Ami Tomay Bhalobashi

Bedford College Magazine (my first short story)


The sound of the bolt seemed to grate loud into the night as he locked the door.? For a fleeting moment he flustered as he imagined every person in the enormous house knowingly smile at hearing the sound. It was her he was more worried about; locking the door when they were the only ones in the room seemed to have sinister implications somehow ? but, surely it was understandable, after all they were now man and wife.

The expression both awed and scared him. This woman in her bridal costume, in his bed was so much a stranger. He had been given all the relevant facts. He mutely smiled at the fact that she was quite pretty. She came from a well do to, respectable family. She was a good cook.
He didn’t know her though, didn?t know the things she laughed at, the things that made her weep. He didn?t know any of her little secrets and above all, he didn?t know if she liked him. Stifling a sigh he gently took off his wedding sandals and in his stiff festive garb, crept into bed beside her. No it would be much too improper to undress in her presence.
Though she was facing the wall, she had been acutely aware of every movement in the room. She wasn?t too sure of how she felt about the bolt yet. She felt a bit helpless and was angry with herself for feeling that way. She had prepared herself for this moment for a long time. She had enjoyed being teased about it by her friends and smiled wistfully at the naivet? of their attitude towards it.
She?d had a sheltered life and because it was sheltered, she hadn?t been aware of it. Her childhood had been happy. She had indulged in most of the things that other girls her age and ?breeding? would be expected to indulge in. She still played the sitar and sang, but only at home or amongst girls. She had stopped dancing and changed the way she dressed and had drastically altered the way she behaved in front of men. She had been unaware that these changes had been infused in her by subtle external pressure. The only time she had been aware of other people watching her grow up was when she once found herself blushing at finding sanitary towels in her wardrobe. Some of her friends had started using them and she herself knew she needed them ? but she could never ask her mother about it.? These were things you never talked about. Mum was sweet she mused, and she was hopelessly in love with her father.
The thought brought a lump in her throat. Melancholy clouds drifted across her mind as she thought of leaving her father for this strange man whom she knew nothing about ? well, nearly nothing. Her friends thought he was sexy and she secretly felt proud and excited because of it.
She realized she was scared as he got into bed beside her, she didn?t even know his name, not what to call him anyway; probably because that was the way it had always been. She hadn?t found her mother using synonyms like ?Your father? or ?My husband? unusual.
Sex was different; she remembered being shocked when one of her classmates had vaguely explained the facts of life to her. It wasn?t so much the facts of life but that her parents must have had sex for her to have been born, which she found difficult to believe. Other people maybe, the thought was even amusing, but surely her parents would never do such a thing.
Later the thought had become more acceptable.? Exactly when sex had ceased to be evil and had become of interest she wasn?t too sure, but certainly when the girls got together and exchanged dirty jokes, she had enjoyed them without remorse. She had savoured the nudge nudge wink winks at news of her marriage. She was a virgin though, and there was this strange man, her husband, in bed beside her.
What if he wanted to make love to her? How would she react, above all, how was she expected to react? In her fantasies she had given herself wholly and completely to her secret lover, but that was different; her imaginary lover, he didn?t question or analyse, and though the blissful relationship felt eternal, there was no physical continuity, no parameter of time, no tomorrow. With her husband there were tomorrows, an eternity of tomorrows, and she had to be sure he wouldn?t wake up the next morning and feel she was a whore.
She had asked her mother once why, if marriage was such a happy occasion, brides always wept at weddings; her mother avoidingly said that she would know when it was her time. She knew now. She wanted to cry out ?Daddy? and cling to her father. She didn?t hug him much anymore, though she always wanted to; it wasn?t so much that she wasn?t expected to, but that she realized that she embarrassed him when she did so. Even had he been embarrassed when she was smaller, she?d never have noticed it. It was so difficult being grown up.
She didn?t know why exactly she wanted to cry, but she did, and not having anyone to cry to made it worse. She felt a teardrop swell at the corner of her eye, it grew, and quivered for a moment before it slide down to the pillow leaving a silvery trail.? It wetted a small spot in the pillow which gradually diffused into a larger, less distinct circle. As if spurred on by this brave pioneer, more teardrops followed. Characteristically, she had been weeping silently, she didn?t want someone she couldn?t cry to, to know she was crying.
It was moments after she had snuggled up to him and rested her wet cheek on his chest that she realized what she had done. It was too late, she couldn?t go back now, it would have been rude, besides, she didn?t want to. He was warm, and like distant drums his, faintly audible heartbeat beat out a tranquil rhythm, just like her father?s.
His feelings towards her had not been entirely platonic and she was pretty, the sari complimented her figure beautifully. Her slender waist accentuated the curve of her hips and breasts. He felt a pain in his loin. How the hell was a husband expected to act with his bride on the first night? They never had problems like these in the books. They were usually love affairs anyway, not arranged marriages like his.
He was startled by her sudden response, looking down he saw his arm had instinctively curled around her, protectively. Recovering, he felt her warm breasts softly resting on his stomach, then he felt the teardrops, somehow he had sensed them before he felt them, he raised her chin and almost roughly brushed away the tears. He whispered softly ?Ami Tomay Bhalobashi?.
The fact that he was saying it amazed him. Only film stars and heroes in love stories said that. He hadn?t even thought about it. Carefully he inspected the words he?d found himself using. The words themselves simply said ?I you good feel?. It didn?t feel so scatty though. He knew it meant ?I love you?. He tried to decipher why, why that was what the words meant and why he?d said them. He didn?t know her, let alone know if he loved her, she was sad and he was sad for her sorrow, but he was proud and pleased that she had turned to him in her moment of grief. He, who was the source of her sorrow. It was nice to have someone to cuddle, to feel wanted. Yes, it was true. He squeezed her gently and whispered again, truthfully, ?You make me feel good?.
She hadn?t registered, but he knew she?d heard. The tears flowed, but these were different. She felt secure and closed her eyes to sleep. She dreamt of her secret lover, this time it was her husband. She wanted to whisper to him, ?You make me feel good?, but she was shy and she knew he?d understand.
Shahidul Alam
London 1977.

Author: Shahidul Alam

Time Magazine Person of the Year 2018. A photographer, writer, curator and activist, Shahidul Alam obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. His seminal work “The Struggle for Democracy” contributed to the removal of General Ershad. Former president of the Bangladesh Photographic Society, Alam set up the Drik agency, Chobi Mela festival and Pathshala, South Asian Media Institute, considered one of the finest schools of photography in the world. Shown in MOMA New York, Centre Georges Pompidou, Royal Albert Hall and Tate Modern, Alam has been guest curator of Whitechapel Gallery, Winterthur Gallery and Musee de Quai Branly. His awards include Mother Jones, Shilpakala Award and Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dali International Festival of Photography. Speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, TEDx, POPTech and National Geographic, Alam chaired the international jury of the prestigious World Press Photo contest. Honorary Fellow of Royal Photographic Society, Alam is visiting professor of Sunderland University in UK and advisory board member of National Geographic Society. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book “My journey as a witness”, (listed in “Best Photo Books of 2011” by American Photo), as “The most important book ever written by a photographer.”

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