Not forgotten, not forgiven
Anjuara Begum made her way through a crowd with small steps towards the piles of the debris-strewn disaster site in Savar. She stopped before a pool of rainwater accumulated in a pit.
Kneeling down, she dipped one of her fists in the greenish water and touched her face with the wet palm. Anjuara mumbled; her eyes brimmed with tears. Her cry soon turned into howl as a woman tried to take her away from the edge of water.
"Here, here my son Hridoy has died... bury me here. My son, my jewel is around here," she cried, holding tightly a piece of concrete rubble.
Like Anjuara, family members and relatives of Rana Plaza victims shed tears as they gathered the disaster site yesterday with photographs and related documents of their loved ones.
It was the second anniversary of country's deadliest industrial disaster that took away at least 1,135 lives and left over 2,000 others injured. Over 80 remain untraced.
Some howled while many sobbed and a few just gave vacant look at the site where their loved ones toiled day and night stitching clothes for global brands in garment factories on the upper floors of the shoddily constructed nine-storey building before it collapsed on April 24, 2013.
Some lit incense sticks, some expressed anger in wait for justice. A humming sound of rage and weeping filled the air of area.
In the last two years, no significant change took place in the hulking Rana Plaza complex, now open for all. Weeds grew in some part of the disaster site still strewn with torn clothes, papers, yarns and tags. Some human bones were also seen kept at one corner in the concrete rubble.
But the agonies of the relatives of the victims like Anjuara are still fervid.
Hailing from Mymensingh, she lost her elder son Hridoy Hossain who used to work on the fifth floor. His body was never found.
Hridoy was the main earner of her four-member family after her husband fell ill several years back. To run his family, he stopped studying. His younger brother now studies at class-VII in a local madrasa in Mymensingh.
The woman in her fifties has her life full of sorrows. Her parents were brutally killed by robbers when she was a kid. Living in Savar, she fought against odds throughout her life.
And when her son got the job, she started dreaming of good days.
"Now everything is finished," said Anjuara, wailing.
Recalling the fateful day, she said Hridoy left home saying he would return soon as the factory would be closed.
"But he left me forever," she said.
Anjuara shuttled from one hospital to another, gave blood samples for DNA tests, but the body of her son remains traceless.
"Whenever I get time I come here this is the memory of my son," she said.
Only a few yards away, Meherunnisa was lying on the rubble, crying inconsolably and beating her chest. She was trembling as if she may faint anytime. Her younger sister was pouring water on her head and her husband was trying to take her away.
She lost her son Abul Kalam in the Rana Plaza disaster.
"I will not go anywhere. His body was recovered under the staircase. I want to stay here," she said. She came from Shyamnagar of Satkhira on Thursday.
Kalam was the cutting-in-charge of a Rana Plaza factory. The family got the body 15 days after the tragedy. Fourth among eight siblings, Kalam had worked for around four years in Rana Plaza and lived in Savar.
He left behind his wife and two minor sons.
Kalam's younger sister Fatema Khatun said every day her brother used to make phone call and used to ask whether her mother took food. "He was very caring," she said.
Each family of the victims has a different story to tell.
Take Abdur Rahman as an example. His two sons -- Abu Bakar Siddiq and Kader Siddiq -- used to work on the second floor and third floors respectively.
Kader died and his elder brother Abu Bakar narrowly escaped. But Abu sustained psychological trauma which he could not get over with.
"Sometimes he [Abu] acts like a normal person. But sometimes he acts in an uncontrolled way," said Abdur Rahman.
Abdur Rahman has got Tk 3.20 lakh after his younger son's death and Tk 50,000 for his elder son.
But he had to spend almost all for the treatment of his son, who needs medicine of Tk 350 every week. Abu was treated in Rangpur Medical College Hospital for an injury he sustained in his anal fissure.
Moreover, Rahman has to take care of his family that includes his wife and Kader's wife and three children.
Abdus Salam took his four-and-a-half-year old son Amit to the site where his wife Mita Khatun worked until the day she died. He held a copy of The Daily Star newspaper which carried a photo of his elder daughter crying at the recovery of his wife's body.
They placed a wreath at the monument "Protibade Protirodhe", built in memory of the victims.
"My daughters realised the fact that their mother died, but Amit is yet to understand it," said the 33-year-old father.
Amit plays all day with his cousins, but often he inquires about his mother and cries, he said.
"I could not give a proper answer," said Salam who did not get married. His aged mother looks after the children now.
Abdus Salam received around Tk 3.5 from government, different NGOs and donor agencies. "The money I keep for my children's education."
While many have received financial assistance from the government, NGOs, charities and social organisations, many have lost their sole breadwinners and have been waiting for some kind of help.
Sexagenarian Khodeza is one of them.
Her only son Khalil Hossain died, but she did not get the body. Now Khodeza is the one who looks after Ayesha, daughter of Khalil. His wife had left him several months before the Rana Plaza tragedy.
Though she received around Tk 1 lakh, her future looks grim. She already spent a major portion of it.
"I have nobody and I don't know how I will grow her up," she said. Khodeza used to live in Shahibagh in Savar with his son. Now she moved to her village home in Ataikula of Pabna.
"How will give the house rent. How will I manage everything," she asked.
Yesterday, several thousand people, workers of different garment factories, and members of workers' organisations placed wreaths at the monument to mark the second anniversary of the collapse.
They demanded compensation and seeking punishment for the building owner, Sohel Rana, and other factory officials, who forced the workers to join work.