Back from the Rubble

Darkness surrounded everything – machines, people, pillars, beam – one couldn’t be differentiated from the other. Some had beams ensnaring their hands, some had their legs trapped beneath pillars and machines, yet others had bloated, rotting corpses right next to them. There was no water, and no food. In a last attempt to stay alive, some were shouting “Help, Help!” till their throats went dry. Some were calling upon Allah frenziedly to get out of the dark cave alive, some were praying, some were attacking their colleagues—tearing off their hair, scratching them, even biting them, some were drinking their own urine to quench their thirst—it’s impossible to stay well, to stay healthy, when these memories haunt those who are still alive. They have lived through incredible trauma, and are still suffering from mental anguish. Even if they have managed to come out alive from that deathtrap, it’s difficult to free themselves of these haunted memories. Many have become paralysed; many have suffered through different illnesses and many are being tortured to death by the indescribable memories of those few days. Rebecca, Pakhi, Beauty, Jewel Sheikh, Rozina and Anna are a few of these people. Beauty was trapped for two days, Jewel Sheikh for two. Rozina and Anna had lost one hand each. 13-year-old Anna was not spared even then – she now has cancer in the knee joint where she had been injured. She is now fighting against a terminal disease.

The writings in this chapter are based on interviews and oral testimonies of the workers. A part of Pakhi’s narrative has been transcribed from Ragma’s documentary, “Chokh Bhondho Rakhun” (Keep your eyes closed); the rest is taken from Paki’s testimony.