The events depicted in story are partially fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental. I dedicate this story to all the heroes of 1971 Liberation War, some of who may not be breathing, but still occupies a special place in all our hearts.
To readers who did not read the previous piece, ‘Marjaan’, can read it later after this. The story plots do not likably collide directly.
Agony. Treachery. Unjustness. Only Allah knew what else was yet to come. I was tired of hiding. Hiding from the callous, meaningless forces — who called themselves the Pakistani Army. If those ruthless animals found Zainab was running away from them, they’d simply slaughter her. After all, she was a Pakistani by blood too. Love and fear spliced like indissoluble lovers.
“How long do I have to hide?” she asked me as tears fell from her eyes.
“Till Allah wills. And whatever he wills, happens for the best. Always remember that.”
“This is all because of me. You came to Pakistan to take me back. I won’t ever, in a million years, be able to return that favor.”
My fingers full of dirt touched her cheeks as I wiped her tears. “Not a million years. You have already returned the favor more than a million times. By loving me each and every heartbeat.”
Our marriage anniversary is just a few weeks away. My Zainab will be happy as I will gift her the ring she loved most. Before meeting her in Pakistan, I went to the shop and purchased that ring, Marjaan, with almost all my savings. Indeed, it is the most precious, gorgeous ring in Pakistan.
14th December, 1971
The Magrib Azaan took place. I did ablution to prepare myself for Namaaz. I went to the mosque to pray, and when I came back, I couldn’t find Zainab. I looked for her in the kitchen, the balcony, but she wasn’t to be found anywhere. I took my infant son, and went to one of my aunt’s house. She was a political figure, so I could be reassured from security issues.
“Take care of him. If I don’t come back even if this war ends, raise him.”
I went to Mirpur, where the Pakistani Army Camps were situated. There was a whole crowd of Army chanting, “Humko koi nehi marsakta!” I saw a lot of children crying. Some of them were being beaten in front of me by the Pakistani Army. A few armies were rounding something. As I went a bit closer, I saw many men sitting in the ground, blindfolded. Guns were pointed to their heads. I learnt Urdu from Zainab. I asked one of those armies, “Yeh kaun hain?”
He looked at me like I asked him an offensive question. He said nothing for a moment. He later told me, “Kuch kaminey lok. Buddhijibi bulaate hain.”
The armies later chanted, “Pakistan, Zindabaad!” One of the army reloaded his shotgun to shoot one of the blindfolded people there, but I shouted, “Naaaa! Isko nehi marna!”
I created silence. Everyone looked at me. I was hoping in this chance Zainab would show up too, but instead, some men held my hands from behind. I was surrounded.
“Yeh Pakistani nehi hain! Mardaal isko” The army whom I asked a question punched me. The next thing I remember is waking up in a dark room. I was a prisoner. The next 30 hours went horrible for me. I was tortured.
The only thing I could think of was Zainab. Her memories made all the pain vanish into ashes.
16th December, 1971
I took a nap as I leaned my back against the wall.
“Zayed! Wake up!”
I knew that voice. Without opening my eyes, I smiled. It was Zainab. She was in Pakistani Army uniform.
“Yes dear. Get up. You have to escape.”
“Why did you leave me?”
“I was caught by them. I made a story up to save myself. I will tell you about it later. Just get up.”
She opened the locks and came to me.
“Here’s some money Zayed. Meet me in the football field in Savar. They surrendered. We won.”
“Happy anniversary Zainab.”
She started crying. She hugged me, and took me out of the prison. I went inside one of the army cars, where there were other Bangladeshis too. It was a new day. A new Bangladesh.
Years passed, but my Zainab didn’t come meet me. I went to the Savar football field every day, but she didn’t show up. I couldn’t give her Marjaan, her dream ring.
Many years later a handsome man showed up at my door. My son, who was expecting his first child, opened a door.
“Baba! This man wants to talk about Amma! Could you come please?”
As soon as I heard it, I came to see him. I had seen him somewhere. It was her brother, Waqas.
“She was slaughtered. They found out she was betraying her nation.” He said.
I breathed difficulty for a bit, and then replied, “She wasn’t betraying her nation. She was respecting humanity. Those ruthless animals doesn’t deserve to be called humans.”
I couldn’t give my ring to Zainab. My one and only grandson, Riyaz is going to propose to his love of life soon. I will gift him this. This ring not only carries my bond with Zainab, it carries the pain and strength one had to go through during the liberation war. I believe Riyaz will take care of Marjaan.