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NURU'S BRIDE (standard:drama, 8745 words)
Author: Nadeem ZamanAdded: Jul 17 2014Views/Reads: 3265/1928Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Newlyweds Nuru and Amina are not enjoying marital bliss.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

and brought it to the desk. “If I could talk about something, Shahib.” 

“What's the matter?” Qureshi frowned. 

Nuru stood back, and spoke humbly. “I want to marry, Shahib. This way of
being alone is not good anymore. I will work the rest of my life for 
you, and so will my wife, and my children.” 

“That's fine with me,” said Qureshi, returning to the sheet in his
typewriter. “Unless you want me to find a woman for you. Which I will 

“No, Shahib,” Nuru held his breath to keep down a laugh. The man was
losing touch with the real world. Fresh air and exercise would do him 
good.  “I need some time off, Shahib. To make arrangements, go to the 

“Do what you need to do,” said Qureshi. Nuru waited to be questioned
further, but Qureshi began typing, the keys slamming against Nuru's 
confused and elated thoughts. 

At dinner, Junab, Syed the driver, the gardener Hannan, and Amir the
night guard, teased and congratulated Nuru. Later, the rest of them 
convened under the carport at the back of the house to smoke, drink 
tea, and talk, and Nuru went to his room in the servants' quarters and 
wrote a letter to his uncle and aunt. 

Ten days passed before a reply came. Nuru's days and nights had passed
in anxiety, for more than their response to his letter, for it had been 
some months since he had corresponded with the old couple. If something 
had happened to them, the news would take a long time to reach Nuru, if 
at all, until he made a journey to the village and found out for 
himself. His brothers would be too busy pecking to shreds among them 
whatever belongings would be left behind. 

But the letter arrived, and it was full of blessings and happiness, in
the beginning. His uncle expressed that it was difficult, considering 
Nuru's age, to find a match, and Nuru would have to be tolerant, 
accepting. Leaving it at that, Nuru's uncle said it would be great to 
see him, and it was a truly grand occasion that he finally decided to 
marry. Nuru read the letter over and over late into the night, trying 
to understand his uncle's cryptic message, and soon fell asleep, 
sweetly exhausted above all at the thought of having at long last a 

Two days later Nuru arrived at his village. Seeing his uncle and aunt,
Nuru's heart was overcome with sadness at the thought of his parents, 
and they held each other in an embrace for a long time. 

“Rich people don't eat or what?” said his aunt. “Look at you. Skin and
bones. What kind of husband will you make?” 

“This evening, we'll visit the family,” said his uncle. “Eat, and then
rest till then.” 

The house was a couple miles from Nuru's uncle and aunt's home. Nuru
didn't expect the lavish welcome he and his uncle were received with. 
About his future in-laws, he knew nothing, except that his uncle had 
known the girl's father many years. 

Hot snacks, sweetmeats, cold fizzy drinks, tea, and coffee were in
abundance. Badrullah Din, the girl's father, was a fat, jovial man with 
a fierce grin and loud voice. He gave hearty embraces to Nuru and his 
uncle, clapping their backs hard, and sending Nuru's uncle into a short 
coughing fit. 

The girl was escorted to the living room by her mother and two other
female relatives around her age. She was beautiful, with smooth, 
glowing skin, a sharp nose, and large brown eyes. Seeing her, Nuru made 
an audible gasp. The two female relatives covered their mouths and 
stifled laughs. Mrs. Din was tense, and she kept making small fixes on 
her daughter, brushing something off her sari, smoothing it, removing 
an insistent coil of hair that hung over her forehead. 

“This is my Amina,” said Badrullah Din. “Look up, daughter, let them see
that jewel of a face.” 

Amina quickly brought her face up, and put it down again. Nuru's
decision was made. He would marry her, right there and then if it could 
happen. He wanted to tell his uncle there was nothing more to be said, 
but reined in his enthusiasm. His eyes stayed on Amina while his uncle 
and Amina's father talked. Their conversation became a series of hazy 
sounds as Nuru's reveries swept him away to the future he saw with 
Amina, until he felt a nudge on his leg. 

“I told Din Shahib,” Nuru's uncle was telling him, “that you came here
with limited time. He said five days from today. I told him that would 
be fine.” 

Nuru nodded. “What about her? It's fine with her?” 

Badrullah Din laughed loudly. “My daughter is obedient to a fault, you
will find. She knows we know what is in her best interest. Come, 
please, eat something. Allah be praised, this is a solemn day!” 

“What's the matter, Nuru?” his uncle said on the walk back home. “You
should be happier. In five days you'll be a married man, and then it's 
off to go live your lives. Why do you look so glum?” 

“Her father is a well-to-do man,” said Nuru. 

“And you'll get a worthwhile dowry.” 

“I don't care about that. A beautiful girl like that, and they're happy
so fast to marry her to someone this much older than her.” 

“I'm eleven years older than your aunt.” 

“They never tried to marry her to anyone before? No one saw her and
brought proposals? I find that hard to believe.” 

Nuru's uncle stopped. “Listen to me, Nuru. She's a lovely girl. Thank
your stars. We were happy that you wanted to get married, but we have 
to be realistic.” 

After a few paces, Nuru turned and faced his uncle. “Tell me, uncle,
what's the matter with her? Something is wrong, I know it. I can see it 
on your face. Is she an idiot? Does she have a problem in the head? Is 
she barren? What?” 

Nuru's uncle shook his head and looked at the ground. “She doesn't
speak. She's mute.” 

“You knew this, and you didn't tell me,” said Nuru. “This is what you
meant in your letter when you said I would have to be tolerant.” 

“Badrullah Din is an old friend, and he is a good man to know,” said his

“Because he has money.” 

A group of five or six men walked by. They exchanged salutations with
Nuru's uncle, greeted Nuru and asked him about his life in the big 
city, and congratulated both men on the good news. 

“Already people know,” said Nuru, after they left. 

“What did you expect? And don't you dare accuse me of greed for money,
Nuru. You came to us, and this is the best that can happen. If you 
wanted someone better you should have done your own finding.” 

“Maybe I should have,” said Nuru. He began walking. 

“Nuru, you will not cut my nose, and stain our family's name in the
village,” his uncle trotted after him. “You will keep my and your 
family's honor.” 

They didn't speak for the rest of the day. In the evening, after the
uncle and aunt had eaten, Nuru's aunt brought out a plate to him on the 

“Eat,” she said, cooling herself with a handheld fan. “You'll need the

Nuru tore off a piece of chapatti and stuffed it in his mouth
absentmindedly. “You knew about it too.” 

“Whole village knows,” said his aunt. “So what? That's how it is.
Defective girls become defective old spinsters. No man wants them. Even 
the daughters of people like Badrullah Din. Use your head. Her father 
thinks you are a Godsend, and he will treat you like it. She's a 
beautiful thing. Appreciate that. Whatever she can't say she'll make up 
by doing. She comes from good blood, my boy. Be wise. And if your uncle 
had the gall to say it or not, this has brought a blessing on us.” 

“I knew it,” said Nuru, pushing away the plate. “It is about his money.”

“So it is. So what? Hah. What happens without money? Nothing. Not even

Nuru and Amina were married at the village mosque, and a small feast
followed at the home of Badrullah Din. Early the next morning the 
newlyweds left for Dhaka. On the bus ride Amina never once looked at 
her new husband, and sat pushed against the side of the bus with her 
eyes out the window. When Nuru asked if she wanted anything to eat or 
drink, she gave him faint glances and turned away. It was late evening 
by the time they reached the house. The other servants had just 
finished dinner. They greeted Nuru and Amina, and Nuru could 
immediately tell that every one of them had been felled by his bride's 
beauty. He gave them a weary acknowledgment and pushed past toward the 
servants' quarters, motioning for Amina to follow him. Junab caught up 
with them at the steps of the servants' quarters to tell Nuru that he'd 
cleaned and burned incense in Nuru's room, and there were clean linen 
on the bed. Junab smiled his toothless best. Nuru patted his shoulder. 

Once in the room, Amina got on the charpoy bed without waiting for Nuru
to put down the linen, faced away, and pretended to fall asleep. Nuru 
stood for a few moments, then went downstairs to join the others. 

“So, you clever fox, you did it,” said Syed, the driver. “And what a
beauty, too. Allah be praised! Our Nuru, getting a wife like that. Well 
done, brother, well done.” 

In the following silence, Nuru contemplated what the rest of his life
would be. A wife that would never say a word to him. Day after day, 
night after night, he would have to learn her ways and accustom himself 
to fit them. Listening to her would mean something completely 
different. Talking to her, the same. He wanted to be happier sitting 
there with the others, enjoy their envy, while feeling the flutter in 
his stomach of going up to his bride, whom Nuru was sure would forbid 
him from sharing her bed. 

“What's the matter, Nuru brother?” Syed laughed. “So much lost in
thoughts of your pretty bride, where are you?” 

“Shut your mouth,” Nuru said. “How many wives have you had that you'd

“Hey brother, calm down,” said Syed. 

“You watch your mouth,” said Nuru. 

“Keep your voices down,” said Amir. 

“Come inside,” Junab grabbed Nuru's arm. “Have some dinner.” Nuru ate
little. Junab poured two glasses of tea, and sat across from him. 
Outside they could hear Amir's low, patient voice, going meticulously 
through one of his detail-laden stories. Nuru told Junab about Amina, 
and how his greatest wish now hung around his neck like a noose. 

“Stupid talk,” said Junab. “A luckier man I don't know. What do you want
from this world? Perfection? You'll die a fool's death if you do.” Nuru 
crept into the room, listening for Amina's breathing, and not hearing 
it in deep sleep guessed that she was still awake. He unfolded the 
linen and made his bed on the floor. 

He woke at first light with sore neck and back. Amina was in the same
position. Nuru put the linens under the charpoy, and went downstairs 
with a clean set of clothes to wash and change into. When he returned, 
Amina was sitting up at the edge of the bed, her suitcase next to her. 
Nuru's sadness over everything boiled to annoyance. 

“If you didn't want to get married you should have said something,” he
said. Amina kept her head down, eyes on the ground, tense and breathing 
hard, until tears rolled down her cheeks. Nuru realized the inanity of 
what he said, and he softened his tone. “What do you want? You want to 
go back? Is that what you want? What do you think your father will say 
if that happens?” 

Amina laid her suitcase down. She pushed it under the bed, and laid back
down. Nuru found her beauty excruciating, and he wished he were a 
younger man, robust, energetic, without his bad knees and bad back, so 
he could match the vitality of a vigorous young woman like her. He 
approached the bed, and cautiously took a seat at her feet. 

“You deserve better than me, I know,” said Nuru. “I didn't think my
uncle would do this. I don't know what exactly I mean by that. But I 
thought it was going to be someone much older, closer to my age. I'm a 
fool to have thought that, I think. I have to go do my work now. You 
can go to the kitchen when you want to eat or drink water 

Nuru left her alone for the remainder of the morning. After lunch Moteen
and Qasim arrived within minutes of each other and went to Nazim 
Qureshi's study. An hour later Nuru was summoned, and he stood at the 
door of the study while the three men finished talking before Qureshi 
instructed Nuru to pack a small suitcase for a few days' trip. Nuru 
gathered that the master was going on a trip to Sylhet. Moteen and 
Qasim were accompanying him. When Nuru asked exactly how many days' 
worth of things Qureshi wanted him to pack, Qureshi frowned, and Moteen 
answered gruffly. 

“What bloody business is it of you servant how many days?” Moteen
muttered. He was a notorious drunk, and anytime he visited, no matter 
what time of day or night, liquor would be served. 

“Enough for a week, maybe ten days” said Qureshi. 

The master being introduced to his new bride would have to wait, Nuru
figured, which was just as well. After packing the suitcase and 
bringing it to the front verandah. Nuru wanted to check on Amina. As he 
made his way to the steps of the servants' quarters, Syed the driver 
nearly barreled him over clamoring down the stairs. Syed gave Nuru a 
disgusted, spiteful look, muttered something under his breath, and 
stalked off. Nuru went to his room, where he found Amina holding one of 
her sandals in her hand, her face contorted in anger. Sweat had formed 
on her forehead, and the odor of her angst mixed with the ripe clothes 
she hadn't changed out of since the journey here, was strong. 

“Did something happen?” Nuru asked. 

Amina glared at him, then dropped the sandal. She pushed past him and
went outside. Nuru heard her bare feet pattering down the stairs. 
Later, as he was helping load the car for the trip, Syed huffed and 
grunted irritably, and each time Nuru placed something in the trunk, he 
aggressively and with great show of his dissatisfaction rearranged the 
order. When they were done he brushed the air with his hand to dismiss 

After the car pulled out of the driveway, Junab said, “I hope so soon
the master sees that bastard for the snake he is.” 

“We'll have to wait for you to meet the master,” Nuru told Amina. She
had bathed, and put on a sari the color of eggshells, which worried 
Nuru because the white made her look like a widow. “Will you tell me 
what happened with the driver?” 

Amina pointed to the floor in reply. Nuru didn't know what she was
communicating, until she finally tapped her foot on her sandal. “Did 
you hit him with that?” 

Amina shrugged, and running her fingers through her wet hair, turned her
attention out the window that looked past the neighbor's backyard 
toward the west, where the setting sun was a blaze of fire against a 
pink and purple horizon. 

He wished he'd confronted Syed, in front of the master, and Moteen and
Qasim, putting the driver on the spot, where now, by the time they 
returned, too much time would have passed, and Nuru would be the 
irritating one. He knew this about the master, that whatever matters 
needed addressing, Qureshi wanted to tackle them immediately. Once it 
left the forefront of his mind, it was gone. Nuru had heard Qureshi say 
countless times over the years, “You can't go back, you go on. Now 
never comes back.” 

Nuru was impressed at how Amina had handled herself. Someone else in her
place could very well have raised a ruckus over it, which would become 
an embarrassment in the neighborhood, and could force them to leave the 
house. She took a sandal to him. Nuru wondered what he would have done 
if he'd caught Syed in the act, and it frustrated him that he hadn't, 
that he was not there to protect his wife. 

He found Junab, Amir, and Hannan in the kitchen gathered for dinner. He
made a plate for Amina, took it up to the room, and returned to have 
his meal. 

“She doesn't even regard me,” said Nuru. “Like I'm a ghost.” 

Amir made a grunting sound, cleared his throat, and took a drink of
water. “Stop moping around like there's been a death instead of a 
marriage in your life. Don't just set her down in that one room and 
think everything's fine. Do something. Take her out. It's a big city. 
She's not used to it. Take her out into it.” 

“I have work to do here,” said Nuru. 

“As if there's a family of ten living here to care for,” said Junab. 

“Life won't stop here if you go out with your wife for one day. I can
take care of this whole house with only my two hands.” 

“Not the garden,” Hannan garbled through a mouthful of food. 

“The garden, too,” Junab clapped Hannan's shoulder. “But you can have
your pride and joy.” 

Amir was right, thought Nuru. They were newlyweds, and they should act
like it. He could take her out, show her Dhaka, go to the cinema, walk 
in the parks, maybe even take a taxi and be driven around like rich 
people. Nuru's spirits began to lift. To his further delight, he found 
Amina licking her fingers clean after having eaten everything on her 
plate. She was embarrassed, but Nuru smiled and said that it was great, 
that it made him happy that she had a good appetite, and he told her 
they would be up early in the morning and go out for the day. Her 
lackadaisical shrug in response to his excitement dampened the moment, 
but was preferable to being shut out. 

They were up and on their way before nine. Amina wore the same eggshell
white sari, which continued to irritate Nuru, but he said nothing. Nuru 
chose a teashop and hotel, away from his usual one owned by Dulal, for 
a quick breakfast, fresh hot tea, and then they walked into the 
blaring, dusty, foul-aired, human mottled thrill of the city. It was 
everything Nuru loved about Dhaka; its crude ways, unwholesome 
ambience, fast moving wheels and feet, suffocating traffic, jostling 
bodies, and he checked Amina to see their effect on her. She had picked 
at her breakfast, and taken only a couple sips of her tea. Now she was 
walking along with Nuru without any signs betraying her reactions. Nuru 
tried to joke, pointed at people and made up stories about them. Amina 
heard him, gave him blank expressions, until he gave up and fell 

For lunch they stopped at a chatpatti stand. While he ate the pani
puris, his share, and then Amina's, which she refused to touch, Nuru 
became aware of how unable men were of keeping from staring at his 
wife. Even the old man that owned the stand had a constant smirk. Men 
of all ages that walked by, or were milling around, stopped in 
mid-conversation and slowed down as soon as their eyes fell on Nuru's 
bride. Amina seemed to be unaware, but Nuru doubted she was that 
oblivious. He was done eating. He scowled at the owner of the stand, 
touched Amina by the wrist, and moved them along through the small 
throng. If he wasn't irritated, Nuru would feel like a celebrity. He 
knew it wasn't her fault. Between obedience, family duty, and her 
condition, she didn't have a choice. If Nuru had been aware of the 
situation before it was too late he would have declined the 
arrangement. His uncle, whether his heart was in the right place or 
not, had made a bad decision. Nuru had to admit it, even as it formed a 
lump in his throat, and he had to catch his breath as they walked. As 
they crossed Shishu Park, Amina stopped. She stood staring at the 
bright green and red striped geometric construction of the entrance for 
a long time before pointing at it. Nuru asked if she wanted to go in. 
Amina gave him a hesitating glance, and nodded. 

But once they were inside, she refused to go on rides. She wanted to
stand at a distance and watch others go on them. Nuru was fine with 
that, as long as she was halfway present, regarding their time together 
as more than a burden of obedience and duty. There was no getting away 
from the men's eyes, double takes, sideways looks, and on occasion 
their unabashedly flirting smiles. And then Nuru saw it, Amina 
returning the smiles of the younger men. He wondered if she'd been 
doing it all along, and his own preoccupation with self-pity had 
prevented him from noticing. And the men, how totally disregarding they 
were of him! As if he were a blasted tree stump or piece of discarded 
food wrapping. Not for a split second did they give him the respect of 
being a human presence. 

“We are going now,” said Nuru, grabbing Amina's arm. Amina pulled her
arm away, and went toward the exit ahead of him. For the next half 
hour, they walked around without going anywhere, Amina ahead of Nuru, 
and Nuru's heart racing as he tried to keep up with her. When she 
finally stopped it was, Nuru figured out, for a drink of water. She 
didn't make any indication of her thirst. She stopped, crossed her 
arms, and stared in front of her, until Nuru, through a series of 
questions uncovered that she wanted water. He went to a nearby shop and 
brought her water in a plastic cup. Amina gulped it down, tossed the 
cup, and resumed walking. 

“Wait a minute,” Nuru caught up to her, took her arm again. “What's the
matter with you? Walking around like this saying nothing? What do you 
want? You want to go home? You're tired? What?” 

Tears welled up along the bottoms of her eyes, and spilled out the
corners in two straight lines down her cheeks. Nuru took her arm and 
led her into Ramna Park, where he found a secluded spot with a bench. 
Rain clouds were forming, the air still and muggy with condensation, 
but laced with a nice breeze. Amina had her face in a corner of her 
sari formed into a crumpled handkerchief in her hand, and Nuru, 
watching her, unable to do or offer anything to comfort her, was 
convinced that every decision that led him to this point was a curse. 
Not for him, but a curse that he had conjured, and passed it on to a 
beautiful young woman who could right then have been in a better place 
she deserved. 

Men of all ages, as they passed got struck by Amina. They ogled her,
then looked to Nuru, trying to figure out his presence next to the 
pretty girl. After sometime, Nuru grew tired of giving back dirty 
looks, and sat down. He covered his face with his hands. He felt as 
though he couldn't stand up again, that the rest of his life could 
happen and end right there on that bench in Ramna Park, and at some 
point Amina would simply walk away into the life she could still have. 

There was a long, loud whistle nearby that got Nuru to look up, to find
that four young men had gathered a few feet away from them. The 
whistler, their leader, a gangly man in his twenties with a soft 
mustache barely sprouting, was looking directly at Amina. 

Nuru pushed to his feet. “What do you want? Can't you a have a little
respect? You people think you own places? Decent people come here to 
have a decent time.” 

“What are we doing to you, Uncle?” the whistler said. “It's a public
park, isn't it? And I'm sure you have many decent nights.” He started 
laughing, and his companions joined in. 

“And that is a beautiful public sight next to you,” said one of the
companions, who looked not a day older than twelve. 

“Shut up,” said Nuru. “I will get the police.” 

“Get, get, Uncle,” said a third companion of the whistler. “We'll keep
your lovely daughter company while you do.” 

Nuru saw, and then felt, a sudden movement next to him, and in the next
moment saw Amina stride up to the men, stopping within arm's length of 
the whistler. All four faces turned to confusion. Nuru held back his 
impulse to move closer to Amina, wondering how much her looks had been 
a burden on her life. From idiots in the village, to the lascivious 
advances of her father's acquaintances, men in the streets, on every 
inch of earth she could conceivably step foot, eyes, hands, and vapid 
fantasies on her trail. 

She placed a hand on the whistler's chest and pushed. The whistler
stumbled back a few steps. His companions braced him. The whistler gave 
Nuru a stunned look as though wondering if he was going to do something 
to control the madwoman he'd loosed on the world. Nuru inched forward, 
and smiled. 

There were voices around them as other people began appearing, seeking
out the more secluded areas of the park. A large family with about a 
half dozen noisy children went by. A group of boys giving each other 
chase sped past shouting and cursing. A short distance away Nuru saw 
two police constables. The whistler and his companions glared at Amina, 
then at Nuru, before muttering profanities among each other as they 
scampered away. 

Amina returned to the bench.  After a few moments, Nuru joined her. They
sat in silence watching the vicinity fill up with people. Rain clouds 
crept away from over the park, allowing for mid-afternoon sunlight to 
blink and pour through the trees. Nuru asked Amina if she wanted to go 
to the cinema. Amina's face brightened. She nodded enthusiastically. 

It was a silly romance, ripped off from an equally laughable Hindi
counterpart as Bangladeshi cinema continued to be a sad recycling 
industry of Bollywood plotlines, inclusive of ridiculous song and dance 
numbers, with great amounts of bad comedy overdone, and Amina laughed 
throughout the movie. In her strongest throes of laughter she grabbed 
Nuru's knee or tugged on his sleeve. Nuru desperately wanted to touch 
her, take her hand in his, but he restrained himself, not wishing to 
interrupt these first moments of her levity since their lives came 

Amina's face was flush with enjoyment as they left Rajmoni cinema hall,
and Nuru, for the time being, was distracted enough by her mirth to not 
notice other men ogling her. She touched her stomach to say that she 
was hungry, and made motions with her hands that revealed that she 
wanted to have a big meal. Nuru's heart soared, and he felt like he 
could give her the most exorbitant gift right there without thinking of 
money or his means. 

At the hotel she sat next to Nuru, instead of across from him. She
wanted deep fried appetizers to start with, then chicken curry and dal, 
with green chilies, and kheer for dessert. Nuru watched more like a 
proud and satisfied father than a husband as she ate. An awareness hung 
about Nuru that men from other tables watching her, often the ones with 
their wives, and families, more ravenous in their gazes than the lonely 
young men that sat around drinking cup after cup of tea to fend off 
another night alone. Even the scrawny waiter blushed each time he came 
around, which he did often, ultimately devoting all his attention to 
Nuru and Amina over his other tables, until their consternation over 
having to call for service multiple times forced the proprietor to 
scold the waiter. Catching his tone the proprietor beamed awkwardly at 
Amina, bowing his head and offering his apology for raising his voice, 
but only to her and no other patron, without regarding Nuru. 

After dinner, they drank tea, and watched the sky turn a luminous pink
in the glow of the setting sun. Streetlamps flickered on. Evening 
traffic screamed outside. Nuru wanted to talk to her, ask her things, 
but Amina stared out the window, minute reactions crossing her 
expression every few minutes to things she was observing. When she 
turned to him, it was, with a yawn, indicating she was ready to go. The 
night air was once again muggy, and heavy with the possibility of rain. 
They got into an auto rickshaw, which the driver sped into motion while 
Nuru was still climbing aboard, causing him to stumble onto Amina's 
lap. A braying laugh issued out of Amina as she helped Nuru get his 
bearing and sit up. Nuru shook his head and leaned forward to the 
driver's ear. “What's the mad rush? I almost lost my leg.” 

“As if you're my only bloody passengers tonight,” the driver shouted. 

“Lose one leg, work with the one you have. Look everywhere, this is a
country of cripples.” This made Nuru dart a nervous look at his wife, 
but she was already too engrossed by the city zooming past her to have 
heard the driver. 

Nuru gave him directions on how best to get to their destination. “Then
maybe I will come in and tell you how to do your job,” the driver 
yelled, proceeding to chart his own course. 

Nuru had forgotten how rude and perilous the experience of an
autorickshaw ride could be in this city. The driver pressed for every 
inch he could get, getting within touching range of cars and cyclists, 
rickshaws, other autorickshaws, and pedestrians, and to Nuru it seemed 
as though he were the only party concerned about life and limb. Even 
Amina was calm, and enjoying the journey, letting herself be jostled 
around by the recklessness with the sweet abandon of enjoying a 
carnival ride. 

During a lull from the heavy traffic Nuru noticed that his thigh was
touching Amina's, and her hand was laying on his lap, while she was 
leaned forward and taking in the passing city. He wanted to take her 
hand, clasp his around it, but he let it be where it was. He felt good 
about his decision to go on this outing. It relieved the stress of 
being confined to his small room in the servants' quarters, waiting for 
time to unwind the discomfort. He regarded Amir as a wise man, and his 
wisdom had proven effective. Perhaps, someday, Nuru would be able to 
advise a newlywed couple he came across, offer a morsel of helpful 
information to aid in their period of adjustment. 

Some time later Nuru became aware that their speed had drastically
reduced. He asked the driver what was going on, where they were, and 
why he'd gotten off the main roads. Without waiting for a reply, Nuru 
knew exactly why. It was to prolong the ride and squeeze Nuru for a 
higher fare. Thinking of this Nuru told the driver to stop. If he was 
going to pay extra, Nuru preferred to get a different autorickshaw 
altogether, instead of giving in to this swindler. Though it was 
completely likely that the next driver would be no better, could be 
worse, and he could go through ten more drivers with the same result. 
This one, however, had done enough. The driver swerved to the side of 
the street and slammed the brakes. 

“What the hell do you want?” the driver shouted. 

“Keep your voice down,” said Nuru. “I'm not afraid of your temper. You
people are crooks. Where are you taking us? I told you the better way 
to go. All you want to do is charge me three times more than it will 
cost to get there. I will pay you nothing, and I will get the police.” 
The driver was about to respond, with more ferocity, when he noticed 
Amina staring at him. Nuru was too angry, glaring at him, and missed 
the exchange. 

“Don't have to threaten police, boss,” the driver feigned a smile. 

“What to do? Making a little extra, it's part of this shit life, no?
Forgive me, sister. I will take you to your home. No extra. You can pay 
me only from this point to there.” Surprised, Nuru tried to read the 
man's expression for signs that he was jesting. “Maybe your other fares 
will be more gullible.” Unable to say more, Nuru let the satisfaction 
of victory ease him back in his seat. 

“These people are mad,” said Nuru after paying the driver, who took the
money, grinning broadly at Amina, and salaamed them profusely before 
speeding off. “One second threatening and talking big, the next,” he 
shook his head. 

Amina was smiling, something between amusement and satisfaction. She
touched Nuru's arm. 

“Did you like what we did today?” Nuru asked. Amina nodded. “We can go
again. Soon.” She drew a rectangle in front of her with the forefingers 
of both hands. “Yes, the cinema, too. That was your favorite part, I 

Thunder was rumbling in the distance. Rain clouds hovered against the
dark night sky, grayish white, and a wind rose and fell in short gusts. 
“There's going to be rain,” said Nuru. “Let's go inside.” As joyful as 
he was that at last Amina was showing signs of liking her life here, 
Nuru's heart was heavy with thoughts he knew he had to share with her. 
It was for their happiness, for her safety. 

After dinner, Nuru chatted with the others for a while, then went up to
his room. Amina had bathed, and was sitting on the bed oiling her hair. 
She was wearing a different sari, of rougher material, dark brown with 
checkered patterns. Her skin was radiant, the color in her cheeks high 
and rouged. The scent of coconut oil overwhelmed Nuru. Amina laughed 
softly seeing his eyes tear up. The sound of her laugh made Nuru forget 
that he'd never liked coconut oil. 

“I want to talk to you,” said Nuru, approaching her. Amina paused. “It's
important. You don't have to say anything.” He winced at his 
carelessness. “I mean, let me just speak, and you can hear me, and if 
you don't like what I have to say, well, you can decide for yourself 

Before Nuru could go on, Amina jumped to her feet. She pushed past him
out the door. Nuru wanted to grab at her, but knew that would make 
matters worse. From the balcony he saw her cross backyard to the far 
end of the rear of the property, where she came to a stop as if that 
had been always been her spot to go to in times of distress. 

No. She was not a child. She was an adult. A woman. A married woman.
There had to come a time for that to sink in, become part of her daily 
life. She had a husband, whether she liked it or not, and it was far 
beyond any option to be able to undo that. Nuru had been patient, he'd 
been respectful, kept his distance, let her be comfortable as she 
pleased. If they never consummated the marriage, so be it. At Nuru's 
age, children weren't something expected of him. And who would expect 
it? His parents were gone. His brothers couldn't care less. From the 
looks of it, neither could his wife. But listen she would. No matter 
how much she wanted to run from it. 

Nuru called her name as he approached her. Amina didn't turn around.
“Very well. I will just stand here and talk.” He wavered for several 
minutes, unable to say more. Amina finished combing her hair. Without 
regarding Nuru she went back toward the servants' quarters. 

Along the boundary wall to Nuru's left, toward the front of house,
Hannan was hunched over the base of a lime tree. Seeing Nuru Hannan 
smiled, and Nuru got the feeling that the gardener had seen the awkward 
exchange that just took place. 

“There were lime trees down the by the pond near our home in the
village,” Nuru said, walking toward Hannan. “I could smell them 
sometimes all night. Lime trees, and rajanigandha flowers.” Hannan 
shook his head and continued working. “I don't know what else to say or 

“I wish there was something I could say, my boy,” said Hannan. “I've
never been where you are.” 

“You never married?” 

“No.” Hannan rose from his haunches, and mopped his brow with the sleeve
of his kurta. “The woman I wanted to marry wouldn't have me. But this 
was long, long time ago. We were children. What did we know. Can you 
imagine how impossible life would be if we lived as long as trees? Who 
would ever want to live that long?” 

“Why didn't she want you?” Nuru asked. 

“Because she was smart,” Hannan chuckled. “The boy she married, a boy I
knew since we were born, became assistant to a very important man. Made 
money, lots of it. Last I heard, he had two houses. So, she's doing 
much better than she would have been with a gardener. She used to tell 
me, my brain would turn to dirt I thought so much of digging and 
planting all the time.” 

“Everything I say or do is wrong,” said Nuru. 

“Yes,” said Hannan. “I know.” 

Nuru woke from a nightmare in which Amina was being carried away by a
mob of men that had just beaten him to within inches of his life. Their 
feet were trampling what was left of him as his bruised and battered 
arms and hands help up a last defense to shield his bleeding head. Once 
they'd stampeded off, Nuru trembled from pain and looked in the dust of 
their departure for his wife. He knew he'd seen her being borne, but 
still he searched. When at last there was no doubt left that she was 
gone, Nuru's head fell back, breaking his troubled sleep as soon as it 
touched the ground. 

Soaked through with sweat, Nuru sat up in the faint glow of dawn. The
night had been cool, leaving the early hours chilled, and Nuru's damp 
shirt was making him shiver. The sun was beginning to peek over the 
horizon. Nuru shut the window, and climbed back under his blanket. Less 
than a minute later he was up again. 

Too harried to switch on the overhead light, he pulled open the window
again, to discover by the light of morning that Amina was not on the 
bed. The bed was untouched. Nuru went downstairs to check the latrine, 
and found the door open, the ground dry, yet to be used by the still 
sleeping house. Nuru walked around the property. He was surprised by 
not seeing Amir at the front gate. He entered the kitchen by the back 
door, and found the night guard slumped in a chair by the stove. 

“Shut the door,” said Amir. “I've got a death chill.” 

Nuru had never heard Amir speak so feebly, or seen him ill. His chest
rumbled when he breathed. 

“If you want tea, there's still some left in the kettle,” said Amir. 

“Just don't open that door again. Why are you standing there like a
tree? What's the matter?” 

“My wife,” said Nuru. “Where is she?” 

Amir's lungs rattled like there were loose rocks in them as he coughed.
“What kind of question is that to ask another man? You know where your 
wife is.” 

“She's nowhere,” said Nuru. “I woke up, and she wasn't there.” 

“Well, then,” Amir gasped for breath, “that's all there is to say.” 

“You weren't out front,” said Nuru. 

“I don't have to answer to you, do I now?” Amir's rasped. 

Nuru went back up to the room and tore through it. He upended the bed,
scattered his linen makeshift on the floor, knowing with each movement 
that he would find nothing that would betray Amina's disappearance. 

“We can go to the police,” Junab suggested. 

“With what?” said Nuru. “Police will listen to servants? Since when do
they do that?” 

“Just wait then,” said Hannan. “When Shahib gets back he will go to

“You are all a bunch of fools,” said Nuru. “I will go to police myself.”

At Gulshan Police Station Nuru waited three hours before a constable,
tired of listening to him every five minutes, admitted him to see the 
officer in charge. 

“He won't listen, sir,” the constable complained. “Told him thousand
times. He just sits there like a mute, then says the same thing again.” 
The constable scowled at Nuru and left. 

The officer in charge eyed Nuru with enough fatigue for two people. He
asked what Nuru wanted. Nuru told him, in a longwinded narrative, 
everything from the time he went to see Qureshi to tell him of his 
desire to marry, to his uncle's mediation, to describing Badrullah 
Din's home and place in the village, Amina's disability, their wedding 
at the village mosque, and the beginning of their life together in 
Dhaka. Nuru watched the OIC's expression when he mentioned Nazim 
Qureshi, but didn't detect any change. Finally, Nuru stood before the 
OIC surprised by his calm and patience. 

“You woke up this morning, and she wasn't there,” the OIC said. 

“As God is my witness, sir,” said Nuru. “Three other people can verify
it at the house. 

“I have no reason to disbelieve you. I don't know what to tell you. Mr.
Qureshi is a respected man, I'm sure he will want to see this resolved. 
Right now, what I will tell you to do is go home, and wait. If she 
doesn't return by the end of the day, come back, not tomorrow, but day 
after tomorrow, and file a missing person report.” 

“There is a chance, then, sir, that she will come back?” 

“I don't know,” the OIC exhaled and leaned back. “I've seen it happen.
I've seen also seen the police find people. Who knows? Did she say 
anything? Do anything unusual before she left? Did you have a fight?” 

Nuru shook his head reluctantly. She was unhappy, from the moment she
was wedded to him. He could have bared his soul to the OIC, but Nuru 
held back, thanked the OIC, and went home. 

For the next forty-eight hours, Nuru kept constant vigil. Amir didn't
show for his shift, and Nuru sat at the night guard's cane chair at the 
main gate. Junab brought his tea and food, which went untouched. Hannan 
stopped by during his work around the grounds, spoke about things Nuru 
paid no mind to. On the morning of the second day, Nuru stood up from 
the chair and began walking toward the police station. 

The same constable saw him enter. “Stop,” he said, holding out his
nightstick. “I don't have time for your badgering today. I'll lock you 
up if you give me headache.” 

“Sir told me to come back today,” said Nuru. 

“What sir?” the constable 

“Sir inside.” 

“Stay away from me. Last warning.” 

“Let him go inside and find out himself,” said another constable. “Go,
my man, go,” he urged Nuru. “Sir inside will pay you his full 
attention. Go, go.” He started laughing. The constable talking to Nuru 
joined him, motioning with his head for Nuru to go in at his leisure, 
standing aside in a mocking gesture of subservience. “Tell ‘Sir inside' 
everything to your heart's content.” 

Inside Nuru found a different OIC. A large, boisterous man, with teeth
stained with pan and betel nut, a huge paunch, oily hair, and stale 
cigarette odor stuck to his ripe uniform. He was shouting into a mobile 
phone, laughing intermittently, and falling into silences of pensive 
listening while hemming and hawing occasionally. At first he didn't see 
Nuru enter. His back was to the door, and Nuru saw the OIC scratching 
his head in the thick of his oily mop and touching his nose as he 
continued his conversation. 

“Who the hell are you?” the OIC said when he turned and saw Nuru. 

“Okay, we'll talk again.” He shut the mobile phone and tossed it on the
desk. “What do you want?” He asked Nuru. “What the hell? Speak. Who the 
hell are you? What are you doing in my station?” 

“Sir, other sir said to come today,” Nuru said. 

“Other sir? Who the hell else is here?” 

“Other sir, sir. He was here two days ago.” 

“Bloody bastards,” the OIC exhaled. “Look around, shit face. I'm the
only sir here.” 

Nuru heard muffled voices outside the door. He could tell it was the two
constables stifling laughter. 

“Yes, sir,” said Nuru. “He said to come back today to file missing
person report. My wife....” 

The OIC's fat cheeks pinched his eyes as a smile turned to shaking
laughter. “Your wife, asshole, your wife, what did she do? Run off with 
a real man? Serves you right for being a hijra. Akhtar, Mainu, get in 
here. Take this hijra's report of his missing wife! Then check to see 
if his dhon is still dangling in his pants. Come in, come in!” 

The two constables walked in and stood by the door, straining to
maintain respect by not bursting with laughter. 

“Tell, tell, my good little hijra,” the OIC said. “Tell us all how your
juicy little wife ran off with a real man with a real thick cucumber to 
give her, instead of that plantain between your legs. Tell, tell.” 

Nuru looked at the ground, then at the constables, and back at the OIC.
“Other sir that was here was a respectful man. You people are here to 
serve us. And this is what you make of that.” 

The OIC pushed out of his chair. He ambled around the desk, walked up to
Nuru, and slapped him with the back of his hand. Nuru felt his gorge 
rise as the OIC's knee rammed into his groin. Fire blazed in his scalp 
when the OIC grabbed a fistful of hair and threw Nuru against a wall. 
His stomach churned to the kicks of the OIC's boot, until a he felt a 
wet clot form in his throat. The splotch of blood he spat further 
infuriated the OIC. Nuru heard one of the constables say something, 
which Nuru took to have spared him more beating. The OIC barked at the 
constable, complained about the mess on his floor, and to have it 
cleaned up immediately. The constables lifted Nuru and carried him by 
his armpits to the street. Through his pain, Nuru saw the faces of the 
constables, which were void of their earlier mirth, and racked with 

Nuru made the walk back to the house, stopping every few steps to keel
over in pain, spit more blood. He saw people give him looks, titter and 
smile, or take pains to put distance between them and him. Reaching the 
house, he collapsed against the gate. When he came to he was on his 
bed, with Junab and Hannan standing over him. 

“They didn't listen, did they?” said Junab. “Don't move. Just stay. No
need to make things worse.” 

Nuru laid in bed watching the sky change from light to dark and back to
light, and dark again. He went in and out of sleep. Pain moved him to 
tears. Junab fed him and gave him medicine to kill the pain. When he 
able to, Nuru thought about Amina. If she was in the city, or had gone 
back to the village, to her family. If he would find her again. If he 
wanted to find her again, or, for her sake, leave her be. 


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