Diary of a Refugee

By Ipshita Chatterjee, Batch of 2018

Today, that good lady, with a card around her neck, who sometimes brings us food and water, brought this strange little thing, like a few sheets of paper bound together. She called it a ‘magazine’ and smiled warmly through her bright green eyes and held it out for me and ukhti to see. The pages were so shiny and glossy, it was as if someone had rubbed a dollop of clarified butter on them, just like ommy used to rub on the sacrificial lamb on the day of Eid-al-Adha, when we all lived happily in Tal Abyad, before the fighting began. But ommy has long gone and it’s just me and ukhti now.  She says that ommy is in the great starry heavens above and she smiles down at us each night. So, even we smile at her, before sleeping in our tent or on the ground in the refugee camp.

Ukhti and I spent a lot of time with that ‘magazine’. It had so many colorful pictures, pictures of people and places, bright pictures of bright things. There were writings which we couldn’t read. Ukhti knows how to read but even she couldn’t. I laughed at her and told her that she must have been kidding me all this time. I wouldn’t know, I was too small when ukhti used to go to school. She scoffed at me and said that it was probably in German, which the lady and her people spoke, and that she had been taught Arabic in school, the language we spoke. How would you even know the difference, Adad? You had just one year of schooling, before we had to flee Tal Abyad, she riposted. I was silent.

I touched that ‘magazine’ lightly and carefully, lest the pages tear and that little wonder be damaged. I turned each page slowly and gently, relishing and savoring it, each picture, each page, each moment I looked at it. Its smooth touch and its feel and my hand made me forget all else in the refugee camp; how the kids from the neighboring tent bullied me, how I heard ukhti cry at night, how I missed ommy a lot, how I wanted to eat the fragrant rice which ommy cooked on festivals and on my birthday and how I had only eaten stale bread for the past few months.

I wish you were here to see the ‘magazine’ too, ommy. I wish you had bought me one. But now, I only wish you were here with me and ukhti. She misses you too. You do smile at us at night, don’t you? I think you do. You are that twinkling star, near the moon, I smile at for the longest time, right?

Smiling at you,