The silence of Abdullatif

Abdullah’s (the second manager) father is visiting from his town not so far away in Rajshahi division.  He wears a lungi, a shawl and a headscarf.  His hair and beard are white, his skin weathered Albert Tucker style, and deep red brown.  Abdullatif, as I discover his name to be, is silent in a way that I cannot imagine being.  In a way that I think most have forgotten how to be.  In a land of anotherness, the silence of this man is the strangest thing I have felt.

Yet, during the day, when the branch is busy, he sits his silence in front of the television – perhaps that’s why he’s here, maybe they don’t have tele at home in Nawabganj.  He seems to like to cricket, but watches whatever is on, from Bollywood to the cartoons.

On Friday, when we came up stairs, back from Rajshahi city, Abdullatif had just finished praying.  We catch him coming out of the room, and for a split second he is modern in his awkwardness, seemingly embarrassed that we’ve caught him praying.

Then … revealing a dental chaos, he speaks to me:  ‘You should pray.  It is good to fear god’, with a smile that melts my ideas of his silent detachment.

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