The world behind the mask
(Continuation from previous week)
She was right. "It'll only scare us all", I thought to myself and at the same time, I wondered how she could collect so much information about the neighbour in a day!
Aniruddha Shaha, Archana's father, a Deputy Director at Bangladesh Bank, was a reserved, taciturn person with a pleasantly cool temperament. Friday was the only day he used to spend some time in the afternoon out in the yard with his daughter, silently nodding to all her demands. Couple of days later, on a breezy Monday evening, having found him alone, I had approached him to enquire after his daughter's health.
"How is Archana?" I asked, wanting to start a conversation with him and learn more about Archana.
"She is fine! Absolutely fine! Mr Mahfuj, don't worry!" he readily replied, looking directly into my eyes, saying nothing more, confident, and unruffled by any worries.
But I did not see Mr Shaha the whole day that Friday when Archana and Maheera were playing in the yard. The two girls were still playing, the paper plane stuck in the 12 feet high mango tree in the corner, and the boat already crushed. The three kids were shaking the tree to bring it down. My eyes glided towards Mr Khalil continuously talking for the last half an hour with the Durwan.
Mr Khalil, the owner of the building, a dumb-headed bootlicker of a politician having a lot of clout in the party, an arrogant personality, doubtful and hesitant, always blathered on about things none of his business, he claimed. He had become my neck-pain since the day I had shifted to that building. He came to the earth with a limitless power to talk nonstop, most of the time talking rubbish, spreading worries, giving people a heart attack.
Just two days before the US presidential election, he had come near me with a pale face, eyes fixed on the pages of a low-priced, rumor-spreading newspaper, reading something horrendous. It was all evident from his expressions. "Trump is a son of whore", he said angrily. His words pierced my ears and I resettled myself in chair, saying nothing.
"That son of a bitch is a woman hater, an Anti-Islamist!" he continued, foaming at the mouth, his eyes still pinned on the pages. His face went dry, parched like soil out of which one could not squeeze a single drop of water. He was worried about Egypt, Syria, the Palestine, Muslims, and Islam; he was showering all the non-Muslims throughout the whole world with impure blessings consisting of distasteful, offensive and unimaginably filthy language.
He would lose sleep over socialism, capitalism, economics, society, commodity prices hikes, over everything as if it was his sole duty to save the whole world, changing it into one only he himself dreamt of. He was worried- he was worried as much as possible. He claimed that he had utmost respect for woman, for human rights. I wondered if he respected women, then why Trump's mother was a 'whore', a 'bitch' to him. Was Trump's mother not a woman to him? He loved only the Muslims, only Islam. He thought everyone else to be his enemy and was so afraid as if people from other religions could kill him any time.
That evening, Mr Khalil had been talking to the Durwan for more than half an hour. He must have been injecting the Durwan with his ill-thought-out misinterpretations of national and international affairs. Mr Khalil always kept preaching horrible pieces of news to everyone he ran into by showing even right things upside down, twisting good pieces of news into sad ones, wrapping the news in a horrific shroud of unimaginable terror and fear, making it as terrible as possible and unnerving the bunch of people who, staring with unblinking eyes at him, listened to his hogwash.
(To be continued)
The writer completed MA (ELT), University of Dhaka