Monirul Alam_07092014 [ Daily Life ] Garment workers Protest in Dhaka


Maruf was against Salma returning to work, but not because he thought she was incapable. He was, simply put, old-fashioned. Salma had been fine with being a housewife. Fifteen years had passed since she was teaching, a decade and a half during which they had two children, a military government came to an end, religious fanatics returned to the frontlines of Bangladeshi politics, democracy got tossed around like a piece of hot coal no one could handle, and Maruf’s prospects of a major promotion after ten years in the same non-management position turned into a pay cut.

“Mergers,” said Maruf, “it’s code word for murder, because that’s what it does to the real working people. In broad daylight, bleeds them out. And Americans love mergers more than they love their families.”

Maruf’s bank had been taken over by an American investment firm, and over the last six weeks, representatives had been arriving every other day—spiffy, young, smiling faces torched and ruddy from the Dhaka heat but maintaining grace—spending interminable hours behind the locked door of the conference room with the chairman and CEO Mr. Moazzem, who also faced strong prospects of becoming a menial employee. Mr. Moazzem had asked Maruf if there was anything he could do to help. He actually meant it. After a few days’ thought, and a conversational tangent with Salma that became serious, then caused them to bicker, Maruf begrudgingly asked Mr. Moazzem for a lead.

“It’s against my choice, sir, but times are…”

“I understand, Maruf.”

Mr. Moazzem delivered. One of the top industrialists in the city had opened a new office, and administrative positions were open but filling fast.

As soon as Salma excitedly mentioned her CV, Maruf said that it needed to be updated, no matter that she hadn’t had a job since the school. For a firm of this caliber it would have to be close to perfect and make up with appearance what was lacking in substance. A proper cover letter needed to be drafted. She would need a quick course on basic computer use, emailing, searching the web, none of which, Maruf grumbled, could be added to her skill set.

“That part will have to remain un-updated,” Maruf puffed his cheeks and exhaled. “We could possibly fatten the administrative background from your teaching days with stress on organization, timeliness, accountability…” the words swam into each other in Salma’s ears. “…even if most of these positions are little more than office boy-type work, with all due respect to Mr. Moazzem. At least the firm has a name and reputation.”

He went through a checklist as if evaluating his own prospects for the job. He stopped and asked her if she was really prepared to go through the headache. The headache, she told him, seemed only to be his. She was fine. They needed this to work. Maruf’s pride thus knocked, he resumed advising.

The city was different from when Salma was last part of it on a daily basis. There were more cars, more buses, more trucks, damned more rickshaws and scooters, more people, more accidents. Once a week at least Maruf saw a deadly crash or a bus hitting a scooter or a rickshaw and killing a family. Then there were the student thugs and the religious fundamentalists that needed absolutely no reason to unleash violence on whoever they decided was the day’s target; there were young cretins that had no respect for women and touched and groped and tried to rip their clothes off out in the open. Dhaka was not what it used to be.

There was a time, Maruf elaborated, with an almost eulogizing sadness in his tone, when children and women could walk freely, unmolested through any street at any time, and men were protectors, husbands, fathers, and respectful heads of households, not recreants leaguing with other recreants in the name of religion and solidarity and politics and righteousness to turn the city into a jungle.

When he reached the end of his ruminations, he said, without making eye contact with her, “There’s time still to think about it. These things happen in every job. I know people who have gone through worse. Some are doing even better than before.”

“I’m happy for those people.” Salma was on her feet, knowing well enough that the next installment would tie in his tirade about the shameless leasing out of the country to the West.

“But not for me, that won’t happen so easily,” Maruf added, his bitterness simmering. “And that is not a reason to think the problem doesn’t exist in the fundamental attitude of the West when it comes to the Third World…”

 

Salma resurrected the old CV from the depths of a trunk that had been stowed away in the storeroom since they’d first moved into the flat five years ago. She had drawn out the file like a fragile relic. Besides the dust and the mothball smell it looked fine, no different than the day she’d wrapped it in the plastic bag and set it under a stack of books from her teaching days. She locked up the trunk, brought the file to the dining table, and untied the string that held it shut.

She could hear Maruf talking in the bedroom while he changed his clothes. Adil’s running footsteps banged along the veranda in the back. Shama’s Bollywood music leaked out of her room and around the flat like a chorus of mosquitoes. The cook came out and asked Salma if he should set the table for dinner, and Salma gave him an absent-minded nod.

“No one has faith in the country anymore,” Maruf was saying as he walked in. “Why wonder when outsiders and foreigners think it’s theirs for the taking as they wish?” He came to the table and took the CV from Salma’s hand. Holding it at arm’s length he started laughing. Salma snatched it back, and tucked it into the file.

“Item One,” he snorted, “bringing that thing from the Stone Age to the twenty-first century.”

“Dipu downstairs is good with computers,” said Salma. “He is a smart boy. He can do it.”

“Are you mad? Letting a child do the work of a professional? Seriously, Salma, where does your mind go to pick up these foolish ideas?”

The cook began setting the table and bringing out dishes of food.

“For a job with a firm like this, you cannot be careless,” Maruf said. “Everything has to be spotless and perfect. Believe me. Things are not what they used to be. All that flimsy, cobble-together-what-you-can attitude history. Now the firms have trained people they hire just to look for mistakes and discrepancies in everything. Including cover letters and CVs.”

Salma put the file down on the chair next to her. Maruf walked over and picked it up.

“Perfection,” said Maruf, eyeing the frayed file. “My god,” he chuckled, “I don’t think they even make files like these anymore.”

He smacked the file against his palm. “There is no point messing around,” he said. “If we’re going to do something, it should be done right. I will take this with me and have Pranab prepare the new ones. It will be a few days; things are very busy at the bank, but at least it will be done properly and responsibly.”

Maruf spoke on, circling the dining table, hands clasped behind him, deep inflections in his speech on specific points he thought needed more stress than others or else his wife just could not fathom their seriousness. He stopped at the head chair on the opposite end of the table from her, leaned on it with both hands, and said, “No ‘I beg to apply for the position’ nonsense from the times of our fathers. Only direct, professional courtesy, and confidence in the applicant’s potential as the best candidate for the job.”

Salma saw the deep circles under his eyes, the doubts buried under the confident stare, and heard the rasp in his breathing that had gotten worse instead of better because she knew he was still smoking.

“I will leave it to you,” she said. “Whatever you think needs to be done.” She called for the children to come in for dinner.

Later that night, when Maruf would long have been asleep, he nudged Salma in bed. She had been trying to sleep for the last hour, but could do nothing more than count the things she would need to arrange for and rearrange if she got hired.

“Are you awake?” Maruf asked.

“What are you doing awake?” said Salma.

“I was thinking.”

“Okay?”

“You can really make something of this position if you do it right.” He turned around. Salma still kept her back to him. “It’s a new branch of a major firm with international presence, and you’re coming in at a good time, at the beginning.”

“That’s good.” Sleep suddenly hit Salma. Her eyes grew heavy.

Maruf was silent for several minutes, and Salma drifted off.

“But don’t overwork yourself,” he said. Salma jolted awake. “You know? If they make you stay late, tell them you have a family. If they insist on overtime, then they will have to pay for it. You know? But it’s best not to get ahead of ourselves. Nothing has happened yet. You know? Are you hearing me?”

“Hmm.”

He shifted his position again, onto his back.

“Bastards,” he murmured. “Bastards.”

Three days later Maruf brought home the newly made cover letter and CV. He made a ceremony of sitting down in the living room, calling the children out, having Salma sit formally across from him, then presenting to her the documents, which were paper-clipped and encased in a smooth, clear plastic folder. He gave them a light tap with his palm for good measure.

“Well?” said Maruf. “Are you going to look or what? Even the paper is the good stock, used specifically for official documents,” he pointed out. “See for yourself,” he said, as if she had challenged him.

“Where are the originals?” was the first thing Salma could think to ask.

“What originals?” Maruf frowned. “Those old things were useless. Open it, take a look.”

The folder was heated from the sun. It leaked its warmth onto Salma’s lap. Salma popped the clasp, reached in, and slid out the new documents. They made her sad, reminding her of the time her late father had had the old ones made.

“What do you think? Sky and earth difference, no?” Maruf sat back, smiling, triumph back in his bearing.

Salma gave a cursory nod, and replaced the documents back inside the cover, with care as if they belonged to someone else.

“What is it for?” Shama asked.

“Yes, what is it for?” Adil repeated after his sister.

“Nothing for you two to worry about,” Salma replied, placing the documents in their plastic folder on the coffee table.

“Go inside,” said Maruf, standing. “Don’t make me repeat myself.”

Adil tore away from the chair before his father spoke again, tugging Shama by the sleeve of her kameez.

“What’s the matter now?” Maruf asked.

“What did you do with the old papers?”
“Seriously, Salma? All the trouble I go to and you’re worried about some old documents that were lying god-knows-where until few days ago? I don’t understand you.”

“Trouble? You took them to the bank and someone else made them, and you brought them home.”

“Unbelievable!”

“My father had them made.”

Maruf exhaled noisily.

“Some days I don’t know what gets into you people in this house.” He sat back down, stretched, and began untying his shoelaces. He pulled off one shoe and tossed it to the side, paused as if considering a new strategy with the other, then sent that one the same way. The socks he peeled like they were damaged skin that had to be carefully removed.

“Did you throw them out?” Salma asked.

“Throw what out?”

“Maruf, you know what.”

“I don’t know. I gave them to Pranab, he needed them to work from to make those,” he pointed at the new documents. “I don’t know what he did with them. Are you having second thoughts now?”

“No.”

“Because if you are not one hundred percent sure you want to apply for this position, tell me. There is no turning back once you do. Not with a firm like this. Anyway, you should get those sent off immediately. This is not any Tom, Dick, and Harry firm, and they’ll have a line of people begging for a job any given day. Unless you want me to take care of it?”

“No,” Salma picked up the plastic folder again. “No.”

Two weeks after she sent the cover letter and CV, Salma had as good as forgotten about it. Maruf grumbled about it offhandedly, and mentioned he wasn’t really surprised, given Salma’s lack of experience, and for a time the matter was at rest. When the phone call came, Salma wasn’t there to answer it because she was downstairs on the first floor haggling with the chicken seller. Shama had taken the call, and shouted for her mother down the stairwell.

A crisp, young female voice verified Salma’s identity in English.

“Yes, I am Salma Karim.”

“Are you able to come for an interview next Tuesday? Ten o’ clock, sharp?” She added the “sharp” as if she knew Salma to be compulsively tardy.

“Depending, of course, on things being peaceful in the city,” she added.

“Yes.”

“Good. My name is Anika. Just ask for me at the reception. And if anything should change between now and then, we have each other’s information.”

Salma set down the receiver. Her heart was pounding, and she felt stricken with worry.

“That woman was rude,” said Shama. “Are you going to work for her?”

Salma cupped Shama’s chin. “I don’t know. Maybe. Adil? Come out here.”

With the two children, Shama went downstairs and knocked on Mrs. Mahbub’s door.

“Who is it?” Mrs. Mahbub’s voice floated from the back of the flat.

“Mrs. Mahbub, it’s Salma, from upstairs.”

There was silence, followed by approaching footfalls. Adil recoiled behind his mother, and Shama stood at Salma’s side. The door opened. Mrs. Mahbub popped her head out. Her hair was gleaming with oil, and pulled tightly back, giving her an expression of perpetual shock. Pockmarks covered her cheeks. Over the thin line of her mouth was a fuzz of hair. She smelled of sandalwood and laundry soap.

“Yes, yes, how are you?” said Mrs. Mahbub. “It’s been ages since I saw your face last. Come in, come in.”

“Yes, I know. Busy times, Mrs. Mahbub. And how are you?”

“You know how it is,” Mrs. Mahbub said, opening the door wider, releasing a drift of cooking smells.

Mr. Mahbub had left two years earlier for the daughter of an associate from work to whom he was now married. His conciliatory gestures were to buy his son an iMac with a 27-inch monitor, and a printer and scanner unit, and transfer ownership of the flat to his ex-wife—whom he never legally divorced—while he kept making the payments on it. Mrs. Mahbub did not file for divorce, and believed that Dipu’s father would eventually return.

“Mrs. Mahbub, I wanted to ask you something, is this a good time?” said Salma.

“Oh, yes, yes. Come inside first. Hello children. Shama, you are going to be taller than your mother next time I see you. Dipu? Turn off that computer and come say hello to Salma auntie and the children. All day he is glued to that thing.”

The dreary living room, the entire flat, was depressing. The shut windows, drawn curtains, and the complete lack of natural light gave the place a crypt-like chill. It was cold, too, almost frigid, as though the air conditioning had been running round the clock full blast. Most of the furniture was in need of maintenance, if not replacement. The sofa that Mrs. Mahbub gestured for them to take had holes, small ones, but large enough for puffs of bright white cotton to peek out. On a table next to the sofa was a framed picture of Dipu in his school uniform, holding up a certificate, the corners of his mouth drooped, his eyes half closed. Mrs. Mahbub flipped a switch, and the sudden glare of the uncovered light bulb overhead laid bare brilliantly the room’s drab gloom.

Dipu, still in his school uniform, ambled into the room. He was pink-cheeked and fat. The hair on his head was like fine porcupine quills. His knees knocked, and he dragged his feet when he walked. Like his mother he wore thick glasses, behind which his eyes were two tiny dots. Without regarding the guests, he went by his mother’s side, and stood looking at the ground.

“What do you say, Dipu?” said Mrs. Mahbub.

“Sla-malikum, Auntie” Dipu croaked.

“How are you, Dipu? How is school?” Salma asked.

Dipu didn’t answer. Mrs. Mahbub offered to make tea, but Salma asked her not to go to the trouble.

“Do you children want Coke?” Mrs. Mahbub asked.

“Coke, yes!” Adil shouted.

“No. And be quiet.” Salma clasped and tightened her arm around him. Shama said she didn’t want anything.

“I might be getting a job, Mrs. Mahbub,” said Salma.

“Things are bad at the bank with your husband?” Mrs. Mahbub asked.

“A little extra income would be good, yes,” said Salma.

“When times get bad, they get bad.”

“I know you know, Mrs. Mahbub.” Salma felt awkward after making the comment.

“Do I know,” Mrs. Mahbub sighed. She swept a hand through Dipu’s hair, which he dodged. “Every day I know.” Dipu gave his mother a sideward frown, which she did not see.

“I only have the interview,” said Salma. “God willing, if I get the position, will it be all right if the children stopped by here after school?”

“Yes, yes, of course, you don’t need to ask even.”

“Thank you. Dipu? Is it okay with you?” Salma asked.

“Dipu? What do you say?” Mrs. Mahbub touched her son’s plump cheek. Dipu flinched and pulled away. “It will be nice for him. All the time he’s home he’s on that thing,” she waved in the direction of Dipu’s room, indicating the computer.

“Also, if I get this job, I will need to know about computers. Dipu, would you like to be my teacher?” said Salma.

Dipu smiled. Two dimples poked into his cheeks. “Okay.”

After a short silence, Salma thanked Mrs. Mahbub, and promised to keep her updated. Mrs. Mahbub offered tea and refreshments again, but Salma had pushed to her feet without realizing, which made her feel a little embarrassed and opportunistic. She promised to stay for some next time.

Mrs. Mahbub saw them out and locked the door, and then they heard her call Dipu’s name and her voice fading toward the back of the flat.

“That place makes me feel strange. It’s such a sad home. No home should be sad like that,” said Shama, bounding up the steps two at a time. Adil sprinted up behind her, slipped, knocked his knee on a step, and howled. Salma picked him up by an arm, and he dug his face into her shoulder. She couldn’t help agreeing with her daughter.

 

After Salma told him about the interview, Maruf became thoughtful, and sat at the edge of the bed staring at a point in front of him for several minutes before saying, “Well, it’s just an interview, probably one of several. Times are different. These days, firms like this especially, go through many rounds before making selections.”

“I thought you would be pleased,” said Salma.

Maruf craned his neck around like he was doing an after-workout stretch. “Pleased? About what? They probably have a hundred interviews lined up for just that one position.”

“Even for jobs that are no better than office boys?” said Salma.

Maruf made to reply but stopped.

“Tuesday, huh?” he said. “And that crazy woman downstairs, you want the children to stay with her?”

“She is not crazy, Maruf. Don’t say that.”

“Why else would her husband run off? And that poor boy, with nowhere to go but stuck with her day and night.”

“Shama and Adil will not stay with her. They will only let her know when they come home. Just so someone knows. Cook will be busier with me gone.”

“Hmm, well,” Maruf, done taking off his shoes and tucking his socks into them, took them to the clothes rack and dropped them next to the others. His shirt was damp with sweat. He peeled it off and hung it on the rack. In his undershirt he looked small and defeated, like he had just been badly beaten and humiliated by an opponent, lost everything, and was hanging up his armor for good. “I’m glad they found the documents acceptable,” he grumbled.

He didn’t want dinner. Salma and the children ate in silence. Afterward Salma spoke to the cook for a few minutes, telling him that there was a chance she was going to be gone during the day starting soon.

In the bedroom she found Maruf staring at himself in the mirror attached to the adjoining bathroom door. Seeing her, he quickly grabbed his shirt, and threw it over his head.

“Are you worried about your figure?” Salma chided. “Is that why you didn’t want to eat?”

“No,” Maruf said, curtly, and picked up the folded newspaper on the ground next to the bed. “It’s good to be a little conscious,” he said, after shuffling through the paper for a few minutes. “These young Americans that have been coming to the bank, you should see them. Their bodies and their health, and the women look stronger than the men. No wonder they, that whole country, is devouring the world in every way. Who can go against them when they’re that well-fed and well-built?”

Salma got into bed, and Maruf kept reading, or rather snapping from page to page, until she couldn’t help being irritated by it.

“There is every chance that they won’t like me,” she said, without turning to face him. “Is that what you want?”

She heard him fold the paper meticulously and toss it on the floor.

“What nonsense are you talking?” he said. He slid down under the covers, gave them a pull to release them out of the mattress at the foot of the bed and drew them up to his ears. Salma raised her head just as he was turning over.

“They sound like a place that I will not be qualified for,” she said. “Even for a job no more than an office boy’s. There are other places I can look.”

“It’s too late now. You have an appointment, and they’re expecting you. My name is on the line. Last thing I need on top of everything else is my wife making me look like a fool.”        “Then you should have thought of that before.” Salma looked at the bald patch at the top of his head, the hair around it sprouting like grass on the edges of a poorly maintained lawn. He moaned as he slipped away, gave a short grunt, and began snoring.

 

The morning of the interviewwas warm, with a brisk wind rising and falling every few seconds, carrying hints of the rain to come in less than a month. The sky was a dull slate gray. Maruf flagged two scooters, one for him and the children and one for Salma, and Adil wanted to go with his mother. Maruf ordered Shama to hold on to her brother, and wait in the other one. He then peeked his head into Salma’s scooter.

“Keep this,” he brought out a hundred-taka note. “Do you want me to go with you?”
“No. Just get the children to school.”

“Listen. It is what it is. Don’t try to show yourself off as something you’re not.” He waited, and then said, “Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Here, keep my mobile, too. Just in case.” Before she could respond Maruf placed the phone on her lap. He gave her another fifty-taka note, and scolded the scooter driver with the directions to where she was going as a measure against the driver charging a higher fare by taking a longer route.

Mrs. Mahbub and Dipu came out of the building. Mrs. Mahbub was talking at her son, and seeing her upstairs neighbors pulling away in the scooters, waved enthusiastically. Dipu was hustling toward a rickshaw he was flagging down at the same time.

On Shama’s lap, Adil was sniffling against his will. Maruf squeezed in next to them and addressed their driver in the same harsh tone as the other. Shama caught a glimpse of Dipu as the scooter engine revved under her seat, miserable and numb to his mother, scrambling onto the rickshaw as soon as it pulled up, while Mrs. Mahbub talked on.

The office was on Motijheel Road. Despite the driver’s age and innocuous appearance, Salma was skeptical that he would follow Maruf’s instructions, but it became evident soon that per Maruf’s orders he had taken Maulana Bhashani Road to get to the Motijheel area via Shahbag. The driver’s trepidation, however, became evident as soon as they entered the Shahbag area. He slowed the scooter, pulled to the side of the road, and turned to Salma.

“Madam, I cannot go anymore, the way your husband told,” the driver said. He was in his seventies. His eyes were watery and looked blinded with cataracts. The cloth cap on his head was tilted to one side like someone had smacked it out of place. The grimace on his face gave Salma the fear that the he had suddenly become ill.

“Why not?” she asked.

The driver pointed ahead. Salma leaned to one side to look past him through the windshield. She could see nothing more than the usual, clots of people, buses, rickshaws, scooters, more people. Thinking she was missing something Salma kept looking, and the scooter driver, like a tutor that was waiting for the pupil to catch on to the obvious, sat fidgeting. After another couple of minutes, Salma heard the chanting, but couldn’t understand it. It was concerted, unified, loud, and within moments the natural assembly of people and vehicles on the busy intersection grew into a dark wall of bodies. The scooter driver finally turned to Salma. When he opened his mouth to speak Salma saw his teeth were destroyed by pan and betel nut.

“Madam, please, there is no way to keep going,” he said. “Forgive me. I won’t take your money, but I cannot risk it. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t. I will take you back to your home.”

“Is there another way to go?” Salma asked.

The driver’s anguish deepened. He lowered his head, and brought it up again.

“I cannot, Madam. Forgive me.”

Salma wondered why Maruf had failed to mention a possible demonstration. If anything, it would be the first thing he would highlight, above all else, above even the interview, before going on to lambaste the government and work himself into a sweat before huffing off petulantly as if it were all Salma’s fault.

The sound of his complaints droned in her head. A stone grew in her stomach, heavy, oppressive, like it did not want her to stand on her feet again, would not allow it. Salma sat quietly with her eyes closed. The chanting from the demonstration grew louder. When she opened her eyes she noticed flags, their green as rich as rain fed grass, and the ball in the heart of the green the red of arterial blood. They were flying on bamboo poles, large and small, waving and fluttering.

“Madam, I beg you, let us turn around.”

“No, I will get out here.” Salma handed the driver the fifty-taka note, and climbed out. The scooter made an immediate turnaround, its engine whirring painfully to the angst of its driver, and buzzed away like a fading swarm of bees.

Salma draped the strap of her handbag diagonally across her body from opposing shoulder to waist, and headed toward the demonstration. Soon she was trotting, as if rushing to catch a departing bus, her heart hammering in her chest. Her lungs started to burn, but within minutes her head felt light and detached from the rest of her body. She couldn’t tell if the mass of bodies was moving toward her or away, and she didn’t care. She suddenly found herself propelled toward the crowd, for what reason she didn’t know, but for the fact that even if she tried to stop and turn she would be unable. Whether the demonstration had advanced or Salma had gotten closer, she was near enough to see individual faces now. Faces painted in the colors of the flag. Faces pulled and stretched with fervor that Salma envied. Young faces, down to boys and girls no older than Shama and Adil, with banners raised, flags aloft, and chanting. The banners called for the punishment of war criminals.

The war crimes tribunals had been going on for a few years at the Bangladesh High Court right here in Dhaka. Controversy over them had recently reached a critical mass with supporters of the trials calling for the hanging of collaborators that had sided with the Pakistan Army during the Liberation War, and with opposing Jamaat-i-Islami hardliners calling the trials a blasphemous, anti-Islamic witch hunt.

When she was within ten or twenty feet of the demonstration Salma eased her pace and moved along the side of the road. The crush of bodies looked like it wouldn’t afford a single inch for her to pass through. She also saw that the demonstration was not moving forward, or moving at all, and that it was rigid and solid as a wall. They were shouting for justice, calling for death. Happily, jovially, they were demanding heads in nooses. Salma saw the name of the man currently on trial scrawled in Bangla across a banner that was bobbing up and down in the center of the crowd, his face next to his name circled within a noose. She saw a small opening between a few bodies, and plunged forward. Her shoulder bumped with a young woman’s on one side, and grazed the bare arm of a middle-aged man on the other. She caught a glimpse of an old couple holding the black and white portrait of a young man. Must be their son, murdered by the Pakistan Army. A girl, three or four, sat on the shoulder of a man clutching a flag on a stick.

A terrific din arose from the very heart of the procession. The young woman Salma had bumped into turned and gave her a big smile, and shouted a word of solidarity, getting Salma into the spirit of the demonstration. Salma’s heart thumped wildly, but she felt calm, unthreatened in the midst of the crowd.

Riot police trickled out from places Salma couldn’t see. Helmets, batons, shields, vests, guns. Their boots crunched, and, like the demonstrators, they moved by their own unified rhythm. The demonstrators didn’t oppose the presence of the police, and neither was the police making threatening gestures at the crowd. Salma had her handbag clutched against her with one hand. She reached inside with her other hand and felt Maruf’s mobile phone.

A great surge swept through the crowd, pushing it forward. Salma felt it against her back, and she went forward with it. Within seconds the demonstration moved ten feet, almost in a rush. The police seemed unperturbed, even calm. Salma felt the hand of the young woman beside her take hers and thrust it upward, like Salma had just won a boxing match. The woman shrieked so loudly that her words became incoherent, her voice a shredded and piercing clot of phlegm and grit in her throat. A huge response rang out of the crowd. Salma gripped the young woman’s hand and filled her lungs with air to shout.


About the Author: Nadeem Zaman was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and grew up in Chicago. He is currently a PhD. student at the University of Louisville. His fiction has appeared in The Copperfield Review, Eastlit, China Grove, 94 Creations, and is forthcoming in The Milo Review and the Roanoke Review.

Artwork: Monirul Alam