My memories of Bangladesh are those of someone else. Being a second generation immigrant is a strange thing; memories and ties to a place you have visited but never lived in. A curious familiarity and nostalgia created through the stories retold by homesick parents to children who speak and think in a different language.
My childhood consisted of annual visits to the homeland of my parents. Bangladesh has always been a place which feels both alien and familiar but is a place where I always felt I belonged. I realise now that it was never about the place itself, it was always about the people who engulfed you with love, warm and laughter. The people who made you feel that you were one of them.
And so it was with Tahmid, the youngest of the family - the baby who we watched grow into a remarkable young man. My memories of Bangladesh are a kaleidoscope of images and sounds - snapshots of long hot summers set to the sounds of honking horns and whirring fans. The laughing toddler running around the house, the kid who would bring home injured animals, the softly spoken teenager who taught himself how to play the guitar. An innocence and gentleness that shone through as light.
And then it happens. That terrifying moment when the world fades around you and you realise that a barbaric act of violence has targeted someone you love. That the violence you have tried to ignore has finally forced its way into your world.
Tahmid is a student at the University of Toronto, Canada. He was due to spend this summer as a UNICEF intern in Nepal, but his mother asked him to spend Eid in Bangladesh before he started. He landed in Dhaka on the morning of Friday July 1st and arranged to meet friends that evening. His friends called to tell him to meet them at a place called the Holey Artisan Bakery, a restaurant famous for its ice-cream and pastries. That casual decision changed the course of everyone's lives.
Terrorists stormed the restaurant shortly after Tahmid and his two friends entered it. They committed one of the worst atrocities that Bangladesh has ever seen. Twenty-two innocent people were brutally murdered. Hostages said that during the night Tahmid and others were forced to hold an unloaded gun and act as decoys - Tahmid broke down in tears and tried to resist but was eventually forced to comply. The hostages spent the night surrounded by the carnage inflicted by the terrorists.
In the early hours of Saturday 2nd July, eight Bangladeshi hostages were released shortly before troops stormed the bakery. Tahmid was one of them.
Tahmid has been detained incommunicado ever since. His family have yet to see him. He made a phone call to his father on Saturday 2nd July to let him know he was alive. No-one has spoken to him since then. The police initially stated that they were interrogating him as a witness. A week after this they said they had released him. The week after this they stated that they still had him but were unsure of his location.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/university-of-toronto-student-missing-after-being-jailed-in-bangladesh/article30848243/http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-3687847/Fears-two-Bangladesh-hostage-survivors.html
We continue to wait. We replay the memories of the laughing toddler and the kid who would bring home injured animals. We continue to wait. We remember the young man who was inseparable from his guitar, who would sit around playing music with his friends long into the night. We continue to wait. We wonder how the darkness of that night will affect the gentleness and innocence that was an integral part of him. We continue to wait.