Excerpts from The Book of Dhaka | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 08, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:03 AM, July 08, 2017

Excerpts from The Book of Dhaka

“There is no sound inside the bus now. The thumping in the passengers' chests gets louder in the quiet and the sound throbs inside his head. Beneath the rimmed cap, the sounds rub against each other to ignite a fire whose flames emerge from his eyes. But the banging inside his head and chest comes back under control as he shifts in his seat and, ignoring all that, looks directly at the military man's face.

The man's eyes narrow and the pupils of those narrowed eyes pierce his face like darts. He, too, calms his blunt but heated gaze and casts it lightly over the military man's sharp nose and needle-like eyes, the reddish skin around and under those eyes, that nose and that moustache. It works. The military man's pointed gaze moves away from his face, falls to his raincoat. It seems as if the man is counting the drops of water on the raincoat. Do the drops seem a little reddish from the heat inside him? They came to kill people in the land of water, so what is it in these water drops that has stunned the military man so? Does he see signs of blood in them? The man abruptly finishes counting the drops and says, 'Move on.'“

The Raincoat

by Akhteruzzaman Elias

(Translated by Pushpita Alam)

It was now a quarter past ten. After leaving the actress's house, Bindubala gave Shathi Madam a 'missed call.' It would be 11 by the time she got there, first by rickshaw, then on foot to the bus stop to get a bus. Madam was not calling back. Perhaps she had already gone in to bathe. There was no use rushing all that way now. She would only waste her fare. Bindu waved her hand to stop a bus to Gulistan and got on. Where would she go now—should she go to Paltan? But could she expect to do an 8 o'clock assignment at 11? Still, she clutched her ticket to Paltan tightly and settled regally into a double seat. But the pleasure did not last. Was her body a honey-trap? With so many empty seats, why did the thug have to sidle up to her? What could she say, he had paid for his own ticket, after all. Bindu moved away till she almost melded into the metal frame of the bus. But the man was adamant. 'Do you want a job? Good salary. Ten thousand cash per month. Other perks too…' He whispered at first, but gradually his voice rose. Why don't you do it yourself? You wouldn't have to ride this ramshackle bus if you earned ten thousand a month. Bindu's thoughts remained in her head. She didn't say a word. Instead, she got off the bus before reaching her destination for fear of creating a scene.


by Shaheen Akhtar

(Translated by Arifa Ghani Rahman)

There was so much magic in the world! The moment the thought occurred to Helal, his rickshaw began lurching from side to side. It seemed on the verge of taking off in the fierce wind, complete with its star- and moon-studded hood. The young rickshaw-wallah stretched his arms out in sheer delight. A few seconds more and they would have lift-off. Helal laughed in delight. Slapping the rickshaw's torn red seat, he called out: 'Faster, boss, faster!' And in the excitement, he swore he could see a strange light emanating from the rickshaw-wallah's steely body. Helal was mesmerised. What energy the boy has! What effortless pedalling, it's like he could haul a green whale out of the sea. To Helal, it felt like a revolution—a revolution of green labour. The businessman looked down, smiling. There were five rose buds in his right hand; a little out of place, perhaps, in his large, rough fingers. The number pleased him though—not seven, not ten, but five. Five was what he needed. Thrusting the five red buds into Reshma's hand, he would say: 'This is my patience, this is my courage, this is my strength, this is my promise.' Then, holding out the biggest one: 'And this one is my love.' The thought of the word made his heart hum; imagining the smell of fresh grass, he began to melt. How easily he strolled around the steps of the Parliament House, holding this woman's hand. From the steps to the terrace and back again. His feet no longer touched the ground; it was as if he were flying.

Helal Was on His Way to Meet Reshma

by Anwara Syed Haq

(Translated by Marzia Rahman)

Someone on the back of the truck suddenly blew into the microphone. He was not merely checking it, there was anger in his breath as it hit the crowd's ears. Then a new voice could be heard speaking into it: fast, nervous, untrained. This new voice was barely decipherable. The little they could gather from the announcement was as follows: three men, including two political figures, had been killed, and seventeen injured, nine critically, following an armed encounter between non-violent labourers and government party goons at the Adamjee jute mills, two hours earlier. Now a different person took the microphone. His voice was strong and incisive, much better

suited to the job. His fierce, pointed words moved from one subject to the next, calling on all fellow comrades to join the fight. Suddenly Modhu could no longer see what was happening on the other side of the shaded, almost dark road. Protester after protester, head after head blocked his view. The heads became so many they no longer seemed to be connected to necks and shoulders. An impossible number of heads without shoulders or necks rolled into view, in his mind, and began tormenting him. He was thrown into darkness as the heads piled up and started to form a wall so thick that no light passed through it. The darkness in his mind began to hurt. On 7th August, when he had lifted Swapan's lifeless body from a footpath near Doyel Square, he had not felt anything except that darkness. Now, this feverish wall of disembodied heads was compelling him to thrust his own head against it with all his strength. But how could he budge this wall on his own?

The Widening Gyre

by Wasi Ahmed (Translated by Ahmed Ahsanuzzaman)

Standing on the pavement near the Shankar bus stand at the peak of the morning rush hour, Ahmad Patwary was lost in a deep philosophical contemplation. The street in front of him was spilling over with traffic and pedestrians. As each bus screeched to a halt, people waiting impatiently made a beeline for it, jostling for even a 'standing room only' space. The noise and babble were deafening—buses honked, people shouted and cursed, street vendors clamored and howled, the lone traffic policeman blew his whistle at the top of his lungs. Ahmad, because his left leg was a bit shorter than the right one, or the right leg a bit longer… all the same, anyway—couldn't even reach the footboard of a bus before it departed, no matter how hard he tried. It was not a new experience for him though, because every morning, for nearly an hour, he had to go through the same ordeal, which took a toll on his energy and patience.


The Living Dead

by Syed Manzoorul Islam

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