"Did you see the dead bodies over there?" a little wizened old woman bursting out from nowhere asked, fixing her lackluster eyes on them.
The couple got startled and stared at her in consternation. The woman was in her late seventies. Her tattered attire and withered expression made them believe that there was something wrong but nothing to be worried about. They had just arrived at their ancestral hometown after getting married a week ago to meet their relatives. The woman had shown up when they were sitting inside a nearby park.
The boy inquired, "What are you talking about?"
The woman retorted, "My husband and my two children."
"What happened to them?" the girl hollered, surprised.
The woman, getting some attention from somebody, perhaps after a long time, got encouraged and quietly sat beside them, "Don't you remember the war? One sultry afternoon they came in a body."
"Oh?" the couple asked more out of politeness than curiosity.
"They came, they came, all clad in khaki dresses, they arrived, surrounded our village, cursed us, "shob saleko mar do," they set our houses on fire, they came, they came, they shot my husband and two children in front of me. They picked me up. They took me to their camp, they kept me there until the winter! …" the woman burst out laughing, and then she cried. Next she tore her hair, slammed her fist on her chest; then she proceeded to do a myriad of such antics, but all of a sudden some policemen turned up in the scene.
The couple felt relieved.
They were the children of parents who became big business tycoons after the Liberation War. And all that happened a long time ago, too. Was she talking about that same war?
At the sight of the policemen, the old woman got doubly furious. She began to throw at them whatever she could pick up, uttering the most precise expletives, "You bastards, you killed my husband and children that day, you ruined my life…" But the cops seemed to know her well enough; they did not seem to mind. Other people of this locality also knew her, in fact, they had known her for the last good fifty years. Initially they drove her away, called her a "slut" behind her back. But with the passage of time, she became bearable, also recently her eligibility to get government allowances was proven by some journalists.
When the policemen were gently escorting this insolent septuagenarian out of the park, a Pajero, waving national flag whooshed past them. One of the cops was about to salute when the woman started to wriggle hard to shake off the policemen. She spat on them screaming her lungs out, "bugger off" and got free. Next moment, the lost soul of some bygone time disappeared inside a dark alley between two buildings to resume her hunt for the dead bodies of her husband and children.
Moinul Abedin is an English teacher at the DPS STS School, Dhaka.