That one got away easy, so did many others. And so did I. Bangladeshi police has little experience dealing with this kind of stuff. With the years it all looks coincidental probably…
Waving his fist at me like I’m some kind of scum. He got away easy, if it had been only a little darker and less crowded…or more crowded that worked too. It had before, some had not gotten away that easy…
I was safe here. Had been for over ten years. It seemed the perfect place. Major bus station. Tons of people coming in and out. Heavy industry. Bazaar. Rickshaws everywhere. Incognito as can be thank you very much. I’m only here because of their stupid laws. They deserved it. There was no reason not to. They had it coming. But no one would understand that, she should have but no one would now, so I better lay low…
Looking at me like I’m some kind of roach. Black people are always more snotty than the rest, well white people too, but they seem to realize they are more vulnerable here. Hum not all of them come to think of it. Well, they had learned soon enough.
I hadn’t always looked like this. A laughing stock to the world. Ugly. Dumb-looking. Broke. Smelly. Half blinded by the liquor. My bowels pouring blood every week Not always…
And his arrogant air, thinking he’s better than me. If only it had been a little less crowded…or more crowded that worked too. He got away easy. And so did I. Others were not that lucky. Others were. But I hadn’t always looked like this…
1984, and graduation day from Calcutta College. She was beautiful, beautiful as day. Beautiful as only nights in the subcontinent can be. She had bewitched me in no time. The little Bengali Indian boy I was had not been ready. No, not by far, but that will come later.
Beautiful as day, on what was so far the most beautiful day in my life. I was young and dashing then. I could have been a Bollywood actor had I wanted too, and her my Rani.
My family was not well off by any means but they had saved enough for me to go to school. My father had always been hard on me, taught me to never take anything from anybody and always fight for my due. He beat me half dead a couple of times. He regretted it once when I almost killed my neighbor Ranjum when I turned nine. It had been his own fault though; he had tried to steal my bike. I was made to apologize but I felt that at least I had made my own life, and it felt good.
As the oldest of eight, and by far the most promising they decided to put me trough college with the hope I could reach the United States and make the family proud. Well they had aimed right, almost…
The first year of school was hard, fast paced, intensive classes. But I had loved learning then. I quickly showed signs of extraordinary achievement. That was probably what had attracted her to me. She saw something. Krishna. Odd thing her family had named her after the higher most God in the Indian pantheon, and I was one generation removed from the lowest cast.
Krishna. So beautiful she’d been, beautiful as our sub continental nights, songs on the wind…but it had been her fault really she should have listened.
She had approached me early that year, at the beginning of my final year. She was part of a study abroad program from America. She wanted to work with NGOs and her College apparently agreed to have her spend a year and a half in India as part of her major. She must have seen something, but she should have listened.
I didn’t know what to do at first. I was shy. My parents were conservative, they frowned upon me dating girls, and probably thought they would tie me down to West Bengal and stifle her plans for me. It was too late for me now, and it was too late for them...
I was shy, but she wasn’t. She kept coming to me, engaging me in conversation, debating my opinions, challenging my thoughts and inhibitions, challenging my shyness, and boyishness. Krishna, a sub continental night, and eventually a storm, and a fire. She took my boyhood away, and tossed me into manhood. Consumed me ‘til the boy was no more. But I wasn’t ready. And she hadn’t listened. If only she had listened…
I was enthralled, reciting Tagore to her at night, calling her, loving her. My grades only improved with her guidance, and I obtained a scholarship and a visa for the United States. We promised to stay together, and graduation day was the most beautiful in my life.
A few days later we headed out to my family’s house. I had not told them about my plans and was expecting to surprise them. It had been their fault really, why did they try to ruin my life?
The surprise was mine. My mother had been sick for a year. Cancer. They had not told me for fear of impeding my success. And now they wanted me to stay in India. They treated Krishna horribly, showing no affection, no support, only cold shoulders and outright wickedness. My heart went out to her. She kept asking me what we would do, how things could change. So I took matters in my own hands.
It had been their fault really, and she should have listened. She of all people should have understood.
I covered the house in oil one night. Krishna didn’t know, but I wanted to surprise her, end our problems. Why hadn’t she understood?
We stood in front of the house, and as I recited my latest poem to her, I threw a match on the porch.
The house burst in flames. She didn’t move. She didn’t show any reaction but outright shock. I assumed she was awed. Happy to see our solutions materialize before her eyes. But soon my brothers and sisters’ screams shook her out of her torpor. She tried to run towards the flames.
I could distinguish every individual voice. My brother Ahmed crying. Ritu yelling for our mother. Our mother was half knocked out from the medication and would most likely never wake. I heard my father calling for me:
“Azim! Azim! asho!”
The house kept burning but I wouldn’t let her run. She started sobbing.
“Probably joy.” I thought.
When the shape of my youngest sister emerged through the door, covered in flames and collapsed on what was left of the porch, Krishna fainted. I was at a loss, could she possibly be that happy?
I spent the best of an hour attempting to wake her up. Her initial reaction was confusion as I expected.
“It’s over, I whispered, they will never stand in our way again.”
This time there was no mistaking the look on her face. The horror of realization. How could she not understand? I did this for her after all, it was my family anyway, and it had been their fault. I tried to console her at first, soothing words, reading my poem over again.
But as she kept coiling back, her lips moving silently a raw panic seized me: What if I had been wrong about her?
I started towards her.
“ Krishna, Krishna, listen to me…”
But the closer I got the more panic I felt, and the cold realization that I had been wrong about her. I grabbed her neck in a sudden movement, squeezing, hard and tight. She kept staring, that unbearable look of utter disbelief and god fearing horror in her green eyes. She went limp, and her emerald pupils rolled back in her head. She should have listened, should have understood. It was all her fault.
I fled Calcutta in the night. Further down the road I saw a rickshaw walla parking his rickshaw by a small dokan I knew to sell liquor. I followed him in, pushed the door behind me, and asked the dokanwalla for a knife, supposedly to fix my shoe. He shouldn’t have given it to me, it was his fault as well. I slit the rickshaw walla’s throat in one slash and threw the knife through the shop keeper’s chest. I took as many bottles of liquor as I could carry, changed my clothes with the rickshaw pullers’ and fled on the rickshaw.
Years of hiding followed. I had to be careful. I fled the country to the north so as to not leave an easy trail and knew I was off the hook when I crossed the border just south of Dinajpur in Bangladesh. For years I hid in a small cave on the outskirts of the city. By then I had been drinking everyday, crying myself to sleep over my sub continental night turned nightmare. Why had she been so stupid? She should have listened, should have understood.
I would only leave in the dead of night to steal food and alcohol, and glue that I grew quite fond of. I was scared of the Bangladeshi police, still unaware of their incompetence. It helped me in the end, otherwise I would not be telling my story now.
This went on for two years, my looks faded, my mind grew idle, my body weak and twisted. Two years, two years until… until my next victim.
I had only planned on robbing her. She was one of those bideshis, stumbling drunk at night. When I approached her she screamed. She shouldn’t have, again her fault. Why did they keep putting me in this position? I didn’t want to kill her, but she made me. I left her on the side of the road and took her bag. No money! Only stupid English teaching books, well her students would miss her by her own fault. But that sealed my stay in Dinajpur.
I rickshawed my way across the country. Oh I must have killed a hundred or more people along the way. The stupor has affected my memory so I can’t tell exactly but it sounds about right. Of course the Bangladeshi police had never put things together, and I was getting better at hiding the remains. Some had got away easy, others not. This went on for ten years until I found Shavar.
The filth, stench, pollution and promiscuity of the place screamed at me: HOME! Yes this would be home. Shavar, major bus station. Tons of people coming in and out. Heavy industry. Bazaar. Rickshaws everywhere. Incognito as can be thank you very much, and it had all been her fault.
I was a long, long way from the young, dashing Bollywood actor. She should have listened, should have understood. Krishna, beautiful as day, beautiful as a sub continental night.
It hadn’t been my day either. I hadn’t had glue in a few days and was feeling dizzy with withdrawal. The alcohol wasn’t helping as I thought it would. I had passed out on my back while fixing my rickshaw’s tire earlier on. I could still feel the stain on my back. It was still the same rickshaw. It had brought me luck. I had kept it.
There he went again. This time holding hands with a local girl. Does he have any respect?! If only the street had been darker and less crowded…or more crowded that worked too.
As always thinking of Krishna had fired my mood and I started drinking large amounts of alcohol from my bottle. Night was falling. I could hear the mounting noise of the angry hartal mob behind me. If only it had been dark earlier… I was about to leave, knowing full well what they would do if they caught me when…
A young panicked bideshi girl had jumped on my rickshaw. Hum pretty one too.
“Taratari! Taratari! Panch sho taka! Panch sho!”
Waving her bill at me as if I wasn’t going to get what I wanted from her no matter what. I flashed her my best smile. She looked uneasy. Stupid Bideshi. That smile had won Krishna. She must think herself better than her, they always did. Well I was in the mood, and it had been a bad day. She shouldn’t have got on my rickshaw on a bad day. It was her fault.
She turned around to shake her fist at the mob, I swung with my sling right at her forehead as she turned around, and she went limp. I pulled the rickshaw over by the lake near the leather-refining factory. I hadn’t done this in a long time, but it had been a bad day and she had chosen my rickshaw. Stupid bideshi, she should have known better.
I think she woke up as I dragged her under, crying maybe. They always cry. Bring it on themselves and then they cry. Well it was too late for regrets, and the water was just cool enough…
I felt hungry as always after the adrenaline rush. Maybe a quick bite at the New Star. Classy place the New Star. Good food. I rode back into Shavar. Drinking more. No effect. Where was my glue!? I must have left it by the…The rickshaw coming to a halt was so sudden that I was projected right in front of the incoming traffic. I had not seen the other rickshaw. My eyesight was getting worse. I hadn’t always been like this.
I tried to get up fast before the bus closed in on me. But as I got up my foot tripped over something and I was flat on my face again.
I turned just in time to see the bus inches from my face… and a small pineapple caught between my feet.