A few weeks ago while talking to a young friend of mine I felt a familiar tug at my heart when she told me that she had been born in 1982. This young woman is now a highly accomplished 27 year-old with a hundred dreams in front of her. She is beautiful, charming, intelligent and has achieved more than most people her age. I remembered with heartache another person, born in that same year and funnily enough at a hospital close to the one where my young friend had been delivered. She would have been 27 in just two months from now.
One tends to block out things that bring back a pain that is unbearable. Sometimes we just pretend that it never happened just so we can carry on with life. Sometimes we just cry in silence and take that unavoidable vacuum to our graves.
Twenty-seven years ago on a hot June evening, I was standing in a little room in Calcutta watching a tiny little baby squirming in her sister's arms. I was too scared to hold her, amazed and frightened by her wafer-thin skin and miniscule limbs. Her sister, my childhood friend seemed totally at ease as if she had been doing this all her life. We were two gangly adolescents completely fascinated by this miracle and as the years wore on fascination turned to pure love for a girl who could instantly win hearts with her engaging smile and eyes that sparkled with intelligence.
Shazneen Tasnim Rahman
Sometimes when I would spend the night at that house that had become a second home, it would be the four of us, myself and the three sisters - my friend, her adorable younger sister - and the little baby who soon became a part of everything we did. Precocious, she had learnt to speak long before it was expected, waking up in the middle of the night to remonstrate us because we, being typical teenagers, were gossiping away, disturbing her sleep. She would sit up straight on the bed and glare at us demanding: Tomra akhono kotha bolchho? Janona amaar ghum ashe na? (You people are still talking, don’t you know I can’t sleep). We were duly remorseful although it was hard not to smile at the authority this curly-haired not-even-two-year-old had over us. One of her favourite activities as a baby was to listen to stories but conventional tales would not do. We had to make up new, refreshing themes - like the story about the 'pagga' (a random mad man let loose on the streets) that the two of us kept reinventing adding new twists and turns to thrill her. Sometimes I had to steal themes from traditional tales like the story of the one-legged chicken who went into the world in search of fortune. Every time I came to the conclusion where the one-legged chicken would literally throw up gold, silver and glittering jewels after each escapade into the world, that little baby who had wrapped us around her finger would say: Abar Abar (Again, again). It was tedious to try to match the enthusiasm of the first round of story telling but there was no getting out of it.
Another moment I remember clearly was when she was about 8 or 9 years old. She had just been let off for a few minutes from studies and the first thing she did was sprint into the garden. I was curious and wanted to know how she would spend those few minutes of escape and to my amusement saw her just spinning around in the perfectly maintained lawn, a look of sheer joy and relief on her sun-kissed face.
In a few more years the baby-face would be replaced by a perfectly chiselled one but the sparkle in her eyes and endearing smile remained. She was a beauty no doubt but at 15 she was just blooming. There was something very pure about her, something clean and honest. The fiery spirit remained and she was not someone who would accept things unless they made sense to her. We would muse that she would make a good lawyer. Perhaps she would have been.
My greatest regret is that over the years as life’s mundane preoccupations took over, I spent less and less time with my friend and her family. I would have liked to know a lot more about that sweet-natured 15 year old, what her dreams were and what fears plagued her heart. It is useless to think what if I had been there when those diabolic killers entered her room to snuff out her life in the most brutal way. I try my best not to think about it but it creeps in when I least expect it leaving my heart scarred. I dare not imagine what her parents, her sisters, her brother, her friends and others who were much closer to her feel or how they cope with the loss of someone they adored. I can only pray for their strength.
Today I will not think of how she died. I will only think of those flashes I have of her, giggling at my silly jokes and giving me constant bear hugs that made me feel I was her sister too. May she rest in peace.
-A M Amin
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