It has been almost one and a half decades since the gruesome incident happened.
But what happened on that fateful day is still vivid in my memory. It still haunts me.
I am still carrying the nightmare as well as around 100 grenade splinters in different parts of my body.
Sometimes, I cannot sleep even if I want to when I go to bed at night. I feel like I am the only person who is awake as I writhe on the bed. It happens frequently, especially in winter. Blood circulation in my knees comes to a halt. I feel it.
Then I take a stroll in the room and do some light exercise until blood circulation resumes. I lie on the bed again, before falling asleep.
I was on duty when I sustained injuries in the grisly August 21 grenade attack on the Awami League rally in the capital’s Bangabandhu Avenue back in 2004. I was covering the rally as a Channel i reporter.
In the evening twilight, I was among those standing right in front of the stage. I was recording the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina’s speech when there was this sudden bang behind the truck Hasina was standing on.
I fell on the ground as people began to run amok in extreme fright. I had no idea what had just happened but I took shelter under the truck in an attempt to save myself. I put my hands around a tyre and lied on the ground.
My cell phone that I kept in a leather casing was still hanging from my waist. I managed to take it out and rang up Alamgir, who was the head of news at the time. (Alamgir is dead now.)
“It’s a breaking – there has been a bomb attack on the Awami League rally. Put it on the ticker, fast,” I yelled on the phone.
Alamgir could not hear me well as there were loud screams all around. I had to repeat what I said as loudly as I could.
I had not taken a look at myself before Alamgir asked me if I was OK. Then I saw my sky-blue jeans and yellowish T-shirt getting wet as I was bleeding heavily.
I was extremely terrified. All I managed to tell Alamgir at that moment was: “My situation is not good.”
And I hung up.
I felt that I had to get out from beneath the truck somehow if I want to save my life. I could still hear some blasts around. I tried to head to the Ramna Bhaban as I managed to squeeze myself out.
I was very close to the Ramna Bhaban alley when a teargas canister suddenly exploded right in front of me. I was not unfamiliar with the severity of this chemical weapon because of my previous association with the Chhatra League. I knew how harmful it could be when the canister released the initial gas.
I covered my face with my hands and I felt like vomiting. I struggled to avoid throwing up as I felt like I would die if I vomit during extreme bleeding.
It would be better if I go back under the truck to avoid the tear gas effect, I thought.
And so I did.
It was when I saw a grenade under my feet that I realised it had actually been a grenade attack, not a mere bomb attack. Intense fear engulfed my mind as I imagined my mother and two younger sisters sobbing over my corpse clad in kafan (a piece of plain white cloth used to wrap a dead body) on the bank of the Shitalakshya River in Gazipur.
I thought the grenade would go off any time. However, it did not.
All of a sudden, I felt that I was no longer terrified. I came out and tried to stand straight before falling down quickly. Splinters had penetrated the lower part of my knees.
I had no idea how I managed to crawl my way to the Awami League headquarters on Bangabandhu Avenue. I have no words to describe the experience. At times, I felt like lying on the street even if I died.
As I crawled to Bangabandhu Avenue, I witnessed violent scenes – detached hands and hundreds of shoes lying on the roads filled with blood. The injured were yowling all around.
It still sends chills down my spine when I remember what had happened.
Awami League members who were on Bangabandhu Avenue came forward to help me. Bayezid Milky, who was working for NTV as a reporter at the time, and the channel’s cameraperson Tareque carried me to Pir Yemeni market before an iron-laden truck brought me to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
I was lying on the hospital floor. I could see no doctors or nurses around. I was continuously bleeding.
Death is inevitable this time, I thought.
I saw my fellow Dhaka University Chhatra League members who came to donate blood. There were on-duty journalists as well.
But I did not even have the energy to ask anybody for help. I saw a stretcher carrying the body of a grenade attack victim.
Suddenly I heard the words: “Where is Khokon? Where is Khokon?”
I opened my eyes and saw my colleague Santosh Mandal, who was a well-known crime reporter at the time.
Even though Santosh walked over me without stepping on me as I was lying on the floor, he did not see me. I tried my best to call him but nothing came out of my mouth. I was devoid of the last bit of energy.
I saw him coming back to me after a while. Again, he was about to miss me but I managed to grab the lower part of his pants.
My body was filled with blood. Yet, Santosh had no trouble recognising me.
I was taken to Holy Family Red Crescent Medical College Hospital where I received primary treatment. I survived my injuries.
My employer later made arrangements to fly me to Bangkok for better treatment.
Grenade splinters penetrated different parts of my body and the pain is still there.
But the greatest thing of all is that, with the blessings of the Creator, I am still alive.