Family Dialogue

“Romeo, get ready and hurry up, my charmer. You don’t have enough time. It is already ten minutes past nine. You haven’t had your breakfast yet, lovee. By this time, Priti must have come to pick up you to school. Take your bag and hurry up, come to the dining table, Romeo, Don’t forget to take your homework and other necessaries’’ Mrs. Rani speaks loudly to Romeo, her youngest son of twelve years old.  “Don’t cry out Mamma. I am not finding my pen. Would you please help me to find out my pen? My table is cluttered up with books. I have it difficult to find out the pen. Have you not heard me, Mamma?” Romeo answers loudly to his mom. “I am sorry to say that I took your pen last night to write a letter to my brother. I don’t write him for a pretty long time. Now it is with me. Come soon and take it from me. Your father and I are waiting for you.” Mrs Rani says. “I am coming, Mamma. Please you start your breakfast.”

The calling bell is ringing. Mrs. Rani speaks to herself “Perhaps, Priti has come.” Maya,the maid servant of Mrs. Rani opens the door. Priti enters into the dining room and asks “Hi, Uncle and Aunty, How do you do’?”  “Well. How are you, Priti? When have you returned from your grandpa’s house?” Mrs. Rani asks Priti. “I came last evening.” Pritianswers. “I think, Priti, your vacation has passed amongst your grandparents with joy and happiness. Isn’t it?” “Yes, Aunty. I wish if I could go back to that idyllic life at this moment.” Priti adds. “Any town’sman comments like this returning from the village.” Mrs. Rani says to Priti.” “No, Aunty. The villagers are very hearty and hospitable. They can easily take one as their own but we are not so. And we feel shy to introduce our poor relatives.” Priti responds.

Romeo joins them. “Have you not yet taken your breakfast, Romeo? You should get up earlier and be ready for school before time, you late riser. I get up regularly at dawn and worship in the temple with my mother.” Priti says to Romeo. “Well, my pretties, I believe you have had your breakfast. Priti, you won’t mind to munch at an apple while Romeo’s having his breakfast. There is a proverb – an apple a day keeps doctor away.” Mrs. Rani says to Priti. “Thank you, Aunty. To speak the truth, Aunty, I am nottaking the apple as I am afraid that I might crave for another tomorrow. Sorry to say that my papa is unable to provide me an apple a day.” Romeo intervenes, “Priti, my dear friend, don’t grieve. I don’t eat much breakfast also. I never take more than toast and tea for breakfast. Oh, Apple-my uncle brought them yesterday when he came to dinner.” “No offence! Romeo, my dear friend, I think we should boast of having nice parents.” “Yes, I do.”Romeo answers. “Maya, bring me Romeo’s Tiffin box. Don’t forget to wash it before”Mrs. Rani asks Maya. “I beg your pardon; mamma.I won’t carry it to school. I am ashamed of eating homely Tiffin in front of others.” Romeo says to his Mom. “No matter, but you should not have outside foods. They are highly contaminated. Environment pollution of Dhaka City is a growing menace to public health. All the roads are dusty and smoky. Whenever a motor vehicle goes over those roads it raises a cloud of dust and these suspended dusts settle on uncovered foods.” Mrs. Rani replies. “You could be sure of it that I never take anything for luncheon. I use to buy a newspaper with the money that you give me for Tiffin.”Romeo answers. “But I am told that you eat too much condiment.” Mrs. Rani says. Romeo looks at Priti angrily and says “And will I blame you, Priti?” “No, I am not”

Maya returns with the Tiffin Box and hands over it to Mrs. Rani. “If I’m   not mistaken, she is Maya. I am certain that I am not acquainted with her. I’ll be glad, Aunty, if you acquaint her with me.” Priti says to Mrs. Rani.  “Oh, Maya, She is our new maid servant. She came to our household after her father’s demise while you were in your grandparents’ place in the vacation. At present she can handle any household chore well assigned to her.” Mrs. Rani replies. “Seriously! Maya, you are a handy girl. Never mind Maya, you are older than I. Have you ever been to school?” Priti asks Maya. “No, ma’am. My father never sent me to school.He used to say-there is no use of educating women. They are born for doing household works and nothing. But ma’am, I am still eager to learn.” Maya replies. “And she has started to learn. She has already picked up the knowledge of the alphabet and spelling. Every evening I spend half an hour in teaching her. Though she is facing a bit difficulty in pronunciation, but it is improving.” Romeo says to Priti. “You are really successful.I feel proud of you, Romeo.” “Thank you, Priti. I am certain that you’ll be glad to know that I bought a primer,paper and pencil for Maya.” “I am astonished but where did you get the money.” “My uncle gave me the money to buy a cricket bat but I spent it for her.” “Romeo, I also like to spend some time in teaching Maya from now. I’ll be happy if you permit me to do so.” “If necessary, I’ll call you, Priti.” “Don’t hesitate to want my help.” “Okay,Priti.” “Romeo and Priti, you two chatterbox, stop gossiping. You be ready to start for school without losing time.”  Looking at Maya Mrs. Rani says “Wash up the utensils. Then takeout the pieces of beef from the deep freeze and curve it. Maya, see that there is any short of spices and tell me. We are to take the preparation for lunch just now. Maya, keep it in mind-today is wash day. So don’t waste time.” Then looking at her husband, Mr.Ali, Mrs. Rani says to him “Hear me, bring some vegetables and fish for supper from kitchen market, returning home from office.” “I am afraid of going to market as price of each and every commodity is so dear that it is beyond our means. It is very difficult for people of limited income like us to lead a happy life in these days of price-hike.” Mr. Ali replies. “Hem, I am always pressing you to get myself employed. But you never listen to my proposal. If we earn together, I believe, we’ll have no want.” Mrs. Rani says. Mr. Ali speaks ironically to Mrs. Rani, “But I never like a woman to serve outside. Women are meant for ministering domestic work well. If a woman takes any provision she cannot maintain her household affairs properly. Moreover, she cannot take proper care of her children’s education.”  “There are so many provided women maintaining their household affairs properly. Besides, Romeo is now grown up and can handle himself well. I think there will be no problem if I do a job at present.” Mrs. Rani replies. Mr. Ali again speaks ironically “But who will give you a job. It is very tough to be provided without a jack. There are so many B.A’s; M.A’s without employment. They run from office to office in quest of a job and return in despair.” “Don’t make any hocus-pocus. Actually, you hubbies only have learnt to override the wishes of your wives. You just know to domesticate a woman.” Mrs. Rani answers angrily.“Ay, it is your Hobson’s choice. Complete modernism is still absent in our society. Men and women are hesitating to work together even now.” Mrs. Rani again speaks angrily, “But it is due to your machismo.” “I don’t like to altercate with you farther on this point. It is better that you should make a list of things to bring from market.” Mr. Ali says to Mrs. Rani trying to calm her. Mrs. Rani mutters, “You won’t take bribe; won’t deviate from the truth, yet won’t allow me to have a job, you always murmur when I request you to buy something. You are really obdurate and I can’t run with you.”  And handing over a piece of paper to Mr. Ali Mrs. Rani says “Here is the list.” Mr. Ali leaves for office.

Priti comes to Romeo’s house in the afternoon. “I am told, Romeo, Uncle and Aunty have taken you to doctor in the morning. Your sister Ruby went to college. So I did not get any information about you. What happened to you, Romeo?”  “Not so serious. Last night I vomited thrice. Mamma became afraid so. But doctor uncle said that there was nothing to be afraid of. It was due to indigestion.” “But, Romeo, you really frightened me. I was worried and anxious about you. I was not attentive inthe classes.” “There is nothing to be worried. I feel better now”  “Romeo, my dear friend, I have brought a papaw for you. I sowed some seeds in a flower pot last month. A few plants have grown up from seeds and I have brought one for you “Thank you very much, Priti. It is a nice present. I really love trees.” “Plant the ‘papaw’ in the garden. Don’t for get to sprinkle water around the root,Maya.” “May I sit beside you for a while and talk with you? I believe, Romeo, you enjoy my company. But at present, you are sick. I am afraid so.”  “Priti, my best friend, you are never boring to me rather I have been waiting for your company since morning.”  “I am as well. I felt lonely in the class.”  “I amafraid of thinking that your father’s job is transferable. At any time, he might be transferred from here to another place. As you have no house of your own here you would leave this place with your father. What will be our position then, Priti?” “Ay. Romeo, we have really no house of our own here. We live in a rented house. I have realized it this morning when our house owner prevented me from planting the papaws in his garden. I am sorry to say that we have not even the right to plant a tree though we have been living in this house for about three years. Yet there is good news for you-Papa won’t take us with him if he is transferred. We shall be here.”  “But what will happen when we’ll start our High School life. There is no coeducation in our standard schools.” “I know-when I’ll grow up I’ll marry you, Romeo.”  “How so? I am a Muslim.” Priti interrupts Romeo by saying “And I am a Hindu. So what?” Romeo stops Priti by saying “Hush! Maya is coming here.”

 When Maya enters the room Romeo says to Priti “Would you help Maya how to make a sentence. I am sure that she can catch anything easily. Hope that she won’t bore you, Priti, my best friend.” Looking at Maya Romeo says, “Bring your paper and pencil. Priti will help you to make sentences.”  “Thank you, Romeo. I feel much interest in teaching.”  “But nobody likes your didactic attitude.” Priti speaks angrily, “Well. I must say good-bye now.” Trying to calm Priti, Romeo says “You, naughty girl, become angry in a jiffy. I just said this for mere jest but you take it seriously.” “Not really so, actually, you don’t like me.”  “It is not at all true. You are my bosom friend. It is not right to think so.”  “Okay. Maya come with paper and pencil. I’ll help you to make sentences.” Priti says. Romeo leaves the drawing room by saying “Maya, listen to her.”

Rubytogether with her two friends Monalisa and Nipa return home from college. “How are you,Priti?” Ruby asks. “Well. I have not been finding you for the last two days.”  “My examination is knocking at the door. I am busy with my studies. Last two days, most of my time spent in consulting different subjects with other class mates in the college hostel. This is why, Priti, You did not see me at home. Oh, Priti, they are my friends – Nipa and Monalisa.” Looking at Nipa and Monalisa Ruby says, “She is Priti,Romeo’s classmate.” Looking at Nipa and Monalisa Priti says’ “Nice to meet you.” “We are also. You are very beautiful, Priti.” Priti replies,“No,Sister Nipa, rather you are more beautiful than I.” Nipa says to Monalisa, “Behold! Monalisa, Priti has reddened out of shyness.” “Indeed, she is very nice.” Monalisa answers. “Ruby, I am sure she is Maya-your maid servant about whom you have already told me. She seems to be smart and intelligent. So we must hook her to satisfy our interest.” Nipa whispers to Monalisa. Ruby intervenes, “What are you talking about? But I don’t wish to play gooseberry in your tete-a-tete.” “Not the least. Rather you can help us.”Monalisa says. “Sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.” Ruby answers. Looking at Priti and Maya Nipa says,“Priti and Maya, Never mind, you may please go to the next room. We’d like to have a private chat with Ruby” Priti leaves the room by saying “. Okay, we should not disturb your confab too.” Maya follows Priti.

“I am not sure, Ruby, whether you know or not that government has taken a few measures for the education of the poor children of our country.Ofthesemeasures there is a programme of ‘Sakhar (Literacy) commission’ implemented in the ‘Honor’s course’ to instruct the wretched children reading and writing.”Monalisa says. “It is a good idea. I will be glad if it were implemented in my pass course.”Ruby replies. Nipa intervenes, “I damn this attempt. It will not be fruitful.” Looking angrily at Nipa Ruby says, “You become abusive but Nipa, why? I think it is our moral duty to accept this proposal and try to make it successful.”  “For God’s sake, Nipa, hold your tongue and let me continue.” Monalisa says angrily to Nipa. “Oh, I have totally forgotten about my engagement with my boyfriend just now. So I have to leave now my friends. Ruby, you don’t think otherwise. We shall meet in the college tomorrow.” Nipa says and leaves.

Monalisa continues, “Okay. Ruby let me finish. Each and every student of Honour’s course under this measure must teach a poor child to read and write. After a short course this child will be tested what he learnt with a formal examination. On the child’s performance in the examination his instructor that is the particular student will be scored by twenty marks.” “So far I know that there are two maid servants in your house. I wish, Monalisa, you could teach them. And thereby two more children would be educated.” Ruby says. “I don’t have time. If I could I would not want your help.”  “It is a lame excuse. I am sure you spend at least two hours every day for taking care of your pet dog Jack. But you don’t afford a little time for such a noble work. Monalisa, it is a matter of great regret that the value of a dog to you is sometimes more than that of a man.”  “But Maid servant! They are irksome and thievish. As for example, our two often steal into my room and take away small things out of my knowledge. You will be astonished to know that I have not been finding a pair of my earrings for last two days. I believe that they stole them. They have been beaten seriously but still they didn’t confess. They have been sent home this mooring.” Monalisa adds.  “I think you have given it to any of your friends helping her to attend some special function. Many of your friends use to take ornaments from you for the same purpose.” Ruby says.  “Yes, it has just come into my remembrance that I gave it to Lopa many days ago but not yet returned.”  “It is a matter of shame for you, Monalisa. It is always seen that the rich hate the poor and think them to be thievish. Actually, it is not your fault but a class prejudice.” Ruby says to Monalisa.  “I believe there is a vast chasm between the rich and the poor. I don’t fancy the menials as they are magpies.” Monalisa reacts. “You should not hate the poor especially the wretched children. They are at the impressionable age. At this moment if they are properly guided and taught they would be certainly good. They would be of good character. Due to lack of education, they are being worse.” “I protest against your idea. A literate man is not always an honest man.” Monalisa altercates.  “However, let the matter stands over here. But I request you Monalisa to get out of your megalomania.”  “I beg your pardon for my impieties Ruby; you are the only person who can help me now.”  “Well, Missy, Tell me what can I do for you?”  “Ruby, my dear friend, you will manage Maya for my sake to appear that formal examination. If you not help me in this matter I have to lose at least fifteen marks. Consequently, I’ll be unable to get the 1st class.”  “Maya does not matter. I am afraid to convince Romeo, my dear younger brother. He is very strict like my father from his early hood.”“I think you have a great influence on Romeo. He will agree if you tell him.” “But if he says once in the negative he’ll never do it. He is quite stubborn.”  “No, Not that. Romeo is really a good boy.”  “And you are a profligate. Let me try how far I can do.” “I can rely on you, Ruby.”

 Ruby leaves the drawing room and goes to Romeo in the next room who has been over hearing their conversations standing behind the screen.Priti and Maya are also standing behind him. “Romeo, you are looking sulky, what happened to you.” Ruby says. “ATISHOO!” “Have you caught cold, Romeo?”  “No, I am okay. But you have talked my head off. My head is splitting off now.” “Sorry to vex you.” “But you should avoid such type of friends. I don’t like that type of girls. They can do anything to satisfy their selfish ends.” Romeo says ironically to Ruby. “Mind your language, Romeo. You should show deference to the elders.”  “Okay, I beg your pardon. Ay, you are my loving sister. I can do anything for you.” “My request to you is that you please help my friend Monalisa.”  “How? and What?”  “Maya is to appear at the examination for Moualisa.”  “I am surprised. It means that Monalisa has been teaching Maya for this reason. You are my superiors. I cannot realize your tricks: However, I agree provided that those two maid servants must be brought back in Sister Monalisa’s house and Monalisa Sister should manage to teach them.” By this time Monalisa joins them. “I shall try but I can’t promise.” Monalisa says to Romeo.  “I am sorry to say that you shall have to give word, Sister Monalisa”  “Okay, I will do.”  “And I agree with you for my sister’s sake. But it still depends on Maya.” Looking at Maya Monalisa says, “What is your opinion, Maya? I’ll award you with some money for this.”  “Romeo is my friend, teacher and at the same time my guide and I should obey him. But I think it is really a thrill to face an examination.” Maya says. “Then, Maya, you are agreed.”  Looking at Romeo Monalisa says “I wish to test her whether she is up to the mark.”  “You can put your confidence on me. There is no need of testing her. But I don’t protest if you want to test her.” Romeo answers. “Maya, come to me. Write on the sheet, ‘My name is Maya’.” Monalisa says to Maya.

Getting out Maya writes on a sheet of paper ‘My name is Maya.’ And handing over the sheet to Monalisa says, “Please, ma’am.” Looking at all Monalisa reacts, “I am surprised that her hand writing is very fine. I am afraid she will ruin me.”Everybody except Monalisa giggles. “This is not an occasion for laughter. If she writes so beautifully, the examiner might understand that I hired a regular student for this purpose.” Everybody is giggling. Mrs. Rani interrupts them by saying, “May I share with your joy.” Looking at Monalisa, “Monalisa, How are you? I don’t see you for many days.”  “Aunty, I was busy as my parents went to Hong Kong for business. So I have to maintain everything. Besides, the maid servants have gone home this morning. So I am to do chef-work from today.” “Why did all the servants leave together?”  “They have not gone home for long. Their mothers came to take them home and I had to give them a week’s leave.”  “I see your work load is heavy. However, have your parents returned home?”  “Not yet.” “When will they return?”  “Last night they told me over the phone that they would come on the next Friday.” Are they in good health there?” “Ay, they are fine.” “It is five thirty O’clock already. I should make tea for you.” Mrs. Rani says to all and leaves the room.

“We must hark back to what we were discussing earlier.”Monalisa says to Ruby. Looking at Maya Monalisa adds, “Maya, you must scrawl on the examination paper as if you were a bit learner. You can only draw the pots and write the letters. On the way to examination hall I will pick you up in my car. Mind that your hand writing should be worse. Okay, Ruby I have to leave now.”

In the next day Maya after appearing in the examination as a student of Monalisa returns home. “You look so happy, Maya? What is it in your hand?” Romeo says. “It’s a pen. I have taken it for you.” “You have taken it for me. But why?” “Just as a presentation” “From where you got money?” “Monalisa ma’am gave me two hundred taka. I requested her to buy me a pen from that money. Accordingly, she did so.” “What is the price?” “Why? Is it beyond your choice?” “Not that I have not liked it. Rather it is far better than the pens I have had. I am thankful to you for this nice present.” “The pen costs Taka Hundred only.” “There was no need to buy such a precious pen.” “LittleMaster, you have given me the light of education I think which is more precious than this paltry present.”“It is not my individual contribution. You were also persevering   in our studies.”  “Oh, Romeo, I forgot to tell you that I have bought a sari for my mother”. “You are very responsible, I see”

The bell rings. Maya opens the door. It is Chapa, Maya’s mother has come. Whimpering and hugging her mother Maya says, “I am not seeing you Mamma for a pretty long time. My heart bleeds all the time to see you Mamma. How were you, Mamma?” “What boots to weep, Maya? We are poor and it is our destiny. You are destined to be au pair; we are never been out of this fate. Where is your Mistress?” Again whimpering Maya says, “She is in the kitchen.” Chapa goes to the kitchen. Maya follows her.

“How do you do ma’am?” Chapa says to Mrs. Rani. “Well.” “I have come to see Maya, the idol of mine. She is simpleton, Ma’am. She is unable to look someone in the face. Is she obedient to you, Ma’am? If she disobeys you, don’t hesitate to punish her.” “No, she is a perfect pet. She fetches and carries for me all the day. You will be glad to know that she can read and write now. Romeo, my dear little poppet, has taught her reading and writing. Look at the wall, your daughter. Maya, has scrawled” “I am very much grateful to you. Romeo is your pride. You can feel proud of him.”  “But it is our moral duty to educate our children. There is nothing to be proud of.”  “But Ma’am she is grown up. If I could hook a husband for her then I could be free from anxieties. Last week a chauffeur of our next village gave a proposal for Maya. But he demanded ten thousand taka as dowry. Ma’am, I inherited a small piece of land from my father which provides me food. If, Ma’am, I sell the land, I’ll lose my ground and I with the rest four daughters will have to starve to death. But Maya has reached marriageable age.”  “There is no want of legacy hunters even in the city. But Chapa, you could adopt family planning for keeping your family size small. You made a great blunder. You are solely responsible for your distress.”  “I am not really responsible for this as my husband did not allow me to adopt family planning. He forced me to conceive again and again to have a male child. When I protested he threatened me of divorce and told me that he would marry again.” “For such type of husband, many women of our country are being humiliated. It is nothing but a superstition to have a male child for enkindling the light of a dynasty. However, there is nothing to be hurried up. Maya has not yet reached her age of consent and she is better here. I assure you that I’ll give you a monetary help at the time of Maya’s marriage. Chapa, you need not to be worried about”  “Nowadays, Ma’am, there is nothing of happiness to get a daughter married. Either the hard husband or his family keeps on torturing her for more dowries. Sometimes, they become more ferocious and worse than a beast.”“So we have to be careful in respect of the marriage of our daughters. Otherwise we have to repent in the long run.”

 “Ma’am I request you to allow Maya to go home with me for a few days. By gum, surely I’ll send her within a week.”  “Though I’ll miss her but I cannot compel you not to take her. After all you are her main guardian. You may take her if she wants to go.” Looking at Maya Mrs. Rani asks, “Will you go with your Mamma?”  “Yes I have a mind to go home with my mother. I promise I’ll come back.” At this moment Romeo enters the kitchen and asks Maya, “Hey, Missy, you are just kicking up your heel. What makes you so happy, Maya?” “I am going home with my mother, Romeo.”  “I am afraid you won’t come back.” “I promise I’ll come back within a week.” Maya has not returned yet. One week, two weeks, one month, two months have elapsed. Romeo receives a letter from Maya after a long time, in which it is written,

Romeo, My dear teacher,

I am certain that you are angry with me for not coming back. But I was helpless because I got married to that Chauffeur. I told my husband about you. We will come to see you soon. You will be glad to know that I have promised to myself to teach the children of my father in law’s home. How is Priti? Please convey my good wishes to the elders.

Maya