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The Foreigner (standard:drama, 8102 words)
Author: Bobby ZamanAdded: Feb 04 2002Views/Reads: 2137/1265Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Mamun Karim, a student from Bangladesh, moves to the States to study and discovers the important ties of identity and roots.


by Bobby Zaman 

When Mamun Karin left Bangladesh to go study in Chicago, he took with
him, among other belongings, a solemn oath never to return again.  The 
sad state of affairs in his city, Dhaka, had taken a toll on him, even 
though he was but twenty-five at the time of his departure for the 
States.  But one didn't have to be much older than Mamun to see what 
was really going on.  Turmoil was the new sub-capital of Dhaka.  It 
came in all forms, political, social, economical, agricultural, 
horticultural, in every incarnation it reared its head out of the 
corners, gullies, and pavements of the city.  Education had slowly 
deteriorated into utter tomfoolery, a court-jester's vice, in spite of 
the fact that new schools were popping up all over the place on a 
weekly basis.  Frustrated housewives, exhausted from trying to keep a 
tally on their husbands' harem of mistresses, were the founders and 
principals of these new havens of wisdom.  The only problem was running 
a school in a city where politics called the shots, and those shots, 
more often than not, sank their authority into the city's bloodstream 
to incite negative outcomes, the most heinous of these outcomes being 
general strikes.  Strikes that lasted dawn to dusk, seventy-two hours, 
indefinitely.  Life stopped, books were shut, doors locked, idleness 
descend.  Mamun Karim sought to get out of this temporary state of 
freedom.  Freedom was across the oceans, America, where people called 
all the shots and presidents bowed to their whims or kissed the White 
House goodbye.  Yes, that was Mamun Karim's destiny, that's where his 
suffocated existence would be able to breathe the fresh air of life. 

On a hot August night Mamun Karim boarded a Biman Bangladesh Airlines
DC-10 bound for London and New York.  His eagerness to leave this 
loathed soil behind him was so strong that he failed to hear the last 
words his mother said to him, "Come back soon, my darling, I'll be 
counting the days."  Then he was off.  Off to Oz, the Promised Land, 
follow the yellow brick road all the way to Salvation.  As he climbed 
the steps up to the aircraft his dreams already preceded reality and 
soared in the sky above him.  He grinned, his heart fluttered, he 
clutched his boarding pass in one hand and a briefcase in the other, on 
his way to enter the world where great things happen, and technology 
defies natural laws.  This is the last time, thought Mamun, as a 
stewardess pointed him to his seat, that I have to see these little 
brown faces, faces without dreams or aspirations, faces that know only 
backbiting and jealousy.  Goodbye, good riddance. 

Chicago is just as uncomfortably hot and humid in August as it is year
round in Bangladesh, with the obvious exceptions of Monsoon rains and 
tropical vegetation.  It was one such morning two days later that 
another stewardess waked Mamun, this time aboard a TWA, to tell him 
that they had landed at O'Hare International Ariport.  Mamun had slept 
for thirty-six straight hours, without eating, or once using the 
facilities.  His head felt heavy and his stomach growled.  But forget 
these petty physical ailments, the time had come, finally.  He was 
standing on the land that would be the foundation of his future.  The 
wait was over. 

The captain's voice cackled over the intercom, "Passengers with U.S.
passports only, to disembark the aircraft.  Thank you."  At least 
that's all that filtered through and reached Mamun's ears, out of all 
the usual jargon about Fasten Seat Belts signs and extinguishing 
cigarettes.  Those who qualified rose from their seat, gathered 
belongings from overhead compartments, and stood in line, which moved 
slower than a stream of snails.  Mamun was ready to go.  While he 
waited for his turn to get off the plane, he brushed his teeth, combed 
his hair, and smiled at himself in the mirror.  Out the window he could 
see baggage carts moving up to the belly of the plane, and thick-armed 
handlers picking up loads and dumping them onto the carts one on top of 
the other.  He tried to look out for his own suitcase, but gave up 
after a few minutes. 

The line moved, trickled down to a handful of people with American
passports, and this time a female voice came over the intercom 
announcing that the rest may now begin to leave the aircraft.  Mamun 
sprang to his feet, retrieved his passport from the inside pocket of 
his blazer, and headed for the door.  Heat engulfed him as soon as he 
walked out.  Buses were waiting at the foot of the steps to transport 

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