Mansur Ahmed was very grim. He was reclining against the sofa. He was thinking with eyes closed. It was his habit of closing his eyes when he thought over different issue. In this way his thought expanded and many vistas opened in front of him. He could arrive at a solution to his problems. Many thoughts were moving in his head at the moment, but he was not getting any solution to his thoughts. Everything seemed complicated.
Nothing could be gathered yet about Akmal. Manzur Ahmed couldn’t make any headway. Where Manzur failed what an ordinary man could do?
Shipra had taken to bed only for Akmal; within a gap of two weeks the girl reduced beyond imagination. Mansur was thinking that Shipra’s mother Nilufar Jahan never asked for anything during their long conjugal life. Now she had made only one request to him that Akmal should be released. The request should be met.
When he was a minister he kept himself a little all of from his family. During that time also Nilufar did not want anything from him. She was afraid that her request might detract her husband from the right track.
Nilufar was aware that her husband was a man of strong principles. It was due to her that Mansur could remain steadfast in his principle. The money allotted for the family, which he gave to Nilufar was the same before he was a minister and after he became one.
Sometimes the frequency of his supporters` and workers` visits increased. Nilufar never requested for extra money for the extra guests. The request that Nilufar now made was perhaps her first and last request to her husband. The request was for the release of Akmal.
Therefore Mansur had seen feeling, an added responsibility to her. Besides, the fact that Nilufar had asked him for something became all the more important. Nilufar, of course, her own interest. Shipra had a weakness for Akmal. His release is very necessary for the health and welfare of Shipra. He thought about his failure. He could not keep his wife’s request. This failure was pricking his conscience.
The activities of Bangla Bhai and his cadres greatly increased in the Rajshahi region. All national dailies published reports about their activities. At the same time the news of the religious extremists was also coming out in the national dailies. Why was the news about training and activities of Bangla Bhai coinciding with the activities of fundamental organizations?
Mansur was wondering if it was preplanned. Did the fundamental its organizations want to show their strength by showing such terrorist activities? What did they want? In Chittagong a huge amount of arms and ammunitions was seized. For whom the arms came? Who sent them? Why did the investigation into the matter stop abruptly? Was it to favour the religious extremists?
Weren’t the newly grown up the religious fanatic parties a threat to progressive politics in the country? But the progressive parties of the country were not worried about the rise of religious extremism or they decided to ignore their strength.
Mansur was disturbed. Why no one did was bother about the rise of fundamentalism? They were just ignoring the whole thing. One day they would have to pay for talking fundamentalism so lightly. But at the moment they did not understand the seriousness of the affair. The media were very vocal about this. In fact they were playing the role of political parties. If a person becomes obese he doesn’t like to go through a regime t o reduce his fat.
The political parties were no longer willing to work. They wanted to come to power through a short cut. No progressive political party had yet given any statement on the unhealthy spread of fundamentalism. Neither did they give any call for movement. Even Mansur Ahmed’s own party was silent in this matter. Mansur Ahmed felt that his party should deal with the issue in depth. Far too many concessions were given to the religious extreme parties. The progressive parties had already incurred great loss. Such concessions were not just. Mansur Ahmed decided to raise these issues in the coming general meeting of the party. He felt that something should be done for Akmal. It would be unwise to remain silent on the issue. Though it was his personal matter it could be discussed in the party in view of the overall political situation prevailing in the country. If the Party gave a statement on the matter to the press the matter would become public. Then the media could write in-depth stories. This would be one kind of pressure on the government. Mansur Ahmed felt he should consult with Nilufar.
But before he called her, Nilufar appeared before him. Seeing the gloomy face of Mansur she came near and sat beside him .She asked him about his long face.
‘Nilufar, can you advise me? Said Mansur Ahmed.
‘On what?’ Nilufar wanted to know. ‘Will it be ok to raise the issue in the meeting of our party?’ Asked Mansur Ahmed. ‘If our party, through a statement, asks the government to explain why Akmal is missing.’
‘It’s an excellent idea, but will the party take interest in such a personal issue? Nilufar wanted to know.
‘Of course, it is a personal issue but it has now become a bigger issue,’ said Mansur Ahmed. If the party takes initiative the media will take it as a hot cake. Then it will become a national issue.’ ‘I agree with you’ said Nilufar. ‘You can go ahead. If your party gives importance to the issue something great will be achieved. The government will be compelled to speak out. By the by has Manzur made any progress?’
‘No I think no one is co-operating with him.’ replied Mansur Ahmed.
‘Why aren’t they?’ Asked Nilufar.
‘Perhaps, some high ups in the government are involved in this matter’ replied Mansur Ahmed.
‘All right, you try to do something through your party.’
‘Yes, I shall do that. I shall raise the issue in the coming meeting of the Executive committee of the party.’
Nilufar Jahan was full of anxiety about Shipra. There was no improvement. She was given a lot of medicine. It seemed that her fever was turning to typhoid. A lot of laboratory test were made. Typhoid was not diagnosed though her fever appeared a common type which fluctuated at regular intervals. She could not understand the nature of fever. She gave this fever a new name odd fever, as she named the unusual laughter odd laughter. Shipra had been confined to bed for two weeks. Fever had taken away her appetite. She could not eat anything. Whatever she ate she threw up. Even she could not drink water. She was reduced to a skeleton. Her body seems to be a part of bed, like a counterpane. In her twenty years of her life it was the first time that she had taken to bed. Diseases and grief always kept their distance from her. She never took even a tablet when she caught cold.
Seeing the distressing condition of her daughter, Nilufar felt helpless. Because of her illness, Shila could not attend her classes regularly. It was not possible for Nilufar to manage everything alone.
Shila helped her mother. Shila thought that instead of her sister she might have been ill. In that case Shipra would have nursed her.
Sometimes it seemed that Shipra was okay. She enquired about Akmal. But none could give any correct reply. Being disgusted Shipra said ‘Mummy, none of you could get any trace of Akmal. What sort of politics does my father do? What’s the use of doing such politics that cannot bring any good for the common people?
‘A person has been missing for a long time. No one could make any trace of him. He was arrested by the Police and was implicated in a murder case. My uncle is an Additional Inspector General of Police. What is he doing?’
‘He could not make any headway about the whereabouts of Akmal.’
‘What can I do?’ Nilufar said in a helpless tone. ‘Everyone is trying as much as possible. No trace of the boy could yet be made. No one can say who picked him op and where they put him up.’
‘Why can’t they do anything?’ asked Shipra. ‘Is there no administration in the country? Does everything just blindly obey the government’s decisions? Have the organs of the government become dysfunctional?’
‘Perhaps the organs of the government have become dysfunctional’ said Nilufar Jahan.” Otherwise, things wouldn’t have come to such a state. We have been trying to locate Akmal for a long time. I feel there are some people who are suppressing facts.’
‘Why mummy?’ asked Shipra ‘Why do they want to suppress facts? Why is God so unkind to me? Can you tell me what will happen to me if something happens to Akmal?’
After this brief conversation Shipra again fell ill. She said, ‘Bring my Akmal back.’
Her speechless mother broke out in silent tears. She asked, ‘Is it the destiny of my dear Shipra? Sitting beside her bed she caressed her hair. She tried to console her daughter. ‘Shipra, you’ll see, Akmal will come back one day. I can see with the eyes of my mind that he is coming. In fact he did come and entered the room and said to me, ‘Auntie, give me a glass of water. My throat has dried up. He drank water in a single gulp. Then he said, ‘Mummy, I have not eaten hilsa with mustard that you cook for a long time. Will you cook this dish for me?’ I was extremely delighted to imagine that I’d cook this dish again for him. Anyway when he comes, he’d put his head on your forehead and will say ‘Shipra, I shall not go to anywhere else.’
‘Get up and see that your beloved Akmal is beside your bed.’
At a certain point of time Nilufar’s imagination faded but the turn of waiting did not end.