At his summon, “Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe azadi doonga” thousands of young men relinquished the little comfort afforded by their enslaved country, submitted to the promise of a free nation, and formed an enormous armed force led by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. One of them was my Abbu. He was initiated in the love of his country by a man he held close to his heart as his ultimate leader, even when his memory failed him he never, for once, missed to remember and keep his beloved Netaji in his Dua.
“They’ve pronounced him dead. But I know, it’s their conspiracy. One fine day he will show up, all stout, all spirited. He will reunite us, we will be one nation again.” I often heard him murmur, there was hope in his inconsistent speech. Abbu dreamed of an undivided country, he could never bring himself to believe that the map he was once familiar with now ceases to exist, it’s been divided into three - three new nations, three new ways of life that has no bearing on each other apart from the mutual detestation that connects, if at all, the residents of these countries. After the partition, Abbu landed up in Bangladesh - the then East Pakistan- married a Bangladeshi woman and fathered children born as Bangladeshis. I could never comprehend why, despite his forced deracination from India, he proudly called himself an Indian –till the end of his life.
Abbu was a namaazi, by far the truest and most abiding Muslim I have seen in my life. But he also belonged to that ilk of human race for whom the love of one’s country was paramount – a love that binds the unrelated, a love that encourages strangers to come together – fight together, a love like none other known to mankind. As long as he lived, our neighbors in Bangladesh accused him of treachery toward his religion and country. But as much I, with my limited understanding have perceived of him, my Abbu, with his boundless patriotism was anything but a traitor. Renegade, as he often explained, were they who propagated the separation, traitors were they whose decisions based the displacement of hundreds of thousands of innocent families, and deceitful were they who supported the disunion in the name of religion, for they have the blood of their own countrymen on their hands.
While fighting for the liberation of Bangladesh, as a Mukti Bahini (what else do you expect out of a freedom fighter’s daughter) I met an Indian soldier, whom I eventually married. When I accompanied my husband to India, Abbu got unquestioned opportunities to frequent the land he revered so fondly. During one such visit, while narrating the old familiar stories to my twins, he fell asleep. The calm reflected on his face that night was like none I had seen on his face earlier -this was the glory of the contentedness he had finally found within. He was so much at peace, he chose not to wake up from his slumber. Though they named me a kafir when I decided better than sending his body to our relatives in Bangladesh, I am proud of my decision. He was a fighter who fought to bring freedom to India. He was born in India, and as his heart desired, he is buried in India. He rests in peace, in the freedom of this great country.
(This story was shared with Avantika Debnath. If you have a story worth sharing, please send it to Avantika_debnath@yahoo.in)