‘Was that a bad dream?’ Khaled was stooping down on hers and was caressing her hair. She had woken up, with beaded perspiration covering her forehead, in spite of the four bladed fan going swish swish over their bed.
She just sighed, ‘I am fine, go back to sleep.’
Khaled turned around and slowly drifted back to his deep slumber but Arifa just could not.
Every now and then, she would reconstruct that fateful day back in Calcutta, when she saw a new dimension to the human psyche as the facades of her some of dear ones were stripped to its naked ugliness.
There had been a buzz in the air for days. There were talks of dividing the country into two, ‘partition’ they kept calling it. Stoked by both sides of the debate, things were literally heating up to enforce their respective agendas.
Arifa was oblivious to all that. There had been occasional discussions at the dinner table about moving to Pakistan to the east, possibly to Dhaka or to Chittagong, where they still owned property and where the family had originated from six generations back. To her, those places were beyond her grasp of imagination. Murshidabad, the seat of the Nawabs of Bengal and the place of her birth, and Calcutta, where she has blossomed through her schooling and it’s cosmopolitan trappings, was her world, her realm of existence, and hopefully her future. Her father had passed away twelve years back when she was only six, and her mother four years later, but her three brothers never let her or her two sisters feel their void. Within the realm of a liberal, educated, upper-middles class Muslim household, she had her freedom of friends, going to the cinemas and plays, going for drives with her bhabis around Chowrongee and the Gorer Math, and even the occasional renting of a small barge with all her nephews and nieces, her brothers and their wives, and sail down on the Hoogly and literally gawk at the monstrous Howrah Bridge from below.
Murshidabad was somewhat more conservative. The biggest event was the Nawab’s fete, Held on December 9th every year, her birthday, on the grounds of the Hazar Duari Palace. There the invites were treated to savories and chicken pieces coated in almonds, served in petit little forks. The rest of the year was spend within the confines of the Mussalman Para, a big chunk of which was owned by her Nana and majority of the occupants were tenants, called ‘Projas’. Between the idyllic settings of the palace grounds, her childhood home, the sandy shores of the Ganga, and her schooling in Calcutta, she had a perfect life. As soon as the schools and colleges would close, her family would board the train from Howrah and descended on Murshidabad till it was time to return. It was a time to reconnect with the extended chain of uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, near and distant cousins, childhood friends, and the best part was, there was a always a wedding to attend within these broods.
Now she was in Chandpur, a sleepy little town on the shores of the mighty Meghna, where the other side of the bank was visually non-existent. Consisting of a large number of bungalow type house with corrugated roofs, there were only a handful of pucca houses, one of which they now occupied. The branch of the newly established National Bank of Pakistan was located downstairs, while they occupied the two bedroom flat upstairs. It was what they called a ‘junction’ town, so access to Dhaka and Chittagong was not problematic, but she felt at piece there. Khaled was literally feted as a celebrity here, the handsome debonair banker who had been given the responsibility of opening a branch of one of the biggest banks of the country. As his wife, she was the centre of the social scene, albeit a very small one, that included the wives of two other bankers, the tax collector, and superintendent of the police. As per Dhaka, it was depressing in its totally provincial pettiness of scaled down amenities, Chittagong was pretty but it was nice to be out of the grasp of her Uncle-in-law Shahed Chacha, whose grounds her husband literally worshipped, Murshidabad had become a place across the border, and Calcutta, oh well, it had become a city of betrayal, a place turned out to be a another façade of sorts, hiding the ugliest of human emotions and prejudices behind the facades of its architectural grandness and intellectual hot air.
Elora was a dear, dear friend of hers, both in their first year at Lady Brabourne College. Seated on the bench coincidentally on the very fist day of classes, these two initially shy girls immediately took to each other. When it was ‘discovered’ that her mother was also originally from Murshidabad as well, the friendship was firmly cemented, to the point, her bhabis, specially the Calcutta born older one accompanied her to their places every now and then and the friendship had spilled over to familial terms. Elora had an older sister called Ajanta, already married, but since the husband was in ‘Beelaat’ to become a Barrister, she was back in her parents’ household for the time being. Kabita was the little darling who was only in class four but wise beyond her ages, and spoilt rotten by the two elder sisters, since there were none others, especially boys in the form of brothers to lavish their attention upon. Their house on the vicinity of Hazra Street was a semi-palatial one, which obviously had seen better days, now partitioned into three of their families, but none-the-less grand, with its marbled floors, Greco-roman columns and a vast inner courtyard that was used for everything from drying pulse seeds and rice, to airing the laundry to family get-togethers.
Elora had invited her over the next day to come spend the day with her. It was the 15th of August, Arifa remembered very clearly. The two spent hours on the college grounds chatting, and planning, and then someone had burst the bubble.
‘Baba is not sending me to college tomorrow. Something called the Direct Action Day and hartal. Baba said it may get out of hand.’ Upoma’s father worked in the Calcutta police department, therefore the source was reliable.
‘What then?’ Elora had grumbled. All her plans, including coaxing her father to take all the girls to the cinema was crumbling. She had her mind set on watching Subah Shayam and fantasize about her P.C. Barua.
‘Nothing to do then. Just have to do it another day’, the ever practical Arifa had responded,.
“Nah, you come this evening. Stay overnight.’
Staying overnight anywhere was not well looked upon under any circumstances. One advantage with this household was that, other than Elora’s father, there were no other male members in the household, which her Bhabi knew very well. Since she would be staying with them, convincing her to agree to the overnight soiree should not be a problem.
Boro Bhabi, as expected, agreed, but Boro Bhai did not. However, in all matters of the household, Bhabi had the upper hand, reinforced by her snapping remarks and her cascading voice that was tantamount to a shrill when she was contradicted.
‘Oh leave it.’ She had snapped over his ‘concerns’. “I know them, remember? Besides, it will be good for her to spend some time with those girls during the hartal instead of being cooped up right here all day. Elora is exactly her age and her mother is from Dokkhin Para for Murshidabad, your home….Didn’t I mention that before?’
Her Bahbi’s occasional outbursts would leave Arifa somewhat perturbed in favor of her brother, but this time it was to her advantage. She managed to suppress her smile which wanted to erupt from ear to ear.
So, after having tea with biscuits, a tomtom was duly summoned, and her Boro Bhai and Bhabi, their two children, and Arifa, with a small cloth bag, and her clandestine copy of ‘Chokher Bali’ wrapped inside her clothes, got on the car.
‘It is wise not to go to the cinema tonight.’ Elora’s father had opined, and therefore that was that.
The earlier part of the evening was spent gossiping about their class-mates, the upcoming marriages of some of them and their grooms, and of-course their matinee idols. Elora’s knowledge of the Calcutta drama scene was vast, and could recount in vivid details each and every scene, along with the features of the actor. The latest play to be witnessed by the family was Bijan Bhattacharya's 'Nabanna', and obviously it had left a mark on her psyche. When Arifa asked about it, Elora got all animated and explained how realistic the production was, away from all the over-dramatization that was synonymous with Bengali films and dramas.
‘Dhoor, I did not like it at all’, Kabita finally managed to pipe in within the exuberant description of the play.
After a lull of a second, Elora exploded. ‘See Arifa? This is why little babies like her should not be allowed to see these plays. A waste of a seat, that’s what it is, when more deserving people cannot even find tickets.’
Kabita’s eyes welled up, which irritated Elora even more. “Ouf, I cannot even say anything without the Ganga flooding everything. Just watch Arifa, she will start bawling and go to Maa, and Baba will descend upon me to save his precious youngest daughter.’
As predicted, Kabita started the motion of getting off the bed and dash towards the room down the hall where their parents were.
‘See, I told you.’ screamed Elora.
Arifa, seeing the situation getting out of hand, grabbed Kabita’s hand before she could slip away and held her back in a tight embrace. ‘Ahare, why do you say such things?’ She asked Elora.
Elora just winced, arched her eyebrows, and trying her best to sound as cold as possible asked, ‘So, do you want to hear about the rest of the play or not?’.
Arifa wiped away little Kabita’s tears and cheerfully said ‘Keep going.’
Eventually dinner was served in the room downstairs next to the kitchen and they were summoned. Professing modernity, the whole family dined every night on the huge marble top dining table with solid brass plates and glasses. About to enter the room, she noticed that one porcelain plate and a glass were being hurriedly replaced with the similar brass utensils. Mashi Ma was telling this elderly man, must have been be the Thakur, ‘Haven’t I told you a number of times that these things are not to happen in my household’? She had walked in just at that importune moment and she was somewhat embarrassed. ‘Come in Maa, just sit anywhere you like, except that one’, pointing at the head table. ‘Ajanta’s Baba will sit there’.
Arifa smiled. She knew exactly what had taken place prior to her entry in the dining room. The Thakur, the cook of the household must have been from the old school. Not willing to pollute the utensils with the touch of non-Hindu, he lad laid out a separate set of plate and glass just for her, which, she was sure, was kept in a separate cupboard all together. Her own Murshidabad household was no different. Her father also kept a set of plates for his pundit friends. Narayan Babu was a dear friend of her father’s, albeit from the old school, who, other than well versed in Sanskrit, had rudimentary knowledge of Farsi, in which her father excelled, and they would talk for hours. In fact, she as a child had to sit cross legged at his feet in their huge verandah downstairs along with her older siblings and learn the tenants of Sanskrit grammar from him. Every time he visited, her mother would ‘borrow’ the Brahmin maid from the household next door and food was served through her.
Mashi Ma was famous for her spicy fish cooked on open fire wrapped in banana leaves. In Arifa’s honour, the fete was repeated, which delighted all the women in the family.
Arifa for a few seconds contemplated whether to put the anchol of her sari over her head as a sign of respect for her elders as practiced at home. Usually whenever any older relatives visited, whether male or female, it was customary to do so. However, a quick glance around the table told her it was not necessary.
‘So Arifa, what has your family decided? This side or that side? ‘
‘Jee?’ She had put the first morsel of rice and fish in her mouth, which had exploded into a spicy explosion of taste and aroma and she savoring the whole essence of it.
‘I am just asking, if this Pakistan happens, your family will go in which direction? After all, what I know you come from an educated Muslim family. Both your brother and brother in law are Shibpur graduates; in my opinion this Pakistan thing is not for people like you. It is for those illiterates in East Bengal.. Let them have their Pakistan, and in five years they will want to come back into the fold.’
Arifa didn’t have an answer. Ajanta was busy helping her mom passing the vegetable dish, and Kabita was relishing her food. Elora looked absolutely uncomfortable, and after a quick glance at Arifa, tried to make eye contact with her mom to restrain her father.
“Aare, leave it. No partition fartition talk on this table. Don’t ruin my efforts with the fish by talking of all this rubbish. It happened in 1905 and see what happened? Just eat, will you??’
Relieved from being removed from the spot-light she complemented her on the fish. Eventually the talks moved back to the movies. Jathamoshai had gone nostalgic and was talking about the first film the family watched together. he ever saw, some film called ‘Niyoti’ back in 1939.
Mashi Ma started giggling. ‘He was more interested in Kamala Devi and Hena Devi. He even bought me a sari that was just like the movie…..’. Catching a glimpse of her husband, she stopped, aware that she had said a bit too much already.
Rest of the meal went smoothly, basically limited to conversations about the latest songs, followed by rosgoolas. ‘Not as good as Nabin Babu’s but not bad either……’ Opined Jathamoshai.
Ajanta, being married, had been assigned a bedroom of her own even though her husband was abroad. What was now Elora’s room was still shared by Kabita and tonight it would also be Arifa’s. There was only one toilet in the upper floor, and therefore there was a queue for toiletries. Arifa being the guest, she went last and came back dressed in a cotton sari with a simple golden zari edge.
Elora took a look and retorted ‘Bapre, you are becoming a Bairagee or what?’
Kabita was cajoled into falling asleep and eventually the copy of ‘Choker Bali’ came out. Both Arifa and Elora had both read the book at least a few times, but since they were both ‘forbidden’ to read the book, it had a cult status between them and her friends. To make matters juicier, Arifa had found this copy among her mother’s belongings in a trunk after she had passed away years later, with a scribbling on the front from her father to her mother.
Both fell asleep after reading aloud from selected sections of the book.
Next morning, they were woken up by Ajanta who brought in two cups of sweet tea and a plate full of hot steaming luchis into the room. Since Fazlul Haq had already declared the day to be a holiday ahead of the hartal, a leisurely pace seemed to have resumed. Arifa came out of the room into the balcony facing the inner courtyard and saw Mashi Ma sipping tea on an easy chair. She smiled and gestured Arifa to come forward. Very gently she took hold of her hand and asked ‘Did you sleep well, Maa?’
Arifa swallowed hard and nodded. She was at a loss of words. Her mother used to occasionally use exactly the same words.
The rest of the day was a mild cacophony of sounds. Songs blaring on the All India Radio somewhere, vendors screaming their wares of vegetables, one or two singing beggars, the occasional horn and the ringing of the tom-tom bells, with the girls splayed out on the beds with various books and magazines, but after lunch there seemed to be an eerie silence. Ajanta worked on her cross-stitch, Mashi Ma busied herself in the kitchen to see what was in the works for supper, and Kabita, after busying herself with hopscotch with her cousins in the next wing, came back and fell asleep on the bed.
What transfixed the household was a faint ‘Naraye Takbir’, followed by ‘Allahu Akbar’, followed by screaming at a distant, eventually dieing out. Jathamoshai came out of somewhere and announced, ‘No need to go out today. The whole city has been engulfed in a danga.’ Now Arifa was worried. Her Boro Bhai and Bhabi were supposed to pick her late in the afternoon.
By the time night descended, in spite of the relative silence of Hazra Street, all kinds of rumors were coming in. Stories of outright butchery, of throats being slit, of people burnt alive or cruelly beaten to death, of Hindus torching shops in Muslim neighborhoods and vice versa…..Arifa and the girls were forbidden to go outdoors and even to downstairs. They were also told to stay away from windows lest they were ‘observed’ by someone.
Compared to the relative joviality of last night’s dinner, this night’s was a dark somber affair. Thanks to the black out, a kerosene lamp was put at the centre of the table on top of old tin of English biscuits so that the whole table could be illuminated. The ghostly shadows it cast on the faces was even more eerie. The meal was finished without a word exchanged. Because of the stifling heat, eventually the household help was instructed to lay out the charpoys on the roof. That turned out to be another depressing experience altogether. There were ambers glowing in a distance in every direction, fires and remnants of fire were evident all around.
The next morning, Jathamoshai was devouring the paper over the cup of tea and biscuits. The headlines said it all. The photographs printed showed bodies lying on the streets. There were also reports of police inaction and a picture of Suhrawardy talking to reporters. It was obvious that the reports were going to fuel more agitation and retaliatory actions between the two communities now.
Arifa desperately wanted to be home. There was no sign of her Boro Bhai since yesterday. He had not been able to come and pick her up for obvious reasons but she also could not but help being accusatory towards him.
The tension in the household was visible. No one was talking much except for Kabita, who, initially ecstatic about not having to go to school, but by noon was bored to smithereens and wanted to go. Ajanta was busy with her mom in the kitchen while the two of them was idling away on the verandah as usual with fans in hand and sipping tea.
Their uncle from the next wing paid a visit.
‘Dada’, he came straight out to Jathamoshai. ‘Just heard that you have been a keeping a Musaalman girl in the household. Is it true?’ The conversation taking place downstairs was very audible in the verandah upstairs.
“Yes, Elora’s friend from college is here. They are very close. You have seen her before……”
‘SO IT IS TRUE’. He bellowed. He did not let him finish the sentence. “Has your head gone totally malfunctional? I see that you are reading the paper. What is going on, have you no clue? If some of the people in the Para find out that there is Musallman girl in the house at a time like this, do you know what kind of danger our household will fall into?’
Elora grasped Arifa’s hand and pulled. “Arifa, come into the room.’ But she took her time to un-wrap her hand and go though the motion of putting her sandals on. She wanted to hear more.
‘Either someone will torch us for harboring her or some Musaalman gundas will do the same in the name of saving her. Dada, think. And send the girl home.’
‘How will she? The situation in the city……’
‘I don’t know and don’t want to know. Get rid of her somehow. Just remember, you have three young girls in your own home and you have other nephews and nieces in this house as well. Think of them, will you?’ And he was gone.
Arifa could feel her ears turning red with an acute burning sensation. At the end of the verandah she could see Mashi Ma biting into her anchol, and Ajanta with her hands on her mother’s shoulder. They took a quick glance towards her and quickly disappeared into the rooms.
Elora was pulling her again. ‘Come inside, will you?’
Arifa looked at her friend’s face, whose eyes were welling up with tears of embarrassment. Arifa tried her best to put on a brave face and tried to smile to reassure her friend.
‘Kobita, where are you? Can you ask your father to come upstairs?’ Mashi Ma was calling from that room.
Diligently Kabita reappeared from somewhere and bellowed out, ‘Agge Maa, going..’
Elora’s father duly appeared upstairs, clutching a corner of his dhoti in his hands.
‘Don’t take any of that to heart. My uncle is somewhat like that. Nothing will happen, just wait and see….” Elora was trying to reassure Arifa. But she didn’t have any idea how or what to respond to. She took one of the magazines lying in bed and started fidgeting with it.
Meanwhile the conversation two rooms down between Jatha Moshai and Mashi Ma was becoming audible due to the rising octaves.
‘What he said, was is true? There are three young girls, do you hear me, three….girls in this household. If anything happens to them, I will…..’ Mashi Ma was saying.
‘Maa, will you stop? They can hear you.’ It was Ajanta.
This time it was Arifa whose eyes were welling up.
A few seconds later Jatha was in the room and found his second daughter holding her friend in a tight embrace, with both girls sobbing.
“Maa, as I was saying,’ Jatha Moshai was obviously addressing Arifa. “Your brother was supposed to pick you up yesterday. Is there any way you can contact him to pick you up? As you can see, the situation in the city is quite dangerous. You should be home with your family’.
‘Baba, how do you think she will go? Her Dada obviously could not come yesterday. I am sure he will come once it is safe.’
‘Yes I know….’ he was avoiding all eye contact and was rubbing his head with hand. After a quick glance at the girls, he made his exit.
Mashi Ma was just outside the room. “What did she say?’
‘Aha…will you please be quiet?’ The girls could hear the pair of them going down the verandah.
A few seconds late Mashi Ma's voice was loud and clear. “Elora, come to this room, right now!’
Once Elora made it there, there was no holding back as far as voices were concerned.
‘Who told you to ask her to stay over? You and your ideas from college……Why did you dig a canal and bring that alligator right into our house?? Ajanta’s husband is in London and there are still the two of you to think off. No matter how, all of you make some arrangement to get her out of this house. Did any of you hear me?’
Meanwhile Arifa had come out of her room, holding on to Kabita’s hand and had proceeded to the door of the room. She just wanted to reassure her hosts that hopefully she will go as soon as her brother showed up, but she didn’t get a chance to say anything.
Mashi Ma took a look at the two of them and addressed her youngest. “What are you doing out there?’ She yanked little Kabita out of her hand and slammed the door shut.
‘Maa…..’ it was Elora inside the room, sounding totally grief-stricken and alarmed.
Arifa all of a sudden could not feel her legs. She wanted to run, just anywhere, but preferably just run down the stairs and out to the streets and run all the way home if she had to. But her legs were frozen. Her mind was going numb to.
She just stood there, for what seemed like forever.
Elora burst out of the room, and took hold of Arifa hand and ran towards their room. Arifa noticed that eyes had already puffed up, with copious amounts of tears flowing down.
But Arifa’s legs remained frozen. She could not respond to Elora’s gesture and fell face forward on the verandah. All she could see was a dizzying array of stars followed by a throbbing pain on her forehead.
Elora turned her around and screamed, ‘Maago... .’. Once Arifa’s eyes got back into focus, she could see the look of total anguish in her eyes. Arifa could also feel something warm flowing down on her from around her forehead towards her temple. Obviously she was bleeding.
“Didi, Maa, Baba, come here quickly’, Elora was literally shouting between her sobs.
First to come out instantly was Kabita, who saw Arifa’s bloodied face and started crying.
She was followed by Ajanta, her Didi, who immediately came to Arifa’s side.
Her parents came out of the room in unison and looked down on the lying Arifa a very short distance away.
Now Mashi Ma had started bawling. Then all of a sudden she raised her right hand and brought it down on her forehead in a loud thump. “He Ram….save me. When danger comes, it comes in droves’. Jatha Moshai by this time was obviously coming to his senses. “Will you leave your drama behind and see if she is hurt?’. However Mashi Ma’s crying was accompanied by heaving bosoms, and a distorted face. In that state, she slowly turned around and went back to her room, continuing to sob on the bed.
“Ajanta, go see you mother, Kabita, hold on to Arifa’s hand and pull slowly….Elora don’t let go…pick her up slowly and take her to your room…..’. He was hovering over them, not sure whether to actually make any physical contact with Arifa, but seeing Kabita’s ineptitude, he finally put his hand behind the fallen girl’s shoulder and gently pushed her up.
What followed was a frenzy. Lying down in bed, Arifa could smell and feel the boric powder diluted in water on her forehead. Kabita kept massaging her hand for no particular reason, her father was frantically pacing up and down the room, and Elora kept mumbling ‘Arifa….Arifa….’ There were two or three unknown female faces in the room staring down at her from the door frame. One was nudging the other,’ That is that Musallman girl…….’ “Elora, I am sending you some bandages to dress her. Have to stop her bleeding.’ Arifa figured out they must have been Elora’s aunts from the greater household. Her mother was nowhere to be seen.
The bandages arrived and Elora with the help of one of the aunts, put Arifa’ head in few loops of dressing with cotton inside. A bit later, the area of the cut was saturated with blood and tuned a garish red, but the bleeding seemed to have stopped. She just leaned her head on the wall and sat up on the bed. She desperately wanted to be in her room in her own house right now, and to be cared for by her bhabis and not this lot, to whom she had become a tremendous liability since this morning. She missed the touch of her own mother’s caring hands.
She started sobbing uncontrollably.
The aunts, having done their duty and somewhat caught in an emotional situation, quickly made their exits, both wiping away tears. Jatha Moshai also made his exit. Ajanta was fanning Arifa furiously. All Elora could do at this point was put her head on Arifa’s head and sob with her friend.
Boro Bhai finally came around six in the afternoon that day. The usually meticulous man with pomaded hair and pressed shirt had looked totally disheveled. He was told to wait in the formal living room as Arifa was sent for. Ajanta and Elora flanked her on both sides and brought her to the room. Bhai literally jumped out of her chair and rushed towards her, almost knocking Ajanta of from her side. “What happened to you?’ and turned on Elora,”What happened to my little sister?’ Elora has tremendous respect for Arifa’s brother, who sometime had also dropped her home from college.
‘Yes, I mean….’ Elora started, but by that time her father also entered the room.
‘Nomoshkar, Boro Babu’, he greeted boro bhai, whose name he didn’t know except that he was the oldest brother of Arifa’s. “Yes, your sister tripped on the balcony upstairs. You know these restless girls…..We didn’t get a chance to take her to a doctor…you know the situation outside…none of us have dared to venture out on the streets today. If you can, take her to one, on the way to your home’. He had emphasized ‘your’ home…
‘Bhiaya, cholo’, Arifa finally said, breaking the awkward silence. ‘Didi, so I am leaving for today?’ she addressed Ajanta, who barely managed a smile and nodded. She just gently touched Kabita’s cheek who responded, “Arifa Di, when will you come again?’.
‘Yes, I will’, Arifa said, and faced Jatha Moshai. She wanted to lean down and touch his feet to show her respect but as she leaned forward, her head started throbbing and she pulled up. ‘No No, leave it, Maa, no reason for that in this situation’.
Elora did not need to be addressed. She just patted her hand.
‘Bhaiya, cholo’, she had said again, and proceeded towards the door. No tom-tom outside but a rickshaw with a scrawny looking coolie was waiting. As her brother was helping her on the rickshaw, a female voice, that of the Mashi Ma’s came out. ‘Arifa, you and your brother didn’t eat anything. Have a cup of tea at least’.
Arifa’s stomach was churning with hunger. She had refused to eat lunch under the grueling emotional circumstances of the day, nor had the family pressed her to eat anything against her wishes.
Now Mashi Ma was coming down the stairs towards the rickshaw and had raised her right hand as if to touch Arifa’s forehead. “Mashi Ma, another day……’ and turned her face forward. Almost in a commanding voice that startled her brother sitting next to her, she addressed the coolie, ‘Cholo’.
That event seemed like it was eons ago….
Khaled had gone off to his bank branch downstairs, and after going through a few pages of ‘Golpoguccho’, Arifa decided to go for a walk. She had not slept well and was felling somewhat restless. There were still remnants of the monsoon clouds in the sky and there was a nice breeze flowing. She summoned her maid Majeda and proceeded towards the riverbanks, a barely fifteen minutes walk. Once there, she felt at peace, the wide expanse of the Meghna being a visual treat, with the sounds of the waves gently crashing on the shore complimenting that scenario. So different from the rivers she was used to, she thought. A small strand of her hair flicked upon her face and she raised her hand to put that back in its place. As she did that, the tip of her fingers felt the small bump created after that fall on that verandah just a few years back. She always took care to hide that with a gently curved strand of her hair. This time for a few seconds, the fingers lingered on it, feeling the small anomaly on the skin that had become permanent. She looked around, at felt at peace as the wind hit her face once again. Yes, it was so different here……