It was noon and I was at my work place. This was a very busy day for me. To my surprise my manager called me “Afroja, You have a phone call”. I went to the back of the store and received the phone, it was Milton, “Anna, are you busy?” he asked. “Yes, why did you call me?” He was silent for a moment before saying, “Avijit was killed and Bonya was seriously injured in Dhaka.” I was numbed; I didn’t know what to say. My manager looked at me and asked, “Is there anything wrong?” Of course there was. A prominent writer, a free thinker, a scientist was killed in Bangladesh. A very good friend of us of course.
I came home, turned on my laptop and started watching the BD news and looking through the pictures, the ones posted from Bangladesh. My whole body was shaking, I felt numb, I didn’t know what to say, what to think, or what to write.
The next day, was a turning point for me. I saw a picture of the aftermath there was blood all over the sidewalk, a piece of Avijit’s brain, a pair of Avijit’s glasses and dismembered finger of Bonya. That was the moment I couldn’t control myself, I started crying and thinking did our people know just how expensive that brain was? No, they don’t know. It was an invaluable jewel.
Those images reminded me that when people know they can’t fight with the creative and knowledgeable they use force. They kill them; they torture them and attempt to destroy their rational thinking. The same thing happened in our liberation period.
Why is that? Why can’t they fight in the same way Avijit fought? With pen and paper and words instead of the violence wrought by their irrational thinking.
I have saved pictures of Avijit with me and Milton (Farid Ahmed), these pictures were taken in Miami, Florida. It was at my home when I used to live there. When he came to visit us I felt proud to be with him. After dinner, we were talking about issues and sharing our views. I was watching him and thinking that this shy, soft spoken man carries so much knowledge, and how much different the world would be if everyone could reach his level of thinking. The next day in the morning before he left I asked my son to take a picture. After that we didn’t get chance to meet with each other but we talked over the phone. I always mentioned to him that “I saved your picture Avijit. I know one day you will get a big award and then I will post this picture and let people know that you Avijit Roy are my friend.” He would howl with laughter and humbly say he didn’t know what I meant.
Today, I see that picture and think why I didn’t talk more? Why didn’t I spend more time with him? Usually, I don’t write, I am a silent reader, a silent listener. I love to listen to people. When Milton used to talked to Avijit or Bonya, I always asked him to turn the speaker on so I could listen to them. They were laughing and joking but at the same time talking about Bengali literature, different socio-economic, cultural and religious situations in Bangladesh and I always found it fascinating.
Today I regret that I wasn’t able to tell him how much he meant to us. It’s unfortunate that it takes the death of someone to fully grasp how precious life is and I regret not telling him what I’ve wrote before he died. I’ve resolved myself to not wasting time, whatever, whenever and whoever I want to say something to, I will.
Afroja Akter writes from Toronto Canada. She can be reached at [email protected]