Of haunting memories
The word "excruciating" can hardly describe the pain Simeen Hossain has been in since she lost her son in the Gulshan cafe attack.
"My only strength was calling out my God, asking him why He had given me this trial and asking his help. Because, I knew there was nobody else who could help me," she said, recalling her days and months since July 1 last year.
At the same time, she is one of the proudest of mothers. And why not? Her son Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain left behind a unique example of courage, friendship and humanity at the cost of his own life.
Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain, 20, along with his friends Tarishi Jain, an Indian student of the University of California, and Abinta Kabir, a Bangladesh-born US citizen, was dining in the restaurant on the fateful night.
Abinta and Faraaz were both students at Emory University in Atlanta, and had come to Bangladesh for their summer vacation.
According to some news reports, during the attack, the militants, who mostly targeted foreign nationals, had asked Faraaz to leave. But his friends Abinta and Tarishi, who had foreign citizenships, were not allowed to go. Faraaz refused to leave his friends behind and was eventually killed along with his friends.
Faraaz, also grandson of Latifur Rahman, chairman of Transcom Group, and Shahnaz Rahman, received awards and other recognitions from a number of global and national organisations for his courage and sacrifice.
"As Faraaz's mother, I am the proudest mother in the world," Simeen Hossain told journalists at Gulshan Tower in the capital yesterday.
Faraaz, the younger son of Simeen and Muhammad Waquer Bin Hossain, was small, thin and more fragile than their elder son Zaraif Ayaat Hossain. Simeen was a little more protective towards him.
"I always thought he was a bit weak, except that night when he proved me wrong. Undoubtedly he was among the strongest ones in the world," said Simeen, managing director of Eskayef Bangladesh Limited.
"But I could not imagine he would make me so proud," said the mother.
Recalling the events of the fateful night, Zaraif said they had iftar together with their mother and then played games on laptops. Meantime, a phone came and Faraaz was excited about it.
He told Zaraif that he would meet Abinta and Tarishi after a long time at Holey Artisan that evening.
Faraaz went out of the house around 8:30pm. But, within some 15 minutes, the driver who took Faraaz to the restaurant called Simeen, saying there was heavy firing at the restaurant.
His mother and brother called him repeatedly in vain. They then rushed in front of restaurant and remained there the whole night without any clue to exactly what was going on inside.
The next morning when Simeen returned to the house, she went straight to Faraaz's bed and took in her hands a doll of Wayne Rooney that Faraaz had bought. The Manchester United star was his favourite footballer.
"The Rooney doll is still there, kept on the pillow of Faraaz," Simeen said.
She added the proactive actions that the government took to eradicate terrorism from Bangladesh were praiseworthy. While such efforts should continue, she said, parents and youths needed to maintain and improve family bonding so that the youths didn’t take the wrong path.
"So, I would request the youths to spend time with their parents, and will also ask the parents to spend time with their children. There might be problems, but that need to be discussed with family members for solutions,” she said.