19 Jul, 2013

going north…

Sehba Sarwar
19 Jul, 2013

This July is a month of movement for me. Today, I catch an early morning Green Line bus to Sylhet, Bangladesh’s fourth largest city in the northern region, close to the Bangladesh-Indian border. Due to heavy traffic exiting Dhaka, the six-hour journey extends beyond eight hours and artist Pulak Das meets me at the station to drive me to his father’s home, where he and his family have lived since his father built the home; the trip has been arranged thanks to artist and Britto co-founder Mahbubur Rahman.

After lunch, we walk through Pulak’s neighborhood, largely Hindu, and visit the under-construction Shiva temple. “We try to keep this neighborhood for the Hindu community,” he says, as he talks about how the Hindu community was attacked by the Pakistani Army back in 1971. Now with religious extremism on the rise, Pulak says: “If one family has to move out, we try to find another Hindu family to try to buy the home here.”

As electricity flits in and out and rain ebbs and flows, Pulak talks about his aunt-cousin who lives with his family, and how in 1971 she saw her husband and family killed in front of her.

“My father was also picked up three times by the Pakistan Army,” he tells me. “He saw his friends being killed but he managed to get away.”