I am not a child of Bangladesh.
I am her grandchild.
And as a grandchild amidst the dinner party,
I would scoff:
at the hugs of my aunties,
and the spicy food that they hand-fed me,
and the bottles of Coke that were always flat.
Begging to go home, as my droopy-eyed cousins left with their families,
in ‘97 Camrys and champagne beige Corollas.
But when I grew up, and I was told the stories:
of the Language Revolution, that set our tongues free and gave us our voice,
of our uncles, the freedom fighters, who traded their textbooks for rifles,
of an operation they named Searchlight, and the sacrifices that followed,
What I thought was focus in my aunties’ eyes as they prepared that night’s surplus of food,
I realized was desperation.
Desperation to remember what home smelled like,
What it tasted like,
And how it sounded.
As children, clutching their panicking parents’ hands as they hurriedly rushed for Pan-Am flights
bound for the United States,
They could not take with them the tea plantations,
Or the sprawling mangroves of the Sundarbans,
Or Gulshan’s roundabout, center of a new capital,
Or Cox’s Bazaar’s pristine white sand.
But they brought with them midriff-bearing saris,
They brought the recipes, and the songs, and the boisterous, ever-loudening laughter that
only Chittagong’s children could produce.
They brought with them a history of outspoken women and fierce rebellion.
They brought with them what the rest of the world tried to call ‘East Pakistan’.
And so I feel shame at knowing I scoffed,
Knowing now how much was lost
to get me here.
Because that laughter was louder than their gunfire.
Because a nation’s streaked tears turned to a tiger’s stripes.
We have a duty, grandchildren.
Do not lose what they brought.
Do not let time and conformity do what Pakistan’s armies could not.
Heaven is a dinner party;
There are relatives there that we never had the privilege to be annoyed by,
Waiting with the hugs they never got to give us.
I am Bangladesh’s grandchild,
And I love my Nanu dearly.
A sophomore creative writing major at Colorado State University, Anjay Kornacki was born in Yonkers, NY to a Bangladeshi-American mother and Polish-American father, the aspects of his heritage making up the core of his writing identity. This is his first submission to a journal.