Sunday, 10 May 2020

Aftab Yusuf Shaikh, Prose 500, 2020, Longlist

MAITRI, MOTHER AND THE FRENCH LANGUAGE


Father advised me to go for shorthand training. According to him that would keep me engaged at least for a few hours. And he wasn’t wrong.

    ‘But what is the use of learning it?’ I asked.

    ‘You want to be a writer, right?’ He asked. And it gladdened me that my father was interested in what I want to become.

    ‘Yes. But what has that got to do with typing?’ The foolish me had really no idea.

    ‘You have to type your manuscript when you intend to send it to a publisher. You cannot send them handwritten work. And if you do send, those poor people will definitely go mad deciphering your army of ants.’

    So, eventually, I joined a typing class. I was amused by the dance of my fingers along with the keys and there were many sweet faces for the soothing of my eyes.

    From among those half a dozen girls, one, as usual, became quite special for me. Her oval face, straight nose, dusky complexion and ahem…rosy lips, enchanted me. But I did not give her more than a couple of looks. I do this with every girl I like. I think they feel proud when you look at them.

I ignored her for one fortnight. It was a kind of funny, both of us would pretend to ignore each other though we kept looking sideways at each other.

    I had started experiencing all those things which are shown relative to love in Hindi movies. On seeing her, my throat went dry, my palms got flooded with sweat, my lips shivered at room temperature. I was quite sure it was my first love. 

    That Monday, in the fourth week, we talked. What a shiver it was which I felt when she said those sweet words. ‘Lend me a page.’

    I kept tossing in my bed that night, recollecting the same words as if they were the commencement of a historical love saga.

    The next morning when I woke up, my mother got me in a big confusion.

    ‘Son, how are you liking the class? 

    ‘Yes, Ma, why?’

    ‘Just asking.’

    ‘I do. The place is amazing. Time smoothly passes when I am there. I am thankful father gave this idea.’

    ‘Who is this Maitri?’ mother asked, hiding her intense curiosity.

    ‘Maitri? Who? I don’t know, Ma.’ I blabbered. 

    ‘Well, son, Maitri is the name you kept repeating the whole night.’

    ‘Was I?’

    ‘Uhmm..yes.’

    ‘Really!’ And in that very moment I made up an excuse. ‘Oh Ma! You know I am learning French. Maitri is the French word for mother. I know you will not believe. I love you so much and Maitri is the first word in French I memorized.’

    ‘Oh my dear son,’ she smiled and grabbed me in a tight hug. The expression on her face was mysterious.

    This way, that day, maybe, I fooled my mother, who didn’t know a single word of French.

    French, that mysterious language. French, the national language of Bangladesh.

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