Archive for February 27th, 2009

A State of Suffocating Silence: A Night Near the BDR Headquarters in Pilkhana

It has been almost 3 hours since we’ve kept the lights at our home down. There is no sound outside – an ironical piece of reality given the fact there are at least 30 army tanks, artillery and hundreds of army troop outside.

Around half past three today afternoon, a message was broadcasted through miking and TV. It came from the local MP of Dhanmondi/Jhigatola – Barrister Fazle Nur Tapash – and requested all civilians within 2 miles radii of the BDR HQ to evacuate their homes. Many left, and in minutes, our apartment became vacant except 3/4 confused families. We’ve been hearing rumours since yesterday and weren’t sure whether we should fall for this one or not. On another note, news was coming in about army tanks and heavily armed police pulling up on the streets of Dhanmondi.

There were two scenarios at hand:
(a) Going out to face these manmade monsters and be caught in a crossfire, or
(b) Stay at home and wait for an apparent air raid

The latter seemed less possible, so the three of us (my mother, my little brother and myself) decided to stay at home. At least, we’ll be safe from whatever chaos was happening in the streets. Calls were coming in from every corner of the city, but making a decision and avoiding the rashness of it was a difficult process. We received calls from high officials in the Air Force and Army confirming there won’t be any air raids, and my mother concluded it was, indeed, best to stay home.

Meanwhile, two army grounds men came to our main entrance and asked us to evacuate immediately. Given such straightforward instructions, we decided – perhaps – it was reasonable to leave. But when we arrived at the gate, they stopped us and said if we couldn’t escape the area within 3-4 minutes, we might be caught in a series of gunshots. They will not be responsible for our lives. We didn’t have any transport except the strength of our feet and it was unmistakable that they wouldn’t carry us to safety within 5 minutes.

We were trapped.

We were told to hide on the ground floor of our apartment. IF there was an air raid, ground floors were the safest of all places. The army grounds men had explained this to us, and we sat on the lobby floor, waiting for something to happen. A while later, our next-door neighbour got up and said she was leaving. We didn’t know how, and even till now, we are not certain whether she had actually managed to leave the premises. The remaining two families – ourselves and the ones from the floor above us – waited for a while and finally decided it was better to stay home than be stranded in the lobby.

At half past five, we realized we were actually – in fact – one of the only two families remaining at our apartment. We didn’t know whether there were other families at other apartments or in the neighbourhood. Everything around us was in a frenzy, yet in a state of such utter silence that it reminds you of the weather before a storm is about to strike.

We didn’t know what storm was brewing. All we knew that we were a part of it, and all we could do was pray to Allah (the Almighty) to keep us safe.

The lights are switched off and the TV murmurs whatever “breaking news” the world has to offer. Cell phone networks are down. I’m sending occasional text messages to my friends and cousins, begging for the latest news. There has been rumours of a possible air raid, of tanks breaking into the Quarters and of a crackdown. We don’t know what to believe or who to trust. The channels repeat old stories and by now, we have them memorized. We are too afraid to make noise, lest the army and police on the street become aware of our presence and try to break into our home.

Abba has called several times already. We’ve told him to stay at his hospital – safe and away from this havoc. He wanted to come home in an ambulance, but that would only strengthen the suspicion. There are six of us at our home now – Amma, my little brother (Siyam), me and three maid servants. There is a family of five upstairs (if they hadn’t left already because we can’t really tell).

All we have with us are prayers.
And Allah.

There is absolutely no noise outside, not a flick of light or even a sign of life.

It is the fear of the unknown that is killing us. We may have made a wrong judgment call or reacted 10 minutes later. However, what has been done has already been seen and felt. A long night is still ahead of us and as I anticipate for the best with my family here, I hope Allah is listening to us.

We wait for the sun to dawn upon us.

9:15pm/February 26, 2009
Dhanmondi/Dhaka

Special thanks to everyone who have kept us informed through text messages and phone calls.

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