The Shadow Companion — Humayun Ahmed | Translated by ASM Mustafizur Rahman

The Shadow Companion

— Humayun Ahmed

Every year during winter vacation, I think of spending some days at village. We’ll go in a group – that will be fun! My kids haven’t seen the village yet, so they’ll be happy. They will plunge around the pond. They’ll also see that lilies not only bloom in front of the Motijheel but also in many other places.
Most of my plans don’t work out at the end. Coincidentally, this time it worked. One day, we really started our journey towards the village.
It will be an honour even if our village is called backwoods. Even in this era of developed communication system, one needs to use bullock cart to reach there. Boats are used in the rainy season, but there is a long wide stream in between which makes the journey ominous.
After a long time, I feel good to visit the village. Every arrangement has been made to add up to my kids’ entertainment. A rheumatic horse has also been arranged. The horse doesn’t move at all, it stands still in one place. However, it groans like a long breath, and fluffs up the tail when disturbed a lot. Children are overjoyed getting such a big living toy, two or three of them keeps sitting together on it.
My kids have also made lots of friends already. Wherever they go, around fifty children accompany them. They get surprised at whatever my kids do. My kids are also overwhelmed by their own popularity. Hence, they begin to show off all their talents – some recite poems, some sing songs and some recite rhymes.
I’ve taken a bundle of books along with me. My plan is to take rest only by reading books. I may sit for writing if my mood wishes to. I’ve written almost the half of a novel, and couldn’t wish to write the rest of the part. The manuscript is with me – if the mood allows me to write in the new environment.
First few days, I can neither read nor write. Every time lots of people are coming. They are interested to discuss many complicated issues demurely. After coming, they will say, “What’s the condition of the country, Chota Mia? We’re worried about it. What’s happening with the country? What a country it was and what a country is now!”
The Shadow Companion — Humayun Ahmed | Translated by ASM Mustafizur Rahman
The Shadow Companion [Chaya Sangi] — Humayun Ahmed | Translated by Mustafizur Rahman
After four or five days, everyone has understood that I know nothing about the country. Even I can’t gossip. So, they free me. And I take relief. Probably for the new environment of the village or another reason, I feel a great interest to write. I start again with the unfinished manuscript, I write and edit the whole day long. In evening, I also go out to walk along with my wife. Almost every night, one or two singers come. They sing by sitting in the yard flooded with moonlight–
O dear
I wouldn’t live if I didn’t know this word.
No, no, no – I wouldn’t live.
          Time passes excellently. My writing interest grows, and I write daylong.
          At one noon, I’m writing with deep concentration. I can hear a sound on the other side of the window. I can see a skinny boy, ten or eleven, looking at me keenly. I also saw him before. He always sees me curiously from the other side of the window. Whenever I looks at him, he runs away. But today he doesn’t go.
          I ask, “What’s up?”
          He bends his head down quickly.
          I ask again, “Have you gone?”
          Hiding himself, he replies, “No.”
          “What’s your name?”
          “Montaz Mia.”
          “Come, come inside.”
          Our conversation doesn’t continue further. I concentrate on writing. Pleasure of writing in a quiet dove-singing noon is really different. I forgot Montaz Mia.
          Same thing happens the next day. Montaz Mia is looking at me curiously from the other side of the window. I ask, “What’s up, Montaz Mia? Come inside.”
          He comes in.
          I ask, “Where do you live?”
          In response, he only smiles opening his decayed teeth.
          “Don’t you go to school?”
          He smiles again. I give him a white paper separating from my note book. He becomes overwhelmed for this rare fortune. He can’t understand what to do. He smells the paper. Then pressing it on his cheeks for a while, he leaves like a shooting star.
          At dinner time, my younger uncle asks me, “Scoundrel Montaz comes to you – is it true? Slap him away if he comes again.”
          “A notorious thief, he steals whatever he finds. Never allow him with you. He is often punished but has no effect. Why does he come to you?”
          “For nothing.”
          “He is searching to steal. Maybe he has already stolen your pens or other things.”
          “No, he didn’t take anything.”
          “Search perfectly. Nothing can be said so easily. That boy has an incident in life.”
          “What’s the incident?”
          “It’s a long story. I’ll tell another day.”
          Next morning, I begin to write as usual. I come out after hearing hue and cry. I’m surprised to see that two or three people have brought Montaz Mia by grasping his arms and legs. He is groaning. It seems that he is strongly punished. His lips are bleeding, and his cheek in one side has swelled up.
          I ask, “What’s happened?”
          One of the punishers says, “Is this pen yours? It was with this scoundrel Montaz.”
          I can see that it’s really my pen – a ballpoint of four or five taka. It’s not such an expensive thing. I’d give it if he wanted. He didn’t need to steal. I feel sad for him. In this childhood, why he has learned to steal? What will he do in future?
          “Brother, is it your pen?”
          “Yes, but I’ve given it. Set him free. Why did you beat such a little boy? You should ask me before beating him – did you?”
          The punisher replies immutably, “Nothing happens to him with such a beating. This is like a staff to him. He gets indigestion if he is not beaten.”
          Montaz Mia is keeping his eyes on me with a great surprise. It seems to see him that he can see someone for the first time in his short life who doesn’t call him a thief although he has stolen. However, he spends the whole day silently sitting down on the other side of the window. I usually talk to him, but I speak not a single word today. I’m in a bad mood – why a boy will learn to steal in this age? 
Montaz Mia from The Shadow Companion | Portrayed by Mong Shonie
Montaz Mia from The Shadow Companion | Portrayed by Mong Shonie

          I come to know Montaz Mia’s exceptional incident from my younger aunt after two days of the stealing. This is so peculiar thing about village people who can’t understand which incident is important and which is trivial. No one has so far told me such a massive incident that happened in Montaz Mia’s life, but they’ve told many unnecessary things in many times.
          This is the story that happened in Montaz Mia’s life-
          Three years ago in the middle of the month of Kartik (the seventh month of the Bengali Calendar), Montaz Mia returned home with high fever. The fever was so high that his poor father called in a doctor finally. Within a short time after the doctor’s arrival, Montaz Mia died. In village, both birth and death are accepted as natural. Montaz Mia’s mother cried for some time. His father also cried by screaming – ‘my son, where’s he gone!’ Then he came back normal. They’ve to struggle hard for surviving. Mourning son’s death doesn’t bring them anything.

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