Farzana Banu Shirin (Syedpur, Bangladesh)

My family

My father's family came here in 1946 just after there were riots in Bihar. We came to the largest rail factory in Eastern India. My grandfather said, 'We’re Pakistani and we're going to go to Pakistan.'

Farzana's father worked as a senior technician at the Bangladesh Power Development Board and retired in 2005; he now devotes his time to writing poetry and short stories – both in both Bengali and in Urdu.

My mother's family now lives in Pakistan but my father's only sister lived in India and she is now dead. My father studied in Syedpur at the Kaydi Azam High School until his SSC [Secondary School Certificate]. Then he did his Higher Secondary School Certificate and went on to do a BSc in Physics, Chemistry and Maths.

We are six siblings – three sisters and three brothers. My eldest brother is a medical officer, his wife has an MSc in Botany and they have a one-year-old. My second brother works in a soap factory. My eldest sister studied until college but doesn't work. My younger sister stopped studying after matriculation because she didn't like studying. My youngest brother is studying for his BA and he and our father run a pharmaceutical shop.

As we put together Farzana's family tree, she said,

If you're getting into details, I have to tell you a story. My father had one sister. When she was young she met this guy from India who had come to look for work in Bangladesh. He said he had no family. They got married but after a while the guy returned to India, back to his family and his first wife and child. As my aunt was pregnant, we offered to keep her child and marry her off to somebody else. But she was inconsolable and said she wanted to go to India and be with the guy. She then left for India and set up house with him. She had five children with him and looked after his first wife's child.

My father used to visit her regularly in Rampura in Bihar and was appalled by the poverty in which she lived. Once, when we were children, we all visited. When she died in 1991 my father offered to adopt the youngest child who was then just a toddler and my father's brother-in-law agreed. So their youngest child became my brother.

This year my father decided that my brother should meet his immediate blood relatives and said, 'I owe this to you,' and took him to attend his eldest blood brother's wedding in Bihar. But he didn't like it there. He kept telling our parents, 'Take me back home, I don't like it here, it's so rural, a real dump.' My mother had been scared to take him there because she was afraid they would try to keep him, but she needn't have been.

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