The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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I interviewed my dad, Zain at our house in Reading. My dad has black and grey hair and usually has a tired, weary face. He grew up in a country called Bangladesh, which at that time, was a part of another country called Pakistan. Bangladesh wanted to secede from Pakistan, so they declared independence, ensuing a war between the Pakistani government and the people of Bangladesh. This war occurred when my father was around ten years old, and the narrative below describes his experiences of the Pakistani Army attacking his neighborhood. This event left a lasting emotional scar on my father which I think still affects him into adulthood. Before the events above occurred, according to my father, his family provided housing to some members of the Bangladeshi Liberation Army. During this time, some Pakistani soldiers did actually attack his neighborhood, but they were dealt with by the Liberation Army. After this skirmish, many of my fathers’ neighbors and the Liberation Army ran east, away from the advancing Pakistani army, but his family was unable to because his grandparents would not have been able to run away in time. The photograph in the postcard is the youngest picture I have of my father. He is standing on the right side and is about 13 years old in the picture (about three years after the events in the story). The other person in the picture is his cousin, Mofiz.

Zain knew he shouldn’t have looked. But he had to. After prying open the wooden panels slightly, he stood up tall and peeked through the small gap between the panels and the outside air. The source of the deafening bangs, long bursts of gunfire, and smell of burning wood was immediately clear. The Pakistani Army came in droves, swarming through what used to be his rural neighborhood. They looked ruthless in their standardized tan military attire, clutching their rifles tightly. About an eighth of a mile away, fire encompassed his nearest neighbor’s house, with smoke and ashes filling the air around it.

The sound of two gunshots suddenly reverberated through him. They found us. Terror petrified his body, and he could feel tears flowing down his face. He couldn’t tell where the gunshots came from, but he knew they hit his house.

“Zain, get down right now!”  His mother’s piercing yet soft command shattered his trance, and he dropped to the ground. “What were you thinking?” his mother hissed. Zain was speechless; he knew the risk of peering through the window, but he needed to satiate his curiosity.

He felt his body being dragged down to the living room. Entering the room, he felt crushed under the forlorn gaze of his grandparents and four sisters who were dispersed about the room. Even though the living room was surrounded by other rooms, the sound of gunshots and artillery fire was only dampened. He could feel the passage of time through the thumping of his heartbeat. They’re going to come any second now.

Every other area within the living room being occupied, Zain sat directly in the center of the room. His mother was in the corner, head lowered in silent prayer, holding his youngest sister. His grandparents clutched each other’s hands tightly, resolute in supporting each other to the very end. Everyone wore the same grim expression on their face except for his two youngest sisters, who were too young to understand the gravity of the situation.  He almost wished he and his family escaped the day before like the rest of the neighborhood, but he knew that with two aging grandparents, it would have been almost impossible to run away fast enough. Time dragged on, but the tension in the room remained palpable. Every passing moment brought the dread of raucous pounding on doors, loud commands of “LET US IN”, and soldiers bursting in. Eventually, the constant sound of gunfire became sporadic and its intensity gradually diminished. It took until sunset to achieve absolute silence. Their fear never materialized.

It took thirty minutes into this silence before anyone had to courage to whisper, “Did we make it?” Zain’s mother slowly rose and walked to the adjacent room and returned after thirty seconds with a sigh of relief, “We’re okay.”

Pakistani Invasion

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Early 1970's
Bangladesh

I interviewed my dad, Zain at our house in Reading. My dad has black and grey hair and usually has a tired, weary face. He grew up in a country called Bangladesh, which at that time, was a part of another country called Pakistan. Bangladesh wanted to secede from Pakistan, so they declared independence, ensuing a war between the Pakistani government and the people of Bangladesh. This war occurred when my father was around ten years old, and the narrative below describes his experiences of the Pakistani Army attacking his neighborhood. This event left a lasting emotional scar on my father which I think still affects him into adulthood. Before the events above occurred, according to my father, his family provided housing to some members of the Bangladeshi Liberation Army. During this time, some Pakistani soldiers did actually attack his neighborhood, but they were dealt with by the Liberation Army. After this skirmish, many of my fathers’ neighbors and the Liberation Army ran east, away from the advancing Pakistani army, but his family was unable to because his grandparents would not have been able to run away in time. The photograph in the postcard is the youngest picture I have of my father. He is standing on the right side and is about 13 years old in the picture (about three years after the events in the story). The other person in the picture is his cousin, Mofiz.

Decade: 1970s
Rating:
Recorded by Sameh Abedin on June 6, 2018
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