Are you ‘single’?

Conventionally, the idea of singlehood- bachelordom is rather monolithic. It is largely about the being unwed. Through the story of a young man’s journey from Chittagong to the University of Dhaka, Istiaque Ahmed Nahian explores a lived meaning of it.

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‘A bachelor is a man who is socially regarded as able to marry, but has not yet’.  This is the dictionary definition of the word ‘Bachelor’. But in Bangladesh, the meaning is slightly different. Any unmarried person, regardless of holding a Bachelors degree or not living alone is considered bachelor here. The ability of marriage is out of the question in this case. The deplorable yet unchaining condition of the singular people, especially students will be brought into discussion in this piece, and the agenda will be slightly biased for obvious reasons.
Musaafir (alias) is a youth from Chittagong. Musaafir was leading a lavish and comfortable life in his hometown. But eventually he became bored. He wanted to explore the world and thought of Dhaka as a first step to fulfill his quench to see the unknown. So, he took his dream of studying in the oldest and most coveted university of the country more seriously. He was bound to the chair for a couple of months to fulfill his dream. At last he achieved his dream! All those bricks in guise of books have paid mi off in the long run. He was admitted to the ‘niversity of sophistication’. The stairway of the little dreams and hopes was becoming evident. But there was one question in his mind. ‘Where do I live?’
American historian James Truslow Adams said, ‘life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’ regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The Americal Dream was based on that philosophy. But upon reaching Dhaka, Musaafir had had a huge laugh. His grin was again extended when he reached his dorm. It was a full house! Almost 40 people in a single room! Sharing a bed was imaginable, but sharing pillows took it to a whole new level. After a long tiring journey, he needed refreshment. So, he went to the washroom for a shower. All the other mates were giving him a despicable smile. The reason for the smile became evident later when he found his shampoo, soap and other toiletries vanish in thin air. Seeing him dumbfound, a good Samaritan in the hall named Basel gave him a valuable advice, ‘Carry your toiletries with you’. He was talking about mini-packs, no doubt. It may seem unbelievable but students carried mini packs of shampoo and toothpaste with them and washed themselves in the department washrooms lest they get stolen. For a moment, Musaafir thought of going back to Chittagong, but hunger stopped him. He started for the dorm canteen. After reaching there, he became enormously happy. He thought there was a wedding going on and started regretting for not dressing up so well. Folks were pouncing on potatoes cooked with chicken and watery pulse-soup which was served in large bowls. Night times were crazy. The folks were singing and chatting under the moonlight resting in the huge grass field. All the other mishaps felt like a nightmare to Musaafir. Clapping sounds were coming out from some rooms. He did not know whether it was the music or the mosquitoes.
Musaafir miserably failed in the first semester because he did not have a study table. So he rented an apartment with some of his friends. The pillow sharing days were over, but there arose other problems. It was regarding house maintenance. Fights occurred regarding who will do what. The most menacing thing was the grocery shopping. The shopper had to keep in mind the various preferences of the mess members. The bathroom was always messy because nobody bothered to clean it. The floor was always dusty. One day, a mess member had to leave the house, so they had to look for a new member within a short notice. The aftermath of this idea was putting up posters in different alleys of the area which seemed fun to him.  Of course, the poster rave was done during night time. The food was better than his previous accommodation. His cooking skills were called upon from time to time because of the frequent absence of the goddess named Bua or the maid who was hired to cook and clean for them. The days were happening, but the study table was ignored as always because there was always a party going on somewhere. He was quite used to the life of a free bird. Roaming around the campus area under the black sky, riding in the rickshaw with the company of the disheveling wind, finding the perfect cup of tea whenever he wanted, were everything Musaafir has ever expected from his life. It was a life worth living. Then a second question rose, obviously following the train of questions after solution to the former problem ‘Do I leave?’
Contact with his family became scarce. Missed calls of mama and papa were piling up. Maybe it was the classes, the newfound girlfriend, or the never ending tuition hours. Tuitions were the city life mirage. Easy money always takes the better of you. After exchanging the shoes, he realised why his tutors were so disappointed in him. The paragraphs were not lying. Teaching was indeed the most difficult and virtuous profession if it paid well. However, the thought of sipping the meticulously prepared perfect aromatic coffee with his beloved in the perfect café made all the headaches disappear like a magic.
Musaafir came to know of the true meaning of homecoming. Vacations reached their full potentials at last. The playlist of his mobile phone was the reel and the train window was the projection screen of his contemplations. The smell of fresh bed sheets, the clattering sound of the utensils in the kitchen coupled with the home cooked fresh meals were the ultimate symphony to all his senses. His condition was like a wounded soldier. Everyone became so concerned of him all of a sudden, thanks to his long absences from the home. The extra attention was enjoyable without any doubt. Jealousy of the siblings was evidently apparent. His eyes watered every time he heard his name being called. This time, the calling it was not from the creditors or the landlords at least; rather it was from his mother and father, the dearest of all. Musaafir wiped his tears and could not help but say to himself, ‘Life is beautiful’.
The deplorable living condition of the single people in our country is a blessing in disguise. It is because through the difficulties we realise the true value of a family life. We get to learn the life skills needed to lead a comfortable and decent life. It makes us aware of our responsibilities. It also helps us remind all the things we have taken as granted in our life. Almost all the sages had to go in exile for emancipation. So, why don’t we embrace this challenge for a change? LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD!

 

Istiaque Ahmed Nahian is a student of University of Dhaka

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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