It was the morning of 16th May 2016. We were on our final day of the FAM Trip sponsored by Jordan Tourism Board. We all bid Amman goodbye and boarded our flight for Sharjah. It was an Air Arabia G9338 flight. The flight yet not took off by then. We just took our seats after keeping our hand luggage. I and my co-traveler Abhinav just started chatting in Hindi, suddenly some lady from the other side asked me in broken Hindi, whether I am from India or not. As I said yes, she replied: “my dad is from Assam, India”. First I thought she was from Assam itself, maybe she is married that’s why mentioning “dad is from Assam”.
Image Credit: Abhinav Singh (A Soul Window)
I took a try and switch to Bengali, and as soon she heard someone speaking in Bengali in Gulf she was literally smiling like a kid. Then she started opening out herself, that her father is from Assam, India but her mom is from Dhaka, Bangladesh. As a Bengali its always fascinating for me to know about Bangladesh, to speak with Bangladeshi. It’s like knowing the other part of our identity.
It was time for the flight to take off, as the next seat to me was vacant, I offered her that seat. It was approx a 3-hour flight and we both were lucky enough to talk in our mother tongue on a flight.
The next 3 hours we talked a lot, about India, about Bangladesh, about the Bengali identity we both share. And we both asked the same question to each other “Why Jordan”? My answer you already know, but her story is a bit sympathetic and touchy but she is a strong woman.
She is from a village next to the capital city Dhaka. Though her village is still a village, despite the fact that it’s very next to the capital. Some 25-26 years ago her mother gets married to an Assamese Bengali. While her mother was pregnant, her father went for Assam and till today she and her family had no clue about his whereabouts. “Don’t even know whether he is alive or not” as she told me.
On her 4th birthday, her mother married a local businessman and now she has two step sister, one aged 20 and the other 6. When asked she told she don’t have any formal education but her 12th-year-old daughter Ratna is a class 7 student of Anurai School at Old Town, Dhaka.
At the age of 12, she gets married to a Pakistani, who came to Dhaka to meet his relatives. But destiny has its own way to treat her. The man left Bangladesh without his married wife. His name and details she denied providing so as I won’t ask more about it. She had her stepsisters, her mother, and her stepfather but still, she lived a 2nd class citizen life in her own house. her only family was her daughter. She was determined that she will not let her daughter live the same life as her. She started working at local plastic companies, then somehow came to know about job prospective at Jordan. On 23rd July 2013, she reaches Jordan, way from home just to provide her daughter a better life.
Image Credit: Abhinav Singh (A Soul Window)
She worked at Jordan for a long 3 years. Finally, she planned to return back to her country. When I ask why, she answered “At the beginning it was tough, but then I was accustomed to the culture, with the people, I earned a good money and send to my family back at Bangladesh, but yesterday one of my stepsisters met accident, she was critically burned and now at ICU”. I was not expecting the answer, but she managed the situation replying “don’t worry brother, its all part of life”.
On an emergency she booked her ticket through an agent, Mrs. Tahallik Nur (Where she used to work as a maid) gave her 500 JD and dropped her at the Airport. And she paid approx 200 JD at the airport as fine for extra luggage when I asked why she replied: “The daughter is returning back to home, demand should be high”. And then she told something I was not prepared to digest “The husband of my sister stayed ideal at home, he won’t go to work, but we can’t even force him now, sister is at this condition, he may call for divorce if we force him for anything”.
I met Shefali on that day on a flight, we shared our meal as I feel she will be hungry and at least that far I can offer to her. She then lightens the mood, was whispering some Bollywood song from the ’80s. Then she told about the lover she had, who waited long enough for her and finally get married after she came to Jordan. She still can remember about their meets, but as of now, her only world is her daughter Ratna.
When the 3 hours passed I didn’t notice, after the Flight landed on Sharjah, before leaving she gave me a 1JD note and told “keep it with you always, will always let you remember me”, even I did the same thing under her influence, gave her Indian Currency and few USD I had that time, she accepted it happily and replied “will use this INR when death will be near, not before that, and give me your photo and your contact no will tell my mom, u have a son too but on the other side of the border”. We left the flight, she went for Dhaka and us for Delhi.
The next day around 3pm I got a call from her, “Sister is shifted to general ward from ICU, I will come to Ajmer Sharif next month, hope can meet then”.
That was the story of my sister Shefali Monsanto.