Sorry, my dear readers. The Friday blogger Mushfiqua has somehow missed the Friday yesterday. But, she has thought that it is better late then never, so she is back to you today with a fictional work. To be precise, she is back with a translation of a short story that she had done for her university magazine Bricolage.
I have translated a short story of Rashid Hayder, a prominent author of 80s’, that is originally written in Bengali. The story is titled as “Kaak”/ “কাক” which means “The Crow”. I chose this Bengali story to translate into English for several inspiring reasons. First of all, I want the literary works of Bangladesh to spread into the realms of world literature so that people around the world could know our country, and literature, and culture. So, I consider this scope of translating the story as a chance in contributing both in Bengali and world literature arena. Secondly, as I love reading short stories, my effort on translating this story will remain as intact and as passionate to produce a good translation. Thirdly, I do not want to forget the previous contributions of the writers in our literature. This story was published in early 80s’. The translation is an initiative to keep alive the previous literary works and I hope my translation will help next generation writers, or readers to know about the previous writers and their works.
I wish I could provide a PDF of the original Bengali story. Still, I hope you will love the translation, and eventually the story. Here goes my translation:
A pet bird shop.
The man enters the shop. Standing silently on the door he casts an indecisive look on everything as if he is looking for something. May be the thing is not there. Suddenly, the calmness of his face has gone. The morbid throbbing of his temple is getting so terrible as if they would burst now and get scattered all over the shop.
Is he a murderer? The killers are supposed to look, and behave in such an abnormal way. May be the man is a loony. A complete loony. The atrocious look he has thrown on those lovely beautiful birds, just a minute after entering, surely, it will make any man’s heart shudder with fear. The red birds of the corner are jumping over one another cheerfully, without any reason the yellow bird of that corner is flapping around the cage in a vain effort, the three coloured Mexican parrot of that hanging cage, it seems, thinking deeply over something- but the man takes not the least notice of all these things.
The shopkeeper is observing this man for sometimes. But, before he gets the chance of telling something the man turns to go. Yet he asks, “Can I help you, sir?” The man turns back. No response. “Do you want to buy some birds?” the shopkeeper asks.
No answer. The shopkeeper asks again,
“Which bird do you want?”
Keeping silent for some more times the man answers in his grave voice,
“Is there any crow?”
“Why? Any problem? Don’t you know crow?”
“Why not? Living in Bangladesh and not knowing crow! But why should I keep crows here? Who is gonna buy those?”
“Why, I am here to buy the crow.”
“This is the first time someone has come to buy a crow. Before you, no one has come, and sure no one will come after you.”
“I am not here to listen to all of your fuss. Tell me directly that you don’t have any crow.”
The shopkeeper stands dumb. The man is again about to go. He has already stepped outside the shop; the shopkeeper calls him back. “Excuse me, sir.”
The man looks back.
“Look! There are so many beautiful birds here.”
“Why are you talking nonsense? I have told you that I need a crow. Now can you manage some for me?”
“I think I can.”
The man’s eyes instantly flash with hope and joy. Having a deep look on the man the shopkeeper says to him-
“But not today.”
“Give me two days.”
“Why so long?”
“Well, I have to catch them. And, tell me how many do you want?”
“How many can you give me- one, ten, hundreds, thousands?”
The man is about to scream with excitement. The shopkeeper gives him a chair to sit down. The man is, in no way, looking at those beautiful birds. The shopkeeper watches the man from his head to toe. No, there is no sign of insanity in him, he is tidy in his clothes, his hair is neatly combed, and the dividing part of hair is also straight enough. He is completely sound. But it is his look! It is the look that sometimes gets dimmed with depression; again sometimes glares so brightly as if it would burn everything to ashes.
“Do you really need the crow?” asks the shopkeeper.
“Am I kidding with you?”
“No, no. I mean … there are so many beautiful birds …”
“Can they eat dead body?”
“Dead body? What dead body?”
“Human dead body.”
“You want the crows to eat a corpse?”
“Yes. I do, and I do.”
“Have not you burry the corpse?”
“Then why don’t you leave it to the foxes and dogs?”
“No, I want crow for this purpose. They will swish down on the corpse and start pecking out the flesh. And I will enjoy the scene of their every pecking.”
“So, what is the problem with kites and vultures for this?”
“The kites and vultures are better-looking than the crows. The crow is disgusting to look at, its voice is hoarse, and its every behaviour is disgusting. That’s why I prefer the crow.” The shopkeeper stands dumbfounded. Somehow he manages to say him,
“Come day after tomorrow. I will give you hundred crows.”
Clapping, he says gladly, “Ok.”
The beautiful birds are always eye soothing. Their flapping of the wings and even sometimes their scratching of the nails makes a man delightful. Beautiful birds charm man. Man craves for these beautiful birds. But this man never looks at the beautiful birds. He covers his ears with hands when the birds start singing. On the other hand, the man has a great friendly affiliation with the crow. Even after knowing that one biting of a crow would pick up a bit of his flesh he wishes to hold them. Thus, he loves to be the food of this third class creature- the crow. He hates the beautiful birds. He wants to kill them under his feet. He hates them from the core of his mind. He is waiting for those hundred crows. He is waiting, and waiting.
At last the day has come. The shop has become overcrowded today with curious looks and also with curious comments.
“Here the man is coming who ordered for these crows”, says the shopkeeper.
At the sight of the crows, an unexpected joy with the tincture of ferociousness has come over his face. He starts clapping like a little boy. He is overjoyed. No comments he hears. He is also apathetic to the extra money he is giving to the shopkeeper. He is satisfied.
He is looking on his crow with a deep fascination. As if he can see the heart of the crows. His eyes are blazing. The crows are cawing severely with the astonishment of their unexpected imprisonment. He puts a hand on the cage. One of the crows gives him a good bite. It makes him happy. Nobody knows what infernal pleasure he is getting from this. Why is the sky so clear today? Pondering over the answer the man discovers that it is his last day today. And that’s why the earth has spread out its joyful colour, the sky wars the deep blue ‘sari’. The man starts laughing. There is no cruelty, no frustration, and no exaggeration in this laughing. His laugh seems to be consisting of every joyful element of the earth. He is happy today. He is going to die today.
A huge room. So huge that it can contain more than hundred crows. The coolies put the cage of the crows just in the middle of the room. And taking the money the coolies have left. The man closes down all the doors and windows of the room. The light that is entering through the skylights makes the crows more impatient for getting out of the cage. Their hoarse cawing will make anyone deaf. But the man is not getting afraid. Satisfied with everything, as if everything here is very near and dear, he puts his hands on his ears and whispers a name. Then he makes a dash towards the cage and instantly makes all the crows free.
Oh! In the midst of the cawing he is not even hearing his own words he is uttering now before his death- “My feeling for you are destroying me every second. The more I want to forget you, the more I want to get rid of you, the more I get destroyed. And you, the wonderful lady, seeing my deplorable condition are getting a secret pleasure. Now I want my freedom becoming a victim of those creatures who are not as beautiful as you. They will devour me up with satisfaction and obviously without any deception. I will consider their every bite as a kiss. When they will pick up my flesh bit by bit, I will know that truly I am getting my freedom from you.”
In the room the crows are in a frenzied mood of delight.