By Sharif Atiquzzaman
‘Hey! Naba kaka, what are you doing here? You are taking a leak in my sugar cane field so early in the morning! The canes are just sprouting knots, getting juicy and tubby, and you’re having a piss here! The salty juice trickling out of your single stem pecker has wetted the whole ground to the skin. All my sugar canes would be salty this year. Would I send them to the sugar mill, or to the salt factory? But I have no worries if you have diabetes. Have you noticed after pissing on the open yard whether ants gather around the piddle? If so, you’ve sugar in your pass. Arsehole! Is my sugar cane field a bog to nip?’
The yoof, having rigged himself out in skin-tight jeans, baggy T-shirt, keds and a bangle around his wrist gives Naba a severe tongue-lashing, but he does not hang on his bollocking. He stands up, forcefully throws a clod of earth he used as ‘istinjaa’, frowns at him and snorts in annoyance. Gaping at the flying clod, the little one says,
‘Hey! Naba kaka, you’ve thrown the clod of Istinjaa in my field! If it were yours, would you let it be done by others? But I never bawl out you, do I?’
‘Yes, you don’t bawl out, but just skin us alive. Today you’ve become Mister big, but a few days ago, the men and women of your family would go to open field for shitting. Now you have been local bigwigs after setting up a sanitary latrine. You become pissed off when you watch anybody piddling.
‘Kaka, bite your tongue! You’re a wrinkly. Save face by keeping mum. You’re really getting on my tits.’ He says while running his fingers over his head of hair. He has a messy top crop. Watching it, Naba let out a loud guffaw showing his yellow buck teeth and told him,
‘Bush on the ball! What a nice Mohican! Oh! I’ve forgot that you are a bully boy. If you don’t have a haircut like this, that will not square with your worth.’
‘Kaka, stop banging. You’ve been really fucking me off since then.’ He stomped on the ground.
‘Fucking you off? You arse-licker! Always go licking your leader’s arse. When they break wind, you intake as if it were delicate fragrance of rose,’ Naba gave him a snubbing. Saloo didn’t go mano a mano and started singing another tune. Coming closer to Naba, he said,
‘O Kaka, what would you have done if it happened to you? Don’t you get hacked off with them? I’ve cultivated sugar canes to make some profit, isn’t it? Will these canes survive if all of you always crap on my field? Will I lose my shirt going to do this business? Look! Another one is coming out after taking a dump.’ Saloo told pointing at a woman coming out hurriedly holding the wrist of a buck naked boy of 5-6 years. As they came closer, Naba and Saloo heard the little imp describing with a lisp his first experience of watching a flatworm in his dirt,
‘Ma, I’ve developed a snake in my ass.’
His mother smacked his back and the boy cried out loud. She dragged him forcefully and barked,
‘Shut your gob, you brat!’
‘Bah! Sis Saleha, You’ve taken your son to shit in my sugar caine field! Don’t you get any bog to nip?’ Saloo said and scowled at her but was mellowed out soon. Saleha took no heed of his huff and left the place double quick. Both Saloo and Naba watched her, their mouth agape in excitement. They didn’t know what caught their attention to watch Saleha, either the movement of her flabby buttock or the blubbering of the little devil cursing his mother. Saloo came to consciousness as soon as she disappeared and saw Naba watching him with his jaw dropped open. Saloo stammered with a hangdog expression,
‘Hey! Kaka, Some NGOs distributed pans among the villagers, almost gratis! Could not you take one then?’
‘Gratis! Taka seven hundred per pan! Is it a snip? You promised during the last election that you would set up pans at every village dwelling if you had won. Now you’ve finked out.’ Naba gave him a black look.
‘Kaka, why don’t you talk sense? We distributed pans from the project called Poo Happily and Pee Gleefully. Our leader came to open the ceremony of setting loos on the first day. Didn’t you get any?’
‘Didn’t you get any?’ Naba said making a face at Saloo, ‘Did you remember me then? You were silver tongued and promised the earth before the polls, but now I see you’re all mouth. Now you’re jumping on me for pissing on your field! But you could have given me a pan, could not you?’
‘How can I know that you have not got any? Hundreds of people took away.’
‘Stop lying, Saloo. Hundreds of people took away but still they go to the open field for crapping! Why?’ Naba asked, still steamed up.
‘You can’t teach an old dog new trick. They are never satisfied without shitting in the open field and washing their arse down with canal water.’
‘A load of old cobblers! If people can crap without flashing their booty, why will they go in the open yard? Your leaders usually make a dump sitting in a chair. I’ve seen in the chiarman’s toilet. We’re not asking for those.’
‘Ha ha, you’re talking of commode. Do you know their prices? They range between one to two lakh. But the fact is that our leaders can drop one or two pellets after pushing their bowels for one or two hours as they got constipated. On the contrary, you rush to my sugarcane field, open the arsehole and clear the gut. My arse!’
‘You could not give me a squating loo. Okay, leave it. Could not you give me a tubewell? The Sirkars bark when we go to fetch water from the tubewell at their crib. Sometimes they keep the handle locked,’ Naba said.
Saloo took advantage of his endless bumming. He came close to Naba and muttered in an undertone, ‘Kaka, you’ve reminded me an amazing thing. If our candidate Ahad Munshi wins this time, you can’t guess what I will give you.’
‘Pubic hair.’ Naba said, incandescent with rage. Do you ever hove in sight after the polls? Your leader never pops up during five years. If they come, people can’t trace them out for black windexterior.
Saloo showed a sheepish grin on his face and just brushed off all his sniping. Putting his arm on Naba’s shoulder, Saloo said,
‘Kaka, it’s true I’ve not given you anything, but those who got many things still seek more. No one says that’ll do nicely. A baldy can never be satisfied with his haircut. We are like them. The more they get the more they want.’
Naba Keeps silent just for a while. He is not at one with Saloo. Only the poor like Naba can sense the frustration since they have to wait for a long time to fulfil a small need of life. His face is lined and full of woe. Suddenly Naba throws off Saloo’s hand kept on his shoulder. His jugulars swell up, eyes coming out of its socket look red and his bewhiskered face shows a strange expression. He screamed blue murder,
‘Fuck off. You foul mouthed. I know your back to front. The names of rakes and yobs are always in your memory, but you can’t remember an honest people. They always move with goons like you, so they need money to feed you. Your hunger is never satisfied as your eyes are bigger than your belly. I know well what you’ll give me. You arse licker!’
‘Kaka, Stop shooting your mouth off. Our leader said, if he can be re-elected, he’ll reward you with many things.’
‘Amen to that! In his past tenure, he himself reaped the benefits, this time he will reward us.’ Naba gave a belly laugh.
‘Kaka, you really do talk a lot of piffle. Pin back your ears, the government will run a project called One Farmer, One home and One Bigha Land after the election. You’ve been talking of bog since then. If you get all these, you don’t need anything else, do you?’
Naba swallowed the bait. He was reduced to silence. He murmered to himself, scratched his head and said in a feeble voice,
‘Is it true what you are talking about? A home with One Bigha of land!’ Naba was round-eyed with amazement.
‘Yes, it’s true,’ Saloo muttered to Naba in an undertone as if someone had been overhearing him, but there was no one around. ‘Listen, we want our leader elected, don’t look for any excuse. The opponent candidate is Bashir Mondal. Think once. What will you get if Bashir Mondal is elected the MP? Is he a native of this locality? He is a businessman staying in Dhaka. Our leader lives in the district headquarter. If he can’t come here, we can go to him whenever required. If Mondal wins, can we easily be in touch with him? Will he believe even if you cast your vote in favour of him? Listen, turn your attention to what I say. You will make an all out effort to get our leader elected. All of the villagers will be out canvassing for our candidate. Though Naba does not tell anything in reply, it seems that he was about to swallow the bait. He looked completely flummoxed. His brain has turned to mush. He starts muttering to him and sets off down the muddy road home.
‘How soft the hand of the leader! You can’t imagine. It’s soft like cotton.’ Naba says to a man standing beside him. He also wore a torn Ganji and a filthy lungi. Both were looking like something the cat dragged in. Naba gave a sheepish grin showing his black stained buck teeth. Watching Naba smile gloatingly, the man gave him a bitter look and snarled,
‘Listen Naba, he neither burgles by making holes in the muddy walls nor spends time ploughing back land and grubbing up weeds. If he had worked with hoes, crowbars, chisle or anything else, would it have been so soft? But you behave as if you wallow in squeezing tits.’
Naba stopped smiling. He looked daggers at him and told in a huffy tone,
‘Look Soleman, you should kick the habit of saying filthy words. Out of four words uttered by you, three must be dirty.’
‘Do I like to cuss? After the polls, you can’t catch hold of their shadow. Now they promise the Earth. They are political fraud.’
‘Yes, they are. But what can we, the poor, do?’
‘Let’s go. We should get on with our works instead of wasting time watching the ugly mug of the leader as no one will feed and clothe our family,’ Soleman said and dragged him away from the crowd. The leader was shaking hands with the people though not spontaneously. He kept his hand up as if he had a pustule under the armpit. Every one was trying to come near him pushing through the crowd. They desperately tried to shake hands with him and he had to grin and bear it and all of his canine teeth were exposed. This time he looked like a buck toothed wild boar.
When Naba and Soleman were approaching the main road, the screech of brakes of a motorbike gave them severe fright. Three Bully boys got off and stood in front of them. A boy puffing away at a cigarette coughed and spat in the street and said in a bitterly cold voice,
‘Kaka, the election is approaching. What are you thinking this time?’
‘Thinking nothing,’ Naba said indifferently.
‘This time cast your vote for Bashir Mondal. Why do you elect that spare tyre every year?’ he said pointing his finger at Ahad Munshi. Naba and Soleman kept mum. The boy took some quick puffs on his cigarette and squeezed the end under his foot. Coming nearer Naba and Soleman, he muttered curses,
‘What has the son of a bitch given to you? Elect Bashir Bhai just once and then see the healthy growth and development! Is Saloo, the lying toad, beefier than us? Let’s have a chance to show how influential we are! If you seek anything from them, they always make excuses for not giving anything to you. Bashir Mandal is a rich man. Your saliva will be dried up to count how much money he has. He can change the complexion of the village by spending his own money. He need not to rely on government allocations.’
As Naba and Soleman still kept mum, a boy sitting on the motorbike said in a gravelly voice, ‘Listen, kaka, unless you vote for Bashir Bhai this time, you will face the music after the polls. Bashir Bhai is not an arse-licker. Great honour attaches to winning the election. We have prestige too. How can we show our faces if he suffers defeat this time again?’
‘It’s up to you whether you show or hide your faces,’ Soleman retorted.
‘Look, Kaka, don’t fuck me off. Cast all of your votes for Bashir bhai, or you will have a fate worse than death.’ They threatened Naba and Soleman pointing fingers at them and the motorbike raced down the road groaning under the weight of three thugs. As the motorbike disappeared into the distance, Soleman said to Naba,
‘What should we do? Should we vote for Mondal? You see they have struck an attitude of offended dignity and unless Mondal wins, they may hurt us physically after the polls.’
‘But what about the commitment to Saloo? If you fink out at the last moment, he will not spare you. Who will get us off the hook?’ Naba said to Soleman. It wasn’t clear whether he was still bewildered or swallowed the bait of Saloo. But it is clear that he will vote for Ahad Munshi. So he insisted Soleman to cast his vote for the same.
‘Not to worry. They are the boys of yesterday. What can they do?’ Naba said, shaking his fist.
Soleman can’t repose trust in him. He was afraid of post-election violence he experienced during the last polls. Moreover he felt disinclined to vote for Ahad Munshi this time as he didn’t get any help from him in the last five years. He looked at Soleman, grim faced and silent. To gear him up, Naba said,
‘Listen Soleman, Ahad Munshi has goons too. If they go beyond the limit, I will ask Saloo to give them a flogging. You should not sit on the fence any longer.’
Naba fails to meet Saloo after the polls as he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. The thought of getting a home and one bigha of land has been nagging at him since the last two months. As he swallowed the bait of Saloo, the hook got stuck in his throat. Today he has taken the vow he will catch Saloo on the access road to highway. He has been waiting since morning. When some passer-by asks him why he is waiting there, he keeps silent. He is at the end of his tether and determined to get to the bottom of it. Every year, they set a trap and he walks right into it. When he was waiting there in a morose expression, he saw Saloo coming on his motorbike. He immediately stood in the middle of the road and made a gesture at him to stop. Saloo braked hard at the last minute and hurled abuse at him.
‘Hey, Kaka, why do you try to stop me everyday?’
Naba came close to Saloo and said in a honeyed voice, ‘Will you not give me what you promised me before the polls?’
‘What?’ Saloo sounded hoarse.
‘The home and the land.’
‘I wanted to keep my promise but you didn’t. You betrayed us. You didn’t vote for Ahad Bhai,’ came the gruff reply.
His answer really took him aback.
‘W-what are you t-talking of?’ Naba stammered.
‘I am right on the bottom,’ Saloo sounded raspy. ‘Didn’t Mondal’s men pay you off before the polls? I know the amount even. If all of you had cast your votes for Ahad Bhai, he would have been elected not by a narrow but by a big margin.’
Naba hurled abuses at him, ‘You asked me to wait after the previous polls for getting a shitting pan. This time, you are acting in bad faith by saying that I have not voted for Aahad Munshi. All these are your excuses to fink out. Naba came at Saloo with shaking his fist. Saloo dodged him and raced down the main road. Naba chased him for a few yards but could not catch hold of him. He hurled filthy words at him as long as he saw the trail of smoke emitted from the disappearing motorbike. Suddenly the screech of brake of another motorbike scared the hell out of him. Forkan, Lokman and Kashem, the three bully boys stopped at his elbow. Kashem winked at him and said,
‘Hey, Kaka, have you got your promised land and home? If you had cast your vote for Bashir Bhai, you would have got the dough before and after the polls. Now you have got nothing to lose. Go home and suck yourself off.’ Putting his thumb in the mouth, he made an obscene gesture. Naba wanted to tell something, but they raced down quickly. The petrol-burnt smoke spewed out of the silencer pipe hit his face and he wrinkled up his nose and closed his eyes for the pungent whiff of it. He started sneezing and coughing loudly. Meanwhile, he heard a boy publicizing of the post-victory public meeting of Ahad Munshi by an auto-rickshaw. Fitful slogans followed his high pitched anouncement: Ahad Bhai Ahad Bhai Jindabad Jindabad; Ahad Bhai does a deed, helps people all in need; Ahad Bhai is a great fighter, villagers’ fate makes brighter; Ahad Bhai is a major doer, leaves poverty not the poor.The auto rickshaw went past him and he looked at it with a vacant expression on his face.
Note: A story titled “Election Pisstake” was included in Sharif Atiquzzaman’s anthology of short stories, published by Spiderwize, England. This is another story on the same theme of political exploitation of the marginalized people before and after the election.
Born in 1965 in Narail, a small town in Bangladesh, Sharif Atiquzzaman has been writing for almost three decades in his mother tongue, Bengali. He has so far published twenty-three books. He lives in Bangladesh and teaches as a Professor of English literature in a post-graduate college.
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