The Unidentified Corpse – Mahmudul Haque translated by Alamgir Mohammad

The Unidentified Corpse

Jamshed Chowdhury told his son, ‘Tipu, go at once and call Tarafder. Tell him my name so he comes without any delay.’

Tipu asked, ‘if he asks why, what shall I say?’

‘Say your head, you blockhead.’ Being enraged Jamshed Chowdhury said, ‘tell him that you don’t know.’

After Tipu went out Junu was called. She was asked, ‘are you going to the Academy today?’

Junu replied, ‘we are to sit for an examination today.’

‘What good will they bring for you? What comes, if you don’t learn music? Everything has its time. No need to go out today. Stay home.’

Junu said, ‘then, won’t I sit for examination?’

Getting irate Jamshed Chowdhury replied, ‘you people will not leave me in peace without making a fuss. Is it time for music? From today, stop all these. I won’t tolerate them. You have grown much unruly.’

Interfering Mariam asked, ‘why are you making a fuss with her? She will go.’

‘She won’t go.’

‘Why are you making a story? If something happens, will you be able to handle it? Do you have that guts? You will just throw words, only staying at home. She will go.’

Jamshed Chowdhury responded, ‘you are giving her too much care and she is going to the dogs. Everyone is unruly here. Am I telling for their ill?’

Mariam said, ‘whose corpse it is, we don’t know. And for this you have started making a mountain out of a molehill. Why isn’t there anyone else nearby? Is everyone frightened like you?’

‘If something happens, you will understand what is what.’

‘If they are in our lot, things will happen,’ answered Mariam. ‘Everyone knows that we are away from any kind of hassle. Tipu even doesn’t go out in fear of you. And you have made the daughter a…’

After a while Taraf appeared, asked, ‘what’s the matter?’

‘Have you heard the matter?’

‘There is a corpse, is that it?’

‘After waking up in the morning, we have come to see, the corpse is nearby the window. What the fudge!’

Tarafder sat and drank a glass of water, said, ‘whose corpse is it? I don’t understand one bit of this. Maybe a young aged guerrilla. What do you think?’

Jamshed Chowdhury replied, ‘a lad from this Para certainly?’

‘How can I say it? I’ve heard none have identified it. Mystery lies there. An unidentified corpse is lying here.’

‘I think he is from this para. Army have killed him at night and cast him over there. Despite knowing that it is their boy, guardians are maintaining silence in fear.’

Tarafder responded, ‘it can’t be possible. No one can keep dumb seeing in person. Could it be possible for you?’

‘The situation demands it.’

‘An outsider’s corpse is left here.’

Jamshed Chowdhury said, ’what a trouble, see! If they will start making issues with this, what may happen? Even they may convict us for this. Suppose, the corpse was carried here by our enemy last night and left here – ’

‘Do you have any such enemy?’

‘There might be, it’s not unlikely. Who can read people’s minds? I don’t think anyone is good-hearted here. Since the construction of the building, have they caused less suffering for me? You know it better, for you also suffered a lot. Still today you are running in the court and offices.’

Tarafder said, ‘that’s a different matter. Have you decided what to do now?’

‘I have asked the offspring not to go out.’

‘What benefit will that carry?’

‘They might get involved in unprecedented troubles.’

‘You’re such a clever guy! I did the reverse seeing the incident. I sent all of them to Shantinagar to their maternal uncle’s home. Staying here might cause further inconvenience.’


‘Suppose, if the army comes with this excuse, any lawsuit is filed, what will happen then? If they ask for witness, you cannot say no to them. I myself will also set out for office after a while.’

Jamshed Chowdhury asked, ‘tell now what can be done? I have fallen into serious trouble.’

‘Inform the police station.’

‘It means more trouble.’

‘Have you decided what to do now? I have to leave now.’

‘Can one thing be done? What impression will it create if I communicate with the collaborators of the para?  They might replace the corpse if some money is given.’

‘They can do it. But it would be better not to talk to them. None of them are from good breeding. All are street scoundrels. I do avoid them even if they appear before me. Better to maintain a safe distance.’

Jamshed Chowdhury thought Tarafder was willingly keeping himself away from this matter. 

Bidding bye to Tarafder he stepped inside the home. Told Junu, ‘go to the academy. Don’t make any delay.’

Being furious Mariam asked, ‘you don’t have any guts to solve the trouble. Needlessly, why did you create this fuss?’

‘I have sent Tipu to the brother’s home.’ After Junu goes out, peeping through the window, Jamshed Chowdhury says, ‘can it be done?’

Mariam enquired, ‘what?’

‘If a call is made anonymously to the thana?’

‘Why? You can inform them point blank. What is they claim later that, seeing a corpse lying beside your home, why didn’t you inform them? Then?’

Jamshed Chowdhury replied, ‘I can’t make out anything. My brain isn’t working. Accha, by the way, Abdul can replace the corpse in a jiffy. Right? ‘

‘And if it creates a hassle in involving him?’

‘I suppose he will go away. He may pay a visit to the village home and stay for some days there.’

Mariam asked, ‘then who will do the household chores? It is not possible to send him to the village if you say. Where will you get someone for doing the household chores?’

Jamshed Chowdhury responded, ‘I see a great trouble in you. You cannot do even a single day without helping hands? If we go abroad, you will get to know what is what.’

After a while two collaborators were seen coming towards the corpse. They examined the corpse with an inspecting look. Then they knocked at the door. 

Being seriously disturbed Jamshed Chowdhury said, ‘what I feared has happened at last.’

Mariam said, ‘go and talk to them. Do not wear a veil and howl at home.’

Jamshed Chowdhury retreated, ‘you have a chicken’s brain. This is why you are a woman! Will it do if you take a decision suddenly?’

Wearing a veil Mariam opened the door and stood before them. One of the collaborators asked, ‘no man at home?’

Mariam replied, ‘he has gone to office. What do you want?’

‘There is a corpse lying beside your home.’

‘I have been seeing it since morning.’

Mariam closed the door after saying this. After a while the two Razzakars came back along with some people. The brat aged one knocked at the door again. He asked, ‘give us twenty taka, aunt?’

‘Let’s drop the corpse in the Buriganges.’

Mariam heaved a sigh of relief after giving twenty taka.

Awe struck, peeping through the window, Jamshed Chowdhury was looking at the activities of the people who were transporting the corpse. While they were lifting it he noticed the fact that the corpses could not be identified for some foxes or dogs had tore it haphazardly. This is a good sight. If it could be identified, there would be more troubles. While peeping through the hole he became furious at Tarafader, Stupid of the first rate, selfish. If it lay down beside your house, we would see what fuss a you created. At this moment the razakars and the dogs seemed to be benevolent. That man is a beast. Country, the countrymen, he was disgusted with everything. He did have no conviction on anything.

After the corpse was taken away he came out leaving the window, called Abdul, brought out money from the hidden place and said, ‘Go to the bazaar with a bag, if someone asked about me, tell I had gone to office.’

After Abdul went out for bazaar Mariam asked, ‘what do you mean by this?’

‘I mean you,’ in a flirting tone Jamshed Chowdhury replied. ‘You have announced that I am at office. If I go out now, won’t people trace me out?’

‘You are a devil, indeed.’

Jamshed Chowdhury with a smile said, ‘it’s been a good move. Have skipped a day for naught.’

After a while Mariam saw that Jamshed Chowdhury was replacing the glass of dressing table and placing it on the front side of the cot with utmost attention.

She asked, ‘what’s the matter?’

‘It will be a nice matter.’

‘Nice means what?’

‘Nice means nice itself.’ Uttering this Jamshed Chowdhury got down from the cot in a flash, and shut the door.

Mariam said, ‘what a man you are!’

Jamshed Chowdhury hugged Mariam passionately and said, ‘after how many days we have got the home empty! Could you think of it?’

Releasing herself from the hug, Mariam responded, ‘day by day you are becoming a brat! Pie!’

Recollecting a verse from Junu’s song Jamshed Chowdhury started taking Mariam to the cot and hummed, ‘who can stop me from taking shelter in the land of my dreams?’

Writer’s bio: Mahmudul Haque is a Bangladeshi writer who has written eight novels and a volume of short stories and won Bangla Academy Prize in 1977.

Translators Bio’: Alamgir Mohammad is a faculty member at the department of English in Bangladesh Army International University of Science and Technology, Comilla, Bangladesh. He has published five books so far including Selected Letters of Kazi Narul Islam and Poems of Rumi.

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