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. Malekas 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?
near her husbands house.
Latifs first wife had been upset since Malekas 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.
Latif jumped up and grabbed a fistful of his wifes 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?
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?
a mans age matter?
Selina Hossain is a leading fiction writer of Bangladesh. She lives in Dhaka