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  Honour  

Sex & Violence
  Vol II : issue 1

  Amrita Pritam
  Mrinal Pande
  Evelyne Accad
  Gagan Gill
  Selina Hossain
  Only in Print

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Illustration by SHYAMAL BANERJEE

Selina Hossain

Maleka was murdered by her husband Latif, who slit her throat open. Then he beheaded her corpse and threw it into the Jaliabeel beside Bakoljora village. Her body sank like a stone, then bobbed up again. Two days later, when it began to rot, the vultures arrived. Maleka’s two brothers tried to tow the body down from Jaliabeel to Durgapur Ghat. But it was so badly decomposed that a burial was no longer possible. The brothers cut it loose, letting the current of the Shomeshwari River take it. They were quite melancholic for a while, but they returned home rather satisfied with their handiwork. However, the stench of rotting flesh stayed with them.

Maleka, a Muslim girl, got neither a funeral nor a burial. As a child, she had learned to read the Holy Quran from a moulvi saheb. Every year, during the month of Ramadan, Maleka completed one reading of the entire Quran. She would fast right through the month as well. Her faith was without blemish.

Where would Maleka go now? The cool caress of water brought her back to her senses. She realised that there was neither heaven nor hell before her, that she was floating on the breast of her beloved Shomeshwari River. The rotting flesh of her body was being quickly devoured by schools of big and small fish which swarmed around her. Maleka asked herself, “So am I still on this earth? Where did my body disappear? The body that was the focus of such ugly and vicious rumours?

She stood near her husband’s house.
It was evening. Latif’s first wife had lit the hearth. Rice bubbled in the pot. Latif sat on the verandah and puffed away at his hookah. As soon as the rice was cooked, he would enjoy a hot meal. He always liked every dish to be hot. He would not touch food that had gone cold.

Latif’s first wife had been upset since Maleka’s murder. She was terrified of her husband. Whenever she looked at Latif, it seemed that he did not have a head on his shoulders. Latif was a headless man. Fear and pain brought tears to her eyes, but she said nothing. A crushing grief heaved in her chest day in and day out. The girl was killed, but the police did not come. The station did not even register the crime in its diary. She could not bear to think about it. She was in constant apprehension the first few days, fearing the arrival of the police. That fear had passed. But how could she be rid of the fears in her heart? She was frightened of going out alone at night.

That evening, as she took the rice gruel to the cowshed after straining the cooked rice, she screamed out in terror. The bowl of hot gruel fell on her feet. The rest of the family ran out in alarm.

What happened? What happened?
The first wife shouted, “Maleka! Maleka! The headless Maleka!”
“Be quiet!” Latif shouted. “Shut up!!”
The others yelled, “Where? Where is she?”
“There, there! There she is, right there!”

Latif jumped up and grabbed a fistful of his wife’s hair. He beat her with his fists until she fell to the floor, unconscious. He sat on the verandah late into the night. He heard a soft whisper, “What did I ever do wrong?”

He felt dizzy. As he stood up, his head struck a pillar. Latif was startled; he could hear those words even more clearly. A turbulence surrounded him. Then he spoke quite unconsciously, “Why did Manikka make advances towards you? You thought I was too old? I was an old man, hanh?”
“No, how could I have thought so? This age is not too old for you; it would be for me. The difference between us is thirty-six years.”

“Does a man’s age matter?”
Laughter rang out. Latif rushed into the house and shut the door behind him. He trembled, for a shadow moved in the courtyard. He spat on his chest and told himself that it was an illusion. “The bitch was a whore when alive, and is still the same in death.”

p. 1 p. 2 p. 3  

 
Selina Hossain is a leading fiction writer of Bangladesh. She lives in Dhaka