Towards a new destination!
The train started rolling at around nine in the morning. We were initially busy with making ourselves comfortable. But when things seemed under control and the train started to gain on speed, we could take time to look around. To our delight we found a fantastic landscape through which the train was steaming ahead. The railway track was laid in layers surrounding the green hills, each track going over the other. The scenic beauty with green vegetation along the route and the hillocks all around were mind boggling. We wondered how uphill a task it must have been for those who built this track over this difficult terrain over a hundred years ago. We went through a number of tunnels on the way. Some of them were nearly four-minute long. The beauty of this route was so enchanting that we thought of revisiting it someday if we could survive the impending war of our independence. By the time it was past mid-day we were famished. There was no food available on the train. When the train stopped at the small stations dotting the hills we bought wild bananas and buns to satiate our hunger. It was not until another eighteen hours that we reached Lumding, the first station for a change over to the next train that would take us on a broad-gauge track to near the Farakkah barrage. We had a vegetarian lunch to our heart's content in the forenoon that day. We had not bothered to buy tickets during the first phase of our journey from Dharmanagar to Lumding as in the process of finding a place in that train and our dishevelled physical condition made us forget about the travel formalities. At Lumding, however, we thought it would be in order if we enquired whether tickets were needed for our onward journey. This was really an academic exercise because we could not have afforded to buy tickets in any case. The idea was to appeal for exoneration if we were asked to buy the tickets. When the Station Master heard that we had come from Bangladesh we were told that people from 'Joy Bangla' did not need tickets. During our sojourn in India we were always treated with this kind of honour wherever we went.
It was about four in the afternoon that we rolled in to Kolkata, then known as Calcutta. As was my earlier experience while entering this great city by train, the signs of impending presence of urbanity were evident. The experience was one of delight when I came on holidays to Calcutta before but this time on it was different. We were approaching the unknown. It was like an abysmal void that was about to oopervade us. All the stations close to Sealdah were full to the brim with refugees from Bangladesh. And what scared me most is that we were going to join this crowd of indigent. It was then that I tasted the feeling of depression, may be, for the first time in my life. When I visited this city earlier I had a home back there in Dhaka. And after each visit I could look forward to going back home. But this this time I did not know if I would ever have a home to go back to. Sitting in the horse-drawn phaeton, looking around for excitement I was inundated by further depression. The only alternative to this feeling was to go and add a meaning to life by being actively associated with the war, however meagre the effort at that point in time was. At One O' Four Park street, my Grandfather's house, we were welcomed by our cousins who still lived in Calcutta, both my Grand Parents being long gone. The house was there. The tall rain trees dotting the avenue were as before. The paan shop of Rashid 'round the corner was still as inviting for a chilled bottle of an orange drink. Kali Da's shop at the Congress Exhibition Road was as inviting as before. Joy Bangla had become the most sacred greeting all around. Except that all colours from such worldly pledges had evaporated for me. I had nearly lost all meanings of life.
By then the first Government of an independent Bangladesh was sworn in at Mujibnagar. Various Ministries in exile had started operating in full swing. Recruitment of Mukti Bahini officers by batches had started. I was getting prepared to join in. It was a Sunday morning. I was walking aimlessly on the sidewalks of Syed Amir Ali Avenue when Alamgir Kabir, the famous Bangladeshi journalist called me from behind. He invited me for a cup of tea at the road-side stall and asked me what I was doing. On being told about my predicament, he told me that there was a greater war to be fought on an independent Radio because the world did not know what was happening in Bangladesh nor were the people confined within Bangladesh have any idea that we had waged an organised war against the occupation army of Pakistan. So I landed up in Shadhin Bangla Betar Kendra. And the rest is history.