The Book of Dhaka will be one of the most highlighted translations of Bangla fiction at the DLF 2016. Published jointly by Bengal Lights Books and Coma Press, UK, it has stories of Syed Manzoorul Islam, Wasi Ahmed, Anwara Syed Haq, Parvez Hossain and Shaheen Akhtar, among others. Here we carry excerpts from the first story
It’s been raining since dawn. Ah, the pitter-patter drizzling of the rain! God willing, it will go on for three days, since it’s Seven for Saturn and three for Mars, and day to day for the rest. That’s the general statement. There are specific classifications as well. For example: If it starts at dawn on Tuesday, for three days the clouds will stay. Or: If it rains on Wednesday morn, by afternoon the clouds are gone. Thursday, Friday, none have been left out—but just now, he’s forgotten. Whatever he does remember is enough to keep him curled up under the covers, catching a few more winks. At least there’ll be none of that rat-a-tat-tat for three days—surely the guns and ammo will rest a bit during the rain? Just a few days of worry-free relaxation.
But does that actually happen? One wonders… On this very excellent rainy morning, the loud banging on the door tears asunder late autumn’s wintry curtain. Ruins everything. Military! Military in his house! Oh God! Allahumma… anta subhanaka inni kuntu minazzhalimin. Reciting the prayer, Nurul Huda goes towards the door. He’s memorised so many prayers over these last few months, the five kalmas1 ready on his lips every time he leaves the house—who knows when or where the military will show up—still, something always goes wrong: the prayer seems correct, but he’s forgotten to put on his cap.
As soon as he opens the door—unfastening two latches and the deadbolt, and lifting the wooden bar—the principal’s assistant, Ishaq, walks in, accompanied by a blast of wind and rain. Praise Allah! Not military! He wants to grab the man and kiss him! But Ishaq, in his thin voice, says gravely, ‘Sir sends his salams.’ Then he sucks the soft breath of his words into the stubble on his hollow cheeks and lets out a command: ‘You’ve been summoned. You must go now!’
‘There’s no time to discuss details—someone set off an explosion next to the college wall last night.’
‘Some miscreants destroyed the electric transformer. Then, on their way out, they threw a grenade at the principal’s house, destroyed the gate.’
What a terrifying situation! The transformer is next to the front wall of the college. Beyond the wall, there is a garden, then a tennis lawn. The college building comes after. Past that huge structure are the football and cricket fields. Beyond the fields, to the left, is the principal’s residence. The military camp lies alongside—the college gym is now the camp. Setting off a bomb at the principal’s gate is like attacking the military camp. How did they get so far in, after setting off an explosion at the front wall, he wants to know. ‘How?’
(translated by QP Alam)