Naira reads the text message from the interviewer again, her heart sinking with disappointment. “Hey! I’m sorry! I’m stuck in an urgent meeting. We’ll do the interview later?”
It has been two hours since she arrived at the café, waiting for the interviewer girl from a famous daily to show up. It took her two more hours to reach in this scorching heat outside of the month of Ramadan. By this time, she’s memorized the numbers of the stars drawn on the painting on the wall next to her. She feels like calling back the girl and yelling at her. She knows very well that the girl is not stuck in any meeting, but is there where most journalists are today- at the exhibition of a famous French artist. Naira is neither French nor famous. She is a thriving artist who is yet to make a place of her own on this planet earth. No one wants to hear a story of struggles unless you reach the top.
Checking the time on her phone, she sighs. It’s already 5.30 in the evening. The iftar time today is 6.15 p.m. There’s no way she can make it home on time. Neither does she dare to take a glance at the menu. None of it she can afford. She only has fifty taka left out of the two hundred taka she brought with her, which she needs for the bus ticket to go home. Crestfallen, Naira pushes the menu aside and rises from the chair. Outside, the sun is softer now, but Naira feels weak from the early morning school duty, the two-hour ride in a boiling stuffed bus, Ramadan fasting, and the failed interview. As she walks towards the bus stop two kilometers away, a big floating gray cloud shrouds the sky and the west wind stirs all of a sudden. If she was home now, she’d have thanked God for this blessing in a hot summer month. But she is not home. Rather, she is on the street, getting late for iftar and 20 kilometers away from home.
As the first drop of rain hits her nose, Naira’s heart sinks. She knows what’s coming next. The sky opens up, and the rain pours down with an intensity she can hardly believe. Cursing herself, she rummages through her purse for her umbrella and opens it up as quickly as she can. She runs towards the nearest shelter, a small shed along the pavement, and takes refuge there, hoping the storm will pass soon. To her left, an old lady in a tattered sari is taking a nap on the dusty cement floor. Naira lets out a sigh and looks at the storm dancing in front of her, taking away the exhaustion of the hot and humid day. Her mind drifts to the wretched interviewer who had ruined her day, and she imagines a thousand ways to murder her. As she ponders, the old lady wakes up and slowly sits up, leaning against the pillar of the shed. Suddenly, Naira’s phone starts ringing, interrupting her thoughts. Her mother.
“When will you be home, maa? It’s almost time for iftar,” her mother asks.
“I won’t be able to make it, amma,” Naira replies. She doesn’t have the heart to say the truth to her mother. Her whole family has been waiting for the interview for so long. It could be a boost for her painting career. Now most probably, the interview is never gonna happen. She knows these people from the media very well. Always ready to ditch.
“Hay Allah! What about the interview? It went well?”
A lump grows in her throat. “Yeah. I’ll tell you the rest once I’m home, amma.” She doesn’t have the heart to break the news to her mother. Her whole family has been waiting for the interview for so long. It could be a boost for her career as an artist- a news article on her in a renowned newspaper. Now most probably, the interview is never gonna happen. She knows these people from the media very well. Always ready to ditch.
“Okay, okay. Come safely and please have something for iftar.” Saying goodbye, Naira cuts the call. The storm has deepened rather than slowed down. Far away from a mosque, she can hear the muffled sound of Adhan. It’s time for iftar. Closing her eyes, Naira prays in her mind, “Please Allah, forgive me and accept my Siam as I’m unable to break my fast on time today. Please accept it, ya Allah, as you are the kindest.”
As she is praying, she feels a poke on her leg. Flipping her eyes open, she turns around and finds the old lady looking at her with a banana and a bottle of water in her hand. “Are you fasting?” she asks Naira.
“Yes,” Naira nods.
She offers the banana and the bottle of water to her and says, “Here, take it. I have extra. Do you eat bread?”
Taken aback, Naira manages to nod.
“Good. I have a packet of bread too. Someone gave it to me today.”
But Naira forgets to move, let alone speak.
“What are you staring at?” she rolls her eyes. “I’m hungry and I have to break my fast. Take your banana and water first. We’ll have bread later.”
“Thank you,” Naira mumbles. She takes the banana and the bottle from the lady’s hand.
“Thank you!” she says it a second time before drinking the water and breaking her fast, this time, looking at the sky, to God.