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2nd prize - 2018 annual awards

Photograph of Sophea Urbi Biswas

Sophea Urbi Biswas lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She completed her O Levels with 9 A*s and A levels with 4 A*s under Cambridge International Examinations from SFX Greenherald International School. She has also attained the 'Top in Country' title in Chemistry in her AS level examinations.

Her passion for writing began to bloom in the year 2015 when she started participating in multiple national and international writing competitions. Her essay emerged as one of the five best entries in A Paper for Progress-an international essay competition organized by Edge Education. Her other notable achievements include First Place in Essay Contest organized by Center for Inter-Religious and Intercultural Dialogue in University of Dhaka and First Place in Essay Contest organized by Gen Lab in Bangladesh Peace and Harmony Week 2017. She also worked as the Publication Secretary of GreenWorld Earth Club of her school and Editor of the Magazine GreenWatch 2015.

Lily of the Nile by Sophea Urbi Biswas, Bangladesh

The sun rises up by my windowsill.
I can hear the monotonous chirping of sparrows.
I locate the flock with my cataract clad eyes.
They have food to forage, little ones to feed, nests to build.
For them it's a busy day.
And for me? I chuckle. I envy them.
After the strokes and the partial paralysis,
and the accident that cracked my pelvis,
I have the right to envy them.

Right after my first stroke, when my flaccid limbs looked like withered artichoke,
and my jaws resembled droopy daisies on a scalding summer day,
my darling son who called once a month
offered to take me to the doctor's appointment.

I rested in my wheelchair dressed up in cotton, and watched him ram the faulty elevator button.
"Mom I'll have to lift you," he said with a groan,
and I wondered why I wasn't wound by the vexation in his tone.
And when he heaved me up bridal style,
I thought I saw his father in his profile.
I pictured his chiseled face, his bewitching smile,
and marveled how half a century ago
he had similarly raised me and called me, Lily of the Nile.

And when the home nurse was away on a week's vacation,
they sent in my granddaughter to her exasperation.
On the first day she appeared ebullient- bathed me, dressed me,
and said my white hair was brilliant.
She fed me my lunch plain rice and tuna,
and asked me about the time when I first met her grandpa.

But after two days when her patience was wearing thin,
she could barely lift her eyes off her cell phone screen.
I felt my lentil soup trickle down the corners of my lips,
and waited for her to notice and wipe it off with one of those corn yellow flannel bibs.
And when she couldn't hide her repugnance emptying my bedpan,
I recalled how I used to feign amusement cleaning her pink potty
while she told me her stories of Superman.
At the end of the week when it was time for her to leave,
she embraced me and kissed my cheek.
The broad smile couldn't hide her delight of freedom from my putrid self.

Now that I'm sitting at the corner of the front right pew by the choir,
I'm finally free form the horrid block that lies in the coffin up front on display.
The church is teeming with men and women clad in black.
It is hilarious that I can't recognize the plump woman ostentatiously wiping her eyes, or the man with the questionably runny nose vigorously shaking his head from side to side.
But I am listening to my granddaughter sobbing into the mike.
She is telling a story of how she once braided my hair in astonishing details.
I still believe she'll succeed in the literary career she craves to pursue.
My son follows next.
"She felt like a feather in my arms ... "
I can't concentrate on his muffled voice any longer.
Amid the wreath of white tulips engulfing the pecan brown coffin,
there lay a single amethyst purple Lily of the Nile.

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