Zebunessa Begum

Thu Dec 16 2021 05:00:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)


It was eerily quiet that morning. I entered the kitchen to make cha for my husband and myself after returning from my neighbor’s house. I often hid with my Urdu-speaking neighbor out of fear of being abducted. As I was pouring the cha, I heard a loud cry. I dropped the cup and ran to the living room, where my husband had rounded up our four kids to flee. But, as soon as we opened our backdoor to leave, I heard a familiar tune, ‘Joy Bangla, Banglar joy.’ We walked to the front of the house and were stunned. Young children were running through the streets with our nation’s flag flying like a cape on their backs. Our neighbors and friends had tears streaming down their faces, proudly shouting “Joy Bangla!” The local mishti-ala (sweets shop owner) was distributing boxes of mishti to each household, and everyone was feeding each other sweets and crying. My husband turned to me, and I could see tears forming in his eyes as he said, “Jolly, desh shadin hoyche.”

I grabbed my saree’s achol to wipe my wet face. Before the cloth reached my face, I burst into tears. We could finally stay in our home without having to leave in the middle of the night to cross the river before the army marched through our neighborhood. I would not have to seek refuge in others’ homes away from my family to save myself from abduction and rape. We could walk down the road without having to present an ID card or face interrogation. I would have students to teach because their parents would once again allow them to attend school. The lanterns could be placed back into the closets, as we would not have to pretend that we were not at home. We would not have run into the trenches in the school fields when we heard the planes. Our favorite landmarks wouldn’t be burned down. Friends and neighbors would not have to flee or suddenly disappear because of their religion. I could finally speak in my mother language. We would not have to live in constant fear of being killed. My husband and I knew that life may not be the same or easier. But so what? Shukr Allah, we were alive.