To the Carnival

Shumu Haque:

Tanya has just woken up. She has the marks from the pillow on her left cheek. She caresses her cheek where the pillow has dug deep and then yawns for a while. The television next door announces the Sunday morning tele-novella and then the title music blares through the walls.

Kids are already out on the street playing. The women at the slum next door are lining up at the tube-well to fetch water. Tanya’s apartment is quiet except for the fly buzzing in and out of the window and the water running slowly at the kitchen sink.

The apartment seems just as it was yesterday afternoon. Except there were things happening, there was movement, of people, of words from one end of the room to another. And then everything went very quiet.

Tanya is now sitting at the edge of her bed, where a patch of sunlight is warming it up. She closes her eyes.

She had played all day yesterday and was fast asleep in her room in the afternoon. Her mom was in her room nursing her baby brother. And then it happened.

He was in Tanya’s room. Her mom used to say that he is just like family. He was allowed to go anywhere. He would hang out in her room for the most part.

“It’s a very cozy room,” he would say of the 6 by 8 feet room with mustard color walls.

He was standing at the foot of her bed when Tanya woke up yesterday afternoon. She didn’t open her eyes right away. Then he touched her at the edge of the T-shirt and he tugged her pyjamas. Tanya opened her eyes with a start. She looked into his eyes. His eyes were wide and glowing. He was breathing heavily. Tanya froze.

At that very moment, her mom walked into the room. There was a moment or two of silence as her mom tried to look him straight in the eyes. Then he stormed out.

Her mom walked right behind him. The main door slammed.

Within a minute or two, she came back and sat by Tanya’s bed. She hadn’t gotten up yet. She had her face turned towards the wall. Her mom finally spoke and Tanya had to look at her. Her eyes felt warm and she tried to focus through the blurriness.

“So, there we have it,” said her mom. “You have finally made it happen. You think that all of it was a joke! All these time, I had been telling you to behave properly. To dress modestly, sit like a lady with your legs crossed. But why would you listen to it anyway? And what with your flimsy clothes, and walking with your curves swaying! Are you happy now! Tanya, I am talking to you! You must be very happy now!”

Her mom stormed out the room.

By evening, all of the extended family and friends were there. They all passed through Tanya’s room one by one, echoing her mother’s words. Her family always comes together for the funerals and the births of children. Yesterday they gathered together to come and see her.

They would ask her what exactly had happened. Tanya remained absolutely quiet. After a while they stopped asking her and then left her alone.

As the night came along, everybody left.

She lay there through all of it. She did not get out of bed. She finally fell asleep.

A child screams at the slum next door. She goes out to the passage and walks to the balcony. Outside, at the common courtyard, Tanya’s friend Amna plays hopscotch. She looks up to Tanya and waves.

Source: Flickr

“Come down to me” Amna says.” You never wake up on time to play with me.”

The air is crisp and fresh through the wrought iron grills of the balcony. Tanya tiptoes across the apartment, down the stairs and keeps walking until she is at the yard with Amna.

“How come you came down to me today?” says Amna. “Won’t your mom punish you? You know she doesn’t like you playing with anybody from the slum.”

“Sooner or later, she has to let me go a little farther” Tanya says.

“It’s great that you came, for once I feel like you are really my friend. May be we can even go down by the river and play among the trees? If you close your eyes and run around in circles for a while, you can actually get lost there. You will feel like you are in a real jungle! I once even found a gold earring under a tree. It was like a real treasure hunt! And then there’s the carnival by the river, too! Let’s go!

Do you need to take anything with you?”

Tanya tells her she doesn’t need anything at the moment.

As they are walking up the street, Tanya looks behind towards the balcony. Her mom was nowhere to be seen. A bedcover and her brothers blue blanket swayed back and forth on the clothesline.

The sun is bright and glowing! There are some flowers in bloom somewhere nearby. Some children are running around in front of a house as they pass it by. They are giggling and whispering to each other as they play.

“What is it?”Amna asks as Tanya slows down in front of that house for a moment to watch the children play.

“Nothing, Let’s go!”

Tanya holds her hand tightly as they disappear among the weekend crowd running to the carnival by the river.

“We are not in a hurry. We’ll get there at one point or another. It’s the getting there that counts” Tanya says.

Amna smiles at her and they both start walking into the rhythm of a street band that’s playing as it marches towards the carnival.

Shumu Haque has Studied Print and Broadcast Journalism at Humber College, Toronto. She works for a Canadian Not- For Profit Organization and in her spare time, likes to study and write about issued related to the status and rights of women across the globe


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