On 13 August 1971, when my husband, Mansur Mujibur Rahman, was leaving for office, I did not think even for a fraction of a second that he would not come back.
He was a government officer of the Ministry of Land. During the Liberation War, he was not attending office very regularly, instead he went whenever needed.
However, that need was different. As he was a government officer, it was easier for him to get information regarding the Liberation War from the office.
He could easily get a hint of what the contemporary government was thinking or about their next move as a government employee. He often took this opportunity to help our freedom fighters.
Unfortunately, Razakar Riju Kabir discovered his involvement with freedom fighters. And thus, on 13 August, they were waiting for him in the office.
At home, I bid him goodbye like any other day, not knowing that was the very last time I would ever see him.
When he did not come back, I realised something ominous had happened. The following day, we heard that he was shot and thrown at Magura diversion channel. My brother went there instantly but his dead body was not in a state to be brought home for one last time.
His death broke me into pieces. I was so helpless, I did not know where to go with my young daughter and little children. I could not imagine the thought of the Pakistani army taking my children away from me. So, the very next day, to save our lives, I left Hajipara and went to Govindapur to my sister-in-law's house on the other side of Noboganga river.
Govindapur was a free area back then and I saw my husband's nephews and other young boys taking preparations to go fight in the war. That place gave me the strength to live again.
I wondered how those teenage boys were so willing to sacrifice their lives for our country. Or how their family was coping with the realities of war. I had lost my husband so I knew how it felt to lose somebody.
Looking at their faces, sometimes I used to get panic attacks. What if I have to send my son to the war too? How would I live then?
To this day, I cannot think straight when those memories get triggered.
But their deeds had also inspired us. Taking care of the freedom fighters became a responsibility to us. Though I was not actively participating in the Liberation War, I felt like I was also a part of it. Sometimes every day, sometimes once in a week, evening or midnight, they came whenever they needed support. We were like their shelter though they were the ones fighting to protect us.
That was a time when we all were prepared to help our freedom fighters. There were days when around 10 to 20 freedom fighters visited us at different times. Each time we cooked for them separately. It became routine that we would have some freedom fighters or informers as guests every day.
Sometimes, I stayed awake the whole night waiting for them but they did not come. When we were about to fall asleep, they would knock on our door. We never felt bothered. Instead, we were happy to see that our boys were safe and sound. We were relieved that they survived another day. I cannot articulate even half of my feelings now.
All I can say now is that it was an honour for me to assist them.
Sometimes, we would get requests from different places that a group of freedom fighters have reached and needed food. My sisters-in-law and I would happily cook for them. We cooked for countless days and nights. We don't even know how many freedom fighters we fed.
Four months went by like this. On 16 December morning, we heard on the radio that we are finally free. We no longer had to hide anymore; we could speak, go outside like before and breathe in the fresh air of our free country.
But at the time, this realisation came late. I was numb at that moment. I could only cry. I do not know why I cried. But then, I joined the celebration with our family because our boys also started coming back that night.
I missed my husband's presence in all these things. I knew if he were with us, he would have been so happy to see our freedom. I was pleased, but somewhere, something was missing.