Monday, July 26, 2010

It was late, and as I hung around outside the Building waiting for a CNG to show, I knew I had been spotted. I had seen them as I came out, and it didn't take long for them to be behind me.

"Apu, taka please. We're so hungry."

It also didn't take long for Ruby and Mithu to understand I wasn't dealing out cash, and so their questions started.

"Where are you going?"
"My house."
"Where is your house?"
"Can we come with you?"
"To see your house!"
"Ha, I don't think that's possible."
"You want to come to our house?"
"Where is it?"
"Agargaon. It's nearby. Come?"

There were other questions, but I didn't understand them.

"You need rickshaw?"
"No, a CNG. Dhanmondi is too far away."

Solemn nods of agreement. Ruby asked if she could have my shawl. I said no, I only had one with me.

They waited with me, yelling and shouting at every CNG that passed. I felt sick to see them so close to the heavy speeding traffic, even though I knew from the feather dusters they carried that they could probably maneuver the traffic a lot better than I ever could. Still, it made me nervous and I ordered them to stand away.

A younger boy showed up, carrying a hot flask of tea. I asked the girls if they'd like a cup. Yes!! We went to sit by the curb, further away from the road. They continued to ask me questions I didn't understand, so I decided to take over the conversation to tell them about myself. One hand each on my lap, listening to me babble in my limited Bangla.

When I lit up a cigarette, both girls looked horrified.

"No! Very bad! Not good!"

The boy, who had been silent all this while, countered with a "It's good!" The girls shushed him.

"Cancer! Make you sick!"
I looked at the boy. "They're right, you know."

We finished the tea, and the boy didn't have change. I was going to let him earn an extra taka, but the girls would have none of it. They took out their own money, made change, and sent him on his way. We went back to look for a CNG.

Before they left me to my own devices, Ruby suddenly asked, "Would you take a photo of us?" She hugged Mithu close to her face, stroking the other girl's cheek. I wasn't carrying a camera, nor had I mentioned photography at all, so I guess this is something they ask everyone - but it was still rather poignant to me. We set a date for tomorrow.

"See you tomorrow!" yelled Ruby as she left.

I thought about it on the way back, how the happiness I feel from these small, inconsequential conversations trumps all the good feelings I've ever felt from having someone praise my photos or having my work published. It's nice to think that sometimes it could really just be as simple as that.


rena said...

Your writing makes my eyes water. I think during your slacker time, it would be right for you to put together a book. You have a way with words, my friend. Sentimental to the point of self reflection, which is when you turn on your heels and hit the narrative with irony. Keep writing, it's well worth it. xo