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A Wild Flower
(Aranya Kusum by Selina Hossain)
Translated by Haimanti Dorai

A change ensued in the girl as soon as she reached Dhaka.

She would not identify herself to anybody. When asked, she responded by giving her mother's name instead. She was convinced that she could hide from every man's unwanted attention this way. She could not fathom how she developed such beliefs. Perhaps she was not educated enough to articulate her thoughts and feelings. Like the feelings you get when, dozing during a long bus ride, a traveler sitting next to you secretly touches your breast under the cover of the saree. The fact that she can use her body to get what she wants was very comforting and brought a certain satisfaction to her. She was confident that she would be able to get a place of her own in Dhaka. However, she could not explain the basis on which she made such a determination.

Alighting from the bus at Gabtali bus-station, the girl was very hungry. She hadn't eaten anything in a long time, one and a half days to be exact. How much water can one drink to curb one's appetite! She had a hundred rupee note tucked in the waistband of her petticoat. One yank of the petticoat string and the note will tumble out—she was afraid of losing the note, less so of her body. She had come to the city with the understanding that money had value, but her body didn't. The girl looked at the men around her. Deep inside, she was absolutely disgusted with all of them. They looked oily, sticky with foul body odors and altogether ugly. She closed her eyes in repulsion.

The bus had arrived earlier in the evening.

Always a Debtor Be
(Rhinang-Krittwa by Shibram Chakraborty)
Translated by Ranjan Mukherjee

I could understand if it were a question of true debt, but it was not, really. Only, the rent was due. Not a whole lot, just 500 rupees. And for this paltry amount the landlord appeared seething in anger and with a stern visage warned, "I have given you enough time, I don’t want to hear any more excuses…."

"Just think about it," I pleaded. "You are making a big fuss over this tiny amount! But, a few decades later, after I die, that is, people will point to this house and whisper, ‘See that house. Once upon a time, the famous writer Mr. So and So used to live here."

"Used to live here! Aha! Big deal! What good will that do for me today," my landlord exploded in sarcasm. "Now listen mister, I am telling you in no uncertain terms; if I don't get the full amount today by midnight, people will be saying, not a decade later, but tomorrow, that the famous writer used to live here. Got it?"

The landlord appeared, harangued and disappeared. But where would I get so much money in just half a day? For fear of having to lend to a penurious writer, few people have deigned to make my acquaintance. Writer means a debtor and I fit that description more than any other writer, everybody knew that.

Should I go to Harshabardhan for help? Five hundred rupees is just a trivial amount for the Harshavardhan family. I have written a lot on them and earned a fair amount. Why don't I ask for their help, maybe their benevolence would get me out of my predicament?

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