Memoirs of a War Child | Saliha Rehanaz

I watched the leaves gently descend from the sky to the ground. It had been weeks, since someone had walked on this road. There was a pool of leaves on the path, all different shades of brown and green. I looked up as I heard the leaves rustle. A small rat scurried over the leaves and dived into the abandoned pile of boxes. I looked around, and tears rolled down my cheeks. When would be the next time people would walk here? When would be the next time children would play here?

Soon, my heart cried out.

Never, my mind stated.

I chose to believe my heart, even though I knew it was lying.

I ran my hands over the door frame. Maya and I had walked through these doors countless times. But today, I was all alone. I swallowed as I realized we would never walk through these doors together again. I realized I would never hear her voice again.

When the first trucks drove up to our village, Maya and I were swimming in the pond. It was a sunny day, not very different from the others. But now that I think of that day, it was different. It was the day we all lost our right to live, we lost our right to speak, our right to exist. That day all those rumors of war flying through one home to another proved to be truth.

“It’s not going to be a good year.” Yusuf explained, eating the guava he had just pulled from the tree.

“The year hasn’t even started.” Maya stated, as she added more water to the mud floors.

“What makes you say that, Yusuf?” I questioned, using the palm of my hand I smoothed the surface where Maya had just poured water.

“It’s an odd year. 1971.” He replied sitting down on the ground.

“You’re just talking rubbish.” Maya said, rolling her eyes. She was always the realistic one. She didn’t believe in superstitions and myths. I was the coward. I was always the one that would be in the sidelines, watching.

“I’m serious. I have noticed the pattern. Odd years are always the bad years. Something always goes wrong. Remember how Nani died last year?” Yusuf said, throwing away the rest of his guava.

“Alright, Professor Yusuf. Whatever you say is right. After all you are the only one that goes to college.” Maya replied dryly.

I noticed the change in Maya’s voice. Nani’s death was difficult for all us, but it had affected Maya the most. Nani was everyone’s grandmother. She didn’t have children of her own, but the entire village was her children, and the children of the village were her grand-children. Maya’s mother had died giving birth to her, so Nani was always the mother Maya never had.

“I’m sorry Maya.” Yusuf apologized, understanding his mistake.

Maya, Yusuf and I were childhood friends. We grew up together and went to school together. But Yusuf, being born as a male, was the only one that could go on to college. All of us were still friends, because Yusuf could never leave us. Actually, he could never leave Maya, because for as long as he lived, he only loved her.

I carved the view ahead of me in my mind. This field, whose crops once fed the entire village, was now a reminder of all those who are gone. It is a reminder of where I lost my two best friends. What had they done to deserve to die? Was it Maya’s fault that she was born and raised as a Hindu? Was it a sin that Yusuf ran to try to the save the life of his only love? What had I done that I had to be held back by soldiers and forced to watch as my best friend was raped over and over again till she died, to hear her screams and pleas? What had I done to watch Yusuf shot in the head as he cried out Maya’s name?

The answer to all those questions is nothing. All of us were innocent. We were just mere victims of the division between Bangladesh and Pakistan. But today, just because I am Muslim, I have the chance to walk away. I am standing here and memorizing this place. This place where I grew up and lived all my life. A few meters away, there’s a truck, waiting for me, to take me somewhere safe, away from war. I can escape from here and start a new life. The razor in my hand makes me question all that I have had to face. My family is waiting for me. I should leave.  But how can I, when both of my friends are waiting for me in heaven?

 

About SALIHA VIP badge

Saliha Rehanaz

My name is Saliha Rehanaz  . I am from Bangladesh, but I grew up moving from one place to another. I’m 16 years old, and I joined Regents at the beginning of this term. I am in Year 12, and I have just began my IB journey. This is the first time I am living in a boarding school away from my family. I love running, baking and fashion designing. I was elected Head Girl a few weeks ago, after a challenging week of campaigning.

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