"Indira Gandhi saved my family", the woman said, looking at the poster fixed to the wall of her house. She was a Bangladeshi woman born in India. A Hindu: the red dot on her head, the tilak, gave her away. When the war broke out her parents fled their home, her mother carrying her in her womb across the border into India. There, they were given rice and a tent to sleep in.
It was here, in a refugee camp, that our woman was born. A woman as old as the country that emerged that year. And before long, just as experienced in battling the odds.
When they felt it was safe the family returned to their homeland which now bore a different name and far fewer Hindus.
And so life continued. The woman, then still a girl, went to school. She owned only one uniform and each day when she came home she washed and dried it in the sun, every day, for years. She learnt how to sing and to play the harmonica.
She prayed to God but maybe God was too busy, maybe he didn't hear, or maybe he had a different plan that day.
The water came in the night: big waves, cold water. The rain hammering on the roof and the storm tearing at the walls. Her parents sat in the kitchen, arms folded around their chests, they shouted: "You save your self and we'll save the house." It is believed in her village that if you abandon your home during a storm the storm will prey on your empty house. But this night the storm didn't respect legend: The water spared their lives but took the hut.
They held out on a roof top for days. Crying, starving. They plucked coconuts to eat, and then when the water finally retreated, they did what they always did, what this country had always done:
Build it again, a bit better this time.
And while they fixed what was broken, because that's what you do, the family slept in a tent.
What tent? The ones the Indians had given them, 17 years old by then, just like our woman. My parents taught me not to throw anything away, she said. // #Bangladeshtales2017 #talesfromthenotebook -----
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