The real heroes of my story “The Boy refugee: A Memoir from a Long-Forgotten war” were my patents Khawaja & Fatima Qureshy. They were married in 1958 and lived a prosperous live in the then East Pakistan. My father was a manager in the Adamjee Jute Mills and my mother was a school teacher at the Narayanganj English Preparatory School. But soon afterwards their lives turned upside down and they become unwilling victims of a nasty civil war. We were innocent bystanders and as a result of the war we narrowly escaped death and became prisoners of war.
But during the civil war and the two years in the refugee/ POW camp they kept our family together and protected us from the horrors of war and its aftermath. They had the foresight to escape to the Dacca cantonment and stay with the Pakistani Army, so that we were evacuated out of Bangladesh. They instilled, in us, our love of education and hard work, and inspired me to be what I am today. Even during the camp life my mother taught me English, Urdu and simple mathematics. After release from the camps my mother insisted that all us three siblings, study hard and get the highest education.
When the war started, Pappa was in his early forties and in the prime of his life. He was muscular, and athletic; an avid sportsman. In college, he had been a member of the soccer, wrestling, and weight lifting teams. He had traveled all over India as the captain of the City College and later the Osmania University soccer team. There was a room in our house which was full of trophies and plaques he had won.
He started working in the massive Adamjee Jute Mills complex in 1958 and by virtue of his hard work and his excellent work ethic, he quickly climbed the ladder and became a manager at Mill #3 before the war started.
Ammi was the daughter of a high-ranking civil servant in the princely state of Hyderabad Deccan, where she was born and raised. She was oldest of eight siblings, which probably taught her to be calm and self-composed under stress. After completing her bachelor’s degree in home economics, she married Pappa and moved to Adamjee Nagar; a year after he joined the Adamjee Jute mills. Together, they had three children, I was the youngest. She stayed home and looked after the three of us, until we were school going age. Once I enrolled in the Narayanganj Preparatory English School, she also joined the teaching staff.