Sunday, July 21, 2024

Me, Rahman and the suffering of food

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Sometimes I used to go to Nilkhet for better food

I had a great friend while studying at university. Even though the two are from two departments, it did not stop them from becoming friends. We lived on the sixth floor of Mohsin Hall. Rahman is his name. I met Rahman while eating in the dining hall. Often we ate together. None of us liked the bad food in the dining hall. But we had no choice. There was no opportunity to eat anywhere else with so little money. Sometimes I used to go to Nilkhet for better food. I remember one of the chicken pitches was called a helicopter.

I do not know why this name has been given. Dhaka University campus is not comparable to any other university. Those who wander through the campus here are also very high in mind. The life of the university was happy despite the many tensions. I met a person named Jasmine here. Despite the huge geographical distance between the two of us, it was not difficult to get close to each other. Moreover, in my uncertain future, the life of a well-to-do girl was thrown into uncertainty. I wear a pair of pants to class and she wears a new dress every day.

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Rahman always joked about food. Especially with the dining dal. Nowhere in the world can you find such thin water-like branches. Daraz could laugh. He used to call me Malik. Once we got tired of eating hall food. At that time Mohsin Hall was the power of Nivu Bablud. Chhatra Dal and Jasad Chhatra League are coexisting in the anti-Ershad movement. The late Shafi Ahmed Jasad was leading the Chhatra League then. Sometimes I have to leave the hall. Fight with new Bengali student society. One night, Raofun Basuniya was shot dead by dictator Ershad’s mercenary forces. We had to leave the hall as usual but there is no place for us to stay in Dhaka.

I spend the night whenever whereever I can. Sometimes I think of spending the night at Farmgate over bridge too. The token of Awami Chhatra League was my classmates. He sometimes let it stay. Showed the pistol and said stay in my room. After returning to the new hall, one day it was arranged that I and Rahman would cook and eat together in the room. A boy was fixed. he will do marketing and cook. Shafi bhai, Neeru bhai and other student leaders were familiar with it, so it was not difficult to use the heater in the room and cook.

One day Rahman said Malik will take you to our house today. I did not know that the Rahmans have a house in Dhaka. I happily agreed. I will go to Rahman’s house, he will definitely give me food! I’m super excited! How does the mind crave to eat home food? One day I went to Solmaid’s house in Rahman. The area can still be called a village. But near Gulshan. We went by bus number 6. Then by rickshaw and a bit by boat. On reaching I saw an old small tin house. It has two rooms. I did not know that Rahman did not have a father. His mother and a sister in ninth grade. The sister was happy to see us. Rahman’s mother fed very carefully that day. His mother earns money by working at home. A family created by suffering. That day we ate at Petpur with kajri fish, maini fish, jute greens and thick pulses. I have never eaten food that tastes like that.

Suddenly one day Rahaman left the Hall. Couldn’t say where he went. I did not find Rahman’s whereabouts even after many searches. Many years have passed since then. I forgot about Rahman. I met Rahman one day in New York in 2016. We went to eat Chinese in Jamaica, there I see Rahaman. Suddenly someone said, ‘You are not Malik!’ I kept looking at the face. What happens to me is that I don’t recognize anyone at first. It takes a while. I couldn’t think of anyone with such a plump and shiny face. I was ashamed not to recognize. He said, I am Rahman. Mohsin Hall’s. Saying ha ha ha laughed. This smile introduced me to Rahman’s words.

Rahman took me to his Long Island home one day. Luxurious house on three acres of land. Rahman has no mother. Sister also lives in America. Somewhere in Queens. We sat down to eat. His wife cooked about ten to twelve courses of food. Rahman said, do you remember what we ate at our house! I said I remember, kajri fish, maini fish and thick dal with jute greens. Rahman smiled. Said your memory is very sharp! I said, I can remember everything.

I like to see a lot of food on the table. How much we have suffered for food in life. But even so, those days do not compare. I will never forget the taste of my aunt’s cooking. Today, Rahman has no mother and I have no mother. How many stories we had while eating. Rahman’s wife Nazneen said, nowadays everyone posts news pictures on Facebook. I don’t like it at all! I laughed and said, I don’t like it either. Food is just for survival not for show…

Toronto 22 June 2024

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