This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Friday, 12 October 2012

At The Football Game

“I said, sister,” I told her, as the truck bounced over the ruts, “that it’s not our fault either.”

She probably looked back at me. “I didn’t want this,” she said. “Do you think I wanted this?” She sounded as though she would cry.

“No, no.” I saw Habibullah was leaning over, trying to say something over the noise of the engine. I leaned towards him so that his mouth came close to my ear.

“We’re late,” he shouted.

“I know. It will be all right.” I hoped.

“All because you were talking to the bitch. Why bother?”

“I don’t know…maybe because I like to know what they think.” I glanced back. The woman had turned her head toward the front of the truck. “They are strange creatures.”

“Oh, go talk to her…” he snorted and sat back. The truck fell into a large pothole and bounced hard, and I almost pitched on one knee. I managed to pull myself back and half-fell on the woman. She shrunk back from me.

“Your pardon, sister.” I had dropped my gun, and it swung on its sling and hit her on the shin. “I’m sorry.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said so softly I almost could not hear.

We reached the stadium. By now we were very late and the game was well under way. We had to wait till half-time before I could take her in. So I began talking to her again.

“You’re not like the others,” she said once.

“How do you mean that?”

“You want to know things, you ask things, you don’t automatically think I’ve no ability to think.”

“Well, I’m not from a madrassa.” I sat next to her on the back of the truck. The noise of the football bouncing came thinly over the wall. “I’ve had schooling.”

“So why are you with them? It’s nothing to die for, what I did.”

“Sister,” I said, “it’s because there has to be a choice sometime, don’t you think? We have to choose what we can be comfortable with. What came before – I could not live with that.”

“And you can live with this?”

“Certainly. If you’ve seen what came before, and you have – blood on the streets, shells on your homes, and raping and loot in broad daylight –“

“But I could work then, and our daughters could study.”

“There’s always a price to be paid. Besides, it’s not as if it’s forever. The Amir said the schools will be reopened. But now there are not the funds for separate schools.”

“Ah.” She tilted her head back and stared at the sky. She kept looking a long time.

“What are you looking at?” I asked at last.

“The sky. The birds. Things I should have looked at more before, but I was always too busy.” She sighed loud enough for me to hear. “All that time wasted. All those years.”

“Were you happy?” I couldn’t help asking.

“Then? Yes. I used to teach in the University, you know.” Her voice sounded nostalgic. I suddenly wondered what her face might look like. One hand was showing, and I looked away from it. “I used to enjoy teaching.”

“Did you enjoy them looking at you?”

“What – you mean my students? I was teaching them. How does it matter whether they looked at me?”

I sighed. “I’m sorry, sister. We aren’t talking about the same thing, are we?”

She turned her covered head towards me. “Someday this all shall end.”

“I don’t doubt it,” I said. “But there shall be something else to come, and that may well be worse still. The bombs may fall again.”

“Let’s go,” she said firmly. “Take me inside and let’s get it over with.”

Faintly, in the distance, the whistle blew for half time.     

Copyright B Purkayastha 2008


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