It’s monsoon time and, during these rainy days, my mind wanders to thoughts of ten-year-old Tariq. I remember his family cowering under their small shack in Koyra of southwestern Bangladesh.
Most of all I remember his tranquil big brown eyes cloud over with fear when he spoke about Cyclone Aila.
He told me that when the cyclone came his father carried him in his strong arms, his little brother on the shoulders while their mother carried their sister.
“The winds seemed to sweep us away itself but we clung together and managed to make it to the cyclone shelter on time,” said little Tariq.
When they returned to their home after the rains had gone they saw that it was not there. Places Tariq had known and played in were now covered with acrid green saline water. Tariq points out a place in the distance: “There! There! That’s where our home used to be”.
I look over my shoulder, all I see is water and a near dead palm tree peering out from the depths. I try to say something to commiserate as I watch his little face crumple into a misery he cannot communicate in words. I remain silent and offer only a smile.
His eyes light up when I mention football. “I know Argentina will win!” Tariq squeaks out with sudden and unexpected excitement.
He warms up and brings out his Bengali school book and, with a certain amount of timidity, points to a poem on cyclones.
The illustrations have tin sheds of houses, trees and cows flying in the air. It is difficult to be a dispassionate development worker when you look into those eyes that cloud over one moment with fear, have flickers of shy friendliness and then change to downright excitement when we talk about football.
He tells me his favourite subject at school is English. He watches keenly as I translate what he says to my companion Meneca and practices some English – “My name of is Tariq and how are you(s)”.
He has a beautiful family. A warm-hearted father who drives a van given to him by Save the Children UK’s DFID/Shiree funded project. His mother tells us she helps them with homework since she studied till class 5, and he has a shy younger brother. Their little sister has gone with their grandmother to spend the day they tell us.
I tell Tariq that I am tweeting about meeting him. That right this minute a lot of people know his name; what happened to them during Aila and that his favourite subject is English. He peers curiously and with a certain amount of disbelief as I tell him this but I tell him that anything is possible in this world. Just take a look around you kid, you lived to tell the tale and to play football.
Tariq’s arm is bound in a cast, he’s broken it playing football in the rain he tells me with a happy, toothless grin. Together we tweet a “Tariq says hello everyone”. It starts to rain all around us.
The flooded area where they live seems to be the soggiest cold place in the world. I wished I could tell him it would all be OK. I couldn’t. But I know that the occasional sunshine I glimpsed in his eyes would keep him going.
We share a brief connection while I try to pass on some of my positive faith and belief in the fact that there is life after great tragedy through encouraging smiles. There is kid, I whisper inwardly to myself. There really is.