It was a mid-Baishakhi noon and the sun was burning overhead. Rahmat was waiting at the Malibag bus stand for catching a Motijheel-bound bus. Buses were not scarce, but all were awfully crowded. Rahmat had made several attempts to push through but failed to get into any one. In the last attempt he gave space to two girls who were behind him. The girls seemed to be students. He felt the pressure of their body on his back and sideways and made them space to go ahead. Rahmat was enamoured having a glance at the face of one of them, and perhaps that was the reason that he was distracted for some moments. He thought, why should the girls struggle to get into this crowded public transport? They must be poor like him. Scarcely had this thought crossed his mind when the bus moved fast away, and Rahmat was thrown off the gate. His knee was badly hurt. He had a narrow escape from a fatal accident. His legs might have gone under the wheels, he thought.
Rahmat took a deep breath. With the breath a lot of dust entered into his nostrils because he was standing in the cloud of dust which is very common in Dhaka city. Amidst all these discomforts, however, the beauty of the two girls still lingered in his mind, and it gave him a pleasant feeling. One of the girls had a fantastic similarity with Ruba- the girl whom Rahmat loved, whom he still loves and carries in his heart everywhere, but he was a defeated soldier to win her. The moment Rahmat was visualizing Ruba’s hair style, her rosy cheeks, her smiles, the next bus approached. Ruba’s thought gave Rahmat a lion’s strength, and he succeeded in the fight to board the bus. But inside the bus his condition was just like a fowl packed with other fowls in an airless bamboo case.
Rahmat wanted the bus to run faster so that he could reach Motijheel in time. But after a few minutes the bus got stuck in a seemingly never ending jam - five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes.... With a great difficulty Rahmat came out of the bus and began to walk along the footpath. He could not walk fast because there were loose slabs, and dirts were scattered here and there. He could have treaded dog screta had he not given a jump over it. From the back he was scarcely hit by a motor cycle pushing through. He was shuddered to see some skeleton-like human figures with sores all over and the flies being active on them. Stinks from an open dustbin were shooting into his brain through his nostrils.
While walking with such a discomfort, all on a sudden Rahmat felt someone’s leg onto his feet.
“Sorry” said Rahmat with his usual polite tone. A man came overtaking him and said,
“My leg kicks yours but you said sorry. Nobody says like this.”
“Brother, you’re very polite and gentle. Where do you stay?”
“In a mess at Malibag Chowdhurypara, not far from here. ”
“Where are you going?”
“I’ll go to Motijheel. Can you tell me the short-cut route to reach there.”
“Stop here, rascal! Do you know me? Have you heard my name? It’s killer Keru. Last month I completed my century murder. Now I’ll cut off the leg that touched mine.” No sooner had he finished his words, three young men appeared there. They seemed to have weapons with them.
One of them said, “Hey rascal, we’re looking for you for several months.”
Rahamat was terribly frightened but gathered strength and said, “You’re wrong. My name is Rahmat. Recently I had completed my Masters degree from Khulna University from the Dept of Economics. My village home is at Jhenaidah. My father is a farmer whose name is Sharafat Ali. I’m not the man you are looking for, sure. I’m not guilty for anything.”
“Hey, rascal, why didn’t you marry that girl? What did you do with her?”
“With whom?” Now Rahmat was confused. His blood ran cold. Now Rahmat thinks, is he really the man searched for? Has Ruba any role in this act?
Rahmat saw some men passing by. But they did not notice what was going on here. He also saw some rickshaws and cars at a short distance.
“Answer correctly, or you will be cut into pieces, and don’t make any sound, you bloody bastard!”
“I’ve simply kissed her. She kissed me first, and it was she who caught my hand first. I simply kissed her cheek, nothing else happened. It was she who first proposed me. It was she for whom the break up caused. Our relationship was fine and I’m not to be blamed for a break up.”
“Right. Ha, ha, ha! Don’t fear. Have you any money? Don’t lie. Whatever you have, take out. Take out, what you have. Quick, quick, If you hide, you will be sent to hell.”
By now Rahmat felt a bit relaxed and he almost became sure that it was a snatching case. Rahmat handed over his money bag, mobile phone and also a 500 taka note which he kept in a secret pocket.”
“No more money? If we find more, you will be shot, rascal!”
“Allahar Kasam (I swear upon God), I’ve nothing more. You see, I’m an unemployed youth. I’m going to Motijheel for a job interview?"
They returned the money bag with the ten-taka notes it had, and the mobile set and took only the 500 taka note.
“Now, walk straight ahead along this route. Don’t look back, left or right. And don’t narrate this story to anyone. If you do, your eyes will be gouged out with this peg.”
“Ok, why should I tell this to others? Ok, ok”
Rahmat did what he was instructed. He was full of contempt about life. He muttered in anguish:
“Ah God! what evil has befallen me. What a peculiar city is Dhaka! Why did I come to Dhaka for searching a job, and what a hell is it? What sort of torturing the criminals did upon me? There were people all around, no one came to save me in this broad daylight. Ah God, how long, how long to carry this unemployed existence! Nobody gives me a job. Ruba waited for me, she had no fault, but she couldn’t come out of the clutch of her family, she yielded to her family decision. She married a moneyed man, perhaps, I’m not sure. I don’t want to know. I don’t want to know anything about her. She is gone for ever but why do I feel that she belongs to me and I belong to her. What charisma did she possess that I can’t throw her off my body and mind?”
Rahmat stood and wanted to trace the route he was walking through. Before he asked anyone he amazingly looked at the mega buildings, fashionable market, luxurious jeeps and fashionable ladies. His existence seemed to be so ignoble and unwanted. But the next moment Ruba’s memory made him feel heroic. Rahmat felt that he must succeed in life and make Ruba realize that he could have been a better husband for her. That day Rahmat perhaps could reach Motijheel and faced the job interview, but he didn’t do so. He loved to dream to be a moneyed man. Standing in the footpath he began to read some “how to” books from the stalls- books like ‘how to be successful in life’, ‘how to become a billionaire.’ etc. He read bits from a book titled Life of Bill Gates. By fifty taka he bought a book he liked most.
Within a few days Rahmat got a job in an IT farm but he soon realized that chakri (job) means slavery. Once his boss rebuked him severely for not carrying out his order. The next day he resigned from the job. He felt that he had better pull rickshaw than search a job. He thought and thought and discovered his passion. It was his passion for computer and IT though he was a student of Economics. One day he convinced his two best friends to invest a little money for starting an IT farm. They agreed. Initially the farm was virtual, later they took an office. Three years later his two friends sold their share and migrated to Canada. Now Rahmat became the sole proprietor. He is the Managing Director of Rumat IT. Except Rahmat nobody knows the secret of his farm’s naming. It is Ruba’s ‘Ru’ and ‘Rahmat’s ‘mat’. Rahmat rode the ladder of success. Many a time he had felt to get some update about Ruba but he didn’t do so.
Rahmat spent quite a big amount of money in his marriage. Within a few more years, more fulfillment came. He was blessed with a daughter. He made a very happy family. His wife proved the best life-partner for him.
Oneday some employees were going to be recruited for his office in the position of computer operators. Nearly one hundred applicants appeared for the interview. The selection board consisted of Rahmat in the chair, Mr Kader, the office manger and the IT expert Mr Kabir. The interview was going on smoothly.
A lady entered the room. Rahmat’s eyes stared at her. He could see a pathetic figure, a face much uncared for, signs of poverty all over. He reflected a moment, “Why should Ruba come for the job of a computer operator at this stage of her life? She was married to a wealthy man I heard. What happened.?”
Mr Kader asked: “You’re a lady. Our office work starts at 12 and continues till 9 pm. Will you be able to maintain this?”
“Yes, sir. If you give me the job, I’ll be able to maintain it.”
Rahmat had not heard this sweetest voice for so many years. He wanted to ask something but his voice was stuck in his throat. The lady now looked at Rahmat’s face. She sprang up and left the room without uttering any word. The office manager and the IT expert couldn’t understand what happened to the lady. They could also notice something unusual in their MD’s face. The lady was gone. The office peon rushed to the room, “Sir a lady was seriously hurt falling down the stair. Perhaps she was running down the stair.” Ruba lost her sense there, and her eyes closed for ever.
Sitting on the chair in his Motijheel office Rahman often reflected on his terrific day of a Baishakhi noon when he was supposed to reach Motijheel for a job interview, and his victory over his lost love, lost forever.