Turning my back on all my books, I focused on rearranging my amulets, and then handed all of them over to my wife, saying, “Go forth, go forth and sell these charms, sell them in the port of Farashdanga.”
My wife, she inserted slips of papers with scribbles in Persian, excerpts from scriptures in Arabic, Chakma, Hawaiian, and what not, into these amulets, these amulets of silver and bronze, amulets polished or gilded – she inserted these notes with God’s and seventy thousand other deities’ names on them into the amulets, for she did not know more names, and sealed the openings with wax. And then, yet again, more notes, more wax, more notes, ad infinitum, or to be more precise, seven times.
She then tied these amulets onto people’s hands, tied them on their waists, and seemingly, I know for sure, for I made the amulets, all their troubles found other homes elsewhere, others to wreck – all their pregnant girls were getting married, to men of worth too – pumpkins turned into eggplants, pumpkins into slender unblemished eggplants, and all the original ones, I, of course, mean eggplants here, turned into local goons! People began to call me up at night, at noon, what have you done, you! And they said, from local newspapers to Chinatown, if you were to bury one of our amulets in your enemy’s ground, forget that enemy of yours, even the land of his poker buddies would have a hard time bearing a fruit larger than a cucumber.
And then, as luck would have it, one day they take my wife away, for she had done one inexcusable crime, that of simultaneously being a woman and selling amulets with God’s name within, so, yes, they take her away, seal her openings with themselves, and then abruptly fall asleep. And then, upon waking, seal her again, and fall asleep again, ad infinitum here too, or I think so, as I have lost my count of it.
That did not stop me though, and so I married again, this time to another, suffice it to say, woman of considerable skills. Mutual practice of such skills in bed would not fill our stomachs, I knew, hence I did what any grown man would, going to and fro from here to there – here I was, riding a wreck of a bus, there, riding a wreck of a steamer, downtowns to shanty towns, Dolaikhal to Dhamrai. My skills grew on streets as well, as you my friends see my garage spring up almost autonomously, as if it itself was a shutter – me making cars and tanks and all that is in between from spares and leftovers, and they sliding by leaving all the Japan-made automobiles behind. Words sprout from people’s mouth, praises of my manhood, praise be to my new wife, praise be to my new career. My then-wife though, remains shut in the bedroom, for I lock her in there, warning her of what lurks outside. With my cars tied to my cycle carrier, I take them to Rangs Tower, to be painted green and to be sold with Made in Japan written all over them, such car, that not even a Mr Mitsubishi or a Mr Toyota could envision, so the Japanese say.
My rebel wife tends to disagree with me, talks of new days, tries to show me visions of days to come, visions of new eras and epochs, where even the largest towers cower beneath larger towers, where even Rangs Tower crumbles down, as a road must go through. How could I deny, for I was there too when the notice for demolition came from the Mayor’s office! So, off she goes, to sell my cars, while I indulge myself in making more and more of them. My wife, my illiterate wife, she takes a new stance, she takes my cars to Karwan Bazaar, to Manik Mia avenue and that Parliament Building, she imprints Made in Bangladesh signs on them, introducing them as the first line of cars to be manufactured in our country, she makes a show of the cars, their air conditioners, her delicate hands, the damned steerings, and for the people, the show is hers alone. My wife of no upbringing, who could not make up a complete sentence before, had surely grown smart by now, smart enough to put Oxford commas in speeches even, for now she said, Do you not want cars of this fine quality to be produced in this country? Do you not love your country, gentlemen? So, this is how our business flourishes, me in my garage day and night, she in her showrooms, day and night and more, displaying cars, unwittingly displaying herself – I, fated to be father to Abdullah, still with no child, putting up more cars, people buying them, just to please my wife.
That did not bother me, not by much, what had been rather unnerving was her eventual disappearance, her disappearance for three days. Surely she could not vanish into thin air, so I searched, I searched frantically, and then figured someone had taken her away with a car she was selling in one Rajdhani school playground – whether she was abducted, or bought, I do not know, whether she smiled or screamed, I do not know.
I then sink into a life of drugs and paraphernalia, and another marriage, so as I have to. All my amulets blacken in piles upon piles, all my cars grow rust on them. I do not bother to throw a remote glance at my wife, I just end up shoving one red-tinted defunct automobile from my garage into her face, I tell her to bring me money, money to bring me a bit of a peace, a bit of my share. She, being a daughter of a confidence man, sells coffees that would grow another head on a girl’s shoulder, she sells a coffee of a different kind, that decrements the number of heads, from two to one, from one to zero, but not any lesser, for one cannot take coffee without having one head of their own. Oh, the things she sells from that car, decades-old lottery tickets from anti-smoking campaigns, lemonades that cool your viscera through centuries, up amidst the last judgment, oil squeezed out of guts of jackals, oil I could not tell any use of given eternity to myself. But people, oh, the damned people, they are not satisfied with jackal oils and cumin tablets, are they, not indefinitely, no, and they start pondering, asking questions, joining the dots, can you imagine, reader there, can you, in this godforsaken country a single murder case has never been solved for sure, and they solve this to absolute certainty, this! What they reach upon [okay] is this, the two voices that speak of fate’s ever-turning wheel from that car, and lure you into buying lottery tickets, the male and the female, well, the male voice may be recorded, but the female is surely not, for her throat is sore in winter, moist in spring, making the people moist in their turns, and in summer, what would you believe, she gasps for air! Surely recorded voices do not know of times flowing by, or of seasons outside, so they conclude, and while I smoke my pot beneath the very same car throughout this entire marriage, exhaling fumes as if I am its exhaust pipe, they break down the car; I open my eyes, and I stretch, stretch and stretch. I finally wake up, after a day and more, and come to know my beautiful wife is there no more, my wife I never laid my eyes on, they have consumed her in whole, digested her in parts, leaving only those two rows of teeth, and they did not even leave them on ground, rather in molehills, so that their children, their three hundred and fifty children to come in a year have teeth that white, gum that strong. I wanted to, believe me good sir, I wanted to tell them all, she had a tablet just for that task too! My words never reached them though, as no billboard in this city belongs to the proletariats.
And so, yes, I go back to the cycle of marriage, once again, this time I make no mistake of not looking at her, my beloved to be, I inhale her, and momentarily forget to let my breath out, I inspect her, down to every fold she had. I then laid out this plan in front of her, that she can be a mannequin, and that I can make the clothes, embroidered and bejeweled, while she can have them on, in our little shop. She gets to go out, we get to earn money, and she runs into no trouble. People learn from their past mistakes, no? Well, I learnt from losing my wives, losing all my women. But evidently, little did I learn, little did I know, that one day I would have to return to the store after lunch, and would have to see my wife in ruins, cracked as a rusted cannon, my wife with no sign of flesh, for she had kept up her ruse of a mannequin, one by one they came, they went into her, and then they left, along with their protrusions, one by one, still she did not let go of her ruse, maybe because she thought they would let her go a bit more on ease then. And thus, she did not move a crease, and it may as well be that they did let her go easily, maybe each of the two-hundred-thousand men did only a small portion of what had happened to her while I was devouring my lunch. Such things were beyond what my experiences ever taught me, so I watched the surveillance footage hours after hours, but could I identify the men from their behind? No, I just watched my wife’s face wrinkle, with disgust, then with pain, and finally with boredom, while the camera remains locked onto her face to this day.
And this never ceased, the disappearance of my wives, my wine-selling, robot-renting wives, my wives who sold faucet spouts, wedding packages, foamless detergents, fish powder, cough syrups in so many shades of pink and whatnot, they all lose to the world, or rather, I have lost them, one before another. You may wonder, I should have grown aware for my women by then, or aware of the dangers, aware of reality, aware of other men, why didn’t I!
Well, but no sir, in the hope of a brighter day to come, I married, married, and married again.
~ Originally written in Bengali, translated by the author.