|A List of Offences
Dilruba Z. Ara
ISBN 984 05 1763 5 2006 352pp 215x136mm HB Tk.550.00 US$27.00
A much-longed daughter is born with hair the colour of sunlight on the river. The shock of Daria’s silvery hair makes the midwife wet herself in the birthing room — an omen for the village gossip. The impropriety surrounding Daria’s birth travels round the village of Gulab Ganga, as the neighbours and relatives speculate what the future has in store for such a girl. Daria grows up affected by the rumours that circulate around the village each and every time she does anything atypical of a girl of her background. She sees and feels how small mistakes are made bigger when she commits them. At the same time she is keenly aware of her mother’s atavistic fears of gossip, and her fierce loyalty to traditional values. Against all odds Daria, however, cultivates her own integrity.
Daria’s father Azad Chaudhury, a sensible parent, believes that he can release Daria from her inauspicious destiny by arranging her marriage with someone local, who loves Daria desperately and hopes to marry her. Daria, however, falls in love with handsome Ali Baba, a young lawyer born and brought up in the seaside town of Chittagong. She marries Ali Baba and leaves her village for the city and ‘Baba Lodge’, Ali Baba’s ivy mantled house, hidden behind a high wall, guarded by a paint-flaking picture of a howling Alsatian.
There, the cast of characters grows to include, Ali Baba’s father, the one-eyed Kasim Baba, Ali Baba’s sister Rani, who seems to harbour quasi incestuous feeling for her brother, and Alia, his mother obsessively bitter that Ali Baba has married a country bumpkin. Daria tolerates her new family’s oddities, for she is aware that as a married woman she no longer belongs to her parental family. Both pride and fear of angering her mother keep her mute for a long time. Still blinded by tradition Daria gets pregnant hoping that a child will bring her closer to Ali Baba’s heart, but in reality it only exacerbates the situation. Daria realises that she can never raise Jhinuk the way she wants as long as she remains Ali Baba’s wife. Her anger now takes a definite shape. She flees to her riverside village ready to fight anyone who would dare to take her child….
Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dilruba Z. Ara moved to Sweden at the age of twenty. She was educated at the University of Gothenburg and now works as a teacher of English and Swedish language in Sweden. She writes both prose and poetry, translates and is also an accomplished painter. Among her translated and edited works are: Selected Short Stories of Shahed Ali (Dhaka: UPL, 2006) and a portion of Pippi Longstocking into Bengali from the original. She lives in Sweden near the University town of Lund with her husband and their two children, Navid and Tania.