Once in a Lifetime


When I read the short story “Once in a lifetime” by Jhumpa Lahiri, I became nostalgic. I lost myself in the past. I can reminisce about the time that had been elapsed 11 years ago, when I was eight years old and so were you, and when we both were missing our teeth. Once in a sunny day, your mother came to rent our house, and I was surprised seeing your mother driving a motorcycle. She liked our house and decided to come the following day. Next day, I first saw you in front of your mother on the motorcycle. Your mother worked in a NGO all day long. She was a very serious looking woman, and I never saw her to laugh. It seemed absurd to us that your mother never told us anything about your father. Once she just said to my mother that your father had lived in Saudi Arabia, and he would come after two years. My mother didn’t ask her anymore. I can reminisce, every month your mother delayed to pay house-rent. My lenient mother never said her anything, but I heard my father always argued, “Why doesn’t she search for a cheap house?” You know, my father was not an affluent man, and he had to maintain our family with that house-rent money. And I can also reminisce the day when you revealed the saddest truth to me. You came to our house to play with me. You showed me your toy-gun, and said, “I need it to kill that man,” I asked you “who?” and I became puzzled hearing your reply, I couldn’t believe my own ears when you replied calmly, “My father, he was a drunkard, and he used to beat my mother every night.” “What! Your father! Doesn’t he live in Saudi Arabia?” I cried out. You replied quietly, “No, my mother has divorced him.” Then you requested me not to tell the truth anyone. I promised you, and of course I kept my promise. I can reminisce that terrible day when you disappeared under water while we were taking bath in our pond. You were senseless when my elder sister pulled your body from water. Still I can hear your mother- mourning for his son and blaming to the sadistic God. That day nothing happened to you, you became cured by the next day, but your mother decided to leave our house. It was me- a little girl of eight requested your mother not to leave. “Please, don’t leave. I promise, I’ll take care of your son,” I tried to assure her for your safety, but she couldn’t rely on that little girl, and I couldn’t refrain her from going. The next month, your mother shifted to Khulna and I lost you- my best friend- forever.

2 Responses to Once in a Lifetime

  1. meihuilan says:

    It is a moving story! I like the way you write; your tone is similar with Hema’s. Although you didn’t give much information about the boy’s background, the sentence “I need to kill that man” has told me a vital thing: the boy has a horrible father who has given him a horrible memory. I’m glad to find that the boy’s mother has divorced with the man and works in a NGO, which is big step to change her life. However, in the rest of world, there are many women cannot get rid of domestic violence, expecially the women in the South Africa. Hopefully, the boy’s mother will make some contributions to the world, which give people the information that to stop domestic violence.
    This story recalls my memory of Nora, one of the main characters of the play A Doll’s House. Similarly, Nora left her husband and began to find out a real Nora eventually. It’s clear that both Nora and the boy’s mother have gotten their own freedom, no matter it’s mental or physical freedom.
    I hope the women who are still struggling with domestic violence will have the abilities to take some actions. I also hope the boy — your friend — would live a good life without violence.

  2. Ms. Fatema says:

    This is very beautiful, Tajalli.

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