A story by: Taslima Hasan,
(This story from the book ‘The Golden Leaves’ which was published in Canada).
Soumika stepped out of her bed and went by the window. She stood by there for a long. Soumika didn’t bother to turn the light on. In the darkness all around no definite shape or size was visible. Light from the house next door fell on the leaves of the coconut tree. A mysterious light and shape played sonata out there.
Soumika was not afraid of death. She realized her blood was slowly losing its vigor. Her heart became heavy at the thought of her departed daughter. Her body started trembling. Recalling fragments of memories from that terrible experience made her quite depressed.
There was the sound of rain outside. Not only the sound but also a fine mist of the rain drifted into the room from the window which opened in the breeze. This has cooled off the room considerably, a sudden welcome change in the weather after the sweltering humidity of last night. But she did not except that it would cool off so much that the chill would wake her up. She stared out of window.
The curtain covered one side and the wall the other, only a squarish patch of darkness rested in the middle. Before she could get her eyes set to the darkness a flash of lightening lit up the room for a few seconds before plunging it into a trembling obscurity all over again.
The sound of the rain at night carries a message…a sudden realization. It tries to bring forth something. However, before one can realize what it was, one has to get encircled in a sense of helplessness.
Twenty-six years have elapsed from Soumika’s life. The freedom war of ’71 has snatched away everything from her. Her husband,her only daughter, everything she had. Turning her heart to stone she preserved it within herself for all these years.
Shubhendu, her husband was a professor in a private college. He was a man of principles. His lifestyle spoke of truth and honesty. He was an extremely responsible person. His happy family life was all around his wife and daughter.
Once the war started, Shubhendu went to his native village, Madhupur with his wife and child. There were ducks and chicks, cows and lambs, the laid-out harvest and mud houses lining both sides of the muddy trails running through the village. The malnourishment was overpowering among farmers. The trailswere muddy but there was no water logging. Intermittently there were concrete buildings with ponds. At first Soumika did not have any problem in her in-law’s place.
Then the middle of April, the ruthless Pakistani army came into their house and ransacked the entire house. They took away Shubhendu from the house. Soumika fled with her beautiful and youthful daughter, Nandita, into the dense forest behind the house. Her husband could not avoid the sting of death. They shot Shubhendu under the big mango tree in front of their house.
After spending the whole night in the forest, mother and daughter returned home at dawn. Once in front of their house, Soumika got frozen to a piece of stone discovered Shubhendu’s dead body. Nandita let out a heart-rending cry.
Soumika’s prime worry now was how to save her daughter and herself. To her, her daughter’s life was more precious than hers. She was childless for many years after marriage. Nandita came into her life after seven long years. With rosy, pink skin and beautifully crafted oblong face, Nandita’s hair was flooding down. Mystic pair of eyes, youthful and a wonderful set of teeth that enhanced her beauty when she smiled.
Two more days passed by without an event. The Pakistani army had slaughtered many people in the village. Two days later a light drizzle started. The freedom fighters threw a few grenades. There were no casualties but definitely a lot of tension prevailed. Within two hours the Pakistani army engulfed the whole village. Starting from the ordinary men in the village to the youths, the intellectuals, doctors, and journalists, anybody with the affinity to independence were killed mercilessly.
Soumika then started fleeing from one village to another with her daughter. But they finally could not save themselves. Four or five army men took them over to an abandoned house. There they had also brought in a few more young girls and middle-aged women. Soumika did not want to recall those sights. They tied up her hands and feet with ropes. They made Nandita sit on a bed. She was trembling in fear. Her face became pale, lips dried up, yet her beautiful eyes bore a faint blue of the pain. All the young girls were crying.
There was mournful silence and Soumika felt an immense pain in her heart. She felt as if a heavy metallic bar was hanging from her heart. Twoarmy men came over and kicked her. Soumika turned and fell. Then they pounced on Nandita and raped her four or fivetimes. She was crying, “Mom I want to live. Save me.”
Nandita’s piercing screams bore through her heart. She could not save her own daughter. An army men shot Nandita. Blood gushed out flooding her all over. Finally, she passed away from continuous bleeding.
Soumika did not remember anything else. She lost her consciousness. She regained her senses the next day. The army had killed all the girls and the women. Only Soumika survived. A layer of misty obscure smoke floated into her mind like a cloud.
Long twenty six years have elapsed from her life. She is living in an independent country, but her quite indifferent mind is a bit disturbed and restless today. She realizes her muscles are becoming weak. Nerves are no longer vibrant. Gradually sluggishness was setting in. Her husband and daughter had sacrificed their lives for the country. In return of their sacrifice a new independent country is born,name – Bangladesh!
Translated by Purnasree Nag
Author: A famous poet Taslima Hasan, Canada.