The sold 10
The day had finally come and I held on to little Mahi while she comforted me as though I was the petrified child afraid of this big unscrupulous world. I realized then that children are both tougher and wiser then we think. I found her name a bit strange for a Rohingya child and asked her about it while we waited for the boat. Smuggler boats don’t come in the day like cruise liners, like all things wicked and evil the arrive at night. So all we had to do was kill time.
I began writing notes in my book and Mahi was absolutely fascinated that I could write and read. She asked me to teach her but since I was clueless about where to start I told her that she would soon be learning how to read and write. Looking at her eyes full of hope and dreams, I asked her the question every adult asks a child. What do you want to be when you grow up? Mahi looked at me and began to smile, she proceeded to tell me that she was going to be a doctor so she could return and help all the sick people in the camps. Her dream struck me like a lightning bolt. The idea that even a little child looks at the lush lands and dreams of return and that despite the obvious dangers she wanted to come back to the place of death to heal her people, our people. Actually none of us want to leave, we all want to stay and hold onto home .
The elections were up and I had hoped like everyone else around me that it would bring our Nelson Mandela moment. Hope may have been childish but no Refugee ever plans to leave their country and so all we do is hope until the last moment that things will change and that will be able to stay. I wanted to work in Burma, I wanted to be a teacher and to make a difference. I realise that grasping at this glimmer of hope may seem immature but it was all we had.
Our Country had been ruled by a brutal military dictatorship and finally after five decades there was the possibility of a free and fair election. Hundreds of electoral observers were descending on the capital and the National League for Democracy was poised to win in a landslide.
As the sun began to set little Mani asked me if we could stay and if she could go back to her family rather than leaving her mother behind. Many people looked at each other with those eyes. Those pleading , broken stares that said all said let’s stay home, elections may bring a better dawn.
I smiled for the first time in days, you cannot comprehend the emotions that rushed through me as night fell. I looked at this beautiful little child and said slowly, very slowly: ‘maybe we should return or maybe we should let destiny follow its cause and then we will all return home to this beautiful landscape once more. It sounded like a speech by a war veteran before she was deployed but then again are we not all soldiers of Freedom?
We knew that we could not stay, we were going to start a new life a new beginning and this was it. Now there was no turning back there was no chance of returning home today because the man that paid for our trip would not allow it.
A yellow flower moved in the breeze beside me. The air was crisp and the ocean breeze brought the promise of a new life. I thought of my sister thought of whether I could go through this journey alone. My heart yearned for her like the hearts of all those around me who were saying silent farewells to their loved ones that they were leaving behind. With a heavy heart I decided this was it. This was my moment and I chose to savour these final moments. Freedom had never felt so good. I set the yellow flower free into the dark waters and watched it float away, taking with it the sorrow and pain that I had become accustomed to.
by mumtaz saley