Thank you all so so much for your messages and your prayers. I am really humbled by how people that I only ‘know’ over the internet as well as those I have known all my life have sent their condolences. Will and I are staying at my parents’ house for a few days so my brother isn’t alone here and as I walked back to the house after work today I was stopped by two separate neighbours who had heard the news. I don’t even know how it got to them so quickly – my parents left just 6 hours after they heard the news – but I was touched.
I called my mum’s oldest brother in Dhaka as soon as it was a decent hour in Bangladesh to see if he had news about my parents. He said that he had gone to the airport to meet them with a car at 8pm, and they left for Shimulbari straight from the airport. The hortal in Dhaka had been lifted at sunset, but it was going to be implemented in Nilphamari, our province, at sunrise the next morning. They made the journey just in time, stopping only for breakfast at my mum’s family’s house in Nilphamari town.
Once I’d gotten confirmation that my parents were safe, I finally felt like I could breathe again. It was short-lived. The relief was proceeded by a horrible feeling at the bottom of my ribcage and I think it was only then that I could fully appreciate what had just happened. I was at work, at uni; I’d just finished teaching one class and I had a four hour gap before my next two. I normally used that time to catch up on administrative tasks, and I had so much catching up to do, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I just wanted to talk to my parents and find out what was going on. I didn’t have a number for them though, and so I had to wait for them to call me. I think today was my worst teaching day since I started two years ago, not helped by the fact that students were bombarding me with questions about the assignment that’s due tomorrow and they hadn’t started and didn’t understand.
Just before I finished my last class, I got a call from a Bangladeshi number. I was desperate to answer but I had to stay back ten minutes to explain to a panicked first year what a literature review is (for the umpteenth time today). I called the number back and my mum answered. She said that most of our close relatives were there. The funeral had been held the day before and there was a huge turnout, with people coming from neighbouring villages to pray for her. She said that it wasn’t too hot yet but the rains that preceded the monsoon season were starting to fall heavy. Mangoes and lychees were growing everywhere, she said, knowing that along with guavas they are my favourite fruits. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little jealous; every time I’ve visited Bangladesh it’s been winter and fruits have not been plentiful. My Dadi had been staunchly guarding them, suspicious of the local kids. My mum also told me that Dadi had been fretting about our stolen car for months, asking my uncle every day if we had found it yet. How did she even know about that? I asked, and my mum replied that she had overheard my dad telling my uncle last December, and she had been anxiously awaiting news ever since.
She said that Dadi had had a very peaceful death. That afternoon she ate mouri and milk. She showered and prayed ‘asr. After ‘asr she complained of a pain in her legs, and asked my aunty to rub Vicks on her legs. Then she started getting a pain in her head, and so Vicks was rubbed there as well. Lastly she said that there was a pain in her chest, and that’s when she asked to be read the kalimah. She was read the kalimah, she recited the kalimah, and she made tawba. My uncle called the doctor, but she was gone within five minutes.
Here are some photos of Shimulbari taken on our last trip, including a photo of my brother and Dadi.