MONDAY: THE ONE WHERE ZARA ARRIVES AND SANIA LEAVES AGAIN
With his bag packed and ready for the trip, a feeling of accomplishment over-powering him, Emil sighed the sigh of the exhausted and had just about put his head down on his bed for a quick nap when his alarm blared out. He got up, dragged himself to the toilet only to realize that he had packed everything away, towel and toothbrush and toothpaste and all. He moved on to the refrigerator and found it empty as well.
He broke down into a mournful sobbing.
Then his alarm rang again, he woke up again, and realized he had fallen asleep about as soon as Inora had left and was not, in reality, packed at all. He sighed the sigh of the defeated, ‘Typical.’ he muttered, pressed snooze, and went back to sleep.
“Does he make many prophesies?” Emil had asked Inora the previous night.
“He breaks even.”
“Odd, very odd.”
“I meant the situation…the apocalypse…him knowing about the apocalypse…hmm…does he talk a lot about where he is from?” he had asked.
“Nana does not talk much about everything and talks very little about only a few things. But do not worry about him. He is a bit too old to be living alone. We have tried to change that, but he does not listen. But I am sure he is fine. I will drive out to his cottage tomorrow after work and check up on him. I am sure he is fine.”
Emil reflected on this, “I have work too.”
“And we get off work around the same time in the evening.”
“Get to the point, Emil. I am late already.”
“I want to come with you tomorrow.”
“To meet nana.”
“Don’t call him that! Only I get to call nana nana. Why do you want to meet nana?”
“I could do with a break. Been a long week.”
“Itis only Sunday.”
“I just feel like getting away.”
“This is not going to be one of our vacations, you do realize that? We are not going to go sight-seeing or hiking or drink from a coconut at a beach.”
“Just need to satisfy my wanderlust. You know you have a good time with me around.”
“At times, yes…” Inora thought for a while, “I won’t mind the company during the drive. Sure, you come. Have your bags packed, I’ll pick you up from here. And now I must go find someone else to take care of Marco.” Inora had hissed, as she left with Marco under her arm, who had hissed in turn at Inora for dragging him away from his drumstick.
That was the night before.
He finally started packing around seven in the morning and as the small hand of the clock neared 10, Emil was mostly done packing, and not just for the trip with Inora. Since he would be evacuating at the end of the week, he had gone ahead and packed everything. Including the curtains. The maid from the adjacent house was staring at him through the window. Emil waved at her. She nodded her head at him thoughtfully as she masterfully ripped apart a skinned chicken with her bare arms. “Are you moving to a new house?” she asked.
“Yes. At the end of the week.”
“I see you often through gaps in the curtains.”
She did not say anything more.
Emil looked around. The apartment looked empty. By that, he concluded that he had not messed up packing. First win of the day. Next task was to go to his office and retrieve his backup TeleDev. And say his final goodbye to everyone; he did not want to leave without that.
“My name is Rehana.” The maid said.
“Emil. That is my name.”
She was quiet again.
“Bye then. Time for office.”
“You are usually gone by this time. I have noticed.”
“Yes. I am running late today. Bye.” Emil waved.
At around 10:25 AM, he got out of his apartment, took the first rickshaw to Bashundhara gate, walked for a few minutes, and got on a second rickshaw from Kalachandpur. The roads were especially loud that day.[i] It had rained the night before and the road leading into Kalachandpur was submerged under a foot of suspiciously colored liquid that reminded you of the last gulp of sangria left in the jar, drinking which would involve at least as much chewing as drinking. Cats and dogs waited patiently on the sidewalks for the water to go down while the humans wadded through the water with their pants rolled up to the knees and lungis tied into loin-wear. Street-vendors stood on the pavements with their wares on their head. And of course, there was that one rickshaw-puller who just absolutely had to break into a song.
Emil’s rickshaw-puller was in no mood to sing. “Is this any state for the rajdhani to be in?” he complained.
“No, it is not.”
“Look at all this filth, and all the suffering around us. The gobment does not care about poor people.”
“No, it would appear not.”
“You tell me. You are educated. Does the gobment care about us? They tell me to put my money in a bank for future security. Arey! If I save for the future, how will I survive the present? They want me to starve to death so that they can take all the money that I save. Am I wrong? Tell me sir, am I wrong?”
“There is sense to what you say. Tell me, do you like fruits?”
“They come to me and tell me to not discriminate. They tell me that I must send my daughter to school too! Arey! I do not even have a daughter. What to do? I have a son. You tell me, what am I supposed to do? Who am I supposed to send to school if I do not have a daughter? Then they come and tell me son or daughter, both are equal, and one is enough. They tell me one child is enough! Arey, arey! But the second child is already on the way! They are the ones who asked me to send a daughter to their school. And when I try to make that happen, they say one child is enough! You tell me, sir, you are educated. What am I supposed to do? I do not understand all these arbitrary rules, sir. Who makes them?”
“Do you like putting fruits in your mouth?”
“Eh, fruits? I do not have money for fruits, do I? We are simple people, right? We are good god-fearing people and we do not want a lot,” he said, wadding through the water, pulling the rickshaw one foot at a time. “That is the real answer, right sir? You have to pray. If you pray truly and honestly, all your wishes will come true.”
“So how old is your daughter now? Has she ever had a banana?”
“My second son is three months old now. Only yesterday, three cadres came up to my house and scared my wife witless while I was working. We desperately need a daughter to send to school. I am afraid the gobment will harm us grievously if we do not. We can only pray, right sir? You are educated. You know how the world works. If I pray long enough, I am sure my next child will be a daughter and she will go to school and finally the gobment will leave me and my family alone.”
“But then you will have three young mouths to feed.”
“And no gobment to worry about. A very good compromise, I say.”
Emil got off the rickshaw at Gulshan-2, handed over a 100 taka note and asked the rickshaw-puller to keep the change, “Buy your son an orange…and may your next child be a feminine child.” He said and walked away. Since he was going to be evacuating soon, he had scant need to be careful with his pocket-changes. His only expenditure in the foreseeable future was one jumbo meal of a whole roasted chicken and gravy with gratuitous servings of mashed potatoes, garlic breads, and onion rings. And maybe even an extra serving of wings. He had not decided yet. And a side order of something tangy…perhaps a pickle. And a big bun to soak up all the grease.
[i] Years of painstakingly meandering and lethargic process of evolution had resulted in automobiles of big cities learning how to communicate with each other through loud, blaring bursts of sound, also known as horns and/or honks. A casual observer of a large gathering of automobiles, during a busy rush hour, for example, is sure to hear a myriad of calls of different pitch and tempo emanating from the ensemble. To a trained ear, these are more than mere noises; these are deterministic beings’ endeavors at self-expression. There are the short polite honks, which experts think is a simple word out, saying ’’ello! I am right behind you! Watch out!’ Few short honks in quick succession seem to say, ’I am behind you. So do kindly move aside and let me pass.’ Then there are those honks that are prolonged for just a bit longer, bringing forth a guttural noise, which seem to imply, ’I see what you are doing and I thoroughly disapprove.’ And finally, there are the longer, belligerent honking, that seem says, ’I have no idea how this honking business works but I believe if I do it long enough, and frequently enough, the road will clear out.’ There is consensus among experts that the last part is a bit of an evolutionary cul-de-sac that will be rectified in time.
A second school of thought proposes that the honks are unnatural to the automobiles and do not appear in their natural state. It is only when the automobiles are infected by the human parasite do they exhibit such behavior. It is further proposed that the duration of honks is inversely indicative of how long before the specific strain of the parasite goes extinct.
A third school of thought proposes that it is exactly the opposite.