Prologue

 

Prologue

 

-June, 2009-

 

(Tahmid Bin Zafar)

I don't know why but for as long as I can remember, I have always felt like my father isn't proud of me.

I have felt like two different people. I have felt like a very confident person when I'm around everyone else. And like a very timid and shy person when I'm around him. I don't know why that is. It's not like he has ever said anything too harsh. He barely says anything at all.

There was the time when this really important person came to our school. He was a local MP or something very important like that. The girl that was supposed to deliver a speech in front of him fell sick and I was called into do the job. It was all impromptu and I got up in front of the school and did the honours.

I came home buzzing that day. When I told my mother, she was very happy even though I'm not sure how much of it she understood.  She's kind of slow. When my father got home, I walked up to him and sat down next to him with a big smile on my face. It was his favourite time of the day when he watched the 7 o' clock news on Channel i. I figured it would be a good time.

I wasn't sure how to broach the topic so I just sat there, hoping he'd notice. He kept staring very pensively at the TV Screen, furrowing his eyebrows every time news came on about the Leftists (my father was a staunch right-winger). He had lost most of his hair so when he furrowed his brow his near-bald head looked kind of deformed. To an outsider he could seem like an intimidating person but I know he's a kind person at heart.

It took him a while to notice me.

"You look happy" 

"Yes, there was a ceremony at school where I did the hosting. Everyone said I did good job even though I was a last minute replacement" I said in one breath. I had worked over the phrasing of the sentence a million times in my head. Rehearsed it a couple of times too.

"Last minute replacement? Why weren't you the first choice?" he had stopped looking at me and returned to focusing on the TV Screen.

I tried putting an answer together but to be honest with you , I hadn't really expected that question. I didn't know what to say.

"I suppose you don't get to be first choice unless you do better than 2nd place in every exam" my father said those words very nonchalantly and I suppose he wasn't fully aware of the power the words carried.

My mother came into the room carrying father's tea cup. "Did you hear what Tahmid did in school today?" she said with a grin. Bless her.

My father seemed to ignore what his wife had just said. "Was it that Tashfia girl that was first choice?"

Tashfia was the girl I always lost 1st place to in every exam. She was always a few inches ahead of me in everything.

"Yes"

I remembered saying that very faintly. My mother had also quietened down after being cut off by her dear husband. 

I made a point to sit there for a few more minutes so it didn't become clear how badly my father's put-down had disgruntled me. A few minutes later, I made my way to my room. There was a test the next day. I saw the Physics text book laid out on my table.

"Fuck this"

I had only recently become acquainted with that curse word but boy did it feel liberating to use it. 

2: Chapter 1 : Under The Bridge
Chapter 1 : Under The Bridge

 

-September,2010-

 

7:30 pm

 

The worst part about a bus ride ending was that you had to disconnect your earphones. Even if Slash was just getting to the crescendo at the heart of Sweet Child O' Mine.

Syed Kollol got off the bus and immediately cursed under his breath. He had gotten absent minded again and landed in a puddle. His only good pair of office shoes had mud all over them now and he would have to find time to wash them. He would have to do this before falling asleep so they could dry overnight and be ready by the time he had to set off the next morning. That threw a wrench in his plans of collapsing onto bed the minute he got home.

He had been sleeping a lot since joining his bank job. It was his first job since leaving university and it'd be a lie to say he was really excited about it. Then again, it was a blessing that he had gotten any job with his dreadful CGPA.

It had rained earlier in the day. This meant the walk from Kalabagan Bus Stand to his home in Dolphin Goli would be full of more puddles.

"Move"

Kollol felt a push on his back and turned to see a line of angry passengers behind him at the bus door. He realized he had been standing in place for about a minute or two. He really had to stop getting lost in his thoughts.

The footpath was always a hassle to walk on, even on dry days. The surface was uneven and full of beggars making themselves at home. On wet days the beggars vanished somewhere but the footpaths got the added problem of mud and grime. Where exactly did the beggars go to every time it rained? Did they have a place they could take refuge in? And if they did have such a place, why didn't they go there on dry days too? Not like sleeping outside is preferable even when it's not pouring down from the skies.

Kollol felt his phone buzzing in his pocket. It was his sister.

"Can you bring eggs on your way back?" Momena said from the other side.

"How many?"

"Half a dozen should do. If you have money you can bring more"

"Okay"

The timing of the call was quite convenient since he was walking past a department store right at that moment. Kollol walked inside to find a middle aged woman passionately arguing with one of the shopkeepers.

"This was Tk 40 just yesterday" the woman argued while holding a packet of Jet detergent power in her hand. She was shaking it violently as she spoke.

The shopkeeper, a young boy of about 19, kept replying to her with a very stoic face. He didn't look perturbed and Kollol figured the boy was used to angry customers throwing fits like this.

"How can I help you?" the shopkeeper looked at Kollol, who was standing there and thinking of ways to get his attention without interrupt the shouting woman.

"A dozen eggs, please" Kollol said meekly, hoping to avoid drawing the angry woman's ire.

"I am talking to you" the woman started shouting at the shopkeeper again. She then turned at Kollol. "Can't you see that I'm in the middle of something?"

Kollol was trying to think of a reply when he saw the shopkeeper hand a polythene bag full of eggs towards him. Without even thinking about change, Kollol put a Tk 100 bill on the counter and walked out of the shop as fast as he could. He hated talking to strangers.

 

Kollol put the eggs on the dining table when he heard Tarek, his sister's husband.

"You should have cleaned your shoes before getting inside. You got mud all over the floor"

Kollol faked a nervous smile "Sorry, didn't notice. I'll clean it"

He expected Tarek to say that he didn't need to and that the maid would do it but Tarek said nothing at all.

Kollol lived with his sister's family in a moderately sized apartment in Dolphin Goli, Kalabagan. He had been living there since he had started university. Back then the deal was that he would eventually move out once he got a job. It had been six months or so since he had gotten the said job and her sister's husband, Tarek sometimes dropped hints about him leaving. Kollol wasn't sure why Tarek hated him so much. He did pay his share of the bills.

 

The room he lived in wasn't very glamorous. Heck he didn't even have a proper bed but Kollol loved the mattress on the floor and the rickety old computer table. There was a sort of peacefulness to it all. He took off his muddy shoes and kept them at the door. He saw the mattress and felt like it was calling for him.

He had just laid down when he heard a voice.

"Kollol Mama?"

Kollol turned to see his nephew Shaan standing at the door. Shaan’s gullible face was sticking out from the side of the semi-closed door. He quite liked Shaan but at that very moment, he just wanted to be alone.

"My friend Tahmid came to visit. I told him I'd show him your record collection. Can I bring him in?"

Kollol sighed inwardly "Sure"

 

**

(Tahmid)

 

Shaan never shut up about his uncle. Every time he talked about his uncle, he had a big smile spread across his chubby, circular face. I suppose a part of it is down to the fact that he didn't have much else to talk about. But he talked about him so much that I couldn't resist the temptation of checking out this Kollol Mama in person.

Shaan's stories about him were sometimes ridiculously difficult to believe. The guy was apparently a very gifted guitar player. The tired 20 something man in front of me didn't look he was anyone to perform in front of people. Sure, judging a book by its cover is the most pretentious thing to do but it's not like we don't all do it all the time. Drop the act if you say otherwise. We're all pretty pretentious.

I was sitting in Kollol Mama's room as Shaan opened the wardrobe to the side of the room and pulled out a large box. I'm not sure why Shaan couldn't see that his uncle was dead tired. I could see the sleep weighing down on the pour guy's eyelids but Shaan was always kind of stupid.  

I was still trying to read the man when Shaan put a box in front of me. It was a box for an old Sony Colour TV, the 21 inch kind. Shaan's parents probably get it as a gift for their wedding. It was full of old CDs and cassette tapes, things I hadn't seen in a while.

The top of the box was missing so even though it had been kept inside a wardrobe it had gotten quite dusty. Didn't look like the box had been taken out in a while.

Shaan enthusiastically started pulling CDs out of the box. I had to admit, the collection was impressive. There had to be at least 50-60 CDs in there. There were a bunch of names I knew. Guns N' Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden. A bunch of CDs of The Beatles. There were other names I couldn't quite recognize. Jethro Tull? And what exactly is a Lynyrd Skynyrd? The covers looked interesting though.

Shaan's face was absolutely glowing. It looked like he felt some kind of ownership over his uncle’s passion of collecting music. Never understood people feeling proud of things other people do. "Kollol Mama has every band in the world" he said.

I had to agree. It did seem like he had every band in the world. I took another look at the man and it looked like he was extremely exhausted. He hadn't changed from his office clothes but he looked like he was mentally ready to fall asleep in his formal shirt and pants. He also liked slightly annoyed.

"We should go, Mama's tired" I said because I figured I couldn't continue to be so inconsiderate. The guy clearly wasn’t enjoying our company.  

Kollol Mama's fatigue seemed to vanish when he heard that. "Oh no, it's fine. Please stay". I think he realized I could notice his annoyance and seemed flustered about being so unwelcome.

I was still insisting on leaving when I noticed a CD with a woman on the cover. She was wearing very 70’s looking clothes. Was that a Fotua? I'm guessing westerners weren’t' familiar with the concept of Fotuas. Lennon Shades. She sat on a vintage looking motorbike. The writing on the cover was quite worn out.

"Who is that?" I found myself saying, pointing at the CD. I had never seen a woman with so much, how do I put it, spunk? She was very different from Taylor Swift, who was my image of a female singer.

Shaan looked at it and despite previously claiming that he was familiar with every one of his mama's CDs, he was unable to answer.

"Janis Joplin", Kollol Mama answered.

I was thinking of asking if I could borrow it but before I knew it, Shaan turned on his uncle's computer and put the CD inside. He didn't seem to think that asking for permission was necessary. I guess they’re pretty tight.

The woman's voice wasn't all that easy to understand. She sang with a nasal voice but man her voice could certainly go. I couldn't work out all the lyrics and the first line I could properly decipher was "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".

That sentence really caught my attention. I stopped paying attention to the rest of the song and started trying to make sense of what I had just heard. The music was still playing in the background and it was ridiculously groovy. The woman's voice had some serious bite to it.

I heard someone humming, someone other than Janis and I turned to see Kollol Mama humming along. His eyes were closed and he looked rather serene. Looked like a bit more than a just tired banker.

The door opened and Shaan's father walked into the room.

"Shouldn't you be studying, Shaan?" he said rather angrily. "I told you to not distract Shaan, Kollol"

It took him a few seconds to notice that I was there. When he saw me, his face turned kind of red and he promptly left after a few halfhearted attempts at damage control.

Both Shaan and Kollol Mama were caught off guard by that and honestly so was I. There are few things as awkward as overhearing someone else's family drama.

"Can I borrow this?" I decided to break the silence.

"Sure", Kollol Mama replied almost as soon as I finished the sentence.

Shaan ejected the CD and handed it to me. The songs were listed on the back. Turns out the song we had been listening to was called "Me & Bobby McGee"

"I should go, it's getting late" I said, getting to my feet.

"I'll see you out" Shaan got up too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3: Chapter 2 : Little Rebels
Chapter 2 : Little Rebels

-September, 2010-

9:45 pm

 

I kept ignoring the buzzing phone in my pocket.

"I'm sorry you had to see that"

Shaan had walked me downstairs. He looked a little red from the incident. It was so out of character for him to have any other expression than a big grin. I felt bad for him. I wouldn't want my father bringing out his bad side in front of my friends. And for whatever reason, Shaan always seemed to be a little extra self-conscious around me.

"It's fine, shit happens" I tried to shrug it off and make it look it wasn't a big deal. That seemed to help a little.

"You should see Mama's guitar sometime" his face lit up a little as he said that. His childish fascination for his uncle would never stop being cute, I suppose.  

Rickshaws passed us by on the dark street. A few dogs started barking. Dolphin Goli wasn't the most glamorous neighborhood in the country.

"Yeah, sure. Next time" I assured him and turned to walk away. I could see his signature grin start to return to his face upon hearing my promise to see his uncle's guitar. Somethings shouldn't change. Like pineapple should never be on  Pizza. Similarly, Shaan should never lose his smile. What can I say, I felt kind of paternal about him.

As I walked away from Shaan, thoughts about him and Kollol faded away and I became more concerned about what awaited me when I arrived home. I hade made the conscious decision to stay back at Shaan's later than what was allowed for me at the time. And I had kept ignoring my parent's calls throughout. I had planned it out. But now that the confrontation with my parents was nearing, I started to feel butterflies in my stomach.

 

In those days, my earphones were my best friends, even if Shaan would tell you otherwise. As soon as I got on the rickshaw to take me back to my home in Jhigatola, I slipped my earphones on. I was aching to hear the rest of Janis Joplin's songs but it would be a while before I got home and ripped all the songs into my beat down Nokia N70. Until then, I had to go back to the collection already on my phone. Pre-Meteora Linkin Park.

I was fiddling with the CD I had just borrowed when I noticed something interesting. This was one of the old plastic covers, with separate square pages on each side. But between the the little plastic things that held the CD in place and the album cover on the back was a folded piece of paper. I really wasn't sure what this was or if I was supposed to look at it but I couldn't contain my curiosity.

It was a page out of an old diary. Dated 2008.

 

"Dear Kollol,

I know you've been looking for this album. Got Boro Khalu to get it for me. Feels strange to give you a love letter. Going to hide it in the CD and see if you find it. I hope you keep those songs coming. You haven't written a new song for me in a long time. Can't wait for next year and the chance to see you write and sing all day.

Happy Birthday!

 

Juthi

March, 2008"

 

I suppose anybody could figure out what this was. Any feelings of embarrassment that I had from seeing the little exchange between Shaan's father and Kollol Mama felt unimportant to the sort of intruder I was feeling like after reading the letter. The last line, where she mentioned being able to see him 'write and sing all day', that was an allusion to marriage, right? That was the only way you could do that in Bangladesh. But she was talking about 'next year' in 2008. That would be 2009. But it was already 2010 and he wasn't married. What went wrong?

 

Pressing the my doorbell on that night will always be one of the hardest things I've done in my life. 

As soon as our elderly maid opened the door, my mother came sprinting towards me. Her face relaxed as soon as she saw me but it tensed almost immediately afterwards.

"Where were you?" she asked, trying to gather her breath. Her forehead looked really sweaty.

"Shaan's house" I was very scared inside but I did my best to seem nonchalant. I didn't want to give them the satisfaction of seeing my fear.

My mother didn't say anything, just looked at me with a look of shock. She didn't seem like she would say anything else but I knew the real fight wasn't going to be with her.

I was still standing at the entrance of my apartment and I heard footsteps approaching. I knew what was up next. My heart was pounding. I couldn't remember a time when I had actively defied my father before that day.

"He was at his friend Shaan's house" my mother was trying to play mediator.

My father looked at her and than at me. "Why? Was there something wrong with your phone?"

I was tempted to say that my phone had malfunctioned and that some kind of emergency had popped up at Shaan's house. But I had already made up my mind to not say something that made it look unintentional. I wanted them to know that I had willingly defied them.

"No, I just got side-tracked" I replied. I was surprised by the apathy in my voice. I felt like I had to take things up a notch so I pulled out my phone and, while randomly typing on it, started to walk towards my room.

That probably wasn't the best of ideas.

As I was walking towards my room with my eyes locked on my phone screen, I heard rapid footsteps approaching me and before I could look up or react properly, I felt my father's palm collide with my cheek.

"Look at me when I talk to you" my father's voice was the roughest I had ever heard it.

I had expected something of this sort although I can't say I expected him to be this outraged.

His face looked constricted, he was biting down on his teeth. My mother rushed to his side, trying to calm him down. I saw his hands lunge towards me again and I instinctively moved away.

"Please calm down", my mother was trying to pull him back. But he pushed her away and came rushing at me again.

Seeing your own father rush at you like that while wearing a worn out old t-shirt and a lungi is a bewildering sight and the way his anger had started to overtake him made me feel guilty more than anything . I wondered if it would be a good thing if I let him hit me a few more times. Let him rid himself of the anger. But I knew the point was to make him angry. To prove that I no longer wanted his approval. So I moved away and I went into my room. Locked the door behind me. No matter how angry, he would never break a door. He worked hard for the money that went into that door. Wouldn't damage it.

As soon I locked the door I collapsed to my floor. The reality of what I had just done started to sink in. I had been a good Bangladeshi boy until that night. I wasn't sure if my relationship with my parents would ever be the same again. As much as I hated some of the things they did , I did genuinely love them and didn't like the idea of them starting to hate or dislike me. I looked at the album that was still in my hand and the picture of Janis Joplin. I don't know why but the way she sat on the motorbike on the album cover made me feel light.

It was my parent's fault. Yes it was certainly their fault for never, ever being satisfied. This wasn't my fault. None of this was my fault. And now they knew that I didn't care about their approval. Yes, that was a good thing.

I got off the floor and went to my bathroom. I splashed water across  my face. My cheeks were still red from my father's slap. My wet face looked rather nice in the mirror. I looked at myself and I felt like the redness on my cheeks was like a badge of honor. I had defied the established order of things. I was an usurper. People would write songs about me someday.

Songs reminded me of the song that I had left unfinished at Shaan's. I pulled out the CD and sat down on my computer. I genuinely considered blasting the song very loudly on my speakers but then decided against it. I had just angered my parents beyond anything they were  used to. Blasting music now would probably be a bit too much. There had been enough rebelling for one day. They were in for another shock in a few days when my test scores arrived.

I ripped all the songs off the CD and transferred them to my phone. There were 9 songs in total. I felt like I had to listen to all of them to celebrate what I had just done but I wasn't in the mood to listen to music. You have to be a certain kind of peaceful or angry for that. I kept jostling around my room, reveling in the memory of what I had just done. I felt like bouncing.

A few hours later I heard very light  knocks on my door. I knew who that was.

"Aren't you going to eat?"

My mother stood at the entrance to my room with a plate full of food in her hand.

"Your father told me not to give you food tonight. He's asleep now. Come eat up" she extended the plate of food toward me.

"If he told you not to feed me then you shouldn't" I was about to shut the door on her face but something inside me stopped me.

I could see she was struggling to think of a reply. She was always kind of slow. "Fine" I took the plate from  her hand. I turned away, expecting her to leave.

"Is something wrong, son?"

The desperation in her voice killed me. A part of me wanted to run to her and hug her, console her and tell her that nothing was wrong.

"No, nothing's wrong. I was just visiting a friend's house. You are the ones who are overreacting" I said that with as stiff a voice I could muster.

"Alright" she said faintly.

I got onto my bed and started playing around with my phone, doing my best to ignore her. She stood at the door for a bit longer before I noticed her silhouette moving away.

Once she had gone, I walked up to my table and started eating. It was the first time I had dinner without my parents in a long time.

It was also the start of a lifetime of eating dinner on my own.

 

 

 

4: Chapter 3 : Sunny Mornings
Chapter 3 : Sunny Mornings

 

 

-September, 2010-

 

7:30 AM

 

Tashfia Talukder did not want to leave her room. She usually liked school. But she didn't want to get out that day.

She also did not like her school uniform. For one, the colours were extremely bland. Grey and white. Who even came up with that? Second, there was very little you could do in terms  of covering yourself up.

Every few days she would find herself looking at the life-sized mirror on her wardrobe door. Sometimes she would try out new outfits. When she wasn't wearing her school uniform, she liked wearing jackets, even in the summer, no matter how much they made her sweat. It was just her school uniform that didn't have long sleeves that extended beyond her elbows.

She looked at herself in the mirror and wondered if she was nice to look at. It had been a few years now that she had started receiving compliments from boys in school. They said nice things on pictures she put on social media, even if the pictures were ones that she posed for repeatedly.

Maybe all 16 year olds felt that way but she couldn't help feel incomplete. She looked at her big, circular glasses. She didn't actually need glasses. She thought they made her face look less bare, you know, added some layers to her appearance.

"The car's here" Tashfia heard her mother say from the other room.

"Coming" she answered back.

 

Tashfia's mother always insisted on accompanying her to school even though they had a car. Something about it being wise to not trust chauffeurs too much. They barely spoke on the car though. Tashfia preferred drifting off with her earphones on. This was partly because she really liked drifting off while listening to music but mostly because she didn't like speaking to her mother.

It had been a few minutes into the car ride. She'd made herself comfortable and let Billy Joe Armstrong carry her to sleep. She'd only recently discovered Green Day and the song Wake Me Up When September Ends. Most of the kids in her class were obsessing over the other song, Boulevard of Broken Dreams. She found this one much more calming. People say that exciting music helps when you're feeling angry yourself. But she didn't find catharsis in that. Calming music, yes that is what she liked. 

"Milee?"

Tashfia felt a nudge in her hand.

"Milee, listen"

Another nudge. Tashfia opened her eyes to see her mother leaning towards her from the other side of the back seat. 'Milee' was her nickname. Tashfia opened one of the ear pods.

Tashfia saw her mother's big, watery eyes. Khaleda Talukder always wore her orna around her head. Somehow it made her eyes pop out even more. When they got watery, they were hard to look away from.

"You know your father isn't a bad man, right Milee?" Tashfia's mother reached out to caress Tashfia's cheek.

Tashfia pushed her mother's hand away. This was the worst part of every altercation for her, the part where her mother would try and rationalize it. As she pushed her mother's hand away, Tashfia noticed the bruises on her mother's arm and felt guilty about what she just did.

Tashfia reached out for her mother's hand and grabbed hold of it without saying anything. As she did, the bruise on her own shoulder hurt and she flinched in pain. Despite that, Tashfia held onto her mother's hands tightly for the rest of the ride. When the car came to a halt at the school gates, Tashfia felt lighter. For a few hours she could be somebody else. School was nice that way. Tashfia got off the car and got ready to be Class Ace Tashfia Talukder, the Queen of Class 10.

 

 

"Would you like a sand witch?"

Tashfia had just walked into the classroom when she found Shaan standing near her desk with a neatly packaged sandwitch in his hand. His efforts were a little cute, really. She could never see herself falling for him but it was nice to see someone work so hard for her affection.

"Isn't this your lunch?" she had to fight to keep herself from giggling. She found his acts funny but Shaan, being a boy, would probably perceive her laugh as a flirtatious one and go tell all his friends that she was leading him on. You had to be careful to not give boys 'signals'.

"My mother gave me two" he said with a big, full grin.

Tashfia found it hard to so no to such a kind offer. Shaan was difficult to dislike. There was something endearing in the way he wore his pants very high, quite some way above where she imagined his bellybutton was. 

"Thank you , Shaan" she took the Sandwich in her hand.

She turned around to put her bag away and then turned back only to find Shaan still standing there with the same grin on his face. Sometimes the line between cute and creepy got blurry with him.

Tashfia gave him a smile, not really sure what to say. She had known Shaan since they were toddlers by virtue of going to the same school and had the sort of friendship you have with people you have been classmates with for a long time. But beyond that she didn't know much about him.

"Is Tahmid coming?" she asked, after looking for a common topic that they could both talk about.

Shaan's face seem to fall a little at the mention of his best friend's name. "Yeah he's coming", Shaan said softly. "I'll see you later"

Shaan turned and left and it took a Tashfia a few seconds to realize why Shaan reacted the way he did. That made her giggle again. She started walking around the classroom.

The classrooms in her school always got a lot of sunlight, which was something she adored. There was something about morning sunlight that always made you feel good. As the day progressed and you got closer to noon the sun started to get hideous. The morning sun was just right.

 

The first class with Math class, which wasn't exactly Tashfia's favourite. The math teacher was a middle aged man name Monishongkor Howladar. He was a very dark skinned person. With hair that had started to grey, he came across as a very stoic figure. Rarely said anything outside the things he absolutely had to.

Monishongkor Sir came into class and threw a bundle of exam sheets onto the teacher's table. Something inside Tashfia made her jumpy. Test Scores. Hopefully she get to be the class topper again and people would start asking her for advice on how to do better. That was something she loved. 

"Tahmid Bin Zafar?" the teacher called as soon as he got to his table. He sounded angry.

Tahmid was nowhere to be found. Tashfia looked around the class and at Shaan, who looked lost himself.

"Is something wrong with him?" the teacher asked the class, looking at Shaan himself. Pretty much everyone knew that Tahmid and Shaan were best friends.

"How does someone like him manage a zero?" Monishongkor said , looking at the exam script in his hand.

 

 

5: Chapter 4 : Latent
Chapter 4 : Latent

-September, 2010-

(Tahmid)

 

I can't remember when I fell asleep that night or when I woke up the next morning. Bits and pieces of the night are still a mystery to me. I remember eating dinner alone after my mother had left and not feeling very good about it. I am not sure if I cried at any point. I wouldn't be surprised if I had. But my memories are a little jumbled up.

When I got to school I was far too late to catch any of the classes. The teacher in the very first period took the attendance roll call so even if you showed up for the other classes, there was no real point unless you actually went to school to learn things and not to score grades so your father would tell you that he was proud of you.

Our school wasn't like most of the other schools in Dhaka. To the North of the large academic building was a football field and to the south was a basketball court with a quite elaborate roof. Near the basketball court was the Canteen, surrounded on all sides by many, many benches.

I strolled around the fairly large school campus, soaking in the sun. One of the few good things about our school grounds was that they got a lot of sunlight so in the earlier parts of the day, there was a nice warmth to it. It would eventually get sickening around noon.

I thought about pulling on my earphones and listening to more of Janis but earphones were banned on campus. I never understood that rule. I understand why that might be a problem during class. I completely understand. But what about other times? Like during breaks? And what about that rule about long hair? What did long hair have to do with education?

I pulled out my earphones and rolled them around in my palm. If I got caught and sent to the Head Master's office, they would probably summon my parents which would lead to more drama. I felt like I had had enough parent related drama for a few years. Whatever rebellious kick I would get from using them at that point wouldn't be worth the exhausting experience of sitting at Ahmed Sir's office with my parents.

Posters for the upcoming School Talent Show had started filling up the campus. I liked the concept but you had to get your act approved by the teachers first so you could only sing traditional Bangla songs. Kind of boring.

I heard the bell ring to signal the end of the 3rd period which meant it was time for Tiffin Break. This also meant it was 11 AM. I really had lost track of time.

Students started pouring out of the classrooms and they all came down from the academic building, filling up the fields and the canteen with a lot of noise. I was enjoying the peace and quiet. I saw Shaan walking towards me and as much as I liked him, the idea of having to converse with him kind of annoyed me at that point.

When he got close to me, I accepted the fact that my peaceful sunbathing experience was over.

"You got a zero in the Math Test" he said, sitting down next to me.

He was clearly trying to gauge my reaction. For the longest time, I had been a very serious student. I would get very worked up over test scores. I remember crying when my test scores came out bad. There was this one time in Class 5 when I stopped eating for 2 days after I came second in class. Until Class 4, I was used to being the class topper. Class 5 was when Tashfia Talukder joined our school and displaced me.

"That's alright" I shrugged it off and went back to starting at my phone.

I could see the shock on his face and I loved it, to be honest. People needed to know that I didn't care anymore.

"I'm hungry, can you buy me something?" Shaan asked after a minutes of silence.

"I thought you bring sandwiches everyday"

"Mom forgot to pack them today" Shaan had a sheepish grin on his face.

"Fine" I got up and accompanied him to the canteen.

 

 

The canteen in my school was a chaotic place during Tiffin Break. A bunch of the younger kids would stack up around the counter so it was almost impossible for us older ones to get anywhere near the counter.

"Give me the money, I'll go get it" Shaan said, extending his hand towards me.

I gave him a Tk 50 note, which he took, before proceeding to manually wade through the kids. Shaan did this all the time. I gave him the money and in return he fought the horde. Nice arrangement.

I was standing at the edge of the canteen, watching Shaan struggle to fight off a bunch of pre-school kids when I heard a female voice call my name.

"Tahmid?"

I turned to see Tashfia Talukder looking at me. She was wearing a full sleeve jacket which honestly made no sense in September. But she often did strange things like that so I was used to it.

"Hey" I said, not sure why she approached me. We weren't really friends. The only relationship we had was one of competition, where she usually beat me. I guess I did resent her a little. If it wasn't for her, my parents wouldn't get the chance to disapprove of me.

"Is everything okay?" she asked me with a look of concern on her face.

Her big, circular glasses made her eyes look watery. I had noticed this before, thankfully, otherwise it's easy for people to assume that she's about to cry at all times.

"Yeah, why do you ask?" At the back of my mind I had an idea why she was asking me what she was asking. But I had to be nonchalant. Keep it cool.

"I heard you got a z-" she stopped mid-sentence "I heard you did bad in the math test"

"Oh" I casually scratched the back of my head "yeah"

"Is something wrong?" she looked at me intently as she spoke.

"Nothing's wrong" I stopped scratching my head and started thinking of some other activity I could do to replicate nonchalance. Thankfully Shaan showed up with our shingaras.

"Here" Shaan handed me one with his left hand. He had started eating with his other hand. I guess he hadn't seen Tashfia because he always got fidgety around her, even though he always denied it whenever I suggested that he had a crush on her.

"I thought you had another sandwich" Tashfia giggled while talking in Shaan's direction.

Shaan finally noticed her. He had been blissfully chewing his shingara when his face became still.

"I already had my sandwich" Shaan started talking with food in his mouth. No matter how paternal I felt about him, even I found it a little disgusting.

Tashfia gave him something that I can best describe as a corporate smile before turning back to me.

"I was just surprised, I didn't think I'd ever hear about you getting a zero"

Something about the way she said that triggered something deep inside me. What did she mean? That I had let myself down?

"Why?" I said. In my head I was waiting to hear her response. What she said next was important. I was mentally prepared to give her a piece of my mind.

"Well" she seemed to drift off in the middle of the sentence "I always knew you didn't enjoy studying as much as I do. But I enjoyed the competition thing we had going"

She sounded oddly sincere as she said that so the part of me that was telling me to lash out couldn't win. I was also trying to process how it was that she had figured out that I didn't like studying. I always had her down as one of those one dimensional nerds who did everything by the book, apart from her decision to wear jackets in September, which went against every rulebook ever. Turns out she was a little more than that.

I was going to say something but I was cut off by Shaan offering her his final shingara. This guy had dedication.

"Oh no, I couldn't" Tashfia held up both hands to protest. As she did, her jacket sleeve rolled down and I could see a little bruise on her left arm. She very consciously fixed her sleeve. "I'm full from the sandwich I just had"

The bell started ringing.

Immediately, the horde of students that were scattered across the fields and the canteen started to make their way back to school. I could see Tashfia's posture had changed as soon as she had heard the bell. Since she was in the middle of a conversation, she was aware that it would be rude to leave before we said something about leaving too. But neither Shaan nor I were saying anything so Tashfia stood in her spot, slightly fidgeting and looking for an excuse to make her way back to class. Maybe she was a bona fide nerd after all.

I figured I could do her a favour and give her the chance to make her exit.

"You should go back to class. Shaan and I have work"

"We do?" Shaan looked at me in surprise. He wasn't the sort of kid to bunk classes but if I told him to, he would without complain.

"Yes. We have to start planning for the school talent show" I started leading him away by hand while waving goodbyes to Tashfia with the other.

"The talent show?" Tashfia seemed taken aback "the one that only allows you to sing traditional Bangla songs?"

"Yes, that" I was already at the edge of the canteen, intending to get to the main gate. Shaan didn't really need dragging but I was having fun pulling him regardless.

"But we don't play any instruments or sing" Shaan protested even though his statement was more of an expression of bewilderment than a protest.

To tell the truth, I hadn't really thought it through. I had only been thinking about it while sitting on the bench near the canteen before Shaan had interrupted me. But now that I was talking about it, it felt more and more like something I wanted to do.

"We'll learn and we'll perform a song by Janis Joplin" I said. I had stopped pulling Shaan around. Even if it was fun to pull him he was really heavy and pulling him was a lot of work. Surprisingly, Tashfia was still standing there, a look of awe in her eyes.

"You're going to be late for class" I said. I wasn't sure why she hadn't turned around and rushed to class. It had already been about five minutes since the bell had rung and the teachers that were kind of rude, which was most of them, didn't let students enter after five minutes.

"I will be late not" Tashfia said. "I mean, I won't be late"

I had forgotten how she got her words jumbled up sometimes. I guess she was kind of cute.

"Late not" I chuckled. "The abbreviation would be Late'nt"

"That wouldn't make sense" Tashfia laughed.

"Would sound a lot like the word 'Latent'" I said, my hand still gripping Shaan's arm.

"That's what we'll call ourselves" I said out aloud right after.

To this day I'm not sure why I said that. But the word seemed oddly fitting. I had been sitting around all my life. Maybe this was a fitting representation of what my life had been. Latent.

"What?" Shaan asked "Call ourselves what?"

"Latent. We'll call ourselves Latent"

 

 

 

6: Chapter 5 : Bunk
Chapter 5 : Bunk

-September,2010-

 

"We shouldn't be doing this, Tahmid"

We were standing next to the outermost boundary of our school's football field. On the northern side of the field, the boundary was in quite bad shape. At one point, the walls became really low, as low as 5 feet. There were stories about people using these walls to bunk school but for boys like Shaan and me, those stories were about the sort of people we never wanted to be.

As I stood in front of the low wall that day, though, I felt oddly adventurous. To tell you the truth, I was still weighed down by the memory of how sad my mother looked when she came to give me dinner the night before. I wanted to keep my mind off of things and it felt like jumping over the wall would be quite a nice way to do just that.

"Tahmid"

Shaan's voice sounded like a bit of a plea. That didn't matter, our friendship had a very strongly established power dynamic. I did the decision making.

I kept looking at the wall and I wondered if I was really pushing it a bit too much. There were probably people who jumped over the wall a couple of times everyday and didn't really think twice. But for me, and Shaan too, this was a whole new ball game.

We had probably been staring at the wall for a while when I saw a kid from Class 9 walk past us and jump over the wall very casually. Before letting go off the wall , he smirked at us. That was a little hard to take.

"Come", I motioned to Shaan to follow me.

It was frankly quite challenging for me. I had never been too athletic and even though the wall was shorter than I was, using my hands to hoist m over it proved a little difficult. I ended up stumbling over the other side. The other side of the wall was a road with a fair number of cars passing. I was lucky one of the cars didn't run over me. Falling over had gotten my white shirt dirty and I think I scraped my elbow. But I couldn't let Shaan see that. I always found it important to come across as a brave leader in front of him.

Whatever trouble I had, Shaan had it much worse. His protruding belly made it harder for him and he fell harder than I had. Thankfully he hadn't hurt himself beyond the dirt he also got on his white shirt.

"Where do we go now?" Shaan said, getting back to his feet.

I had already started calling for a Rickshaw.

 

                                                                                                                                                        **

Syed Kollol looked at the door in front of him and contemplated going back. If he knocked on the door and went inside, he would have to see Tanveer Alam's arrogant smile. He would also have to hear whatever Tanveer felt like saying. One of the worst things about Tanveer was that he never kept any thought to himself. If he thought anything, he let it out, especially  in front of people like Kollol.

The signboard read Tanveer Alam, Senior Manager.

Tanveer had been Kollol's classmate back in University but unlike Kollol, he hadn't spent a year unemployed. He got head-hunted straight out of university and by the time Kollol had joined, he had already become a Senior Manager.

The idea of asking money from Tanveer made Kollol's insides crawl but he didn't really have any other options. There was nobody in Dhaka that he could think of that he could ask for money from. You couldn't get anywhere in Dhaka if you didn't have money. He had already spent most of last month's salary by chipping in with the bills at his sister's house but even after that, his brother in law had made it quite clear that he was unwelcome. It had been a number of years that Kollol had accepted this behaviour as a price he had to pay for irresponsible decisions taken earlier in life. But the previous night felt like a tipping point. Even if it meant taking money from Tanveer of all people, this had be to be done.

Kollol knocked and just hoped that Tanveer wouldn't be as unpleasant as he had the potential of being.

"Come in" Kollol heard from the other side.

"Oh Kollol" Tanveer got up from his chair and extended his hand for a shake. He was dressed to perfection. He had to be, he was being looked at for a long term leadership position after all. He also had his own office now. He couldn't dress badly.

"Hey" Kollol spoke softly. Tanveer's large office always intimidated him. Kollol was still stuck at his entry level cubicle. There was a time when thoughts of offices and desks annoyed Kollol beyond measure. Whenever discussions regarding such things came up back in university, Kollol would shrug and say that he didn't have the time for things like that. And it wasn't like he was lying either. Back then he really meant it. But standing in Tanveer's office and remembering that he and Tanveer had been in the same class, it stung quite deep.

"How are you doing? You don't look very good" Tanveer said sitting down.

Kollol didn't know if he was supposed to take offense at that. He wasn't sure if that was meant to be a back-handed jab or of it was genuine concern.

"Didn't get much sleep, last night" Kollol replied. That was his go-to response for whenever people expressed concern of that nature.

"Oh, let me get us some coffee" Tanveer proceed to press the bell on his table.

Kollol was sure it was just to show off the fact that he had a bell rather than any honest intention of drinking coffee.

"Oh it's fine, I actually have something I have to discuss" Kollol protested.

"Yes?" Tanveer actually came across as concerned but Kollol told himself that the bastard was just feigning it.

"I need some money" Kollol mustered up the courage to say. He felt very, very small after saying it. More prominent than shame was a deep sense of regret about everything his younger self had done or devoted time to. This could have been avoided.

"Is this for the Gazipur project?" 

Kollol knew Tanveer knew what he was talking about.

"No" Kollol looked at the table more than he did at Tanveer and his waxed hair. "For me. I need some money. Personally"

"Of course" Tanveer replied rather solemnly "Is something wrong?

Kollol knew full well that Tanveer was enjoying this. His questions were designed to find out more about Kollol's failures. Why did he have to know if something was wrong? He just had to hand over the money and agree on a repayment period.

"I understand, it's fine if you don't want to tell me" Tanveer sounded sympathetic. Kollol knew better.

There was another knock on the door.

"Yes?" Tanveer called whoever that was on the other side to come in.

It was office peon. "There are two boys here to see Kollol Sir"

Kollol wasn't expecting that. "Who?"

"He introduced himself as your nephew, sir. He said his name was Shaan"

Kollol couldn't work out what Shaan was suddenly doing in his office at that hour of the day.

"You should go see your nephew" Tanveer spoke with a gentle smile "I'll take care of what you just told me. Don't worry"

Kollol laughed back hesitantly. Tanveer's smile made him sick.

 

 

Kollol came to the waiting room to see Shaan and his friend from the previous night sitting there in very dirty uniforms. They didn't look hurt or injured but they were very ruffled up. Had they been in a fight?

"What are you boys doing here?" Kollol asked, walking up to them. His first instinct was that Shaan's father was going to say something very unpleasant to him later that night and blame whatever that had happened to Shaan on him. 

"We came here for your help" Shaan said.

Even though Shaan was doing the talking, Kollol got the idea that the reason behind the two boys being there had more to do with the other boy. What was his name again?

"There's a talent show in our school in 9 days. You have to teach us how to play 'Me & Bobby McGree' in that time" Shaan said.

"Shouldn't you two be in school?" Kollol was still having trouble processing the fact that the boys had randomly showed up at his office.

"We took the day off" Shaan's friend spoke for the first time.

As he spoke, Kollol felt like he saw something very similar in the boy's eyes. A hunger to make the same mistakes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7: Chapter 6 : Seki
Chapter 6 : Seki

-September,2010-

 

3 pm

 

Tashfia wasn't sure why she had volunteered to be a prefect. It probably had something to do with her image as the Class Topper. Being a prefect just fit so perfectly with that image. But it entailed a lot of responsibilities. Like carrying papers to the Teacher's Room, which she was doing with Saqlain Alam, the other prefect.

"Is everything okay with Tahmid?"

Tashfia wasn't expecting that question, not from Saqlain of all people. With his messy hair, some of which fell in front of his forehead, and rather unkempt appearance, Saqlain had always been a little aloof. He never really bothered with classroom drama or what other people were up to. It was because he paid so little attention that people were able to volunteer his name when teachers were looking for new prefects. He barely ever talked beyond the customary 'hello'.

"I am not sure, Seki" Tashfia replied. His question had made her think back to the incident during the Tiffin Break when Tahmid seemed to make the spontaneous decision to perform at the Talent Show with Shaan even though neither of them had any experience of music. Otherwise she probably wouldn't have used Saqlain's nickname. They weren't really close.

Thankfully, he didn't seem to mind.

"I saw you talking to him and Shaan during Tiffin Break so I figured you might know something" Saqlain answered. The Teacher's Room was on the 6th Floor and students weren't, because of some strange reason, allowed to use the elevator. That meant walking up 6 flocks of stairs. The two of them had plenty of these walks together but they rarely spoke before.

"Yeah, I asked him if something was the matter. He said there was nothing wrong" Tashfia answered.

The sun had started to dwindle and the windows near the staircase illuminated Seki's face very softly. He was very fair by Bangaldeshi standards, with messy hair that fell all over his forehead. There was a disinterested look on his face throughout the day but when he spoke about Tahmid, Tashfia could see bits of concern.

"He was always interesting" Seki said softly as they reached the end of the stairs on the 3rd floor. Both of them were tired at that point. "He always tried a lot."

"Tried a lot?" Tashfia wondered what Seki meant. Usually when you know someone fairly well, you can understand what they mean when they say vague things. She didn't really know Seki well, if at all.

"Well he isn't a supreme genius like me" Seki laughed. But it didn't seem like he didn't mean what he had said. Tashfia didn't really know what to say to that. It's hard to tell when a stranger is joking or when he's being an egomaniac.

Seki seemed to notice her discomfort. "Sorry about that. I was kidding"

He was making an effort to sound reassuring but Tashfia felt like he wasn't really joking. Tashfia didn't really know if Seki was a genius or if he wasn't. Se wasn't someone to judge someone else on their grades alone. But if class grades were a metric, Seki would be far from a genius. But now that he had proclaimed himself to be one, Tashfia started to notice a few interesting things about her fellow Prefect. His shoes, for example, did not follow the school rules. He wore really worn out old keds in place of the black shoes that the school asked you to wear. And he wore a full sleeved shirt even in the September heat. Then again Tashfia herself wore a jacket so perhaps that wasn't hugely unique.

"Did that creep you out?" Seki asked as they started climbing the stairs again.

"Ah no, that's fine" Tashfia forced a weak laugh.

"I'm sorry. This is why I usually keep my mouth shut" Seki actually looked upset as he said that. His disinterested face had developed a frown of some sort.

Tashfia felt bad about the fact that Seki was feeling bad. She didn't like seeing people down, especially if she had any part to play in it.

"Hey I knew you were kidding" Tashfia tried to sound warm " and you could be a genius. Who knows?"

Seki's face seemed a little relieved. "My jokes are a little stupid"

"I think you're kind of funny" Tashfia said, feeling lighter after after seeing that Seki had started to cheer up.

"Are you saying I'm stupid ? Cause otherwise it wouldn't be funny if I called myself a genius" Seki had a deadpan look on his face.

Tashfia almost froze again but this time something in her told her that he was actually joking. She couldn't contain the laughter. Seki started laughing as soon as she did.

"You were sure I was some kind of egomaniac, weren't you?" Seki said, in between his laughter.

"Well you barely talk in class, man. I don't know what goes on inside your head"

They'd already reached the Teacher's Room but decided to wait outside so they could finish their conversation. It was an unspoken agreement but neither of them seemed eagre to go inside.

"It's hard to talk to the pompous class queen. My bad" Seki said playfully.

"Pompous?" Tashfia put her bundle of copies on top of his to feign anger.

"Hey that's heavy" Seki could barely hold the added pressure.

"Serves you right for calling me Pompous, you degenerate" Tashfia decided to wait for a few seconds before relieving him of the bundle.

"Degenerate?" Seki sounded a bit hurt, which made Tashfia instantly feel like she had been punched in the gut. When you're starting to build a friendship with someone, the jokes you make at the start are always a little scary, simply because you don't know how much of it the other person can take.

"Well" Seki took a while to respond, probably trying to develop a comeback in his head "At least I don't wear a jacket in this heat just to stand out"

That did hurt a little. Tashfia almost flinched. She wanted to say something rude but she knew that he didn't know anything about her jacket or why she wore it. She hated it when people pointed out her jacket. She'd love it if people treated it like a part of her skin. 

"At least I don't purposefully not comb my hair to seem cool" Tashfia replied while lifting her bundle off of his.

"Did you just call me cool?" Seki grinned and Tashfia realized her comeback hadn't been all that clever. As they were about to enter the Teacher's Room, she felt a buzz in her pocket. That meant her car was here.

"I'll have to go. My mom gets crazy if I'm even a minute late" She put the bundle back on Seki's. 

"Let's talk more from now" Seki said, barely being able to hold all the paper.

"Sure" Tashfia said, as she sprinted for the stairs. She realized her shoulder had been hurting the whole time but she hadn't noticed. As she got closer and closer to her car and in turn her mother, the aching on her shoulder became more and more prominent. She would miss school until it was time to leave home again the next morning.

As she got down from the academic building and headed for the gate, leaving the school and Seki and everyone else behind, she wished school never ended and she never had to return to her family.

 

8: Chapter 7 : Exit
Chapter 7 : Exit

                                                                                                                                   -September,2010-

"You know that I have to get off work before I can help you, right?"

Kollol had arranged for an extra pair of chairs in his cubicle for the two boys to sit. He had avoided the topic of what they were doing in his office in that hour instead of being in school. He felt like asking them, and consequently hearing their answer, would give him ownership of their misdeeds and this would get him in even more trouble with his sister and her husband. That is something he wanted to avoid at all costs.

"It's fine", Shaan's friend said. "We can wait"

Kollol still had quite a few reports he had to clear before he could leave work. In between work, he took a few looks at the boys and he could notice that Shaan seemed a little fidgety. When Shaan spokem, he seemed to be just as eagre as the other boy but his body language gave him away. He had always noticed a lack of agency in his nephew. He would go in whatever direction he was carried. Perhaps that was better in a way. You never had complete ownership of your mistakes that way.

Shaan's friend, whose name Kollol still couldn't remember, looked very different. He was quite good looking for a boy his age. Sharp features. His hair wasn't the longest but it was well maintained. But even more so than his physical features, there was an air of boldness in the way he carried himself. Even as he was sitting down on the chair, the boy seemed like he knew what he was doing. That was quite admirable. Kollol knew his own body language was very uninspiring. It hadn't always been that way.

"What kind of work do you do?" Shaan's friend spoke up after a few minutes of silence.

The boy seemed like he didn't like being quite. Kollol didn't mind questions. He could understand why the boy would be drawn into asking a question like that. It was, after all, a harmless and casual question and the silence around the cubicle was indeed kind of awkward. But Kollol didn't know what to say. His position in the bank was quite lowly. His work was essentially clerical. He decided to take refuge in vagueness.

"I analyze credit ratings and prepare inventory reviews" Kollol answered faintly, hoping that the boys wouldn't understand the words nor hear them properly. It was a lot more glamourouss than saying than saying that he merely documented everything that happened in the bank without any intellectual input of his own.

"He's a Documentation Executive" Shaan added.

That was an answer Kollol once gave Shaan when he had asked the same question. Kollol noticed the look on Shaan's friend's face upon hearing that designation and he could see the look of skepticism on the boy's face. Shaan, on the other hand, seemed quite proud of his addition to the conversation.

Kollol went back to working, doing his best to not act fazed. His phone lit up with a text.

"Took care of what you asked. Check your bank account. T"

The text made his heart sink. A part of him was hoping that Tanveer would refuse. But wouldn't that have been worse? 

 

They had been sitting quietly for a couple of hours before when Kollol broke the silence.

"Boys" Kollol said, turning his revolving chair in their direction "It's past school time. You two can go home now. I'll have to stay back quite late tonight"

Shaan's friend was about to open his mouth and Kollol figured he would say something like 'we can wait'.

"It will be almost 9 before I am free to go" Kollol cut in before Shaan's friend could open his mouth.

Kollol could see a sort of relief on Shaan's face. The other boy didn't seem all that convinced but it didn't look like he would protest any further.

 

Kollol got downstairs to see the boys off just before sunset. "Do you have money to go back?"

"Yes" Shaan's friend replied.

Kollol still couldn't remember the boy's name but kept himself from asking because it would probably be rude to forget the name of someone you met just last night.

"Show your friend my guitar tab books, okay?" Kollol gave Shaan a pat on the back. Something about the way Shaan smiled when he did that made his heart feel heavy. Few people had respected him like Shaan had. Kollol wasn't sure why his nephew saw him as some sort of superman. All that did was made him feel like a bit of a fraud. 

 

                                                                                     **

                                                                              

                                                                              (Tahmid)

I am not sure why Kollol Mama forgot my name so quickly. I wasn't sure if I ought to be offended at that. I wasn't all that important in his life. There was no real reason for him to remember me. But, well, it's not nice to be forgotten.

When Shaan opened his uncle's wardrobe, I found something very interesting. The guy barely had any clothes. What he had, though, were CDs. It was stacked from corner to corner with CDs. They were organized fairly neatly too. The wardrobe had a number of compartments and the middle compartment was full of  Bangla CDs. One of them was named "Abar (Again)" and it was by the band "Black".

Shaan saw me looking at it and quickly took it from my hand so he could plug it into his uncle's computer.

I knew Black's music. They were very famous in the 2000s, fame that reached legendary levels after a car crash killed their sound engineer and almost the entire band.They were all over the radio.

This particular song had a very punk flair to it. It was called "Manush Pakhir Gaan". The guitars sounded a lot like Green Day. I knew these sounds. I had heard most songs after that came out after the 2000s. Shaan started swaying his head when he saw that I was doing the same. A minute or two later, with the song nearing its end, I got bored and started looking at the other records in the wardrobe. Seeing my apathy, Shaan stopped swaying his head as well. The kid was a little adorable.

We spent most of the night listening to the different records in Kollol Mama's collection. Around 7, Shaan's mother came into the running. She looked like she had been crying.

"Shaan, did you speak to Kollol today?" she asked, stumbling into the room. She was usually very nice to me but she didn't' acknowledge my presence that day.

Shaan was probably about to say that he had met his uncle in his office but he saw my face and changed the answer. "Yes, before leaving this morning. Why?" Shaan answered.

"He just called me saying he's moving out" the woman was weeping as she spoke. I felt really sorry for her. In retrospect, I could sense him acting a little strange earlier on in the day. I didn't know him well enough at that point to think of whatever he was doing as out of character though.

"Why would he do that?" she kept looking in Shaan's direction.

 I wasn't sure if Shaan was genuinely clueless or if he was feigning ignorance, probably the former, but he looked dumbfounded.

I sat in that room, feeling very, very out of place as I watched Shaan's mother weep. I genuinely felt bad for her and for Kollol Mama but the overwhelming emotion inside me was that of disappointment. Disappointment about the fact that I would need a different guitar tutor. Maybe I was a little too selfish back then.