A Class Above

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share/Bookmark

Jeevani Fernando


We sat nervously huddled on the wooden bench of the Haputale Railway Station at 8pm last night, clutching our precious collections from the trip – kithul jaggery from Badulla and jars of orange marmalade, guava jelly and Nelli syrup from Adhisham for the two grandmothers.? Partly shivering in the cold, partly wondering how we were ever going to make the 10-12 hour journey back home by getting in to a train from a midway station with no previous booking.? We had taken a break on the way back to Colombo to visit the beautiful monastry Adhisham and didn’t realise the train will be full by the time it comes to Haputale.
“I love all kinds of people mummy, but I just can’t travel 3rd class on the train” said Mishka. We had just that morning taken 3rd class tickets from Badulla to Haputale and it was quite an experience when, after having paid for 4 seats, we were down to one, when Samaritan love overtook us and we gave seats to mothers with babies and grandmothers, also with babies in the hope of getting a sympathetic seat in an already overcrowded train. Mishka was miffed that people could assume we would feel sorry.?Little realising we were going to need that same sympathy soon.
I said let’s pray. Zoe said let’s throw some people out. Kyle said ‘don’t worry mummy, something will work out’.?15 more minutes to go for the train to arrive. I looked at my 3 fellows and thought I must do something. They had been such good troopers, climbing up and down mountains, trekking nearly 2kms in Indian sandals (bad preparation by the mother) to see and touch the Dunhinda falls, that majestically fell 190ft down creating a mystical cloud of spray and awe.?They had eaten noodles for breakfast and fried rice with no meat as it was the Buddhist festival where no meat was cooked.? They had slept in a mud cabin in the woods and no neighbouring lights, with absolutely no fear at all.?They had been thrilled at every little thing, the train rides through tunnels and around the mountains, the fiery short-eats and even the ghastly toilet in the train where they could see the tracks while doing their ‘little jobs’.
So I plucked my courage and told my three, ‘let mummy go talk to the station master’. The man at the counter had refused to even issue 3rd class tickets to us as he wasn’t sure if there would be room even to stand ‘all other seats FULL madam’ he had said a while ago.? So I by-passed him and walked into the station master’s office.? I made polite introductions in English and he asked what I was doing in Haputale and what had I seen, etc, etc. Then he asked me the wrong question ‘Are you Tamil or Sinhala?’ ‘Oh no!’ says Mishka, because she knows the tirade her mother goes into when that question is asked.? So I let him have it – about how this country got into this state because of questions like that.?And I thought, there goes any chances of getting seats.? Yet,?he didn’t seem peeved. He was in fact making very good conversation.? It ended with his promise ‘I will somehow get you seats but first get yourself on the train with 3rd class tickets’.?I saw Mishka’s face fall.
The train came. It was a mad rush. We managed to scramble into 3rd class. It was packed. It smelled of alcohol and it had no room even on the floor.? I was dismayed but was determined to take it.?I had just managed to put the bags up on the rack when the station master, uniform, cap and all, came running to our compartment and hurried us to take our bags and get off the train. The children groaned. We got off.? He signaled to a man in uniform where the reserved seats were and held up 4 fingers.? We were like refugees now running to the front of the train with bags and jackets and Ivndian slippers flapping under our feet. Passengers poked their heads out to see what was going on with the station master who was also running along with us. The engine driver was getting impatient.? A quick exchange between the two men and we were bundled into 2nd class reserved compartments.? Reclining chairs and all. All I could do was jump back down and shake hands with the station master and thank him profusely.? And as the train pulled away, he shouted ‘I don’t know why I did this but certainly not because you are a Tamil!’
I fell back on my seat laughing. Apparently some others had to be re-arranged to another compartment to fit us in there.? The children were giving hi-five’s to each other. Mishka had found a new hero – a tall, smart station master in Haputale. She was all starry-eyed. I was speechless.? The kindness people show others, in any dimension, makes such a difference to an individual, a family.? Never should one shy from going that extra mile, lending a hand or seeing to the comfort of another, to a strange mother with three children who believed in miracles.? The children will never forget this experience and also the belief that people in their country are helpful, kind and generous no matter what ethnicity they belong to.
And as the knight in shining armour blew the whistle, and Zoe cuddled up to me on the seat, happy she didn?t have to throw anyone out the window, I looked forward to the future of my children.

Bargaining With A Six Year Old

By Jeevani Fernando

?I want a rickshaw from Bangladesh Mummy, and don?t forget the rickshaw puller too?. This was her trading skills for my missing her cake cutting ceremony on her 6thbirthday yesterday.??She had been all dressed up, poised with cake, candles, knife and family, waiting for me to come on skype and watch her through webcam.??And I was held up at a staff meeting where ?changes? were being debated.??I am so glad that my 6 year old daughter has adapted to changes in her life so quickly and so joyfully and with a zest for life and its challenges that I wish we grown ups had.??She ended the bargain by simply stating ?It?s okay mummy, don?t feel bad. I know how important Drik is to you?.??I must have done something right to deserve children like this.??Because, I almost didn?t.

My ZoeZoe by Piet de Jong

Six years ago, she nearly died. I nearly died.??Somewhere between stopping the pill and getting a permanent implant, my gyno died. And unknown (ahem) to me, a new life was growing within.??I neglected. I ignored. I didn?t want.??I already had two. I already had a very methodical, routine, life. Two kids in school, me enjoying my part time job, two puppies, one husband.??Life was good.??And then it got complicated.??I jumped into a river from 4 feet high hoping it would go away.??It clung on to me. For dear life.??At five months the new gyno said ?you are bloody complicated, your placenta has moved away from baby, go home stay in bed, put your feet up, get up only to go toilet? ?Ya right? I thought. ?Where were you all my life?? I thought.
I underestimated the complication. The kids I already had thought I was getting uglier by the day. ?You look chubby Mummy. Daddy hates chubby? My husband sat far away from me ? although too late in the day.??The puppies grew up and started eating everything in the house. My complication was eating away my sanity.??By five months I HAD to tell people I was pregnant. Again.??My mother didn?t call me for three days after the announcement. I visualized my father?s jaw twitching in anxiety. ?How are they going to manage?? he would have thought inwardly.??When my sisters called, they asked about everything else except my pregnancy. My brother bought an extra pack of beer cans. For himself.
I wanted to crawl away and hide. I couldn?t. At seven months I bled like kurbani time in Bangladesh. No pain, no warning.??I thought it was over. She stopped moving. For the second time in my life, I feared death. I was rushed to emergency at 3am.??Blood soaked and completely freaked out. Gyno gave me that ?I told you so? look.??He tried a transvaginal scan and the scanner wouldn?t go through.???Serious? he said. Diagnosis??? placenta previa (placenta had dislodged from the wall of the uterus and was now in my birth canal, one push and it will come out with baby still inside).??He turned around and told his team ?prepare her, we need to take the baby out? I held his hands and begged and pleaded to let me stay just one day. The baby was just bordering 7 months. Still too small to be out.??She was below average in growth.??She had not received enough blood. I had siphoned it all out.??I begged and begged.??I had to sign a form saying it was against doctor?s orders and on my own consent that I opted to keep the baby.
That was one long wait for dawn to break.??I wasn?t allowed to move even to change my bloody clothes. The heart monitor picked up her soft rhythm. When all had left and I was alone, I placed my hands on my distorted belly and asked forgiveness from my baby. I pledged to take care of her no matter what.??I prayed for God to equip me to take care of a damaged baby.??That was what the doctor warned me about.??Stunted growth, possible brain damage, handicapped. I prayed that the family will accept this baby unconditionally.??I prayed that God would give me life so that I should be the one to take care of this baby.???I believe that was when the healing took place.??I had fallen asleep.??She started moving again. Her heartbeat picked up and got stronger.
Gyno decided to watch. Yet, would not release me to go home.??I was assigned a medical intern to study my case. I stayed one week.??And in that one week, I made friends with other mothers with the weirdest problems ever.??One was sweeping the garden and the baby fell out of the womb!! She had not even known she had dilated. They brought her in with umbilical cord still attached and a fainted mother. I wheeled myself to her bed and talked to her nights on end.??The baby was in neo-natal and she had no idea of the condition.??I read the reports to her. It weighed only a kilo. No wonder she did not feel it coming out. I got friends to take pictures of the thing in the baby ward and bring it over. It looked like a slightly large beghuni. My case forgotten. Temporarily.
My case is now dancing to the ?Macarena? at 6 years of age.??Complete, wholesome and an energy that keeps the rest of us dancing too.??Her simple reason to things she does is ?That?s why?

Being a mother

Subscribe to ShahidulNews


Share/Bookmark


by?rahnuma ahmed

?One thing led to another. It was not planned, nothing of that sort. It?s a long story, but first let me tell you what I think about motherhood.? We were chatting, Mohua Mohammod (pseudonym) and I. Mohua, in her early thirties, is a PhD student in the USA, currently in Dhaka for a short period of fieldwork.
?When I speak of biological motherhood, I don?t want to minimise pregnancy, or the exhaustion of bearing children, of giving birth. After all, women can die during labour. I guess, I speak from a position of, let?s put it this way, the politics of blood-relatedness, of family ties, things that are taken as given, that are seen in isolation from the politics of class and gender. Or, race and ethnicity. I am not saying that there?s anything wrong with having children of one?s own. What I am saying is that the social fabric is woven from these very relations. Whether you give birth, or you adopt, you cannot isolate these things from social inequalities. On the contrary, social relations ? of power and inequality ? are often reproduced through these everyday events. If you look at the new technologies of reproduction, like, say a test-tube baby, these technologies often reinforce notions of purity and pollution, cultural ideas of ?good? blood and ?bad? blood.
?Now, if you bring up the issue of adoption, someone or the other is likely to say dudher shad ghole mete na. I think this mindless repetition of ?milk? and ?whey? distracts our attention from the politics of the issue. Motherhood is social. For me, it is something collective, but of course, you know better than I do that we have moved away from our earlier histories, that in this age of individualism Bengali parents keep saying, ?my son?, ?my daughter?, both in real life, and in TV ads. Gone are the days of ?tomar bhaijee?, ?tomar bhabi?, but of course, this is not true of the subalterns, the majority of the people. It is increasingly so, for those who matter. ???
?Actually, what I find most depressing is the lack of debate about these things, both in the women?s movement, and in left circles. Leftists seem to think that nothing further needs to be said about marriage, family, and sexuality after Engels wrote his Origins.? ???

She gifted me a little daughter. ? ?

Mohua began talking about how she became a mother. We were busy with Jouno Nipiron Protirodh Moncho (Platform to Resist Sexual Oppression) in 1999, she said. ???
The inmates of Tanbajar brothel were evicted earlier that year, and we had invited them to speak in our discussion series. I met Lipi apa (pseudonym) that day. We talked, and I gave her my phone number. One night, it was eight-ish, she suddenly rang. The DB police, she said, had beaten her up. She was in Dhanmondi road 2. It was not far from where we lived, and I went to see her, along with a friend. We sat and drank tea at a tea stall, we chatted about police brutalities. I fell into the habit of dropping by to see how she was while returning home from office. ???
I met Tania through her. Maybe fifteen or sixteen years old, Tania was also very small in build. She was seven months pregnant. Soon after, Lipi apa suddenly rang me. Tania was nearly dying, a caesarean had to be performed, could I come to Dhaka Medical? I rushed over with a friend, Lipi apa told me that she had signed the forms, that she felt saving the mother?s life was more important than the child?s. Mohua suddenly paused and asked me, Did I ever tell you that Lipi apa?s father was a muktijoddha? I nodded my head. ???
Mohua went on, I was standing in the corridor, Lipi apa had gone off somewhere, the nurse came out of the OT, she stuck the baby in my outstretched arms. My heart almost stopped beating. ???
Tania had to get back to work to feed herself, and so, a few days later, we all accompanied her to the Mother Teresa mission in old Dhaka. She gave her baby up for adoption. He was healthy, very beautiful. The nuns were confident, they would have no problems in finding him a home, they said. Lipi apa and I returned from old Dhaka in the same rickshaw. We could not stop ourselves, the tears kept flowing. ???
I went off to Europe several months later, for a three month-long diploma programme. I returned to find her pregnant. I asked her, hey, what?s this, what?s happening? She said, apa, you cried such a lot, this baby is for you. ???
And that?s how Anarkoli entered my life. ??? ???

Raising Anarkoli ???

Lipi apa and I would raise Anarkoli together, that was the plan. We fought over what we wanted her to be, whether she would be sent to a madrassah, or a school. The next year I went abroad to do my Masters, and Lipi apa started coming more frequently to our house. In my absence, the quarrels took place between her and my mother, often enough over Anarkoli, and how best to raise her. But more often, over Lipi apa herself. My mother repeatedly tried to domesticate her. In her eyes, Lipi apa was very wild. ???
Mohua went on, actually, I had never sat and thought that I would enter into such a relationship. It just happened. ???
We decided that Anarkoli would live with Lipi apa, but that she belonged to both of us, we were both her mother. I named her. When I lived in Dhaka I had a good salary, and I supported them. When I went abroad, I sent money from my stipend, but once there was a gap of 7-8 months because of a rift with the friend who acted as a go-between. My mother helped out then, but it was not the same. I felt very guilty. ???
Of course, it is difficult, very difficult. We belong to very different classes, our lives are very different. I have my studies. I lead a very disciplined life. But Lipi apa has lived on the streets, ?one arm tucked beneath my head, the other, covering my eyes?. After Anarkoli was born, she moved into a rented room, moved from a life on the streets to a home-centred life, saddled with a daughter. This has made her angry, she tells me often, I gave up my life of freedom for you. Mohua smiles ruefully and says, two women parenting a child is not easy. When I lived in Dhaka and was supporting them, I became a father. And now that I am here, I am like a husband, one who has returned for holidays, who sends money from abroad. ???
Now that I am back, even though it?s for a short period, Anarkoli is my daughter more than ever. She is eight years old now, she was born on December 14, 2000. Mohua suddenly pauses and says, we gave Tania?s son away on March 6. I never forget that day. She slowly returns to the present, Anarkoli tells me that her mother is thinking of getting married. The landlady has told her, ?your mother is doing itish-pitish, she is being flirty with that Nuruddin fella.? And Lipi apa herself has told me, ?I have raised Anarkoli for the last seven years, the next seven are yours.? I don?t blame her, she has a life too. I have told Anarkoli, I will put you into a boarding school, I will finish my doctorate and return after three years, and then we will live together. ???
Anarkoli still calls me khala, but our relationship is so different now. When I return home, she opens the door and sticks to me like a shadow. She covers my face with kisses. I tease her, who do you love more, me or your mother? She has discovered this game, she counts from one to ten one, two, three, four, and whoever is the last to be pointed at, is her most loved. She has now learnt to begin counting so that I end up being number ten! ??? ???

My family history ???

Your idea of family is different from that of others, I say gently. Well, there was always tension at home between the desire for a nuclear family, and those not related to us by blood. I grew up listening to how my grandfather, my father?s father had raised a boy as his own, how this foundling son was the only one who was left a share of his estate. You see, my grandfather was worried that he might not receive anything after his death. Not only that, he married his daughter to this tokano boy. When the family property was divided after his death, there was some ill feeling because this son benefited more than the others, he got his own share, and also benefited through his wife who had inherited as a daughter. I grew up listening to these stories, also, our house was always full of people. Our own extended family plus the extended families of those who worked for us. They would visit, stay over. How does your mother feel about Lipi apa, I ask? I can?t think of any other middle class mother who would accept her presence as casually as she does. Yes, my mother is an amazing woman. She is not without faults, but she is tremendously compassionate. ???
And your friends? Mohua laughs, ?You haven?t married yet?? That?s what everyone says. It?s the same in the US. My American women friends talk of their boyfriends, their crises, and I can?t help but tell them, ?your lives seem so prescribed.? Similar to many lives here. It doesn?t attract me. ???
?But do you talk to them about your life? About your daughter? About shared mothering?? I ask. No, not really. I guess I feel silenced by their accounts of the normal lives that they lead. ???
I ask playfully, What if you meet someone, fall in love, want to get married? What will happen to Anarkoli? ???
Well, Mohua laughs and says, for me to fall in love, I think he would not only have to be intelligent and committed, he would have to be a practising kind of guy, not someone who talks big. I would expect him to have several Anarkolis of his own! So, no problem.?
First published in New Age on 23rd June 2008

The Last Goodbye

She would put on a burkha every morning so that choto chacha, my dad’s younger brother, could drop her off at her parents. He would take her to her college instead. That was how Quazi Anwara Monsur graduated. Dadi didn’t want her daughter-in-law to be getting an education, but Amma had the full support of Abba, my father. Her in-laws probably knew what was going on, but as long as Dadi’s authority was not directly challenged, Amma was quietly allowed to complete her studies.

amma-chul-bandhche-low.jpg Amma by her garden

Amma had made a mark upon her arrival from Kolkata to her in-laws in Faridpur. Word had gotten round that Monsur’s wife knew how to shoot a gun. She had many other skills too, and being a school teacher was also able to support the family. When Phupuabba (my father’s brother-in-law) died, the orphans were split up. Bhaijan and Rubi Bu came to live with us. Only my sister had been born then, and overnight a one child family became a three child family. They were difficult times. The family had come over to flee the riots in Kolkata and my father’s low paid government salary was simply not enough. Particularly as Abba and Amma insisted that all the children should have a good education. Amma’s teaching job, plus the extra income she made from marking exam papers wasn’t enough to keep the family going. She would buy wool from the market and knit sweaters to sell for extra income. Later Khaled Bhai was born and no other children were planned. In Amma’s words, I was an ‘accident’. Dadi, who had always been against her daughters-in-law going to work, saw the value of what Amma was doing and later it was Amma she used as an example to encourage her other daughters-in-law to get jobs.

harmonium.jpg Singing along with Amma


Mera Sunder Sapna, the song Amma loved to sing

Once they moved to Dhaka, Amma wanted to setup a school in Azimpur colony. No one was supportive, but that never stopped her. Buying a tent from Rafique Bhai for ten taka, she pitched it in the middle of Azimpur playground and set up Azimpur Kindergarten. Later, in its new name of Agrani Balika Biddalaya, the school and the college went on to become one of the finest educational institutions for girls in the country.

azimpur-school-low.jpg Amma teaching in the tent

New classrooms grew alongside the tent. There was a large classroom ‘The Pavilion’ which even had brick walls. When a storm in sixties blew away the bamboo classrooms, Amma sat crying in the mud floor that remained. A guardian saw her from the veranda of their house and came over to comfort her. “Do you think it is only your school” he had said. “It belongs to all of us, and we’ll rebuild it.” They did. The guardians and the teachers and the children had organised cultural shows and other fund raisers. This time they were determined there were to be no more bamboo walls. Each classroom had a tin roof but the walls were made of bricks.

Many years later, Amma felt she needed qualifications in psychology to run her school better. She managed to get herself a scholarship to go to Indiana University, and eventually got herself a PhD in child psychology. That was the nature of the woman. Less than five feet tall, once this diminutive woman had decided on something, there was little that could stop her. This did not always make it easy on her children. Her standards were high, and those who failed to meet them, or like my brother Khaled, who felt there were other things to life, felt the brunt of her wrath. The dedicated teacher was not always the compassionate mother. Her public contributions won her the Rokeya Padak, a state award, but with the death of her son Amma paid a terrible price. The night before he took his life Khaled Bhai told me, “I am making things easier for you.” I had not understood the implications then. I was 14, he had just turned 21. It was a price we all paid.

khaled-bhai-low.jpg Khaled Bhai

His death had mellowed Amma, and I got away with much that my brother would have been chastised for. Having lost one son, she became hugely protective of the other. After the 1971 war, Amma and I went over to Kolkata to smuggle my sister and her family out of the country. There were restrictions on professionals leaving. It was my first taste of India and Amma and I used the opportunity well. Kolkata was the cultural capital of India and we would see three films a day, and the occasional play. On our return to a free but unsettled Bangladesh, we found things were dangerous, and there were no set rules. Once, when I needed to negotiate with some hijackers who had stolen our car, this tiny woman insisted she would stay with me and be my bodyguard.

amma-rahnuma-5867.jpg Amma and Rahnuma by Khaled Bhai’s grave

Her protectiveness had its own problems, and as an adult, when I rejected her choice of a homely bride and found a partner of my own, she did all in her power to break up our love. Rahnuma and I stuck together despite it. Though Amma later relented, our relationship had been severely tested, and came precariously close to breaking point. Amma was strong and feisty, and didn’t take being challenged too lightly. Plucky, headstrong, and hugely energetic, she nurtured whatever she loved with a passion. Till she was 80, she would go to college everyday, ensuring that it ran smoothly.

I had gone to UCLA for the Regents Lecture. It was in LA that I got Rahnuma’s message that Amma had been taken to hospital. Apamoni, the ever dutiful daughter, now a retired doctor in London, had rushed to Dhaka to nurse her. She told me that things were stable, and I needn’t hurry back. I went on to Florence where I was conducting a seminar. Rahnuma’s second message said Amma was slipping. It was a very long flight back. My nieces Mowli and Sofia got a last minute Emirates flight and we met up in Dubai. An hour’s delay at the airport, the delay at the luggage belt on reaching home and the rush hour traffic became unbearable as we wondered whether we would see her alive. Amma wasn’t going to give up that easily. She wanted us around, and her face glowed as she saw the three of us. Fariha, my youngest niece, arrived the next day.

fariha-in-south-shields-6229.jpg Fariha
amma-sofia.jpg Amma at Sofia’s wedding
amma-mowli.jpg Amma and Mowli
amma-david.jpg Amma and Sofia’s husband David

My nieces got out the family album, and through the pain, she peered through the photographs. As she looked at a picture of me, Fariha asked “Who are you looking at”? The face broke into a smile. Frail, but distinctly a smile. It is wonderful how the tiniest of movements transforms a face. She whispered my nickname “Zahed”. Later as she strained to lift her hand to stroke me, Fariha joked, “Grandma, pull his beard.” Another smile and a whisper, “Beard”? Later when she stroked me again, Fariha repeated her joke. Another impish smile and the word “Pull”? Those were the last three words she ever spoke.

apamoni-rahnuma-o-amma-0384-low.jpg Apamoni, Rahnuma and Amma

amma-dulabhai-3207.jpgAmma and Dulabhai

Apamoni had toiled ceaselessly to take care of her. Rahnuma had run ragged with errands, her granddaughters stayed up all night giving her water, changing her clothes, checking the oxygen pressure, coaxing her to eat and put on the nebuliser. Hameeda and Zohra both knew Amma well. They bathed her, combed her hair and nursed her, trying to interpret every gesture. Delower, whom Amma saw as a son, was omnipresent and kept the ship from sinking. Dulabhai, my brother-in-law, also a retired doctor, kept vigil from afar. But it was me that she longed for. This was not the time to dwell on patriarchal politics. I was losing a person who loved me beyond reason. With all my traveling, I had always wondered where I might be, when the time came. I needn’t have worried. Amma waited till I returned.
After many rainy days, with Chittagong in a deluge, the sun shone through this morning. Amma didn’t like 13. Saturdays were bad. Thursday was the best day of the week. At 8 this morning, Thursday, the 14th June, carefully sidestepping a 13 and a Saturday, with the sun glistening on her favourite champa tree, Amma chose to say goodbye.

She was 83. In those last few days, I saw my mother in a way I hadn’t before. I knew the softness of her skin, every little mark on her face, the shape of her tiny feet, the wrinkles on her fingers. As I carried her to the wheelchair, or moved her up the bed, I felt her weight against my body. I knew how it felt to be lovingly stroked by a hand that had barely the strength to move.

abba-and-amma-with-laptop-1.jpg Amma and Abba

Her janaja was at the Takwa Masjid in Dhanmondi. My colleagues at Drik and Pathshala, our Out of Focus children did all that was needed. They would have borne my grief if they could. Many years ago, I had stood in the same mosque during Abba’s janaja, on an Eid day. We then went to her school. As the long line of students, teachers and well wishers from all over Azimpur walked past to take one last look at their beloved Boro Apa (big sister), I walked across to the classroom where I had studied. Through my tears, the benches and tables looked tiny now. Sitting on the bench and looking up at the blackboard I could hear Boro Apa’s footsteps on the corridor.

The grave in the New Azimpur Graveyard, had been bought in 1970, when Khaled Bhai had died. We had then bought three plots, for Amma, Abba and Khaled Bhai. The plot in the centre had been empty. I lowered Amma into the grave. She herself had bought the shroud and had it washed with Aab e Zam Zam, the holy water from Mecca, in preparation for this moment. The white shroud glistened against the dark clay. Our relatives and friends, Amma’s students spanning sixty odd years, my own students and Amma’s numerous admirers were there. They carried the wooden Khatia, lit the incense, scattered rose water. They shared our loss.

I remembered the finality of the knot at the ends that I myself had tied. Neat rows of bamboo stakes were placed diagonally across the grave, shielding her body from the earth that was going to cover her. Bamboo mats were folded over the stakes that sealed her in. Then we all took turns to cover her with earth. After the munajat (prayers), as I walked away, I imagined my mother in between her husband and her elder son, reunited in death. I could hear them calling out to me ever so lovingly. “Zahed”.

Dhanmondi, Dhaka

14th June 2007.