It had been many years since I had even heard from him. I have no idea how he got my number but It didn't matter. I was very happy that he had called. And I told him why his call was extra special. There was a fairly good reason to think that he was dead. After all, we all belong to the so-called fabled generation of 1971. If death didn't kill you during the war, life after the war would certainly get you after it was over. He had dodged bullets several times, real live bullets not the metaphorical ones people talk about and he had survived.
There were a few other killer machines in his world as well including drugs and broken hearts. But over time like so many things, things had gotten better and one day time did its dance and he spiraled into the world of detox, marriage, kids and finally the disappearance without saying good -bye. It happens to so many.
I had heard the news that he had gone to settle somewhere abroad. I was not sure where but am glad that in the end he could come to terms what life had to offer and what death would too in the end.
What we have done since 1971 is to remember it through filters, like the ones popular on FB. It's basically factual but they are so adorned and embellished that one can't remember where facts end and fictions begin. They are often not fully true, never fully fictional. It's a mix of both; perhaps reality in reality is like that.
He saw the Dhaka massacre and was horrified like all who were witnesses of the March night and it's later days. The April days were of people figuring out just what was going on and chatting to friends about it all. But the declaration of the Muijibnagar government made matters different. Suddenly kids all over the city began to plan to move and join the war.
Not all succeeded in joining the war because many didn't know where and how to go, some were held back by family pressures or responsibilities and others decided the insecurity and danger was not for them.
But some did and he was one of them, one of the many who joined the ranks of the sector -2 training camps and soon was ready to fight and die like all the others. And one night a band of 12 decided to cross the border and enter Bangladesh. And thus became warriors in history too.
PTSD and the war
A war breeds a strange but all too understandable ego around killing. Ego is part of being a warrior and early on, in a skirmish, he had shot dead at a close range a Razakar too stupid to understand what was going on. Worse, he tried to raise his gun and paid the price. My friend had a kill and his bullet had ended an enemy.
It didn't matter that he did take part in a larger assault but they were firing as a group, not sure where the bullet was going. His kill could be one, none or many. That solo shot that ended the Razakar was his single rose on his lapel so to speak.
Life was fine till he finally returned to Dhaka to find his girlfriend had already made advanced plans to marry and move abroad.
I am not sure whether it was the Pak army and its atrocities or his GF that crushed him but he just went nuts. Nobody even knew about PTSD and thousands of kids were just let go without any care or concern after the war. One was lucky if a kid was part of the army which pulled him into a career path based on discipline or strong young souls who would be undeterred by the craziness of life but my friend wasn't one of them.
Of drugs and deliverance
He succumbed to drugs and of many kinds and his days were spent in splendid incoherence. He was liked by many, even loved and the DU campus had space for all. He was there but his friends slowly drifted out to meager careers till he became a stranger there, the one who just sat there stoned to death without knowing anyone at all.
What saved him was his brother who tried the ultimate Bengali traditional solution and married him to his sensible distant cousin who took care of him and slowly the babies arrived and the cycle of life began once more. Rental income kept him safe and he drifted out of the collective history to live in a home built inside his family walls.
I keep thinking of so many others who had bad endings. Kids who fought and survived the war and then the war slew them by offering no hope or refuge, not even an escape route. So I don't know what you do or live except the vague North American address and news of your growing family and feel happy that after all the events of war and afterwards, you survived.
Best wishes my friend.
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