This is the story of my friend’s father.
I had just got promoted to Class 9 after spending two years in the previous class. However, within the first week of the first month of school reopening, the teachers realized I was not going to make the next grade with other students. Therefore, mid-session I was handed my transfer certificate and unceremoniously thrown out. It was difficult to get admission in any school in Dhaka at this time and I was totally at loss about my next move.
My Uncle asked me to join him at Jamalpur where he was a well known political figure and headed the board of few schools. I got admission in one of the schools where he was a director and started the new session. When you join mid-session, it raises lot of curiosity among the existing students but within a week they make you their friends. So, in next 10 days, I made some good friends – Saiful, Shanu, Lakhin, Jahangir, Munni, Aarifa, Dancing Shiela, Wrestler Shiela and many more.
The story is about Saiful’s father. Saiful was the first boy of the class but he was not into studies 24×7 like most other first boys. Therefore, soon we became very close friends. Almost at the end of class 9, I got to know that Saiful’s father had married twice and Saiful and his two sisters are born of the first marriage. The second marriage did not yield any child. His father was rich in the sense that he own lots of landed property. He wanted to keep Saiful with him as the second marriage proved to be childless but Saiful’s mother did not agree and took him away to ensure he goes to a school and become educated.
Though, it was quite tragic situation but we used make fun of it and teased Saiful, “Why don’t you get your father married again? At least we will get treated to a feast of Biriyani and other delicacies.” He would get upset and not speak to us for rest of the day.
After my Senior School Certificate (SSC) exams, I came back to Dhaka to join college. I used to meet all my Jamalpur friends whenever I visited my Uncle’s home. When other students were busy getting special coaching for university admission, I was loafing around knowing well that I won’t be getting admission in the university and even my uncle cannot help this time around. So the call from Saiful was blissful. He said. “Come to Jamalpur immediately, my father is getting married next week. You always wanted to have feast at my father’s wedding, there will be lots there! Incidentally, the girl is no other than our classmate Shiela.”
I was shocked but asked him “Which one, Dancing or Wrestler?”
“Dancing Shiela” replied Saiful.
Must tell you here that there were two Shielas in our class, one had a built like a wrestler hence referred as Wrestler Shiela while the other was a good dancer, hence Dancing Shiela. We used watch her dance in the girl’s common room through the keyhole.
Anyways, next day I left for my Uncle’s home in Jamalpur. On the day of the wedding, dressed up in our finest clothes we accompanied the groom for bride’s home. “You father is so old, his one leg is already in the grave! The bulb may fuse any day.” I told Saiful under my breath. “The old man is beyond reasoning.” Saiful replied as a matter of fact.
We were soon lost in the midst of all good looking dames who had a chance to flirt with the boys in abandon and I forgot all about Saiful’s father. The food was excellent starting with pulao, bhuna beef, mutton, egg, chicken, sweet curd, sweets and ice cream. Everyone was enjoying except Dancing Shiela who perhaps was thinking that instead of joining university, she is being married off to a old man for money. And the groom happens to be the father of her classmate, what an irony!
In such a situation, nobody cares about what the bride is thinking or what is going through her mind. I too let the thought pass me and helped the bride get into the palanquin and she was brought her husband’s home. There was another reception next day and after spending a week in Jamalpur I came back to Dhaka.
On the fourth day after I came back to Dhaka, Saiful called up. I answered the call with a joke, “Where has your father taken his bride for honeymoon?”
Saiful’s voice was sad as he said, “He is yet to go, but will go 6 feet under the ground.”
“What are you saying?” I cried.
“He passed away an hour ago. The burial will be before sunset, see if you can make it in time.” said Saiful.
I immediately left for Jamalpur.
After the burial, I stayed over at Jamalpur, giving moral support to my dear friend Saiful.
Three days after the death of Saiful’s father, the Panchayat called a meeting at Saiful’s home to discuss and help in property division. One of the leader of the group took aside Saiful and in a conspiratorial voice told, “If you give me acre of land, I will ensure you get the entire property.” Saiful did not made any comment.
The meeting started and the members of the Panchayat started voicing their opinion in contradiction to each other. Then Saiful said, “Please stop everyone and listen to me. The matter is our family concern, if we can resolve it ourselves, do you guys any problem?”
The Panchayat said in unison “No, not at all.”
Then Saiful turned towards her first step mother (his father’s second wife) and said, “I know you don’t like me at all, mother and though you have not given me birth, still I am your son only. Moreover you are getting old so I and my sisters would like to take care of you, please stay with us. What will you do with this material wealth, we are your real wealth, mother.” The impact was immediate as his step mother hugged him and said, “You are right my son, I don’t want any of this wealth.”
I thought Saiful had played a masterstroke by emotionally blackmailing his step mother. He has effectively reduced the number of claimant to just two parties.
Saiful then turned towards Dancing Shiela, his second step mother and said, “Mother, you know me very well, we have studied together. My father’s death has affected you the most; whatever I say or do it will be insufficient. However, the property will be divided into two parts, one will be yours and the other will be ours. But you cannot go back to your parent’s home with all that property because your parents might marry you off again with some other old haggard man for money. So, I would request to you is stay here and continue with your studies and when it is time, we will find the right groom for you.”
Dancing Shiela’s parents had objection but she agreed immediately to Saiful’s proposal. Probably she trusted Saiful more than her own parents who had practically sold her off to the old man.
Today, six years after that eventful day, Saiful called again and said, “Next month, my younger step mother is getting married. Please come and join the festivities.”