মেয়ে তার ইংরেজি ক্লাসে রচনা লিখে ১০০-তে ১০০ পেয়েছে। সগর্বে সে মাকে দেখায়, বাবাকে নয়। কারণ রচনাটি তার বাবাকে নিয়ে। মেয়ের মা গোপনীয়তা রক্ষায় খুব পটু বা ইচ্ছুক নয় বলে একসময় প্রকাশিত হয়ে পড়ে।
বঙ্গানুবাদে মার খাওয়ার সম্ভাবনা, তাই মূল ইংরেজিতেই রচনাটি উদ্ধৃত করা গেলো:
The Sound of Solace
I lay awake in the midst of the night, frustrated and at my wits end with the booming sound of my father coughing in the adjacent room. I listen to him struggle to regain his breath as the coughs get more frequent and violent. I am aware that I should be feeling sympathy for him, maybe even getting him a glass of water and a cough drop. Instead, I cannot help feeling utterly annoyed. It is 4 o’clock in the morning and I only have three more hours of imperative sleep before I have to wake up for school. I feel my anger rising as I think of all the nights he has kept my mother and I awake with his incessant coughing, failing to realize that he is depriving us of our much needed rest. The only person that seems capable of sleeping through the thunderous sounds of my father’s cough is my 10-year-old brother, who ironically crashes in the same room as him. It must be a guy thing.
My father has been smoking cigarettes for over thirty-five years. He started when he was around the age of seventeen, smoking packs with his friends in Bangladesh. Given my father’s niche for writing, I have always liked to think that cigarettes have added to the allure of his artistic persona. I remember looking at an old black and white photograph taken of him in Singapore right after he and my mother were married. In it, he is sitting at his desk with an expression of extreme focus on his face, busy on his typewriter with a cigarette carelessly held in his right hand. His face is that of a twenty-five-year-old. The fine lines, the dark bags under his eyes, and the gray hairs sprouting from his temples have yet to show themselves. His hair is as unruly as it is long, making him seem as if he is putting forth a half-ass attempt at being George Harrison. The smoke from the tip of the cigarette floats and swirls and gets lost among the rays of sunlight illuminating his face. I can always look at that photograph and believe without a doubt, that my father was the epitome of cool.
The coughing began about three years ago and has gradually getting worse. The sound of my father’s coughing has become so implanted in my memory that I cannot remember what it was like to not hear it. Although the evidence of his illness lies within the sound of his raspy breathing and in the echoes of his booming convulsions, he is relentless in keeping his medical information private. Whenever he does visit the doctor, the prognosis is always lost on us as he remains withdrawn so as not to cause us distress. But isn’t confusion in the midst of a catastrophe more distressing than being informed of it? However, I gave up all hope of convincing my father of anything when I was very young. I used to beg him to stop smoking when I was six years old, even going so far as to cut deals with him. I agreed to stop asking for new Barbie dolls if he agreed to throw away his pack. But even a promise to his daughter couldn’t keep him from cigarettes. I held up my end of the bargain and bit my tongue from asking for a new doll, but I remember watching him put on his shoes and open the door to the backyard with a cigarette ready in his hand. “You said you’d stop,” I inquired. He could only smile and say, “Okay, I’ll stop when you stop liking chocolate.” I understood my father was telling me he would never stop smoking and this only enraged me further. The idea of my father putting his addiction before the wishes of his family made me resent him in a way that I never had before.
As I am writing this paper, I can hear my father in a fit of coughing while he is sleeping in the next room. I listen to him gasping for air and I feel like somebody is beating his chest with a hammer while another person is choking him, wrapping their hands tighter and tighter around his neck. He continues struggling to keep himself contained so as not to wake up my brother. But as I stated before, my brother never wakes up at my father’s coughing. Turning off my stereo, I listen as the silence of our house is broken by the jarring sounds of my father struggling to regain a normal breathing pattern and suddenly, I realize exactly why my brother is able to sleep through this. I understand that this haunting cough gives my brother a feeling of safety, of comfort, of reassurance that our father is still here. This sound, the one that usually causes tension and anger and annoyance and worry, is the same sound that is now providing me with the relief of knowing that my dad is alive and even when he is gasping for air, at least he is still breathing. I listen intently as he finally regains his composure and begins to breathe fluidly again, at least for now.
Maybe the very least is all I will ever receive from my father. He has shown the very least of promises, the very least of explanations, and the very least of reassurances. But as I sit here in the deafening silence after this latest episode, I listen to the sounds of my father breathing heavily and slightly wheezing. I can’t help but feel grateful. It is through gratitude that I have come to accept that the very least of him is enough.