Masud Khan

Fire Engine



Having fled the madhouse, the lunatic darted up the tree.

Nothing would make him come down, he said,

Except for the pleas of that midget-size nurse!


The nurse came running, quick as a fire engine,

Waving wildly at him. Her gestures were coded messages

Inducing the lunatic to climb down from the tree top

Just as a koi fish will descend on the dining plate

Entranced by the smell of steaming curry,

He descended easily and freely

As consecutive numbers do when one counts down.


The lunatic’s thoughts flickered across the nurse’s consciousness.


This day that mad man will return once more to his asylum.

Placing his head on the confessional,

He will soundlessly suffer thirteen electric shocks

Designed to induce thirteen confessions from him  

At the directive of the calm and composed health priest!


Translated from the Bengali by Fakrul Alam, Professor of English, University of Dhaka


Copyright  ©  Masud Khan 2013

Masud Khan is a poet and writer from Bangladesh. He did his Bachelor degree from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and Masters from Royal Roads University, Canada. Over past two decades, his writings have been featured in newspapers and magazines in Bangladesh, India, USA, UK, Belgium, Romania, Malaysia and Canada. His poems and fictions have appeared in journals and magazines including Asiatic, Contemporary Literary Horizon, Kaurab,, 3c World Fiction, Last Bench, Litrasfalsas, Urhalpul, and anthologies including Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond (W.W. Norton, New York/London), Contemporary Literary Horizon Anthology, Bucharest and Padma Meghna Jamuna: Modern Poetry from Bangladesh (Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature, New Delhi). He has, till date, authored four volumes of poetry. Presently resident of Toronto, Canada, Masud Khan works as an electrical engineer.

A short bio of the translator
Fakrul Alam is Professor of English at the University of Dhaka. He has been a Fulbright Scholar and a Visiting Associate Professor at Clemson University, USA, and has also been Visiting Professor at India’s Jadavpur University and Visva-Bharati. He was a member of the jury of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for 2003 (Eurasia region) and was an adjudicator for the DSC South Asian Prize for Literature in 2011. His publications include Imperial Entanglements and Literature in English (Writer’s Ink, 2007); South Asian Writers in English (Thomson Gale, 2006); Jibananada Das: Selected Poems (Dhaka University Press, 1999); Bharati Mukherjee (Twayne’s Contemporary United States Authors, 1996); and Daniel Defoe: Colonial Propagandist (University of Dhaka Publications, 1989). Among his most recent works are The Essential Tagore (Harvard University Press, 2011; co-authored with Radha Chakravarti). His translation of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Unfinished Memoirs was published in 2012 by University Press in Bangladesh, Penguin Books in India, and Oxford University Press in Pakistan, and his Rabindranath Tagore and National Identity Formation in Bangladesh: Essays and Reviews (Dhaka: Bangle Academy) is forthcoming. He has been editor of Dhaka University Studies, Part A (Humanities) and the Asiatic Society Journal, and guest-editor of a special issue of Asiatic on South Asian diasporic writing (June 2012).