A sudden noise woke Obhoy in the middle of the night and for the rest of the night his eyelids did not close. What was his problem? He had fallen sound asleep; then suddenly he woke up as if someone was knocking on the door of his senses. Slowly, Obhoy sat down on his bed and lit the oil lamp. He looked around the room; everything seemed perfectly fine. What was he so afraid of then? He remained still and tried to listen. No, there was no sound. He was worried for no good reason.
Then his gaze fell on the empty space of his bed. Someone was sleeping there still seven days ago. Three years earlier, he had married Bokul. There had been a full moon in the sky like today. Her mother was alive then and they were all happy together. Then one day her mother passed away. Bokul took on the responsibilities of his house. At first it was difficult for her, but she learned quickly. She has succeeded all too well in replacing her mother. She did everything herself, from bookkeeping to cooking and washing clothes. She would get up early in the morning and work until midnight. She didn’t even have time to visit her parents. Obhoy couldn’t tolerate being without her for a day. Next door neighbor Champa once observed, “O my dear, you look awful!”
“I have so much to do, you know,” Bokul replied.
Champa said: “You could work a little less, I’m sure.”
Bokul responded like a complacently happy housewife, “How can I work less? This is my home and my family. Even if death comes to take me today, I must ask her to wait.”
Champa shuddered, “What kind of speech is this?”
“Don’t worry. Death won’t take me.”
So, Bokul had tidied up Obhoy’s messy house. Not only that, people said he even fell in love with his wife. Obhoy, who couldn’t bear to live without his friends, stopped visiting them after his marriage. His friends laughed at him, but he pretended he hadn’t heard anything.
As the days went by, Obhoy’s friends started to run away from him. No one saw him frolicking with friends or colleagues after the office. His friends have also stopped visiting him. Obhoy looked relaxed and happy. Bokul asked, “Why don’t your friends come anymore? “
Obhoy burst out laughing. “Too much expense, my dear.
Bokul said, “But you know, everyone is going to blame me for your transformation.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean people will think I made you stop this.”
Obhoy laughed again, “Leave them.”
Less than two months after her marriage, Bokul realized that her husband was a miser. Marriage essentially gave him the opportunity to get rid of his friends.
Slowly, three years have passed. Then one night, Bokul fell ill. Wednesday night, she called her husband. Obhoy asked, “What’s wrong?”
Bokul moaned, “I’m so cold… ahh… ooh… close all the doors and windows.” Leave me the quilt, all my clothes too. Oh, my God, why is that so… old? everything in the house … “
Obhoy put everything he had on her. Yet she was cold. Obhoy put his palm on her forehead and felt it burn. It was late at night; where could he go? Should he call a doctor? But that meant he would have to spend the money. Meanwhile, Bokul kept screaming, “I’m burning… O..O..O.”
Obhoy thought to himself, “She went to bed well.” What happened ? Is it malaria? I’m sure it’s just malaria.
By this time, Bokul had started to utter gibberish.
Obhoy felt miserable. He sat next to his dear wife and fanned her all night. He was ready to do anything that required physical labor. But he certainly wasn’t going to spend the money for nothing. In the morning, a local doctor was called. The doctor took the time to examine Bokul and returned the verdict that she had typhoid. And it was also a difficult case. She needed a lot of care.
Obhoy was horrified. He wanted to cry with all his heart. But instead of doing so, he became magnanimous and spent ten taka on his wife. If Bokul had lived longer, he should have spent more. But to save her loving husband from additional expenses, the caring wife passed away the next day.
Obhoy fell to the ground, crying and moaning like a woman. His precious home had fallen like a house of cards. He had failed miserably to protect his wife, so the only option for him was to cry loudly. His old friends came to console him. They had carefully avoided Obhoy for the past three years, but the situation was different now. Seeing him cry so pitifully, everyone shed tears too.
After having burned it at the stake, everyone went home in the evening.
People said that Obhoy’s love for his wife was sublime. Bokul would often laugh at him and ask, “What would you do when I die?”
“I will build you a Tajmahal.”
“Oh, please don’t spend all your money on me. “
Obhoy said, “All I have is yours. What is so awesome?
“Okay, so we have tons of money? Why don’t you go get me some fancy soap for me?”
“Do you want to spend four and a half years on bubbles?” Obhoy berated his wife. “No, no, we can’t afford that kind of luxury here.”
Now that Bokul was gone, Obhoy barely ate for six days and six nights. His friends and family worried about him. They tried to console him in any way they could.
Finally, after six days and six nights, he was able to think about his surroundings and fell asleep. It was then that he heard the loud noise and woke up in the middle of the night. He looked at the empty space where Bokul slept and his whole being screamed.
Suddenly a thought crossed his mind. He hoped his deceased wife was not back. Poor Obhoy had goose bumps all over his body. He was certainly not ready for this kind of love.
Then he heard the sound again. Someone was pushing the door from outside. Obhoy jumped up and peered through the hole. In pure amazement, he saw a large rat hurrying desperately to his door before finally disappearing around the corner.
Obhoy sighed in relief. He decided to take out his key and see if everything was in order. Going through the list, he was thirsty and almost called his wife. Then he remembered that Bokul was gone. Now he should have a servant and pay at least ten taka a month as a salary. He shuddered at the thought of the enormous amount accumulated by the end of the year.
It was two o’clock in the evening. Obhoy rummaged through his boxes, disheveled hair, bulging eyes; he was sweating profusely. He fell onto his wife’s side of bed and cried with abandon. He looked at the single photograph of Bokul hanging on the wall. It was old and faded because it was taken a long time ago.
The clock struck three o’clock. Was he going mad because of his deceased wife? He ran his fingers through his long hair. He opened the window and looked out into the moonlit night. Obhoy felt a huge void in him.
He had spent the last six days and nights in fear and suspense.
Taking out his wife’s jewelry box, he began to examine its contents against the list he had. No, that particular element was surely missing. Tears flowed freely down Obhoy’s cheeks. He felt cheated. He had removed everything from Bokul’s body before the cremation; anything but the pair of gold earrings she always wore. Hidden under her dark locks, they had traveled with her to the funeral pyre.
Obhoy could take the pain of losing his wife, but the loss of the gold earrings turned out to be too much. Whenever he closed his eyes, the earrings appeared in his dreams with a vicious luminosity that did not allow him to sleep.
Haven’t we said that the wives of the lucky ones die early? Obhoy lay awake all night wondering how and why fortune had eluded him when his wife died. (abbreviated)
Sohana Manzoor is Associate Professor of English at ULAB. She is also the literary editor of the Daily Star.