Child of Migrants: Vicky - Dhaka
Vicky, whose real name is Noor-e-Omar Khan, wants to be known as a Bangladeshi first and foremost. His background is a bit complicated. He goes to the Dhaka Mohammad Central University and is in his late teens. His family members have different views of what they are but they all live very close to each other in Town Hall Camp.
My mother used to be a Hindu, a Brahmin [a member of the highest class]. My father is a Bihari. They fell in love and got married and then all hell broke loose –a court case was even filed against them. The police told my mother that if she went back to her father's, my father would be tried for abduction. But as she did not want to return to her father's house the guards happily organized a wedding in their honour…
My parents came to Town Hall camp in 1977. My brother and I were both born in the camp. Then my father went a bit mad…. It was the most difficult time of my life. I used to be taunted a lot, some used to call me 'son of a Hindu', others 'son of a madman' [keu bolto hindu’r chele, keu bolto pagoler chele].
None of our family members cared for us during those years. I have to say, my uncle who lives in the camp is very poor himself. They had once had much property but lost everything. But Allah has been looking after us. One day, as a small child, I went to the mosque and cried saying, 'Allah, why did you do this to me? People call me all kinds of names – a Hindu's son, a madman's son'. Then, when I came out of the mosque, I was miraculously circumcised and people started considering me as special and started to treat me more kindly.
Even though most of Vicky's family members have married Bengalis, his eldest uncle is a staunch believer in Pakistan and, given the opportunity, would like to leave for that country. This is what he thinks about fitting in in Bangladesh:
This is Bangladesh, we are not Bengalis and we don't belong here. We are stranded Pakistanis. Most of my family members live there. We're going to the Pakistanis as soon as we have some money. We came from India to uphold a specific book [i.e. the Koran], but here they gave more importance to a language than a book. The Christians have their Bible, the Hindus their Gita, the Muslims the Koran, but which book have the Bengalis got? They don't care for any holy books, all they care for is their bloody language. Besides, how could they, as Muslims, fight their own?
Vicky later explains why his uncle wants to leave for Pakistan:
You have to understand, they were very wealthy and my uncle lost a lot of land near Panchbibi railway station, most of his family members were killed, this is why he holds so much resentment in his heart.
Vicky's mother spoke about marrying Vicky's father:
We used to live in Joypurhat's Panchbibi area in Bogra. Vicky's father as a Muslim, I a Hindu. We ran away together in November 1977 and were married by one of the camp bosses – the late Mujib Khan. [His family] were originally from Bhagalpur but had settled in Joypurhat. They used to own a big hotel, a canteen for a ship company and a biscuit shop; but they lost everything.
When we ran away we came here to live in Market Camp nearby. I was a teacher at Heed and my husband used to weave carpets... Then about ten years into our marriage, he went mad. Maybe because of all the suffering he had witnessed in 1971. He started roaming the streets, beating me up, not coming home, not washing or cutting his hair. He became a total tramp.
I went and saw many doctors and religious men. As I was no longer working for Heed but working for the World Council I started going to church, took up Islam in a big way and followed every rule, kept every roza [fast]. Then one day a deaf-mute, via his assistant who explains his sign language, said he would either die or get better after twelve years. This is what happened. In 1997, after twelve years, he was suddenly cured.
Just imagine the tension and poverty in which I brought up my two boys. Thankfully they are both alive and doing well, though I regret my eldest son having married so young. He fell in love with his neighbour. She's also mixed – father Bengali and mother Bihari.
She then points to the child she was giving lessons to and said:
His parents are mixed too, his mother is Bihari and father Bengali. There are many mixed Bengali-Bihari families here, many more than you would imagine.
She spoke of leaving her home:
We're actually from Balurghat [North Bengal – on the frontier] but ran away to Joypurhat during the riots. We were a minority in Balurghat and this is why we ran to Joypurhat where there were many more Hindus and we felt we were in a more secure place. But after things got bad and the Pakistanis started killing Hindus we ran back to Balurghat and lived with my maternal aunt and returned to Joypurhat only in 1972 when we got our country back. We returned because we had land and my father was a well-known and respected doctor. But when we returned all we found were fields, our houses lay in ruins completely leveled down, razed to the ground.