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On A Quiet Night

A short story on Liberation War

(Translated by Quazi Tanha Fatima)

Published : Saturday, 30 March, 2024 at 12:00 AM  Count : 754

A short story on Liberation War

A short story on Liberation War

Hey, hey, listen child. After hearing the call, he turned his eyes to the left and saw a young man with a stubby beard. No, Swapno was not afraid.

There was a sweet smile on the mans face. He was wearing blue trousers, a white t-shirt, just like a hero in a film. His age was not that much. He will be just of the age of headmasters son Hiran bhai- who studies in the University in Dhaka.

Yes, are you calling me? Swapno asked after a while, getting rid of his thoughts.

Yes, yes, you. What is your fathers name?

My father is not alive.

Not alive? When did he die?

He died during the Liberation War. My father was a freedom fighter.

Do you know, I was also a freedom fighter and that you are my cousin.

You are my cousin? But I have no uncle! And our village home is in Ichapur. None of us had been there. I heard that a cousin of my father lives there. His name is Uncle Ismail. That uncle has a son who is a freedom fighter. We never met him. His name is Parvez. I heard it from my mother.

The man smiled more sweetly and asked did you recognize me? I am your cousin Parvez. So, how is aunty?

Are you talking about my mother?

Yes, yes. How is she?

Mothers health is not good. She cannot see. Father did not return after the liberation war. I heard that he was shot dead by the Pakistani army in the war. I have not seen my father. The country became independent six months after my birth. Mother fell ill due to the grief at fathers death. She became blind because of crying.

What? I don know anything about all this! Lets see aunty.

Swapno pointed with his finger, That is our house. Can you see the two palm tree, the corrugated tin roof house behind those two trees- thats our house.

You go to school, don you?

Yes, my class is from 8 am to 12 noon. I study in the morning shift, in class six. My sister reads in class eight. We study in the same school. Her class is from noon to four in the afternoon.

What is your sisters name?

Parul

Yes, yes, I heard!

How did you hear? We don go to the village. You don even come.

The man smiled. He said with a little hesitation, I heard! Yes, I heard. I saw her once as a child.

Swapnos house was a hundred steps away.

While walking, he became very friendly with the man. His white T shirt seemed to be just as well fitting as that of Hiran bhais when he returned home from the University in Dhaka, during the Eid vacation.

As soon as he they reached home, he ran to tell his mother- Mom, Mom, Parvez vai has come.

Mother couldn see anything. She was doing something in her room. She came out and stood holding the pole of the earthen balcony and said with a smile- which Parvez!

Swapno said, don you know? I mean, Parvez bhai, son of Uncle Ismail of Ichapur. You often talk about him.

Oh, oh, that Parvez? Where? Where are you? Did you remember after so long? How much youve grown up! When- I saw you last maybe you were studying in class eight. Come here.

The man, the new acquaintance of Swapno, Parvez bhai, came forward, touched her feet and said, Here I am, Aunty, here I am. How are you?

How can I be fine! How are your parents?

Well, very well.

How is your sister who talks like a lovebird?

He seemed to stumble a bit. Then he thought a little and said, Yeah, she is also fine.

Is she married?

Yes, no, I mean...

Oh I understand, she is still studying, isn she? Yes, it is very important for girls to study.
Parvez remained silent.

So, go refresh yourself dear. What should I give you to eat in this poor house? Well, you have to visit here for some days. After how long

She couldn say anything more. Suddenly, her words got choked in her throat. She wiped her eyes with the corner of her sari and said-

My boy, I can see anything with my eyes now. I really want to see your face...
She couldn say anything else. Tears broke her voice.

Aunty, don cry. Your eyes will get better. You will see again.

Swapnos mother smiled even in her pain. She did not want to know how she could see again. She looked far-far away with a pair of sightless eyes. Green gardens are in front. Across the garden the field- the paddy seedlings waved by the gentle breeze. What thought made her absent minded?  Suddenly a bird chirped somewhere nearby.

Swapnos mom smiled-

The yellow bird has been calling since morning. It is calling again- Kutum! Kutum!

Some say Kutumbird, some say yellowbird. If it chirps, relatives come home. He has already arrived. Swapnos brother- only, is he a relative? Absolutely, a near and a dear one cousin!

Oh my goodness, the relative h99s come. So why does it chirp again?

Mother laughs at the words of Swapno- Maybe it doesn know that your Brother Parvez has come, it is calling by mistake. Let it chirp as much as it can.

During these two days, Parvez has kept the house well delighted. Apart from Parvez, these two siblings do not seem to understand anything.

Parul can decide what to feed this new brother.

Parvez likes coconuts, custard apples, even lemon leaves with tamarind.

Swapnos dad worked in the railway department. For that, he lived in this suburban railway junction colony. He left his job and went to India during the liberation war. From there he received his training and fought against the Pakistani soldiers.

When the country became independent, Swapnos family got a piece of land here as the family of a martyred freedom fighter , only a few miles away from the junction- in the village.

Their mother has been raising them with great hardship. She planted trees and also raised poultry, cows and goats. She also had two tin roofed houses built- by getting some money from the office of Swapnos father.

Swapno and his family are in harmony with the neighbours. Everyone knows them by name. Everyone loves them too as children of a martyred freedom fighter. Of course, they would love them. Both Swapno and Parul have told the neighbourhood people that their Parvez has come from the village.

Parvez bhai plays carom and ludo with them. He also plays police-detective. They enjoy the fun and so does Parvez bhai. He has no thought of returning. So there they are.

No, Parvez bhai, you can go now.

Parvez laughs at the words of Swapno.

You have to stay for one more month! Parul insists.

Parvez laughs but doesn say anything.

That evening the moon had risen like a ball. The sky was full of stars. There was also a little wind. They were sitting on a date leaf mat in the yard to talk. Swapno suddenly insisted on listening to the story of the liberation war.

Parul also followed suit.

Parvez bhai, you have fought the liberation war. Please tell us how you fought?

-Do you want to here?

-Yes, we will.

He thought for a bit. Then Parvez bhai started- I mean, it was very dark then. Deep night. The Sun was in the sky. There were a lot of waves in the river. The fireflies were lighting...

Suddenly Parul asked in surprise-

What did you say? The sun rises at night!

Swapno also said the same Are you crazy? How could the sun rise at night?

Parvez bhai stopped a little. Then he smiled and said, No, the Moon. The moon rose.

Then what? Parul said.

Yes, then we ran with guns to kill the Pakistani forces. Many Pakistani soldiers died in the battle. I also died...
What did you say? How did you come here if you died?

Parvez bhai stopped again at Swapnos words. Then he thought a little and said, No, I mean my father died.

Swapno screamed, What did you say. What did you say...? Uncle Ismail died while fighting but we don know. So what you said to mom that day that your father, I mean Uncle Ismail is fine.

As if Parvez bhai stumbled again. He stopped and said, Not my father, your father.

Swapno and Parul, both siblings, suddenly became silent. Their eyes filled up with tears on hearing about their father.

Their voices become heavy. Parul wanted to know in a trembling voice, So you fought with my father? We didn know that until now. You never told us that before only?

Both ran together and told the news to their mother.

Parul said in a crying voice, Mom, Dad fought with Parvez bhai against the Pakistani Army. And he died in that battle.
Who said that? Is it true?

Yes, mother. Parvez said.

Mother seemed to be a little happy with Swapnos words. She felt that after many years she at least, got to know the news of the battle in which Swapnos father was martyred. So far, she had only heard from people that he died in battle but she didn know where that battle took place.

She was sleeping alone in her room. As soon as she heard these words, she came rushing out.

Parvez, dear Parvez! In which war was he martyred? Tell me. Where is his grave- you certainly know! Please tell me?
No, Parvez was not there. Where did he go?

Swapnos mom called a lot. The palm leaf mat on the courtyard by as it was. Parvez bhai was not there.

Both Parul and Swapno searched the whole neighbourhood. They didn find him anywhere. They didn sleep all night. They passed the night staying awake. Mothers mind was restless.

She decided to go to Ichapur that day. She would go to Parvez to know where the grave of Swapnos father is. She will find the grave. She will visit his grave. Swapno and Parul will touch the soil of their fathers grave. They will give flowers and light incense there.

No, there is no more sorrow in them. There are smiles on their faces. Its like the happiness of Eid in their eyes. Mom is as happy as them today.

When they reached Ichapur in the evening, the path was looking unfamiliar to them. A lot had changed. The river was also dried up, but one day this Bhairab had a wave in its chest! And the boats with colourful sails used to go by. How nice it was to see. The unpaved road that went along the river is now paved. Electricity and telephone wires lay on both sides of the road. The dense jungles of the north are no more. However, it is not difficult to recognize the mosque.

Passing the mosque, Ismail Hossains house is a little further on the right. There are bundles of hay  in front of the house. It was long, shiny, tin roof house.

Parul and Swapno started shouting together as they approached the house-
Parvez bhai, Parvez bhai, we have come! Why did you evade us?

A college-aged girl looked out from the window of the house at their call.

Whom are you calling?

Parvez bhai Swapno replied.

Parvez bhai? But who are you?

We live in Khairtala, I mean Jessore. My fathers name is Altaf Hossain. Mother came with us. She is standing there.
The girl came out then. She held the lantern high in her hand.

Who are you? asked Swapnos mom.

Im Kusum. You? Saying this, the girl came closer.

Swapnos mother cried and hugged her- You can recognize me. I can see you either. I am blind, dear. I am your unfortunate aunt.

Aunty? How are you aunty? I don remember your face, but I heard about you from my mother.

My lovebird, how are you?

Kusum. That little Kusum, who talked like a lovebird. That Kusum is much grown up now. Swapnos mom guessed by patting her head- how grown up she is now!

Kusum took her into the room as if she was in her arms.

Kusums mother came rushing and hugged her. Both cried for a long time.

Swapnos mother wiped the corners of her eyes with the corner of her sari and asked Kusum- Well, where is Parvez, and also your father? I am not seeing him either.

As if suddenly the whole room startled. No one was talking. Kusums mother just let out a sigh. That sigh was like a pain which made everyones mind cry. There was silence..Swapnos mother was going to say something. Before she started, Kusum said- Parvez bhai was martyred in the war of liberation in nineteen seventy one, and dad- its been five years today- with a one-day fever...

She couldn say anything anymore. Kusum burst into tears- Aunty, you don know anything, do you?
Swapnos mom started to feel dizzy, as if she felt a mysterious light in her blind eyes.

But how! Impossible! What you say is it true!
Why aunty! Don you believe it? Look there- under the tree of coral jasmine. Fathers grave is there and Parvez was martyred while fighting against the Pakistani forces in the battle of Shatrujitpur near Magura. The freedom fighters won that war.  They could not rescue Brother Parvezs dead body. His body was shattered by machine gun fire of the Pakistani Army.
Parul and Swapno were also surprised at Kusums words. It was incredible.

But Parvez bhai went to our house a few days ago. He stayed two days. What fun we had. He told the story of the liberation war. He said that dad was also with him. They fought together against the Pakistani Army.

Kusum was shocked by Paruls words- What are you saying! Thats impossible. No! Never. Everythings wrong.
No, not wrong. Sister Kusum. I was on my way home from school. He was wearing blue trousers, white shirt, and a new watch, and he had a big mole on the right side of his chin and a stubby beard. Parvez bhai told me- he is my cousin. I didn know him before. He gave his identity and then he went home with me, stayed for two days. Where did he go last night without telling us anything?

His mother agreed with Swapnos words- Yes, thats right. Thats why I came. To know why the boy came without telling us anything and he said that Swapnos father also fought the liberation war with him. He was martyred in that battle. I thought, and then he would know exactly where his grave is. So I rushed here to find out.

Kusums whole body trembled. She couldn believe these events, but how could she disbelieve either? On the day Parvez bhai went to the liberation war, he was wearing new blue pants, white T-shirt and a new citizen watch. He also had a mole on the right side of his chin. There was a stubby beard on his face. So ?

Kusum cried out loudly-
Aunty, if what you are saying is true then is Parvez brother really alive! But where is he? Why didn he come here?
It was a deep night. With the chirp of crickets and the flickering light of fireflies, the whole village seemed to be filled with enchanted sadness.

Kusum opened the window and looked at the faraway darkness. If really brother comes.

If such an impossible really happens before the light of dawn breaks through the darkness of the night, then...
There are no words in everyones mouth. What a cool atmosphere all around. The wind blew in the far distance. The round moon is covered with clouds but it peeps again like a golden spot.






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