talk to her over the phone until one day when she asked me not to phone her any more. At these words, I got put out and deleted her phone number from my phone number list. As a result, I have come apart from her for many days.

Just some days ago, I was chatting through Facebook messenger with a college friend recently connected who had been very bosom to me in my college days. Suddenly he asked me if I had any connection with Deepa or not. I typed, "No," and at this word, he asked me if I wished to make contact with her. I told him that how was it possible for I didn't have any option through which I can make any linkage with her. Then he sent me her Facebook account link. At once I sent her a friend request with a short message and my phone no. The next day she phoned me. In a few days, she told me almost all about her present and past life; her break-up with her lover, newborn-children, husband, sorrows, sickness, grieves, pleasures and a great deal of other things no need to mention here. And she attempted to claim that she also had fallen in love with me that appeared to me just absurd. As I had not offered her, so as a girl she hadn't been able to take any effort to make a love affair with me. It was my duty to tell her about my ardor formally. And she also said that it had been my fault that I couldn't convince her. She also blamed me for not having sent match-maker to her parents when they took exertion to give her in marriage to another boy. If I had offered love to her or sent match-maker to her parents, her life would not have been ruined like that. And after break-up with her boyfriend, she, as her words, had searched me fanatically, but hadn't succeeded in finding me as I hadn't had any association with any college friend. If she had found me, she would have got married me and lived happily with me ever after. This matter befallen me in a puzzle, how on the earth she felt attracted to me, who had been too headstrong to engage with me. And now she is lying about her feelings to me about college days to make me pleased. Firstly, I didn't understand what made her to be attracted to me. I mused as to the matter for a long time and finally came to a realization that she had watched my recently taken photograph in which she noticed almost no rusticity on my face. Because of living in Dhaka city for ten years, the rusticity on my face had been erased. And she is now chubbier than before and that has made her look more or less ugly, so now there is no one left to love her unlike past days. As she was used to in getting loved for a long time, so that now she want someone fervently to love her. And she thinks that it can be me. Maybe I am her last hope, so that she wants to hold me grimly with all her might.

On the contrary, with the course of time, ardor for her has been erased gradually from my mind and heart. Her image on my brain faded long ago even without letting me know. I feel her so fervidly no longer. In thoughts and lifestyle, there have been made a great disparity between us, though he thinks that I am almost the same as I was in college days. The images of her in my mind has been replaced by the images of another girl named Manika. I don't know what would become of my fervor to Manika in the upcoming days, if I am alive till these days.

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