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A Newly Built Respect

Boredom and monotony reigned over the cerebrum of my head. My summer
vacation had come to an end, and I had not received a single chance to step out of
the house. Almost instantaneously, mother arrived in my room like a ray of
sunshine, and asserted, “Tomorrow we are going to your uncle’s.” Uncle Hasan
had lately come from abroad and did not have proper knowledge of the city.
Mother said, “Your uncle has shifted into an archaic mansion of the 20th century in
an area in which dwell the urban elite and middle class of that time.” I was
crammed with exhilaration, presuming the house might belong to people having
experienced the fabled Liberation War of Bangladesh. By five at dusk, I was dolled
up, and keen to step out of the house.
As the car raced into uncle’s neighborhood, it was difficult to find anything
particularly distinct from any neighborhood in Dhaka city. However, as I stepped
into the house, in a trice, the known world changed into opulence. Tall ceilings,
chimneys, and leather sofas made of newly burnished wood gave an august
impression of the house. The smell of freshly burnished wood was pungent. Aunt
Tina said, “It’s so great to see you all after nearly a decade. Hope you had a
comfortable journey.” Mother took control of the curtsies while I gave myself a
tour of the spectacularly anachronistic house.
I left the living room, leaving the elders in their fit of nostalgia. In the parlor, there
was a cabinet full of classics. The books looked intoxicating to me, and I had to
grab one. Surprisingly, there, behind that book, was a small round object, almost
like a lever and I pulled it- it was a door. Maybe it was intrigue penetrating into my
brain or the desire to reward myself with an element of surprise after an arduous
scholastic year. To my stupefaction, I entered a dark room, and closed the door
behind me. My heart was pounding, and my spine was chilled.
In the room, there was nothing but a fireplace, an armchair, and a notebook. Even
though my intrigue had reached its extreme, I wanted to venture out, and seek for
more. A curious worm was poking inside my brain to catch hold of the notebook
that read, “Property of Salma Khan.” I opened a certain page of the book. The
handwriting was bubbly and small, perhaps of a ten or twelve-year-old, but it was
On top of the diary was written: “25th November, Thursday, 1971.” I read softly
even though there was no one to listen to me. Perhaps it was my unconscious mind,

a bit terrified of all the unusual things that had happened in the past six minutes. I
read on, “Today, Abba had gone out with the people of the neighborhood with
placards. I hate it when he goes out. Mother stays awake for hours at night these
days. Partly waiting for dad, and partly to let in any freedom fighter seeking shelter
and food. Abba came late at night being extremely weary. I asked him about his
day, and he said that he saw two of his friends die in front of his eyes. While he
was speaking, his eyes were red, perhaps he was picturing the scene, and his hands
were shaking. The barbarous Pakistanis fired shots at them, but he got saved by a
sudden dodge from a tree. My heart was pounding harder and harder every second
as he spoke. I asked him why he had to do those protests anyway. I furthermore
questioned him whether he cared for us or not. He replied that there was nothing
more important than one’s country because it was she who gave us shelter, and her
freedom was the freedom of every dutiful citizen.”
As I read, my inquisitiveness piqued. The next page was titled, ‘26th November
1971.” “Abba went out in the morning to buy groceries. I had asked him to bring
the fresh oranges of winter. When I was playing in the courtyard, I heard a
hullaballoo. I rushed outside, and there was the sanguinary body of my Abba. I
gave a loud wail. Amma scampered out of the kitchen and, seeing Abba, started
howling. She was in a sense of shock.
The image of Abba bidding me goodbye with his benevolent smile while going out
flashed before my eyes. I could never see that soulful smile again. In his blood-
covered hands was a bag, and, inside it, was the pacific citrus smell of the fresh
winter oranges. The people informed that the West Pakistan Army made an abrupt
attack at the marketplace, and, in the gunfire, a myriad of people, including him,
were killed. I was shattered and grief-stricken. Whatever the reason, these people
had no right to murder my Abba so brutally. Though I guess, wars are like this-
many unknown, unrecognized sacrifices are made in them, and a million lives are
lost.” The pages, though old had some spots in them which I deduced to be tears.
I was frozen but managed to walk out of the room. Coming out, when I asked aunt
about the bookshelf, she said it had been there before they moved into the house
and decided to keep it as it was majestic and antique. I chose to keep this heart-
wrenching experience to myself. One can never fathom what the people of the
Liberation War of Bangladesh had to face, can never gauge the extremity of their
suffering and sacrifice if they cannot get a proper glimpse of someone’s
excruciating life in those days, I pondered to myself. From that day on, a newly
built reverence and patriotism had arisen in me, all thanks to this poignant and
soul-stirring experience.

P.S. Hope you all enjoyed this piece which I carved out when our(Bangladesh’s) 50th Independence Day was just around the corner because I strongly believe that we, as the youth of a nation that had to move heaven and earth for its freedom, must have, if not much, then at least a tinge of patriotism within us, which is fading with time. Staying true to my roots- I wrote an emotional story that I strongly believe will rouse your souls or in more Bengali terms-( আমি নিশ্চিত এটি তোমাদের বুকে তোলপাড় সৃষ্টি করবে)।


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