Wednesday, September 09, 2015

On 'Wars'

Note: Last week picture of three year old Aylan's dead body at beach, shook whole world with shock and grief. (I am purposefully not posting that picture). It started  a huge exchange of emails between friends. I am posting stories of 2 of my friends who suffered plight of refugee in 1971 Pak/India war. I am not writing any personal note as stories are enough to describe life long psychological miseries of any war.


Image of syrian child reminded me of myself. I was 5 years old when one night my father woke me up at 3 in the morning to quietly walk out of our house. We walked for 30 minutes, boarded bus from Jessore to Khulna to go to chittagong, port at eastern Bangladesh. I was shipped from one hand to another hand to finally board 'safinae arab' (ship from Pakistan). It took 16 days in Indian ocean to finally reach Karachi. I am alive and kicking, but there were hundreds of thousands who perished in 1971. Images of Civil war, blood, army boots, rifles, crying women, screaming children and dead bodies are as vivid as they were on that day. My childhood is connected to image of EPR (East Pakistan Rifles) invading our house to search as they suspect we are hiding bengalis !! (and we did :)) - I was told, I spiked fever that day. All night of March 25, 1971 - there was no electricity. We hear sounds of gunfire in candle light (My experience of shama har rang main jalti hai). Next morning 'talao' (lake) in front of our house was full of dead bodies and blood. We had 2 flags in our house - of Pakistan and of Mukti Bahini - depending who is in charge of area. It was interesting - we protected bengalis and bengalis protected us giving safe passage (at least earlier in the chaos).
I was born in Karachi. My father made mistake to send us to school in East Pakistan as christian schools were very good for education. I guess he was not smart to read politics. It is unfortunate how West Pakistan was kept in pure dark. Our relatives in Karachi didn't believe our plight though they were helpful. Later in war, at one point, there was no distinction of friends and enemies. My father was kidnapped by Mukti Bahini and he was almost killed. The only reason they let him go as he spoke Bengali fluently and spoke Urdu in Bombay style. It took 3 years before my father made to Karachi.

That image of syrian boy brought back thousands of lost images in my mind like getting handed from one person to another, as we switch small boats (called launch those days) - finally it was a big ship.  People take pride in war but human miseries on both sides always take huge tolls and usually goes undocumented in history. When a human suffers - ideology, language, culture and religion lost meaning. --- Jab aurat bazar main jism bechne nikalti hai to poori insaniyat be-maani ho jaati hai (Manto)


First time in 44 years, I am penning something over that traumatic lifetime tragedy. I went through almost same after 1971 fall of Dhaka. My father had a strong pro army reputation and owned a wholesale cloth business. Ironically Pakistan Cloth House which made it first to get burnt in New Market Dhaka with a Pak flag over there. I had vivid images of many horrible events followed by that tragedy. That particular night of December 16 I can recall, we were hiding in house of our nani's sister who was married to a Bengali lawyer, the only interracial marriage of our family. Mukti bahini boys broke in upon hearing some of us urdu speaking are hiding there. Just that one particular vivid image still brings shivers to my spines. Abbu was on the bed with blanket up to head. Ammi opened door and spoke in bengali to those guys. One of the boys shouted. There was a wristwatch of abbu shining out of blanket. He fired a bullet and I started crying. Ammi said to them something again taking me in her arms and they left. We survived that night and took shelter in a dargah, not to trouble our hosts. Then it's a long story. We travelled by air to calcutta from Dhaka, then by road to Patna till we reached Nepal-Bihar border town, and stayed in Kathmandu for 7 months till repatriated by Pak govt and reached Karachi on Jan. 3,1974 by Afghan airline planes. Last thing I still remembered is large Qandhari apples served by airhostess!

My father hated Bengali language and never tried to learn it and ridiculed my mother because she mastered in bengali language! And luckily that expertise saved us from our house till airport where I along with my other siblings were forcefully kept quiet not to utter any urdu word. Abbu decided to leave all property and arranged our exit by any means. Plane taking off Dhaka airport still gives heartache and landing in Karachi airport after 9 months via Calcutta, Patna and Kathmandu is still nostalgic, whenever I board or land aeroplanes. The feeling of free to speak Urdu when we touched Pakistan airspace is priceless, that's what abbu always insisted that whatever he lost to come to pakistan meant nothing. He used to say: "Bengali daulat cheen saktain hain, qismat aur aqal nhi". He started here from scratch again. And الحمدللہ علی کل حال.

I never could come out of those images. Though very vivid but those images kept on taking shapes with continuous tales heard from grand parents, parents and older cousins...dead bodies on streets...jiye bangla shouts...arsons...agents (some fake some real) taking money to get people cross borders...changing residencies...lost childhood. I don't remember playing with toys and grown up by passing those years. I was 8 when finally we reached Pakistan.

When humans suffer in wars, zaban, aqeeda aur watan ki 2 kori ki auqat nahi rehti aur jaan bachane ke liye log aag ka darya paar ker ke mehfooz jagah dhoondte hain. In any warworst sufferers are women and children. Just spot any war in any country and follow the plight of their women and children in following years. This pic has already made an unprecedented impact just like in 1972 that running naked vietnamese girl made after US napalm bombing, and that dying kid in Darfur made who was pictured moments before eaten by vultures.

1 comment:

bsc said...

What a "picture" can do is so clearly obvious. I read a similar story of a refugee child who is now a ped. resident and she is from Iraq
The story 'kindled' by the face down child Aryan.
I am not surprised to see your blog and like you say many are talking in this variety of 'media' culture
I had other experiences in my own village which turned into Pakistan on 15th of August 1947. So I was not a refugee. Wars no matter what causes them are just wars and produce the same bad results for common human beings However the children suffer most without understanding anything. انسان کی تہذیب ترقّی نہ کر سکی