Shubhashish Chakraborty Turjoy
A fascist government has taken over the country. They’ve stripped the public of their basic rights and the country has become more like a prison. The general public is tired of the authoritarian rule and their tyranny. But little Abed doesn’t get all these. His face is buried in his Baba’s chest while crying his heart out.
He keeps saying one word over and over again in a muffled voice, “Why?”
His Baba, Ali, keeps replying the same, “One day, you’ll know.”
Maybe he never will. The cruelty of the world is far too much for an 8-year-old to fathom. He just wants Anik back. The way these two met is a story of its own.
Being the only kid in a big mansion, Abed often felt lonely. He couldn’t remember the last time he was with someone of his age. He always wanted to go to school and make friends, but Ali insisted on home-schooling him. However, it’s not that he didn’t interact with people. In fact, people came to their mansion all the time and they still do. Young men in suits and sunglasses, middle-aged men in white punjabis and gold bracelets, politicians who appear on TV and give loud speeches in front of large crowds, and the omnipresent specimens; the tall, dark, and armed guards. All of them used to meet with Abed’s Baba, hand him briefcases, and proceed to the Meeting Room.
Abed used to ask Ali, “Baba, who are they? Why do they come to you?”
Ali smiled and said, “You’ll know soon, boy.”
The window in Abed’s room gave him a clear view of the paved driveway. Every time an unfamiliar car entered the driveway, he prayed for the person getting off the passenger seat to be a kid. Little did he know, the person he was longing for would enter his life in the most extraordinary fashion.
It was a typical quiet afternoon. Abed’s mother was on her soap opera marathon in her cozy room and his father was out. The only person accompanying the young fellow was uncle Abdul, his personal guard. During his solitude over the years, Abed had mastered the skill to immerse himself into his own imagination whenever he pleased. This was the only way he could pass his leisure time. On that particular afternoon, he was Lionel Messi; playing the World Cup on his lawn. He was dribbling past hundreds of defenders, the crowd was chanting his name, and…he took a shot to bring the cup home! But the ball went over the post—in reality, above the garden wall. A tragic end to a World Cup finale.
Abed looked over to uncle Abdul only to find him sleeping against the big oak tree. He was about to wake the man for the gate’s keys, but a sound left him frozen.
Someone was juggling the ball with bare feet. That thumping sound of the ball bouncing off the feet was all too familiar for him. He rushed towards the iron gates only to be left in awe.
A dark-haired, skinny boy in a red T-shirt and ragged jeans was showboating. The most astounding fact for Abed was that they were both, almost, of the same height and age.
“Who are you? And how are you doing that?” Abed asked.
“You don’t need fancy boots to play football.” Anik paused and looked at Abed, whose jaw had hit the ground. “I’m Anik. You must be Abed,” he said with a smile. He kicked the ball back to its owner.
Abed had only one thought in his mind.“Would you like to play with me someday?” he asked.
“Here. Tomorrow. Same time. See you, Mr. Fancypants!” Anik left with a jolly stride. Abed couldn’t believe it. He had finally got a shot at making a friend. Unable to sleep at all that night, he got up at dawn and started counting minutes.
Then came afternoon. Only this time, it was not typical.
“Uncle Abdul, please open the gate.”
“Why?” asked the man curiously.
“History awaits, uncle! Messi with Ronaldo. Let the games begin!”
Abdul did not understand a single word, but he opened the gates anyway. That day, Abdul saw the true meaning of happiness. The two boys were playing, laughing, and bonding. He was really happy that Abed had finally found a playmate. But a hint of anxiety started to cloud his mind.
Days went by and the two strangers became best friends. At long last, Abed found a brother he’d always wanted. He could share his thoughts, feelings, fear, insecurities—basically, anything and everything. At long last, he was happy. Although Anik did not like the idea of hanging out with a rich and smothered kid at first, he grew to like their friendship. Things were looking good. But a huge storm was approaching this house of cards.
Abed still couldn’t figure out one thing. Their matches always ended whenever a distant bell sounded from Anik’s house. Anik would then bid his compatriot farewell, and leave the match immediately. At first, Abed thought it was the sound of a grandfather clock, only faster and sharper. But after reaching his house, he’d notice that it was not 5pm or 6pm that would enable the clock to announce the time with a bang. The timing was very unusual and he had no idea what it was.
So, being curious, he inquired yesterday, “Hey, what’s that sound that always comes from your house? I’ve never heard it before.”
“Oh, the ghanta? That, my friend, is the sound of God,” he replied with a wink. This just made Abed even more inquisitive.
“Abed, what are you thinking so hard about? Eat your greens,” his Baba said.
Abed was still trying to decipher what Anik had said earlier. So, he turned to the person who had all the answers. “Baba? What is the sound of God?” he asked.
“The Azan, of course. Why do you ask?” Ali replied instantly.
“But Anik said that the ghanta is the sound of God…whatever that means.”
Ali froze while reaching for the rice bowl. He and his wife exchanged looks straightaway. Being as calm as possible, he asked, “Who is this Anik?”
“Oh, you don’t know him, Baba. He is my best friend. He lives really close, too. Just on the next block. You should meet him,” Abed said in one breath.
“I think I will,” Ali replied. “Have you heard this ghanta?”
“Yes. In the evening. It has a sweet sound and Anik always leaves after hearing it. I don’t know why.”
That’s all Ali needed to know.
Today, Abed didn’t wake up to the sound of his alarm clock, but to the sound of screams and shrieks. He got up and rushed towards his bedroom door only to discover that it was locked. He ran towards his window. What he saw then was more than horrifying. A couple of black SUVs were parked in front of Anik’s house. Some armed guards in shades dragged Anik’s mother and Anik from his house, threw them on the road, and finally into the SUV. Anik’s father was not so lucky. His dhoti was redder than it was white. Abed was screaming to the top of his lungs but nobody could hear him. The guards took Anik’s father to another SUV where Abed saw a very familiar face getting off the passenger seat. His Father.
Abed’s moment of incomprehension was short-lived. Maybe he would’ve questioned the mechanics and politics of the world a little more, had his father not promised to buy him the Transformers set that he’d always wanted. Later that night, Abed would go to sleep, clutching his mint condition Optimus Prime, fighting for the good in his dreams. And as for Anik, no one knows. They are wiped off like bugs on a windshield.
Inconvenient, after all.
If you are not into The Office, Horlicks, or Manchester United, steer clear from Turjoy. Send him cute corgi pictures at [email protected]