21st Century “Kunta Kinte”! Chapter 5: The flash back! (part two)

21st Century “Kunta Kinte”! Chapter 5: The flash back! (part two)

21st Century “Kunta Kinte”!
Introduction: Revealing the “untold”! | Chapter 1: The realisation! | Chapter 2 : The beginning! | Chapter 3: The dream! | Chapter 4: The flash Back (part one)

Chapter 5: The flash back! (part two)

Yes, time travel continues. October 1985, I have returned from Vienna without informing anyone at home. I was so obsessed with my own desire and selfish objective that I never realised the consequences of me coming back to Bangladesh! I was such a foolish person without any vision (I probably still am)!

But, do I regrate? Not at all!

I believe everything happens for a reason and God must had a different plan for me! Yes, he did.

I am standing outside of our front door, waiting for someone to respond to my door knock. The door started to open – it was probably the longest time needed to open a door. I was very keen to see the person on the other side of the door – opening of every centimetre was taking longer than usual!

Finally I could see the person; finally she could see me.

It was the pair of eyes of my only sister-in-law, Kona Reza. She probably had the biggest surprise of her life! Her eyes could not believe what she was witnessing! Her throat went so dry that she could not talk, shout or call my mother. Her hands were so numb, she forgot to hug me, her foots were stuck to the floor, she could not move back to allow me to come in. She could not believe that I am back from Vienna only after six weeks!

She thought, she was day dreaming! Being a regular viewer of horror movies with Nigar, it was hard for her to believe that it was me! She thought, it was my ‘soul’ came back after something serious happened to the real Farhad Reza in Vienna!

I had to hug her to bring her down to reality. I had to push her back to enter into the house.

Suddenly Kona started to talk! Questions after questions, clarifications after clarifications, gradually her tone went from harder to a little bit softer. She was always on my side. I think she was the first one (and probably the last one) to be convinced by me that what I did was right. She ran into the house to give the ‘great’ news to my mother who was busy with her regular schedule of writing (yes, she is an author).

The house was very quiet! My thirsty eyes were looking for someone, who was the reason for me to come back so early, who was the reason for me to ignore all my possible prospects and opportunities in Europe.

Inside, I was feeling like the king of England (King-Emperor Edward VIII), who gave up his throne for the love of his life! Great story!

Kona told me that, it was just yesterday when Nigar had left for her parents’ house to stay for the period she was meant to be in Bangladesh before departing for Vienna. She also took most of our furniture with her on a ‘thelagari’. How frustrating!

I requested Kona not to call Nigar and let me give her a surprise. Oh boy, what a surprise it was!!

I went to my mother’s room. She was still sitting on her chair and stopped her ‘very powerful pen’ after the news. She just turned around as soon as I entered into her room. I realised, how much I have missed her and she had missed me over last six weeks!

As usual, no tears, no sign of stress, no surprise in her expression, no tension, no anger, just the very familiar smile with a huge welcoming hug!

I think she is probably the only one who knew, I would come back as she never wanted me to go overseas in the first place.

I sat with her on her bed and again started to clarify – the response from her was no clarification needed, she was very happy that I have returned in good health. It may mean I will never go overseas again and stay in Bangladesh for rest of my life with the family. She seemed like the happiest mother in town!

I called my two sister’s, brother-in-laws and my elder brother to give them the ‘great’ news of my ‘arrival’! I really can’t remember now their reactions but all I can say it wasn’t as positive as my mother or my sister-in-law. They wanted to come and see me in the evening. The only common question I had from all of them was ‘did Nigar know?’

I was eventually getting my confidence back after having two consecutive positive welcome. I was almost feeling that I have done the right thing. I still would have had the same feeling if I did not have to go to Nigar’s house to give her the ‘surprise’!

It was around lunch time, I took a rickshaw to go to Nigar’s house as the car wasn’t available and I wasn’t very keen to wait longer. I probably would wait a bit longer if I knew what surprise was waiting for me!

Again, the rickshaw was not fast enough. The road was too long. The traffic was too slow. It seemed like everyone on the street was telling me to slow down, telling me to calm down, telling me to think twice, telling me to think alternative ways of informing her about my return – all rubbish thinking was in my head.

I woke up at the rickshaw pullers voice. I was outside of the front gate of Nigar’s house. The gate was closed. You have to go through the smaller door on the left side of the gate rather than opening the big gate. The rickshaw pullers asked for Tk20 and guess what, I was so happy to be there, I gave him a note of Tk50 and told him to pray for me (I didn’t know at that time that I needed it desperately).

Nigar’s house was still a traditional one storied building with a long verandha in front. To reach the verandah you have to cross a bit of open space after the main gate.

I opened the smaller door. Believe it or not, its rusty sound was even sweeter than a singing bird in Vienna. I was in the open space and walking towards the verandah. I realised that someone was sitting in the verandha and reading the daily newspaper “Bangladesh Observer”. The someone was my father-in-law, and it was basically his pass time every day to go through the current news.

But, he probably did not have any clue that in minute’s time he was going to get the most unexpected news, the news he would not even thought in his dream!

I have almost reached up to the verandah now. I am ‘climbing’ the steps!

The news paper moved away very slowly. The face of my father-in-law came out from behind the news paper. He had his reading glasses on. It came out in his hand. I don’t think he believed what he was seeing! He looked at me for ages (it seemed like that at the moment). He was probably doing some reality check in his head. I don’t remember how long we were silent for!

The ‘cone of silence’ broke as soon as I gave my salam.

I still think, within moment of realising what had happened just then, my father-in-law went through his flash back regrating the approval of my marriage to his youngest daughter. He was never hopeful with this ‘class friend’ of Nigar and now it is proved that he is ‘good for nothing’. Has anyone ever heard that someone comes back after 6 weeks from Europe for such a ‘stupid’ reason? Has anyone ever saw someone so happy after doing such a ‘crime’? He must had thought about the future of his youngest daughter – he must had the guilty feeling of giving the hands of her daughter to such a ‘useless’ man!

But in reality, he did not say any harsh word! Why would he? I am back because of her daughter. I am here to be with Nigar! As you can realise I was still living in my ‘fantasy world’!

Just like a gentleman, he responded to my salam and invited me to his living room inside the house. But, his eyes were talking to me, his ‘body language’ was messaging me the ‘mistakes’ I had done. I was probably getting the feeling of what may happen when I see Nigar.

My father-in-law disappeared inside the house and I was sitting and waiting for Nigar to come and ‘welcome’ me!

Every second, every minute – I was gradually feeling the pain of my mistake, my actions, the reactions, the emotions, the questions – why did I do it? Did I do the right thing?

The door screen between the inner house and the living room went one side at a 30 degree angle with larger opening at the bottom and still triangular opening on the top! After six weeks and few hours of wait I could see the face I was dying to see, the woman I was dying to meet! Yes, it is the same Nigar but what happened to her? Why isn’t she as happy as I am? What did I do wrong?

After 26 years of marriage, I still don’t know what was going through her head, what was she thinking about her ‘beloved’ husband. All I knew at the moment, she wasn’t appreciative of my actions at all. I believe she was feeling the shame of humiliation in front of her parents, in front of her peer group, in front of herself! I still think this was probably the time when she was thinking or asking the ‘dhoroni mata’ to break through the middle and she can dive in between!

I met my mother-in-law, by that time things were getting a bit normal at least on the ‘outside’. She gave us some space to talk.

I do not remember, how long that talk went for but all I remember, it was me talking and rationalising my return rather than listening to Nigar about her feeling (some people blame me doing that even today). By that time, I had realised the ‘crime’ I had committed. I opened up my ‘defence mechanism’. I started to create a ‘reasonable story’ in my head to rationalise my return with a more appropriate cause. Unfortunately I was not doing very well as there was no other story to plot!

I told Nigar that my departure from Vienna was temporary and I will go back again next year to the same university to continue my study. I was trying to establish that I had an understanding with my Professor that they would accept me next year. But inside me, I knew, this was not true! I never had any such discussions with anyone from the University. I even did not bother telling the Professor that I was leaving for good!

I was just trying to calm down the current tension and stress. It was a lie to maintain the peace and to cover up for the immediate disaster! I still believe it wasn’t a ‘sin’ to do so.

Looking at the pair of eyes full of sadness and the tears coming out of those, gave me very good indication what she was thinking. Was she thinking of leaving me, was she feeling suicidal, was she frustrated and tired at this very beginning of our life? I still don’t know.

It seemed like she had the water from ‘Bongopo sagor’ inside her eyes as the tears were coming like a never ending water fall. I wish I had the ‘Kaptai Dam’ to put inside her eyes to preserve some of the tears for future!

She was probably thinking herself as a ‘broken girl’ who failed in her assessment of a person. She was probably thinking that this was the end of her dreams, this was the end of her challenge that she took by marrying a ‘class friend’ against the will of her father.

I wish she knew at that time, we may have to face more difficult times than this and needed to save some of the tears for future!

I was gradually realising the seriousness of my actions. Yes, it was probably turning into a ‘crime’ of ‘abusing’ my wife’s dream, ‘humiliating’ my wife, challenging the ‘dignity’ of my wife, losing my self-respect, losing my dignity!

But, unfortunately it was a one way return ticket from Vienna!

This was shock number three! One of the accumulating ‘push’ factors to influence my re-exit from Bangladesh!

I was always hopeful and full of future dreams. I still believe, “your dreams can become the vehicle of your success.” You have to dream, you have to pray to God for it, you have to try to achieve it – you may get it!

By that time, our car came to pick us up from Nigar’s parent place. We went back to our house. I still remember the silent drive that we had for that 20 minutes was probably the quietest drive in my whole life. I did not have the courage to start a conversation, I did not have a word of consolation, I did not have any hope to share with Nigar.

One thing I have to agree that the best thing about time is, time moves on. The best thing about life is, life goes on.

With two broken hearts and few broken dreams, we re-started our life in Dhaka in late 1985.

Within few days, I realised that I was losing my respect among my peer group. Even among my family! I was becoming the talk of any family gathering, I was identified as a ‘symbol’ of failure, a ‘symbol’ of defeated soldier! The ‘cause’ for my return to Dhaka went down the drain. It became a joke!

The more powerful the joke was becoming, my determination was getting more stronger to show the world that I am not a ‘failure’! I had my ‘jed’ back.

Nigar was working with DDC, a consulting firm and I was obviously unemployed! Within two weeks or so, I got a job offer from ‘Sthopoti Shanshad”, an architectural firm, to work as an Architect with a salary of Tk3,000 per month. I was again over the moon – at least I have a job.

I commence working for them and after a week got the confirmation that they are happy with my work and I could continue. I wanted to break the ‘good’ news at the dinner table that night. I was happy but felt the cold reaction of my elder brother, Faridur Reza Sagar, who was already an established business man by then. I did not realise that the news of Tk3000 salary will hit his ego so hard.

After dinner, my elder brother wanted to know the reason for me to accept a job for only Tk3000 per month when a restaurant waiter from ‘Khabar Dabar’ (restaurant owned by our family) earns more than Tk3000 per month! He also wanted to know what was the use of me studying 5 years so hard if I am happy with that salary. He offered me a job with his company Impress Video for more money. He wanted me to join the family business as an owner rather than remaining as an employee for rest of my life.

For the first time in my whole life I was shuttered, I felt really insulted, humiliated – my dream of becoming a ‘true Architect’ flew through the window. My own brother, who I had and still have tremendous respect for, compared me with the waiter, offered me a job with his video company rather than trying to capitalise on my architectural qualification. Is earning money everything? Is money the measure of status in our society? Is money the key to buy happiness?

(probably now in 2012 , I am in a much better position to answer those questions above – I was so bloody emotionally driven man!)

This was shock number four! One of the accumulating ‘push’ factors to influence my re-exit from Bangladesh!

I never wanted to do business, never wanted to be part of my family business. I never wanted my family to offer me financial support to lead my life. I was always a bit independent with a big ego! And this incident made me more determined to do something within my own capability and get established without any support from my family. All I needed was a little bit of time.

I still don’t know why I had that attitude but I was certainly influenced by Nigar’s ideology on this non-business attitude over last few years.

I really had a very strong ego but at the same time I love my brother, I love my family, I wanted to be with them, I still enjoy the feeling of a family living together.

Next morning, I went back to ‘Sthopoti Shangshad’ and submitted my resignation letter only after working there for one week. I joined Impress Video with a different plan in my head!
It was really challenging time for me. I still remember the support I got from Nigar. We were still dreaming, dreaming for a life outside Bangladesh, dreaming for a life far far away from this humiliation, the negative environment surrounding us, far far away from this ‘business centric money making’ land.

One of the greatest quality of Nigar is that she can cope up with difficult situation very fast. She is a ‘panic’ queen but still capable of tackling that situation very strongly. On the other hand me, a person with no stress, no tension, live for the day, no long term planning. I still believe ‘life is too short’!

1986, I was working for Impress Video, making documentaries, music videos, wedding videos and so on. Nigar was still working for DDC. I was also getting some Architectural works through personal contacts. Life was going alright but we still did not give up on our dream. But nothing was coming our way!

I applied for an Architect’s job with the Public Works Department (PWD). At the same time both of us applied for a scholarship for a master’s degree at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. We never knew or even thought about the ‘trap’ we were heading for.

Miracle happens!

It was unbelievable but true that I received two offer letters on the same day. One offering me a job with PWD and the other offered me a scholarship in Bangkok. What do I do?

My family particularly my mother was very much in favour of accepting the PWD job. I looked at Nigar and I saw those dreams fired up again in her eyes, I saw her hopes were up again, I saw her confidence in my ability! I got the message, very loud and clear. As if Nigar was giving a speech at the ‘polton moidan’ to the public and requesting everyone to influence me to follow the ‘right’ choice!

Unfortunately, Nigar wasn’t offered a scholarship in Bangkok through this process. So like ‘rewind a play’, it was me (‘solo’) going overseas again but not that far like Vienna! It was only up to Bangkok this time.

I accepted the scholarship and declined the PWD offer. I have to say my mother wasn’t the happiest mother in Bangladesh on that day. My elder brother, like always blessed me and wished me luck with a very ‘strange’ smile as if he knew that I was coming back in few months’ time anyway. My sister’s were happy for me but wasn’t sure what will happen in next couple of months.

Nigar’s father was very happy with the news. I believe for the ‘second’ time he was very proud of me with extra ‘caution’. I believe their whole family including Nigar was getting the confidence back on me. It was like a second chance for me to prove myself!

May, 1987, I arrived in Bangkok with very strong determination that I was not going back to Bangladesh just for the sake of going back. Yes, I was feeling very lonely, sad, upset – thinking what did I achieve over last one year? If I had to come overseas without Nigar, why did not I stay in Vienna? What an irony!

But, I did not realise that God had a different plan for us. It was just the beginning of his mysterious plan.

It was Monday, on the first day of my course – I still remember that around 3pm after the class, Mr R. W Archer, an Australian faculty member and the head of my Department, wanted to see me in his office. He was very interested in my resume and the work I did with media in Bangladesh on Bangladeshi housing, planning and environment.

I went to his room. I was surprised to know that he had all information about me including my return from Vienna. I still do not know, how he had all those information. We had a chat around 30 minutes and at one stage he asked me about my family and gradually my wife and so on. I took the first opportunity to tell him that my wife Nigar was an applicant for this scholarship but she wasn’t successful. I also added that how much it would mean to us if we both had the scholarship.

It seems like Nigar’s name generated some thoughts to Archer’s head. He opened his cupboard and brought out a very heavy file and went through that for next ten minutes. Meanwhile, I was sitting there and still explaining how good we were as class friend and how we had complemented each other during our studies, why did I come back from Vienna etc etc.

Archer looked at me and asked, “Has your wife got a passport?” My answer, “Yes”. Question, “Can she afford to buy a ticket to Bangkok’? Answer “Yes”. Question, “Can she get a visa on a short notice?” Answer, “Yes” (though I had no clue how long it may take to get a Thai visa).

After that, what ever happened, happened for a reason. I believe God was writing our fate in his own hand at that moment!

Archer told me that Nigar’s name was first on the waiting list and one of the prospective candidate just declined his offer. Archer can offer that scholarship to Nigar if she is interested. The only condition is that she needs to be in Bangkok by Friday this week otherwise the scholarship will go to someone else.

I was just looking at Archer, listening to him and thought, was this really happening? Was this true? Was I dreaming? Has he gone mad!

I was almost dropped off my chair and ran to the international centre as those days we did not have mobile or international phone everywhere. I tried to call our home and found that Nigar has again gone to her parents’ house for the time being. I called Nigar’s house and found her.
I can’t remember what the conversation was and how long it went for, but my conclusion to her was, miracle happened and you have to take this opportunity to come and join me in Bangkok. I still don’t know the reaction that Nigar had on the other end but I can only imagine the relief and confidence she got from that phone call.

Next few days were very long for me. It was just waiting and waiting. Nigar got her visa by Thursday, tickets confirmed by Wednesday for a flight on Friday afternoon.

May 1987, for the first time both of us realised our presence in a foreign soil together where we were expected to stay for a longer period of time. Finally my dream was fulfilled, even before I learnt ‘Bahsa Thai’, I had my wife with me and importantly she was there not only as my wife but with her own right.

I still do not know, how did this happen? How Archer did have all information on us? Were we really part of a conspiracy?

Or miracle happens!

(to be continued in June)

 

Farhadur Reza Probal

Farhadur Reza Probal

Architect Farhadur Reza FIAB MPIA


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