Rabeya is a jolly young girl, with a bright shining face. After finishing Maqtab education, she had a great desire to going ro Madrasa, but could not, due to social impediment. Rabeya’s family consists of three members, Brother Nazibullah and grandmother of seventy years old.
Grandmother is the only guardian they have. Both grandmother and brother arranged the marriage of fourteen-year old Rabeya with Salimullah, the son of Shahar Ali of the neighbourhood. But Rabeyar flatly denied, and said, she will not get married now. She said, as long as a wife does not comes in this house and look after the chores, she will not marry.
Neither grandmother, nor her brother dared to talk about Rabeya’s marriage.
Nazibullah took after the profession of his father, fishing. Besides, in two cropping seasons, Nazibullah turned to the cultivating assistant in the cropland, to meet the demand of the family. He doesn’t know anything except providing manual labour. He works from morning to evening. When he gets a little leisure he helps her sister in cooking and household chores. He doesn’t like to go to market-place for nothing, to pass his time. He is very economical, even he keeps accounts how many cigarettes he smoke per day. He saves some money from his daily income from his fishing, every day for his sister’s wedding.
Its a long cherished dream of brother and sister that one day they will visit Bangladesh, but they couldn’t afford enough money for that tour.
Grandmother often says, she wants to go to Bangladesh, when enough money is collected. Although, sister agrees, but brother does not want to spend the money he was collecting fir his sister’s wedding. He tells his sister, ‘Allah will fulfill our dream one day.’
When he goes to fishing, he contemplates, if he gets a good amount of fish, he can sell it and gets more money, he shall visit Bangladesh. He believes that dreams become successful, only when one works hard. So, he does not hesitate a bit in his struggle.
Every month, he brings some cosmetics from Bangladesh for his sister.
In two Eid festivals, he brings clothes from the other country. He doesn’t buy any fancy product for him. He buys cheap lungi and a t-shirt from the market.
Rabeya and grandmother often tell him to buy some new cloth for him. But he avoids their request and buys his cloth just before the Eid day.
It was Thursday, like other week days, he went out with his net to catch fishes. After a couple of hours he came back with sullen face and sat beside his grandmother. He was miserable.
Grandmother was telling stories of Karbala field. Any other day both of them used to listen to grandmother’s story attentively, but today he felt distracted. Grandmother observed his grim face and asked, ‘What happened to you, my child?’
Nazibullah said, ‘I thought, I’d catch a big fish and by selling it, I’ll go to Bangladesh. But my bad luck, do you know what my catch was, today? A corpse of a man! I was so shocked! I released the body fromthe net and floated it in the water again. I quickly came back to the dock and while I am tying the boat, I saw more dead bodies floating in the river, of women and children!!’
Grandmother shrieked, Rabeya came running from the kitchen and started asking many questions. But brother didn’t reply, he lay down on the mat and said harshly, ‘Go away. Don’t disturb me.’
Then he cooled down, ‘ I don’t feel speaking now, let me sleep. I’ll tell you after I’m awake.’
Rabeya got angry; she spoke some harsh words to the grandmother and went back to the kitchen. Grandmother felt Rabeya is really in bad temper, if she speaks now, she will be flare up. grandmother went on stroking Nazibullah’s hairs timidly. Nazibullah went in deep slumber. Grandmother went up and entered the kitchen to help her grand-daughter. Rabeya blurted out, ‘I don’t want anybody’s sympathy. Go away from here.’
Grandmother didn’t pay any heed to her words, she went on working silently. If anybody speaks anything to her now, she will burst out into tears and will not touch a bit of food. After a few hours she will be cool automatically.
After a couple of moments, she started to do the cooking.
The cooking is now almost over. Rabeya went on cleaning the utensils.
Grandmother lay down to her bed to rest a while.
Rabeya served the food and called both the grandmother and brother to come and take the food. But they didn’t respond.
Suddenly she heard brother is speaking in delirium. She moved fast at his bedside and lowered her ears to hear the soliloquy. He is saying, ‘The dead bodies will not spare you, they will execrate you. You will not get salvation. You’re not human beings. You’re killers. You’ll be damned.’
Rabeya remained silent for a few minutes and then she started to shake her brother to make him awake. His body is burning like an over. He developed high fever.
Suddenly he screamed out. Grandmother was scared she came running to him, ‘What happened?’ She went on repeating the same word a few more times.
Nazibullah opened his eyes and looked at his sister and grandmother. He was a strong and hard-working youth, but he seemed lifeless now.
He wanted to rise from his bed, but couldn’t find any power to rise. He tried to raise his head but failed. Rabeya looked at her grandmother dumbfounded. But grandmother looked very calm, firm and tolerant. She lost her husband, son and daughter-in law. All of them died in front of her. Still she seemed strong. But her grandson’s scream made her dumb.
Naibullah opened his eyes. Rabeya thought he might want to drink some water. She ran towards kitchen to bring some water.
At this time, grandmother looked at her grandson. He didn’t speak. She raised the head of her grandson so that he can drink the water easily. She spoke to Rabeya, ‘Since the birth of my grandson I didn’t see any sign of illness, not even simple fever.’
Grandmother started to weep. Both of them didn’t speak a word at such illness of the youth.
Some moments later grandmother spoke, ‘Bring some water in a bucket. I want to soak his head.
Rabeya brought a bucketful of water. She went on pouring down water slowly on his head for a long period of time. Grandmother wept on sitting beside her grandson. Rabeya didn’t look right or left but wenton pouring water on her brother’s head.
At one time grandmother said, ‘My little princess, we’ve to call a doctor, or else there’ll be great danger. I haven’t seen such a high temperature in my life.’ Rabeya looked at her blankly.
Grandmother said, ‘Go to Shahar Ali’s house, and tell Salimullah I want to talk to him.’
Rabeya never goes out in front of Salimullah when he visits their house. But now she didn’t hesitate to go out to call him. During distress, nobody has any senses, shame or maidenly also turns absent. She went out hastily, she didn’t feel any bashfulness. She left her veil on the bed. She used to wear it even during sleep. But now it is absent.
Rabeya reached the Shahar Ali’s house in no time She was panting. No male member was present in the house at that time.
Salimullah’s mother said, ‘Why are you panting, Rabeya?’
Rabeya asked, ‘Where’s Salimullah, Chachi?’
Salimullah’s mother said, ‘He might be somewhere in the house. He hasn’t gone to market today.’
Rabeya heaved a sigh of relief. Rabeya said, ‘We need Salimullah urgently. Brother has developed high fever. He is acting strangely.’’
Salimullah’s mother went on calling, ‘Salim, Salim’ and went out of the courtyard.
Within ten minutes Salimullah entered. She caught hold of Salimullah’s hand and started to run towards their house.
And suddenly firing started. Sounds of bursting of bombs were also heard. The sounds of continuous bombardment is shuddering the entire area. At this ghastly sound, the parturient will give birth to her child in great fright. Hundreds of dwelling houses will be gutted to ashes in horrifying inferno. Bosoms of innumerable human beings will be pierced with bullets. The legs and hands will be severed. With monstrous frenzy the Myanmar soldiers were playing ‘Holi’, they themselves does not know how many people they are murdering. The lamentations of countless people make the air all around intense and severe.
Rabeya is now lonesome.
She is staying at the refugee camp in the Bangladesh territory. She doesn’t have grandmother with her, nor does her brother. She doesn’t know whether they were alive or dead. She has now shelter and food. But she lost all her feelings. She only has memories of the past with her. She developed acquaintances with other peoples around her living in this refugee camp. But she has mental distress and misery within her heart. Someday, she might get married; she might start a family of her own, still she cannot leave aside her deep scars of her heart for rest of her life.
Original in Bangla: Translated by Sidique Mahmudur Rahman