Trauma and conflict aren’t isolated, it’s passed on like currency via generations ahead. Thakurma (my father’s mother) was a single child, feisty, educated, intelligent, and independent-minded. This was quite an anomaly during her time. She was married young, to my thakurdada, (father’s father) who was a soft-spoken, gentle Bengali man.
Thakurdada, who happened to be a gold medallist from the flourishing Dhaka University, was dedicated to raising his family and giving shelter to a young widow and her three children till they became independent. He was an academician without much understanding of money. But didn’t hesitate to break bread however tiny the pieces it became in sharing.
Commerce seemed petty a subject in the Bhattacharjee household. It was a vulgar topic to discuss or have as a sole ambition.
They did face the downside of this mindset. But honour never left their bones. They struggled through the years but continued toward the hope of a better future. Each of their 11 children, my uncle and aunts are all
educated and have completed their graduation and some of their post-graduation. While all along this, they were encouraged to cultivate an art form. The home had a record player, a sitar, a harmonium and books.
Losing a family member, without closure
My thakurma lost her elder son, my Jhetu (uncle) to the uprising in Bangladesh. He lost his life for his ideology. They were the left-leaning intellectuals of the past who seem like crazy people in today’s world.
The Communist Party faced persistent repressive measures taken by the Muslim League government during 1949-50 in Bangladesh. The police firing on the communist prisoners inside the Khapra ward of Rajshahi Central Jail on 24 April 1950 killed leaders, while 31 of them were seriously wounded. In 1950, the historical rebellion took the lives of many thousands of youngsters. Among the death toll was also my uncle.
Many in today’s world wouldn’t understand this passion and would call this insanity. To him, it mattered.
Thamma never got over the grief and my late Baba wanted to visit the place where his family was forcibly displaced due to political persecution and the drawing of an irresponsible border in undivided Bengal. This broke families, forcing them to lose homes and restart all over again. This caused trauma and mental illnesses that were never discussed and deeply repressed anger among many of them.
My thakurma hoped against hope that her son would return. According to my Pishi (my father’s sister), there was a police raid at home, while my rebel uncle was in the toilet and they had forgotten to look in there. He was saved. My Thakurma wished she could hide her son forever away from the clutches of death and he wouldn’t be a missing member of the family, without closure. Also, this wouldn’t be her everyday reality. Hoping each knock on the door was her son, returning to her.
Trauma does make a human being resilient but it never leaves the heart. It stays on for generations through behaviour, diseases and emotions. Everything that is happening today in the world around us, the generation ahead of the families lost, maimed and killed will remember this pain.
The odour of the fresh blood of death and the stench of hate won’t die too soon. This frightens me, as a human being. What would revenge look like in the years ahead?
Manipur’s nude parade of the two women will be remembered by her family and kin, just the same way Palestinians and Israelis will breed this deep hurt forever. Studies suggest that intergenerational trauma and pain reflect in multiple ways on human beings for years to come. We all know, this is no inheritance to give to our children.
As we speak over 2,360 Palestinian children in Gaza have been killed according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, in just over two weeks since the Israeli military unleashed a massive military offensive on the Gaza Strip on October 7, after the Palestinian armed groups fired rockets toward Israel.
When will we stop? Will we ever?
The leftover traumatised people from war and conflict won’t forget the pain so easily. This makes me uneasy in the heart.
Mohua Chinappa is an author, and podcaster and is the co-founder of Asmee, a platform dedicated to the unhindered storytelling of women.
Views expressed by the author are their own.
Suggested reading: As A Migrant Daughter, I Lament The End Of This Place Called Home