Translated by Mohammad Shafiqul Islam

Serial : 18

He can’t finish the slogan. Immediately taking hold of his head, he sits down, eventually falling to the ground. Squatting nearby, one or two people lift him up, while others still shout, ‘Struggle for independence.’ Instantly Mizanur loses sense. With the help of others, Taslim helps him up on the mat, pours water on his head, and mops his frame with a wet towel. Yasin wafts a palm hand fan, sitting close at hand.

It’s yet to descend evening, with the sun just winding in the western sky. As soon as the passengers got down, Nonigopal anchors the boat at the river ghat and directly runs over to Taslim’s house. He informs them, panting, ‘Ten to twelve people have come from Dhaka, where the situation is horrible. Dead bodies are floating on the Buriganga, dead bodies are lying here and there on the streets.’

‘Stop, Noni uncle, stop,’ shouts Sabiha. ‘We’ll take revenge against them—dead bodies for dead bodies. We’ll never let them go unchallenged.’

‘We won’t let them go, we’ll never let them go,’ shouts everyone else.

A cold breeze blows from the riverside, while everyone is returning home amidst fear and excitement. Stepping on the yard, Sabiha finds Mizanur has got back sense, Taslim putting a wet towel on his head. The wet towel is cooling down fire in his frame. Can it really do that? Sabiha feels assured that it can never do that—now fire is burning in the frame of time too. From the kitchen, Amena brings a glass of milk. Without a word, Mizanur drinks it and mops his mouth with the wet towel. ‘The bed is ready in the room,’ Amena tells him.

‘Yes, I want to sleep now,’ Mizanur nods.

Taslim says, ‘If you could have some medicine, pain would dissipate soon, but there’s no doctor in our village.’

‘It’s ok, I’ll be alright soon.’

‘But you need complete rest for two to three days.’

‘I also think so,’ Sabiha adds from nearby. ‘Besides, within a day or two more people will come from Dhaka. Against this genocide, the people will determine first, and then flare up. I’m also waiting for my friends. When they’ll begin to receive training for the war, they’ll certainly inform me.’

‘Where will be the training,’ Mizanur asks, curiosity in his eyes.

‘I’m afraid I can’t say anything before they let me know.’

‘I’ve decided to go to India, crossing the Sundarbans to receive training.’

‘Great idea!’

‘We’ll prepare ourselves for the war; the Pakistani army can’t stop us.’

‘I agree.’

‘Drop this now, Ma. Mizanur needs to get back his health first. Let him take rest comfortably so his headache dissipates down.’

‘You’re right, Abba. I’m leaving.’

Sabiha goes out. Putting light of the hurricane lantern down, Taslim also leaves the room, thinking he should go to market for vegetables and fish. Getting into the kitchen, when he asks Amena what he should buy, she tells him to bring magur and shing fish. With the bag in his hand, Taslim leaves for market.

With a side pillow, Mizanur keeps lying down. As he closes his eyes, the picture of Rajarbag Police line surfaces. How valiantly they put up a resistance, roaring at the Pakistani army—he thinks. Indeed it was necessary, or else they’d consider the Bengalis cowards. Sabiha can also startle them out. This house is distinctive. Everyone here thinks about the country, realizes the importance of independence. They won’t be collaborators. Unperturbed, Mizanur closes his eyes. If his health condition doesn’t improve, he’ll stay here a few days more. He doesn’t want to see his health turn worse, going out in a hurry. After leaving Dhaka, he has already suffered a lot. Three of them started together, but they separated on the way—two others have gone to their own houses. Mizanur tries to rid of all worries. Feeling light, he aligns his feature on the bed. A beautiful atmosphere disperses in the room. An unknown room of an unknown house appears very close. He grows an exceptional feeling in his mind—very few people are lucky to earn this extraordinary experience. He gets absorbed in his own self, closing his eyes.

Sabiha keeps awake until late night. Helping her mother in the kitchen, she came to her own room. Tired after running to and fro the whole day, Sahana has fallen fast asleep in one corner of the cot. She doesn’t have that much interest in study. Who knows how far she can go? Taking a glance at her, Sabiha settles on her reading table, upturning the hurricane lantern.

Grabbing a piece of paper, she now writes a letter to Ashraf. Nowadays she’s writing letters every day, but doesn’t send them, because she doesn’t know where Ashraf lives. She decides she’ll read all the letters to him the day they meet, no matter her hands are blood-soaked.

Sabiha continues writing the letter:

Dear Ashraf, you’re the bee of my love. Humming, you fill the spring air of my life. I’ll certainly find you among thousands of wings of bees. You’ve filled my days of war with courage, love, sense of humanity, and patriotism. Your love is the silt of my life—the Bishkhali river, cropland, the sky in the horizon, the light of the afternoon of the seventh of March. Your love is the spring day of my life. In that afternoon, we witnessed the bud of independence, sitting on the Ramna Racecourse ground.

We have to join the war so that the bud blossoms. Holding the immortal words articulated in the fiery voice into my heart and standing by the Bishkhali river, I’m waiting for you. You’ll come and grab my hand, and I’ll do yours. Walking together, we’ll go to the war field, where we’ll encounter the dream world of the enlightened afternoon.

For you my best gift is the flower of independence.

You’ll also offer me the flower of independence, the bee of my life, my dear Ashraf.

Folding the letter and then putting it into the drawer, Sabiha stands by the window, can see deep darkness outside—there’s not a single firefly anywhere. Right away she thinks millions of bees are humming inside her, so she has darkness of night before her. After the night will emerge the day. I’m waiting for the light, for you. Come, hold my hand.

5

It’s dawn of 26 March, Friday.

Ashraf and his friends Nayan, Badol, and Biplob left Iqbal Hall last night. Although their homes were in different places, they went together to participate in the war, rather than going home. Communicating with other friends, they’ll decide how they should proceed.

They spent the night at Monir’s mess in Kalabagan. Most of the students left their messes, so beds were vacant, but they couldn’t sleep at all, nor could they eat anything too. Passing a sleepless night, Ashraf opens the door at the light of dawn. The surroundings are silent, as the firing has stopped.

‘Don’t go out, Ashraf,’ warns Biplob.

‘I’m not going out, but trying to figure out the situation,’ Ashraf informs.

‘You need to get to the main road to figure this out, but we’re staying by a small alley.”

‘That’s why I’m wondering I’ll get to the main road carefully, hiding myself as much as possible.’

‘Do you think it’s necessary? We can be updated from Monir’s transistor.’

‘They won’t broadcast right news of Bangabandhu. We should know if he’s arrested.’

Just then the gatekeeper from the next house paces up to Ashraf to give him the news that Bangabandhu has declared independence.

‘Yes, it is. In the declaration, transmitted through EPR wireless, Bangabandhu said Our EPR and police forces are putting up resistance against the enemies valiantly. He also said Every Bengali has to fight for the country.’

Extending his two hands forward, Ashraf hugs the gatekeeper and says, ‘May your words bring smiles, dear brother. Our war starts from today.’

‘I’m going to manage food for you. There’s some watery rice in my pot. Some onions and green chilies too.’

‘Bring it, brother. This is now korma-pilao for us—we didn’t eat anything last night. What’s yor name, brother?’

‘Fozor Ali,’ the gatekeeper says, a big smile on his face.

‘From now you’re our Fozor Bhai.’

‘Ok, I’m bringing it. We can eat together.’

Spreading a mat on the ground, they begin to eat. Pouring a great deal of water on the plate, they eat watery rice with onion and green chili. With heart’s content, they sip water from the plate. Ashraf thinks In the stomach is emerging the Buriganga that we have to cross over to go to the war field.

‘Ashraf Bhai, what are you thinking of?’

‘The Buriganga has emerged in the stomach.’

‘For watery rice?’

‘Of course. I’m thinking we have to cross over the river to reach the other part. The stream of the river is stirring my soul and feature.’

‘We’ll drown the Pakistanis in the river.’

‘The river is our defense.’

‘You’re right.’

Together they shout for some time. And immediately Nayan says, ‘It’d be great if Sabiha were here—she at this point must have begun singing a song.’

‘Sabiha isn’t present here, but we can indeed sing together.’

‘Which song?’

Ashraf hums ‘Durgomo giri kantar moru dustoro parabar hey, longhite hobe raatri nishithe jaatrira hunshiar—Unreachable mountains, vast deserts, impassable borders that we have to cross over amidst darkness of night, O crew, beware!’

Others also join Ashraf. Only two lines. Ashraf says, ‘Stop, everyone. Now we have to know about the city. What’s going on around? Fozor Bhai, do you know anything?’

‘Going over to the main road, I’ve observed stark silence in the area. There are no people on the roads.’

‘The people are home, because curfew has been imposed.’

‘The radio is running all this news.’

They become silent and stand beside the door. There are no rickshaws in the alley, not a single person too. Amidst a stark silence, the sun has risen in the city sky, sunshine has sprinkled light around. Sometimes only sounds of one or two tanks or convoys are heard from distance. Taking a look at others, Ashraf says, ‘All of you, stay here. I’m going to see the condition of the main road. Fozor Bhai, you come with me.’

When Fozor Ali comes forward, Ashraf holds his hand and looking him in the face, he says, ‘Dhaka has been the city of rallies, but from now it’ll be the city of guerrilla warfare.’

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