… Throughout the ordeal I’d been asking Dipu what the guys had been saying but he kept telling me that he thought it was just a misunderstanding and Shahed would be fine. Two minutes into the ride back I asked Dipu again what had happened and why our boat was leaving Shahed alone … he gave me the same story. Adrenaline running and frustration mounting I began to go through the possible courses of action. I tried calling Karin first but the reception was terrible and the call didn’t go through, so I began to go through my contact list looking for the numbers of Shahed’s friends that I’d met. I came across Tushar, a journalist and friend of Shahed who lived down the street from us. I called and tried explaining to him what had just happened, but the story was lost in translation. I then asked Dipu to tell Tushar exactly what had happened in Bengali, not leaving out any details.
After Dipu explained to him what had happened, he gave me the phone back and Tushar told me to meet him at the press lab in 10 minutes. Once back at the bazaar, Dipu and I jumped onto a rickshaw and headed for Dipu’s father’s office (also a friend of Shahed) to alert him as to what had happened as well. From Dipu’s father’s office we walked to the press lab where Dipu thanked me for being so calm throughout everything. He told me that the guys were yelling at us to not try anything or else they were going to stab us, and that the guy who had jumped up onto the roof with us was saying that if we’d tried to move, he was going to put a knife into our backs. Not really knowing what to do, he panicked and didn’t know what to tell me as the event was unfolding.
Once we got to the press lab, it was packed with 20 or so journalists, most of whom I’d met – all of them discussing what had just happened. As Dipu and I walked in they asked me to come to the head table and wait for the police to arrive. No more than 3 minutes later, the police commissioner and 5 highly armed officers came in on their walkie-talkies, conversing with the police station on the island close to where they believed Shahed had been taken; Once the police got word that Shahed had been located we all headed back for the bazaar, boarding speedboats of our own and heading for the remote island.
After a half an hour ride, we reached the island’s docks and headed for the “hospital” which was more like a room with a rusty bed frame and dirty linens sprung around. The villagers quickly convened around the search party, trying to figure out what was going on. Once at the hospital we found Shahed sitting in a chair, badly beaten and bruised, with dirt and blood stains on his shirt which had been stretched out below his knees. His wrist had been wrapped up, but the open would just above his clavicle was still leaking blood. The sight of Shahed with tears running down his face – after a long 45 minutes of panic, frustration, adrenaline, and anger was enough to send tears down of my own.
Shahed, the amazing person he is, saw me and asked if I was ok without missing a beat. I told him that I was fine, but angry that I left him alone for this to happen, and he told me that he wanted this to happen – that this was going to bring about more awareness. Blown away by the commitment this man has to his cause, I took out my camera and began to take pictures of the Shahed, and the group of people – supporters – that surrounded him. I failed to notice the group of reporters already interviewing him and putting up podcasts almost instantaneously on the walk back to the docks to bring Shahed home.
On the boat ride back Shahed kept telling me how grateful he was that I’d acted as quickly as I did – telling me that had 10 more minutes gone by we would have been retrieving his body or worse, searching for it in the river. Still angry at the cowardice of these abductors, I kept telling him how sorry I was that I didn’t fight harder to get on the boat with him.
We returned back to shore, brought Shahed to the local hospital in Sonargaon and I sat in the room watching them stitch up his open wounds on his wrist and shoulder. After the stitches and a quick dose of pain medication, Shahed was back out the door and we were on our way to meeting with more members of the press to get the story out. The media explosion that transpired was something to marvel at – but it was a little discomforting as well.
Posted By Chris Pinderhughes
Posted Sep 30th, 2013