While we are drowned by media coverage on Pakistan, we hear very little from Bangladesh, especially in the area of literature. Except Taslima, of course. So a debut novel from a Bangladeshi writer evoked curiosity.
Like a diamond in the sky by Shazia Omar is a depressing portrait of the new generation. Jobless, idealistic and yet misguided, given to drug addiction and insatiable sex. That’s the hero, 21 year old Deen, a college boy, who hails from a good family, now in poverty. His mother asks him to leave home and stand on his feet. He is a drug addict and has a thick friend Aj, the one who led him into the world of drugs. While Aj lives with a prostitute Sundari, Deen falls in love and moves in with a college mate the beautiful Maria. She lives alone. The other characters in the novel are all fellow addicts and the kingpin Raj Gopal, probably one of the richest and most influential persons in Bangladesh. He runs a smuggling racket also, for which he uses these kids.
Deen, Aj, Maria and their group talk of high things, discuss the state of the nation and how it has not done well, express their intent in making some contribution to the country in some way, some day, attend concerts, listen to baul music on the banks of the river.
Parvez, the son of a minister and a fan of Deen is introduced to drugs by Aj, though Deen is dead opposed to it. On a high one night, Parvez jumps into the river in an act of dare and is drowned. It strains the relationship between Deen and Aj but not for long. Maria decides to leave Deen to get married to a man from London, whom her family had fixed for her.
Deen makes several attempts to get out of the addiction, but unsuccessfully. Mainly because he tries without medical attention. Deen, the sensitive and conscientious one in the group saves the drug peddler, a woman Falani struggling to bring up her three daughters. There is a police constable, pious and committed to the virtues in Islam, who vows to catch the gang of drug peddlers and users.
In the end he lays the trap for a grand catch. Deen walks into it, wanting to warn Falani. He is shot dead by the policemen. A life wasted. And that is his thought as life leaves his body. He remembers his mother and the Robindrasangit she used to sing.
The story is touching, makes one feel angry with all the Raj Gopal-s and Aj-s in the world, who for their selfishness play with the lives of others. The society, the government and the law are mute spectators.
(Penguin Books, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi 17)