‘I was quite sure that you would never come back’- as she speaks to me, she ensures that her eyes are closed enough not to look into mine. And unfortunately she now looks so different from me that no one would believe it if I claim that she was my one and only doppelganger, at least in this country. ‘Where have you been all these years?’-her voice still vibrates in the same old manner.
One night, after one hundred and fifty long years of traveling across the world, I suddenly started hating my ageless, deathless life. So I applied to the mother of goddesses for a kind death. She instantly rejected, but as I began to cry as loudly as possible, she then, out of disgust and sympathy, prescribed me a way out. ‘The only possible solution is to exchange your life with any of your mortal look-alikes’- the Mother-goddess smiled away. My search began the very next morning. But it took sixteen years, nine months and twenty eight days to find the woman I was desperately looking for.
I found her at a rural station. The dawn-to-dusk rain had already spoiled her day. She, in her saddest possible mood, was begging for food from the canteen manager. At first my decision was to wait until she finished her meal. But I was too tired to wait for my death! Without any preface, I approached, begged her life and offered mine in exchange. She, to my utter surprise, burst into tears. ‘My mother used to curse you every morning and wanted you to die so frequently that I thought you are dead already’- she remained silent for a while and added-‘If she knew that you look just like me, she would kill me a good number of times, in the mornings to be particular.’ I was really happy to know that my death was so very desired and took it for granted that at last I was going to die. What she said next were the cruelest words I had ever heard. ‘I want to be my mother’s daughter once again and I would like to curse you. Live forever and suffer!’
Her father had fallen off a running train and her 7-year-old brother had been brutally raped to death in a deserted rail car. She claimed that she deserved the death as a gift from the mother-goddess far more than me.
‘Both of us are still alive’- her seventy two years old voice sounds very curious as she repeats the question –‘where have you been all these years?’ She doesn’t wait for a reply. ‘I have been waiting for you since that evening. I want to say ‘sorry’ and ‘yes’ to you. You met me on the wrong day. I was still lamenting my mother’s death. At that time, death and mother were the only things meaningful to my life.’ She sounds repentant.
-‘Let’s do the exchange now.’
-‘I wish I could. But you no more look like me.’
My only reply killed her on the spot.
In England, I was born in the fourth year of the nineteenth century.
She died in the seventeenth year of the twenty first century, in Bangladesh.
About the Author
Abdullah Al Muktadir is a Bangaldeshi poet and fiction writer. He has been working as a lecturer at Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University, Trishal, Mymensingh. Muktadir studied English Literature at the University of Dhaka, and was an active a member of Brine Pickles, a group of Bangladeshi creative writers in English. In February 2016, his first book, a collection of Bangla poems titled Anya Ganger Gaan, Samudrasaman, was published from Dhaka. Muktadir considers himself an antiquarian and his favourite pastime is looking back into the past in every possible way. He is currently working on his first novel, Goddess of Amnesia, which is being published fortnightly in a literary magazine. His E-mail : [email protected]