We went from school to school, and community to community here in New York and New Jersey, and we collected real-life stories written by our children. These are their 9/11 stories. These are their 9/11 world.
To these children, to you, I owe thousand apologies that in spite of many tries, my co-workers and I could not find a publisher willing to publish your stories. But I did not forget you, and I did not forget the way you opened your hearts and minds to us.
I’m now posting some of these stories here. Hope the world will notice this time.
Brooklyn, New York
Advocacy work at: (1) New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE); (2) New Jersey Immigration Policy Network.
I am 15 years old. My name is Sheika Jones and my favorite color is blue. I love to sing and listen to music. I write poems on my spare time. I have a best friend name Fantasia and she means the world to me. I want to be a singer or a nurse wehn I get older, or a teacher so I can teach kids about different cultures. I am a business person. I like to wear a lot of jewelry. I am jamacian, puerto Rican, Indian, and Black. I am a spick but I also deserve to get treated with respect.
To be an immigrant is like you escaping from another country and to another or to just not be from your own country. It hasn’t changes since 9/11 because people still treat others the same way. I think it should have changed America, should have came together instead of separate. Certain people do act different towards me now, but I don’t pay them no mind.
I WILL BE MISSING YOU
You were so full of life, always smiling and carefree.
Life loved you being a part of it,
And I loved you being a part of me.
You could make anyone laugh,
If they were having a bad day.
No matter how sad I was you could take the hurt away.
Nothing could ever stop you,
Or even make you fall.
You were ready to take on the world, ready to do it all.
But God decided he needed you,
So from this world you left.
But you took a piece of all of us; our hearts are what you kept.
Your seat is now empty, and it’s hard not to see your face.
But please always know this. No one will ever take your place.
ou left without a warning,
Not even saying good0bye.
And I can’t seem to stop,
Asking the question why.
Nothing will ever be the same,
The halls are empty without your laughter.
But I know you’re up in heaven,
Watching over us and looking after.
i didn’t see this coming,
It hit me by surprise.
And when you left this world,
A small part of us died.
Your smile could brighten anyone’s day,
No matter what they were going through.
And i know everyday for the rest of my life,
I will be missing you.
With the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11, I find I have a lot to look back on. I remember the night my friends and I decided not to dress up for the New Comers High School Senior Prom. Instead, my friends and I decided to crash the formal party held at the World Trade Center in street clothes, causing all kinds of trouble. Unfortunately, no kids after the year 2000 would be allowed to have a prom there.
I remember Sharif, nicknamed Bunty, one of the older players on my high school football team, was looking up to by everyone in my lowly sophomore and junior years. I was shocked by the news that he too died in the attacks. Walking two kids to the Sept. 11 memorial that we have on our school grounds, I forze when I saw his picture, surrounded by roses and other mementos. Instead of shedding tears, all I could do was remember the funny moments that secretly endeared him to me.
That is what Sept. 11 has meant to me and a lot of my friends back home. It should serve as a reminder of the good times we have with the people we care about, just as much as it serves as a time of mourning. Sept. 11 is more than merely wearing a glum face and crying for those people who passed away. And damn us all if it ever turns into another commercial holiday. Sept. 11 is about love.
Love is the driving force that seems to push everyone in these times and it is what should push us as we remember those whose lives were lost in the attacks. We have love for our fellow man so we fight to rescue him or her from a burning, collapsing building. The love we have for the people who died drives us to memorialize them on the anniversary of one of our most tragic days. The people who knew them and loved them most, did so regardless of their faults and always will.
Some of the people who were killed that day were loving, laughing, jolly people who would hate to see their loved ones in sadness or despair. So as you remember, please try not to upset yourself too much. The grief should be understood by everyone.
I recall coming home to New York after Christmas break. My cousin and I would look at the thin lines that ran down the Wold Trade Center and ponder about the hundreds of thousands of people in them, hustling and bustling, doing what all New Yorkers do.
The Twin Towers were so tall, but never in an ominous way. To me, they seemed to be a beacon, a huge road sign saying, “Welcome to New York City. This is your home and it always will be.”
I almost walked right past the site because I was so used to having the Twin Towers mark where I was located. I saw a small crowd of people staring at something, and then I turned to the left, I saw a vast empty wasteland I knew was the end of the New York legacy the World Trade Center helped to represent.
Maybe out west, people are used to seeing vast stretches of useless land, but to a city dweller like me, it scared me, like when your father has a heart attack right in front of you and you don’t know CPR. Everyone around country says what happened in New York was horrible because people were killed. This is true and I would never suggest otherwise, but there is more than just that tragedy.
My entire world was taken away from me. I rode the outside of the F train, another train leading into Manhattan, only to find I was disoriented by the loss of the greatest landmark I have ever known. The landscape looked different. I might as well been in Seattle or some other city. Those two building were like party of my family, like those two cousins who are brothers that spend the holidays with you. But their undoing ws not going to break my heart. When the towers fell, my world was altered forever. I found hope in the strength of the people who were on the scene, helping each other to survive during and long after the 11th.
So now, as we try to move forward, what is it exactly we ware going to remember? If you ask me, I am going to have to say I will remember raiding my prom. I ma going to remember my mother, who I love more than anything, taking time off from her job to take me to the top of the World Trade Center when I was six years old. I am going to remember the first bombing, when all of the television stations were out and all we could do was watch CBS’s airing of “The Wizard of Oz,” I am going to remember Fat.
In short, I am going to remember the good times, because they are the only things that can pull us past tragedies. On Sept. 11, I plan to laugh as much as I plan to cry.
3 years ago, I thought my dream was brighter than everyone else’s dream. I thought, I could accomplish my dream so easily. But unfortunately these days I have been living with fears. I earnestly believe that my fear has started when the terrorist broke the World Trade Center. That day was like some other ordinary days. I woke up in the morning; I think it was about 8:00. So I took the breakfast in the morning with my parents and then they left from home at 8:30. Then I decided to turn on the television because I didn’t know what to do. But unfortunately, in that couple of planes had attacked in the World trade Center. At the first time I thought it was kind of movie, actually I couldn’t believe it. After watching 30 minutes about the same topic, I finally understood that it happened.. This was one of the most horrible tragedies, I have ever seen.
About 5000 people had died in the attack. It happened around 8:45. This attack was absolutely unnoticeable. I had tears in my eyes because my uncle died during the attack. I couldn’t believe that my uncle died because I had conversation with my uncle the day before of attack. My aunt had been crying since my uncle died. My uncle had two children, one of them is 16 year old, and the other one is 19 years old. Now they are getting mentally sick. They always talk about hteir father. They haven’t forgotten their father. I hope they will overcome the horrible memory very soon.
I wanted to be doctor. I have lost my self-confidence because 9/11 because now I think there is not enough opportunity for Muslim people. Well I am a Muslim. And my first name is Mohammed. And I have heard, some people think all the Mohamed is terrorist. But is that my mistake, my name is Mohammed. I think this kind of stereotype, I meant those people who think Mohammed is bad, and they shouldn’t judge one person with others. But fortunately, I feel much better right now because my father have told me you shouldn’t think about it all the time. I should move on and keep focus on your dream or aim.
On 9.11.01, I was in my native country. Though I was not i the USA at that time I still can see that most horrible moment and day in front of my eyes, because I was watching the WTC falling through the media. I was feeling like thousands of people are dying in front of me and I couldn’t do anything to save them.
However, it’s a real heart touching event to know and to see, but also its true that situation made many living Muslim people to suffer a lot. Nowadays many people all over the world think Islam means terrorism, which is absolutely wrong.
Right now I’m living in the USA with my whole family. But in the Sep. 11 only my two brothers were here. I heard from them that luckily they didn’t have to face any kind of big problem during that time, but many of our relatives faced different kinds of problems like as, immigration, religious discrimination, and people’s hate. People in the USA know that general Muslim people cannot be blamed for that terrorist attack, but still we are suffering. Nusrat Jarin
NOTE: This is a short version of the “Illegal Alien” story I posted earlier today. I hope you can circulate it among your friends’ circle. Thank you.
Background: This racially-biased U.S. “Special Registration” of men from Muslim countries (and North Korea) went on for years after 9/11. Many of us — grassroots activists — took a strong position against it. FYI, nearly a hundred thousand Muslim men without valid immigration document voluntarily went through this process hoping for a better future, and a large number of them were detained and later deported. Lives and dreams were shattered.
Advocacy work with: (1) New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE); (2) Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF); (3) Council of People’s Organization (COPO).
In early May, Hassan Mollah went to register at Migration Control. His wife Selina and daughter Najma went along with him. They were scared to leave him alone.
Hassan is a quiet man. He works at Singh’s Bakery ten hours a day, six days a week. “Dave” Singh is running his business for fifteen years since migrating from Punjab. Singh likes Hassan because of the fine British-style pastries he makes. The work hours are long, and the heat from the oven is overpowering. It’s suffocating. But Hassan doesn’t complain.
Singh knows how valuable Hassan is. “Bengali, get your card, man. You got no papers, they kick you out.” Hassan’s tourist visa expired years ago. But he has his reasons not to worry.
“Look, we’re not going to be in Merica for ever,” he tries to impress Selina. “Green Cards cost a lot, you know? You hire a lawyer, and spend five, six thousand… What’s the use? We’ll save up, and go back.”
Hassan has a simple life. He wakes up at five, quietly, eats some leftover rice and vegetables, takes the Q, works for ten hours, and takes the Q back home. He takes a shower, eats rice and a curry, talks to his wife and child a little, and goes to bed.
He grew up in Pabna, a small Bangladesh town. His father Ali was a poor carpenter. Ali’s brother Siraj, however, was a well-to-do restaurant owner in Kenya. Just after Hassan passed high school, Siraj helped Hassan to come to Nairobi to work at his restaurant. In three years, Hassan grew to be a master baker.
He then went back to Bangladesh, married Selina, and brought her over to Kenya. Najma was born the next year. She was a healthy child, but soon, Selina’s fears came true that she was speech-impaired. Doctors said the problem was curable, but that she quickly needed surgery. Siraj advised him to do it in America.
Hassan and Selina got a tourist visa, came to New York, and had the surgery done. It was successful. Najma can speak now, and is doing well in school. The family is happy again in their new community.
Things suddenly changed when about a month ago Hassan got a brief letter from Migration Control. The letter said Hassan was required to “register in person.” Neither Hassan nor Selina knew what to make out of it.
“It doesn’t say anything about you,” a Bengali friend reassured him. “It lists so many countries – Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arab…they’re just trying to find people who don’t have papers. Everything’s changed since 9/11.”
“You got a job, a permanent address, pay your bills, and never got in trouble.” The friend said. “You’re fine.”
It was a cold, drizzly day. At eight, a policeman checked Hassan’s letter, and escorted him away from his family to stand in the spiraling line. Selina and Najma didn’t know what to do next. The officer said they could wait in the coffee shop across the street. They reluctantly left.
At nine, the file of people started trickling into the huge, black building. An officer checked Hassan’s letter and ID once again, and sent him up on the third floor.
There, security officers put on his body an iron bar with a ring, and moved it around, from top to bottom, front and back, side to side. They checked his papers again, looked in his eyes, and guided him through a metal gate to a small waiting room.
Another hour of wait. Two, three hours… His stomach started growling. He felt thirsty.
Around one o’clock, the security officers came back. They took him out to a wooden cubicle. A man in blue uniform sat in the only chair, in front of a computer. He checked his letter and passport. “Do you speak English? Where are you from?” He looked at his computer screen, and not at Hassan who was standing only a few feet away.
“Bangladesh,” Hassan said.
“Your visa expired,” the officer said tersely. “You’re out of status. You’ve got to go back to Bangladesh.”
“Sir, I want to tell…” Hassan was nervous.
“You need to go up on the tenth floor now.” The officer returned his passport and letter, and left.
Hassan didn’t know what to do. The man sounded so unreal. Go back to Bangladesh? There must be something wrong. How can he explain? They don’t want to listen.
A military man with a gun escorted him out. The metal gate, the elevator, and then it slowly went up on the tenth floor. Again, the security, body search, checking papers. Hassan sat on a wooden bench.
On another bench across from him, two men were sitting, but they were handcuffed! Hassan had butterflies in his stomach. He’s never seen handcuffed men so up close!
Hours passed. It was 3 P.M.
At 4, two officers called his name, and took him out to a small room on the other side of the floor. He also took his passport, but didn’t return it. Then, he locked up the door. This room was almost dark. There was a camera mounted on a stand in the center of the room, and an intense white light was coming out of it. The officers asked him to sit in a chair facing straight to the light off the camera. Hassan realized there were a few other men in the room, but in the darkness, he couldn’t see their faces. He felt uncomfortable with the glare of the camera light.
“Mr. Mollah, you came from Kenya?” One of the officers asked him.
“Yes.” His mouth was dry.
“Your visa expired five years ago.” The officer said. “How come you’re still here?”
Hassan didn’t know what to say. “My daughter was very sick,” he slowly started to explain.
“Well, you broke the law,” the officer brusquely interrupted. “You’re out of status, an illegal alien.” He now gestured to another man.
The other man came up to him. “Tell me, who’s the man in this picture with a beard?” He showed him a photo. “Isn’t that you?”
Hassan looked at the photo. The man in the picture was not him. He didn’t know who it was.
Hassan made an attempt to speak.
“It’s you alright.” The officer quickly interrupted. “Why did you shave off your beard?”
“Hassan Mollah. You’re a Mullah? Ain’t Mullahs supposed to wear a beard? How come you don’t have one?” The man chuckled. The other men in the room chuckled too. The chuckle grew louder.
Hassan felt weak. His feet started shaking. He is a Muslim, but never kept a beard. He doesn’t even go to the mosque. He doesn’t have the time. He works all day.
“You said you came here five years ago. But we know you were here way before. Our records show that you were in Chicago ten years ago doing some real bad stuff…terrorist stuff. Am I incorrect, Mullah? You’ll be sorry you’d lied to us,” the man kept shouting.
Hassan didn’t hear or understand most of what the officer said. His palms were sweaty. His throat and mouth were dry. He grabbed the seat of his chair with his right hand.
“We’re gonna take your pictures, a lot of pictures,” the man said. He turned on the camera. It began clicking and bursting strong flashes of light on him, and it made a whizzing sound, every time it flashed. Everybody left, one by one, leaving him alone, sitting still, in front of the flashing camera. The door closed.
The glare was too much. Hassan felt dizzy.
For an instant, Hassan thought he was still in Bangladesh. It’s mid-summer there. In Pabna, each year around this time, poets and singers take out a street march. Children from schools march on the street, sing, take a pledge about saving the language of Bangla, and peace in the world. “juddho chai na, Shaanti chai…No war, we want peace…” Bengalis are peaceful people. He’s not a criminal; his father taught him about peace. Why are they not listening to him?
If Selina had only known what they were doing to him now…
Tears trickled down his eyes. He then wiped it off. No, Selina must never know he cried.
The door cracked open again, and the officers stomped back in. The camera must’ve stopped running a while ago. The men turned on the room lights.
“You can leave now,” one of them said. “But you must come back in two months with a lawyer, to see the judge. Do you understand?” He returned Hassan’s passport.
Hassan walked out of Migration Control. It was dark. It was cold. The old church bell across the street rang ten times. It was still drizzling. He paused, as if in anticipation. In the dark, he spotted two familiar human figures across the street, walking quickly over to him.
Hassan half-waved at them.
Note: Names and places used in the story are made-up. It is a fictionalized story based on real people and their real-life experiences.
Note: I had a chance to work for years with the lead characters in the following story. The story is adapted based on real-life advocacy work and interviews with lead characters; the incidents cited in the story are a little fictionalized and dramatized, but are all based on real-life experiences as cited by lead characters. Names of people and places used are not real. I also express gratitude to New York Times, New York Daily News, Queens Chronicle, India Abroad, News India-Times and other media for their precious coverage of a few of such stories — stories that were commonplace in post-9/11 America. The injustice and suffering have continued ever since.
[I shall post more such stories in the coming days. Thanks for your thoughts and comments.]
In the first week of May, Hassan Mollah went to register at the Special Security, New York Migration Control. His wife Selina and their only child, first-grader Najma, went with him. They were scared to leave him alone.
“Why can’t Abbu tell them we don’t feel like going today?” Najma grumbled. She wasn’t happy to wake up atfive thirtyin the morning.
“He must go,” Selina helped her with some quick cereal. “It’s important for him. Now, get ready. Abbu doesn’t want to be late.”
Hassan is a quiet man. He works at Dave’s Bakery ten hours a day, six days a week. The owner is Davinder Singh. Dave is running his business for fifteen years since migrating fromPunjab,Indiawith a Green Card. He is aU.S.citizen now, and sponsoring employees like Hassan to get their legal status. Dave likes Hassan because of the fine British-style pastries he makes. The other reason is Hassan speaks with him in broken Hindi. Hassan doesn’t speak fluent English. But neither does Dave. He feels more comfortable in Hindi.
Co-workers call Hassan Mollah the master baker. Making cakes, pastries and bread is something Hassan knows. He also bakes croissants that the customers like a lot. The work hours are long, and the heat from the oven is overpowering. In the winter, it’s even worse because the windows are all shut tight, there’s little ventilation, and you’re breathing in the hot air coming out straight from the kiln. It’s suffocating. It dries your mouth. New employees feel dizzy. Some can’t take it, some pass out, and one fine morning, they stop showing up. But Hassan is never absent. He doesn’t complain either. He’s not the complaining type. In fact, he doesn’t talk much at all. Instead, he helps young apprentices to learn the craft.
Dave knows how valuable Hassan is. “Bengali, get your card, man. You got no papers, they kick you out.” Dave has warned him a number of times.
Hassan’s tourist visa expired four years ago. It never occurred to him that not having a valid immigration status inU.S.could be a big problem. He has his reasons not to worry.
“We’re not going to be in ‘merica for ever,” he tries to impress an unconvinced Selina. “Green Cards cost a lot, do you know? First you hire a lawyer, and then he charges you five thousand, six thousand…do you know that? What’s the use? We’ll save up, and go back home.” So Hassan put off his immigration papers year after year. It was only when Dave finally told him that without papers, he couldn’t keep his employees anymore, and that he’d help him find a lawyer, Hassan agreed.
Hassan has a simple life, like the K-Mart wall clock they have in their one-roomBrooklynapartment. He wakes up at four thirty in the morning, quietly, without disturbing his sleeping family, eats some leftover rice and vegetables, leaves home at five, takes the Q, works for ten hours, and takes the Q back home at eight thirty at night. He’s just too exhausted at that time. After taking a shower, he sits at the table with Najma to eat whatever Selina puts on his plate, maybe some rice and fish curry, he says a few words to the family, and then retires to bed at ten. Monday to Saturday, this is his life. He’s been following this routine for almost five years now, since the day he started working at Dave’s.
“Najma has a new teacher, you know?” Selina tries to strike up a conversation at the dinner table, with a small chuckle. “Why don’t you tell Abbu, Naj?”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” Najma looks up at her father. “We have a new English teacher. She’s nice.”
“What’s her name?” Hassan asks, wearily. He is holding a Bangla weekly paper in his left hand, trying to read it, between eating his rice. “Be good to her.”
For six days a week, the family gets to see him for only a couple of hours. On Sunday, Hassan sleeps through most of the morning. Then he takes a shower, and has lunch with Selina and Najma. In the evening, they either go to visit some friends or the friends come over to visit them. Hassan cooks dinner – mostly rice, dal, chicken curry, cauliflower and potatoes, maybe some chutney. He likes to do it.
Hassan learned the craft of baking from his uncle Siraj, who had a trendy restaurant inNairobi,Kenya. Hassan grew up in a northernBangladeshtown in the district of Pabna. His father Rahmat Ali was a carpenter, but didn’t make much. Rahmat also worked as a part-time share-cropper at a neighbor’s rice farm, and even with the supplemental income, it was hard for him to make ends meet. His health wasn’t permitting either. Hassan was the oldest of their two brothers and a sister, and therefore, it was on him to do something about it. Uncle Siraj kept in touch with the family, and sent money from time to time. Just after Hassan passed high school, Siraj asked him to come toNairobito work at his restaurant. It was sort of meant to be that way. Hassan spent five years inEast Africa, helped out Siraj, and the restaurant flourished. By that time, he grew to be an expert baker and semi-expert cook, and made enough money to send some back to his father every few months.
He then went back to Pabna, married Selina (his parents had already found the suitable match from a nearby village), and brought her over toKenya. Najma was born the next year in aNairobihospital. She was a healthy child, but in a year or so, Selina’s growing fears came true that she couldn’t speak; it was only a garbled sound she could churn out. Doctors said there was a problem with her voice box, and it was curable, but that she needed surgery as soon as possible to fix it. Siraj advised him not to have the operation inKenya, but rather, come toAmerica, and get it done here. It was a very difficult decision. Finally, Selina agreed, as they didn’t want to take any chances with their only child. But it was hard for her. She’d already found quite a few good friends there. They were happy living in their new society, away fromBangladesh. If it were not for Najma, they would never leaveNairobi.
Hassan and Selina got a tourist visa, came toNew York, and had the surgery done within a couple of months. It was successful. Najma can speak now, and is doing well at school. The family is well-accepted, again, into their new community. Najma’s Bengali friends and their mothers often come over to their apartment after school, and spend some time together. Chatting and gossiping with her Bengali neighbors, over some tea and samosa, makes her forget about the stable, happy life she once had, first inBangladesh, and then inNairobi.
Things suddenly changed when about a month ago, Hassan got a letter from the immigration department. The letter said Hassan was required to come to Special Security, and register himself. It was a brief letter.
Neither Hassan nor Selina knew what to make out of it. Hassan called a couple of friends. But the friends couldn’t help much either. Quader, Mojammel or Swapan never received such a letter, or heard about it.
Quader came over on Sunday, and read the letter out loud. Selina invited the family over for lunch.
“It doesn’t say anything about you,” Quader reassured Hassan. “It lists so many countries –Bangladesh,Pakistan, Mishar, Saudi Arab…I think they’re just trying to find out more about foreigners from these countries who don’t have papers. It’s changed a lot since 9/11, you know.”
“Can you put him in touch with the man who did your Green Card, Bhabi?” Selina, with some hesitation, asked Quader’s wife Mumtaz. The Quader family got their permanent resident status five years ago, with help from a Bengali immigration lawyer.
“Who, Shah Alam Bhai?” Quader replied, with a reassuring tone. “No problem, Bhabi. I’ll call him tomorrow. I know him for many years. We’re both fromDhakaUniversity.”
Mumtaz thought of something else. “Maybe, then Shah Alam Bhai can come with you too when you go see them,” she said to Hassan, nodding at Selina. “They won’t cause you much trouble if you have a lawyer with you.”
So, Hassan made an appointment with Attorney Shah Alam, and saw him the next week. He showed him the letter, and talked about his immigration problem. He also reminded him that it was Quader who referred him.
“Selina is very nervous about it,” Hassan implored. “She said you must come with me.” Hassan was more worried about the possibility of a long, English conversation at the immigration office.
Shah Alam promised he’d accompany him to Special Security.
“I know what’s going on,” Alam sounded confident. “What they’re doing now is finding out who’s living where and doing what. It’s the terrorists they’re after. People like you and I – they just want to check out, that’s all.”
“You have a steady job, a permanent address, you pay your bills, and you never had any criminal activity. So you’re fine.” Alam said. “Don’t worry. They’ll give you time to get your papers done.” He made copies of all the documents Hassan had – his passport, visa, even Najma’s medical papers.
Dave promised he’d do his part to help. “I’ll talk to my lawyers. They’ll get your application ready,” he put his hand on Hassan’s back, and patted firmly. “Daro mat, Bengali,” was his comforting words, as usual, in Hindi.
It was a cold, drizzly day inNew York. Najma wore a green, hooded jacket, and Selina helped her to cover up her head. Ateight o’clock, a Special Security policeman checked Hassan’s letter, and escorted him away from his family to stand in the line. The line had already spiraled. Selina and Najma didn’t know what to do next. They stood separately for a while, and kept talking to Hassan before the officer asked them to leave. Hassan told them to go back home, but Selina refused. The officer said they could wait inside one of the coffee shops across the street.
“We’ll be waiting there. Where’s Shah Alam Bhai?” Selina wondered about the lawyer.
“He’ll come later and wait for me inside,” Hassan said. “Lawyers don’t have to stand in line. They have their passes to get in,” Hassan wasn’t sure about the last part of his statement, but it was enough to calm a worried wife. After all, Shah Alam did say he’d wait inside.
The line snaked longer and longer, and more security policemen came out of the building to control the crowd. There were a few more women and children who accompanied their men. They were all quickly separated by the cops. A child started crying. Now a policewoman came out, and asked the wives to leave the area immediately. Selina held Najma’s hand, wrapped the polyester scarf around her head, and walked off to the other side of the street. A small group of women went away together, and entered a donut shop. Lifting her hood up, Najma looked back a number of times, and waved at her father.
Hassan unzipped his green jacket, touched the letter in his shirt pocket, and zipped it back up. The letter was not wet. He then tried to count the number of people in the line. Sixty, seventy…must be close to a hundred. But he doesn’t know any one of these people. Only a couple of them look like they’re Bengalis. Hassan couldn’t tell where the others were from.
There are ten or twelve men in front of him. How long will it take to be done? Two hours, three hours, maybe four? Hassan did a little arithmetic. Fifteen minutes, twenty minutes for each person, times ten, makes it about three hours. He’d be happy to see Shah Alam inside.
At nine, there was a small, collective mutter coming from the back of the line. The doors opened. The file of people started trickling into the huge, black building, one person at a time. The shiny, silvery iron gate opened ajar, an officer checked his letter and ID once again, and let him in. He said he’d need to go up on the third floor.
Hassan looked around. He was just a little wet. The hall was big and empty, except for a few wandering policemen in a blue dress and hat. There were elevator lobbies on all sides. A small group of men wearing an orange uniform sat on a wooden bench next to a wall. This building must then be a courthouse too where they brought in prisoners, Hassan thought. He looked around one more time, took one of the elevators, and went up.
On the third floor, he had to go through a body search. It was two policemen that did it. One officer put on his body an iron bar with a ring, and moved it around, from top to bottom, front and back, side to side. The other officer checked his papers one more time, looked at him in his eyes, guided him through a metal gate to a small room, and left. Two of the men from the line out on the street were also waiting here. Hassan smiled at them. He had a question to ask.
“Do you know where the lawyers wait?” Hassan thought this was the best time to find out where to meet Shah Alam.
But the men couldn’t help.
“We don’t have a lawyer,” one of them replied. “Don’t know.”
“Maybe, they’re upstairs,” the other man said. “If they’re not done with you here, you’ll go up on the tenth floor.”
Hassan was getting more confused about the process. He looked at his wristwatch. It’s ten thirty now. He’s already spent an hour and a half here, and it seems it’s going to be a lot longer. Hassan didn’t know what to expect now. The men looked equally unsure. They spoke English differently, and Hassan didn’t know what else to say. It’s so strange that Shah Alam didn’t show up. Or, maybe, he’s waiting for him on the tenth floor? But there’s no one around that he could ask. It’s so quiet here.
What’s Selina and Naj doing now, he wondered. Maybe, they went home. They should go home.
The two officers came back just beforenoon. “Haji, Abu-Bakker…” it was the two men they were calling. An officer with a round, metal hat and a big gun hanging on his back came in. They took the men away. Hassan was about to ask them about the lawyers, but didn’t. He’s the only one now left in the room.
Another hour went by. Hassan’s stomach started growling. He felt thirsty. Every day, he eats his lunch at this time on a half-hour break. Looks like there will be no lunch today. At least if he could get a drink of water.
A little afterone o’clock, the two officers came back. They took him out to another room on the third floor. This room is even smaller, like a wooden cubicle. A blue-uniformed officer with glasses came in, and sat in the only chair, in front of a computer. He checked his letter and passport. “Do you speak English? Where are you from?” He looked at his computer screen, and not at Hassan who was standing only a few feet across from him, inside the cubicle.
“Bangladesh,” Hassan replied nervously. This is the time he wish lawyer Alam were present.
“Your visa expired,” the officer said tersely. “You’re out of status. You’ve got to go back toBangladesh,” he declared.
“Sir, I want to tell…,” Hassan gathered his thoughts, and tried to speak.
“You need to go on the tenth floor now. You’ll go with the security.” The officer gave him back his passport and letter, and quickly left the room.
Hassan didn’t know what to do. The man sounded so strange, so unreal. Go back toBangladesh? There must be something wrong. They should talk to him, they should talk to Shah Alam. Alam has his papers. He can explain what his circumstances are. But Alam hasn’t come. How can he explain, and to whom? They don’t want to listen.
The two officers and a military man with a gun accompanied him out of third floor. Again, the metal gate, the elevator lobby, the elevator, and then it slowly arrived on the tenth floor. Again, the security checked his papers, and took him into a waiting room, much larger than the one on third floor. Hassan joined a group of men sitting on a wooden bench. On another bench across from them, two other men were sitting, but they were handcuffed. Hassan had butterflies in his stomach. He’s never seen handcuffed men so up close. They looked so sad!
There’s no way to know what’s going on. The two handcuffed men sat there, looking down. The other men in the room did not speak either. It’s so silent. Everyone looks so depressed, so tired. Hassan is tired too. He’s so thirsty. He looked at his watch, again, and then again, just to make sure. It’s3 P.M.now.
But something new is going on. Someone’s screaming in another room. Is it the room next to theirs? Two rooms, three rooms down? The man shouting must be an officer, because he’s speaking American. Hassan didn’t understand what the man said. Then he heard another voice. It’s a voice… no, it’s a subdued cry. Someone is crying. Someone’s crying in fear. “Aaah, aaah, aaah, no, no, no…” the man cried out, repeatedly. What are they doing to him? Are they beating him? Why?
A young man, a boy, sitting next to him made a strange, low grunt. Then he slipped off the bench, and dropped on the floor, with a thud. He fainted, and a few men in the room shrieked, and gathered around to help him. A uniformed man quickly entered. He looked at the man on the floor, left briefly, and came back with another armed man. Together, they lifted the unconscious boy, and carried him away.
Over the next hour, two men were called out of the room. They never came back. Then, it was Hassan’s turn. An officer with a gun called out his name, and escorted him to a small room on the other side of the floor. Here, three uniformed policemen took his passport, but didn’t return it. Then, they locked up the door, and started questioning him. This room was almost dark. There was a camera mounted on a stand in the center of the room, and an intense white light was coming out of it. The officers asked him to sit in a chair facing straight to the light off the camera. Hassan realized there were a few other men in the room, but in the darkness, he couldn’t see their faces. He felt uncomfortable with the glare of the camera light.
“Mr. Mollah, you’re fromBangladesh?” One of the officers asked him.
“Yes.” His mouth was dry.
“How long have you been in theU.S.?” The officer asked.
“Five years, Sir,” Hassan replied.
“Five years, yes. You came toNew YorkfromAfrica.” The officer repeated.
“But yourU.S.visa expired long time ago,” he said. “How come you’re still here?”
Hassan didn’t know what to say. “My daughter was very sick,” he slowly started to explain.
“So, you broke the law,” the officer brusquely interrupted. “You’re out of status, an illegal alien.” He now gestured to another officer.
The other man came up to him. “Now who’s this bearded man in this picture?” The second officer showed him a photo. He held up the picture and showed it to the others. “Isn’t that you?” He asked.
Hassan looked at the photo. The man in the picture was not him. He didn’t know who it was.
“No…no,” Hassan made an attempt to speak.
“It’s you alright. Why did you shave off your beard?” The officer quickly interrupted him. “You’re a Mullah, right?…a Mullah? Ain’t Mullahs supposed to wear a beard? How come you don’t have one?” The man chuckled. The other men in the room chuckled too. “So, you’re an Islam preacher?” He asked. “Which mosque? InBrooklyn? Is it the Coney Island Mosque? Tell me, Mullah.” The chuckle grew louder.
Hassan wasn’t laughing. He felt weak. He felt sick. The man in the picture was not him, but they were not going to believe him. He is a Muslim too, but never kept a beard. His last name had nothing to do with being a preacher. He doesn’t even go to the mosque. He doesn’t have the time. He works all day.
His feet started shaking. But he knew he couldn’t faint now.
“Sir,” Hassan said, with a feeble, trembling voice. “It is not my picture. I do not know.”
“But we know it’s you, Mullah.” The security officer drowned out Hassan’s voice, with a scream. “You said you came here five years ago. But we know you were here way before. Our records show that you were inChicagoten years ago doing some real bad stuff…terrorist stuff. Am I incorrect, Mullah? Do you know we’ll throw you in jail for lying? Do you know what else we can do to you? You’ll be sorry you’d lied to us,” the man kept shouting.
Hassan didn’t hear or understand most of what the officer said. He was now dizzy. His palms and forehead were sweaty. His throat and mouth were dry. He grabbed the seat of his chair with his right hand.
“We’re gonna take your pictures, a lot of pictures,” the third officer said. He turned on the camera. It began clicking and bursting strong flashes of light on him, and it made a whizzing sound, every time it flashed. The camera went on flashing. All the men in the room then left, one by one, including the officers, leaving him alone, sitting still, in front of the camera. The door was shut behind him.
The glare was too much. Hassan closed his eyes, and sat. He felt like he was about to pass out.
Sitting in the chair in the darkness, in front of a flashing, noisy machine, with bright, fluorescent light coming straight on his face, Hassan thought about Selina, about Najma. Are they still waiting outside? They must’ve gone home. What if he can’t go back tonight? Are they going to handcuff him too? What if they throw him in jail, like the policeman said? And why was that man crying in the other room? Were they torturing him? Are they going to torture him too? His father would die of shame if he knew about it. Hassan doesn’t even know how the inside of a jail looks. He’d heard they beat the prisoners, burn them with cigarettes, and slap them. What do they feed the prisoners? He can’t eat anything but food they cook at home. He doesn’t eat outside, not even at the bakery. He carries his own lunch to work. Najma has never slept alone with her mother. She sleeps between them – her mother and him. She can’t sleep without holding his thumb in her fist, even now. Najma couldn’t speak normally…but now she can. She’s only six. What’ll happen to them if they put him in jail?
What has he done? Nothing, no crimes, never. He could’ve gotten his Green Card long ago if he tried. He’d never thought it would be like this, ever. He’s not a terrorist. He’s worked so hard all these years…inNairobi, inNew York, in Pabna…is this really happening to him? Maybe, it’s just a bad dream. But Shah Alam didn’t come to help him. He could’ve explained his situation…why didn’t he come? He said he would.
For an instant, Hassan thought he was still in Bangladesh. It’s mid-summer there. In Pabna, each year around this time, poets and singers take out a street march. Children from schools march on the street, sing, take a pledge about saving the language of Bangla, and peace in the world. “amar bhasha, tomar bhasha, mayer Bhasha, Bangla Bhasha…my language, your language, our mother’s Bengali language…” juddho chai na, Shaanti chai…No war, we want peace…” Bengalis are peaceful people. He’s not a criminal; his father taught him about peace. Why are they not listening to him?
If Selina had only known what they were doing to him now…
Tears trickled out of his eyes. He then wiped it off. No, Selina must never know he cried.
The door cracked open again, and two of the officers stomped back in. The camera must’ve stopped running a while ago, but Hassan didn’t notice. The men turned on the room lights.
“You can go now,” one of them said. “But you must come back here in two months with a lawyer, to see the judge. Do you understand?” He stamped Hassan’s passport, and returned it.
Hassan walked out of the Special Security. It was dark. It was cold. The old church bell across the street rang ten times. It was still drizzling. He paused, as if in anticipation. In the dark, he spotted two familiar human figures across the street, walking quickly over to him. Hassan half-waved at them.
Advocacy work of
(1) New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE)
(2) Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)
(1) New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU)
(2) The New York Times
Background: This racially-biased U.S. “Special Registration” of men from Muslim countries (and North Korea) went on for years after 9/11. Many of us — grassroots activists — took a strong position against it. FYI, nearly a hundred thousand Muslim men without valid immigration document voluntarily went through this process hoping for a better future (otherwise, whey would they do it), and approximately fifteen thousand of them were detained and later deported.
Today, about two weeks before the tenth anniversary, I decided to start writing a few small things about 9/11, before the big, famous, not-so-big and not-so-famous took over the entire stratosphere. I thought my small, rather “insignificant” blips could be blipped now, before big media began their ga-ga tear-jerkers 24/7, in all likelihood from the Friday before the solemn Sunday observance.
After all, compared to what they have to say and for how long they have to say it, my blurbs would be quick, straight, and…did I say small? Only difference is, my otherwise non-noteworthy notes might be a lot simple.
You would have no problems getting them.
I do not ever want to trouble you with the details of that harrowing, fateful day; plus, the big guys and gals will give you so much gas that you would need half a box of Pepcid AC to digest it. And honestly, I’m glad they’ll give you the bloated details; because I have a lot of overlaps too: like, I truly believe, swear to God, that it was a barbaric and heinous criminal terrorist attack, it was a ghastly-cowardly act, it showed how people came together in New York and all across America to protect peace, and how it created global solidarity against hate, violence and terror.
I’m glad I don’t need to repeat the routine. In fact, I have no doubt the big and famous can do a better job on that front than I can.
I’d rather tell you a few personal stories — stories that some of you may have heard, seen or witnessed first hand. Some of you may have worked with me shoulder-to-shoulder in the aftermath of that terror, and these stories are perhaps all too known to you. Yet, in the vastness of the tribute to the 9/11 halo, so many small stories of small men and women have not been told well, or told at all, that I feel this tenth anniversary would perhaps be a good time to bring them back to life.
I also feel personally obligated, because a small chronicler that I am, these men and women have entrusted me one way or the other to tell their stories to the world, and I did my best to do it over the past ten years in bits and pieces, but never managed to do it in an organized, coherent way.
I hope that this new little blog would serve as a reservoir of these personal, small stories — for an eager and compassionate audience. Some friends have always insisted that I did it.
Please come back and visit us. I’ll ready the real-life stories for you — one personal story at a time.
Or, you can call it Englisharing. No, here it is: Speakometry.
No? Want some easier to read, quicker to clarify, and less headache to walk home to bed (sex or no sex)?
How about the Theory and Practice of Plain Mathematical Formulae to Format Life’s Most Complicated English [or put your own language here] Conversations in the Simplest-Possible, Minimized-Risk Way not to Cause Major Harm to Yourself or Those Who Still Love You and Don’t Want to See You Perish (and vice versa)?
Great! So, we can call it Englishmatics (my top preference), or TPPMFFLMCE… (look, don’t get mad — you went for this one…I told ya!).
Let’s not waste no more time. Recently, I got news from Kolkata that two artists — Geeta Dey who ruled the theater for fifty years and was undoubtedly one of the best Khal Nayika‘s (lady villain) Bengali cinema has ever seen, and Pintu Bhattacharjee, an adorable voice in the world of romantic Bengali songs, suddenly passed away. Just the other day, an unsung rufous of Bangla music Mrinal Chakraborty left us, and I didn’t even know it until two weeks after. Of course, in early January, the death of Suchitra Mitra — the prime princess of Tagore songs — rocked us. And, then, just last week, our beloved Tareq Masud of the world-famed Bangla movie Clay Bird, was instantly killed when a crazy-speed bus demolished his car in his beloved Bangladesh.
Now, not that sitting here in the U.S., we could do anything about anything when it comes to dealing with deaths of famous and loved personalities in the world of music and art back in Bengal; really, for that matter, what could anybody do, including those sitting in Kolkata or Dhaka, where such events were unfolding almost on a daily basis? Isn’t that how the “Third World” with its third-rate unpredictabilities are supposed to be — be it Kolkata, Dhaka, Port-au-Prince, Colombo or Kigali?
In fact, it’s nothing but a luxury to lament (Dukkha Bilaas) — life’s easily-disposable facet far-removed from the daily struggles especially for the struggling, immigrant middle class. Yeah, first-generation at that too. Why, look at the twenty-something sitting across from me in front of the furnace, taking that special geriatric care of the ninety-plus-year-old rabbit. She’d be least bothered with the news of Dey, Bhattacharjee, Chakraborty, Masud or even Mitra — all of whom she knew through movies and CDs carried back from India on trips since her childhood!
She uses a completely different Englishmatics than I do…or one that her mother does. The mother has found her own Speakometry…to balance the emoticlock between the second-generation Bengali-Indian-American-International and first-generation Bengali-Indian-American-pretend-aspirant-International. The mother managed to find, rather effortlessly (how in the world!), a special oil to oil the emoticlock that ticks almost the flawless tock, back and forth, between the two generations whose Englishmatics are so similar, yet so different.
I promised my blabber and my jabber wouldn’t be more than brief. Five minutes of your time I asked for…remember? You do? Yes? It’s up now. You can now walk back home leisurely…with your own TPPMFFLMCE…and do whatever you do once you put your night pajamas on…who am I to intrude that closely-guarded unguard?
But listen before you go. Carefully choosing words? Or, excluding words? Judging the tick-tock of that stupid-old emoticlock? Or, delaying, slowing it down, silently, gently, one…two…three…seconds…minutes…hours…days…weeks…to make it a “Conversation in the Simplest-Possible, Minimized-Risk Way not to Cause Major Harm…?” [Just so you know, it’s also known as CSPMRW…].
What if I had to disclose that my brother-in-law, only forty, on his early morning innocent bike ride on a romantic Dol Purnima day, was hit by a drunk driver, and brain-dead on a ventilator, to die in a week? What if this morning’s — any morning’s — scoop was that my uncle-in-law, a teashop vendor, only fifty, with two little kids, has been electrocuted by live high-voltage wire snapped and hidden under monsoon street-water, and instantly killed (like Tareq)? How do you break the news you just got through a lacklustre email or a rare air letter — to yourself or your loved ones ? Isn’t that exactly how you got the news of Subroto getting killed under a speeding local train?
What if the news is that my sister (whose husband was in irreversible coma) is now harassed and threatened by rich and powerful family and friends of the crazy driver, because she had the guts to actually go to the police station to actually report it? She must now face consequences: consequences commonplace in “revolutionary” West Bengal, and trivial in feudal India.
What would be my Englishmatics now, in plain and simple terms, to myself and my TPPMFFLMCE…?
What should I do?
Remember, I’m a first-generation, middle class, Third World immigrant in America with hardly any affordable time or treasury, either here, or back there.
Considering how much I write here and how little people read it, this is my newest gig — live. It’s short, slim, and in sequence. You might want to put up with this one, because if you didn’t, you would definitely not put up with the next one. If you’re a friend, find five minutes of your quiet time, and read it up. If you don’t, there’s a chance I’ll be sad and won’t see you ever again (and I mean it) — even those of you whom I’ve never seen.
So, here’s 2011, and by “God’s grace” — as they say it — I’m still alive. Actually, it’s not just the good deed of God; it’s rather a combination of divine and hellish forces, their tug of war and my constant, perpetual, perennial, forever, eternal, never-ending struggle to decide which side I’m on that’s in all likelihood kept me alive. As my Columbia J-School pal Karen once fondly called me “unflappable,” a badge of honor I since wore on my ventricle, what else could’ve been the driving force for a dwarf who dared to shoot for the moon, to actually shoot for the moon and getting some half way there, in one life?
Subroto, my childhood buddy whom and I learned together about women, love and sex, and who ten years ago stood on a Calcutta commuter train track, and that too, in front of an oncoming commuter train, only to be cut up in half, tried to shoot too. He didn’t make it. I did.
Regardless of the underlying reasons, I’m still around to report today that I’m still around.
Some friends — on Facebook and beyond (yes, there’s still a real “face-less” world out there) — recently asked me some pretty troubling questions. I figured I’d attempt to deal with them, as transparently as I could. Only a transparent examination would make you see the ventricular badge I’ve been wearing all these years; and the instruction manual said every time I hit a yes-answer to a real difficult question, I get an extra second to live as a bonus reward. It also said with every no-answer, the two dueling forces would take a second off each. That’s a double whammy.
So, as you can see, it’s like one of those your-life-is-on-the-line tests. I’d better start taking it now.
(My Brief, Subcutaneous Dramatics — reposted from Facebook)
Pain has its special place in me. For one thing, it’s always there. My pleasure dreams are the only exception. Even there…once in a while…pain sneaks in, slithering like a Biblical snake.
Pain makes me numb. But I’m not numb all the time. Periodically, I’m as excited as a drug addict. Or, inspired as a kirtan dancer in a trance. And then, it’s all downhill from there.
(Now, this would be a perfect place for an expletive…but I’m too phony to show my arousal…especially in front of you, my carefully, industriously-sought-out select group of friends. Pretending modesty too long the phony-feudal Indian way, I’ve become ridiculously, like, ridiculous.)
Pain makes me not me. That is, it transforms me into something else: it drives me to do things I normally don’t do: good, potentially great, bad, ugly, or gutterly slimy. And I know God has not given me the kind of power that would make the blue Buddha lotus bloom out of muck. Heck, having been through a likely two-thirds of my life, I know Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Balzac, Nazrul Islam or Jibanananda Das did not reincarnate in this morose five-foot-five. It’s a majorly mundane mortality prepping to strike the final “one, two, three…done” strike, before it all ends. Sounds depressing? Great. It means I done it well.
In the opening sequence of this dramatics (see the following blog) — brief but purposefully-hopefully intense wordorgasmilistics, I brought up the ever-going duel between the divine and the devil in me. I’m sad to report back: it’s for real. I’m even sadder to do a follow-up: the devil is winning out. I tend to think that in spite of being the unblossomed blue lotus me shaking-struggling out of the muck, with help from my dreaming-sacrificing parents, indulgent-caring siblings, admiring-adoring lifelong friends and an ever-forgiving couple of co-habitants, I turned out to be someone who dared an inner spirituality with an almost miraculous awakening half-way through life that spirituality-driven social reformers, politicians and human rights soldiers demanded some dedicated time from me to justify my otherwise meaningless existence. Yet, the mentor never came to hold my hand and show me the way. Without the guru and guiding light, the once-quality building blocks never really built. They slowly perforated, crumbled, and fell apart.
Meanwhile, goose-chasing, time passed. Sky turned blue to scarlet to dark evening. It stopped moving. Finally, the meaninglessness, the void, the stupor took over. The lotus defoliated.
Now, that’s a long, perplexing message packed with a few decades of raw, pressure-cooker emotion.
My time has always been short, and it’s going to be even shorter. I know it. I feel it. Not that your time is going to grow either. Yet, is there any space for sharing? Not sure. I like to talk, and I like to talk to people I think would listen, at least for a few minutes before I bore them to death. Five minutes is up now.
(Actually, I don’t like expletives at all. I think they’re ugly. That’s where I do not belong. Will never do.)
Don’t worry. I know you don’t. Just in case you do, don’t.
(Originally written on 12th January, 2011. Revised today. Never know: could revise soon again.)
In OneFinalBlog, I primarily talk about feelings. I talk about feelings I analyze and express.
I find the experience fun. In fact, it’s more than fun: it’s ecstasy (in a spiritual way). I invite you to be a part of this inner ecstasy.
I also talk about society, people and politics. I emphasize on us — men, women and families — and our struggle for a simple life with rights, justice and dignity. Together with friends, I talk about media, money and manipulation too. Then we talk about how to deal with these powers individually, collectively, and yes, nonviolently.
Join in the conversation: I guarantee it’s always simple and fun and free, and never boring. Let me know what you want to include in this conversation.
[Originally written between January 30 and February 26, 2011]
This is my promised, short blurb for friends who promised to pause, and listen briefly. As some of you may have noticed, it’s a repost from my Facebook notes. I don’t have unlimited time, energy or brain power; hence, some repeats.
But I promise I’ll do my best to do my best.
This debriefing is about the current affairs of my mind: a journalistic mission to investigate deep into the unreported world of a fragment of my consciousness. Objective, unbiased, and unforgiving…true virtues of honest journalism. Plus, it’s not for profit. You can’t beat it.
So, are you interested?
I dive through the apparent-calm, motionless surface of my outer self (a dear friend just called it “poise,” only if she ever saw me screaming 🙂 — deep into the hurricane-wave of an inside that nobody can ever fathom. It’s the Neverland where the most precious gem waits in a most precious coral case, only to greet me with a near-indifferent smile, once in a while. Even I do not get to see it, unless the magic stone chooses to see me. I get called. I pay a visit. It touches me…and I see magic…scenes of my life…one scene at a time…precious stories I kept to myself…only to tell…in small fragments…to my precious, select friends.
That is, if they’re interested to listen. If they are, then, borrowing Tagore, “baki ami rakhbo na kichhui…” (I shall leave nothing spared.)
Life moved on. Life evolved. Life unfolded – like a ball of wool, slowly knitted away by the indifferent artisan – one threadwork at a time. The ball dropped from her lap, and slowly rolled away a few feet before she paused her needlework, bent over, and picked it up to put it back together, and kept knitting away. My life is that small, brisk, focused motion of the woman’s threadwork needle tips. As if it’s an ever-played tick-tack-toe. Tick-tack, tick-tack, tick-tack-toe…tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-toe…tick-tack…tick-tack…
Get it? Nothing special, nothing complicated, nothing exceptional. Yet, very precious. Very, very precious.
I’m singing songs today. Songs of life…sung by hundreds of thousands of me…millions…across the world…across the seven seas and thirteen rivers…searching, yearning, searching…
The woman is focused on me…on my life…like a ball of colored wool…on her lap…she wouldn’t let it go, unworked. She’ll make something special out of it.
There is my hope. My life will be somewhere…something…some day.
“amar aponare dekhte dao tomar majhe…”
(Let me see myself…in you — Tagore, again.)
Peace. Justice. Dignity. Freedom to think, and to act.