“I will send her to college if possible. I want her to be either a lawyer or a doctor,” says Eman Hossain, proud father of 14-year-old Khotija. Eman and his family live in Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh, home to some 13,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who have been in exile for more than two decades.
Khotija’s father, having completed only two years of schooling, relies heavily on his youngest daughter to read official documents and help the family make informed decisions; “She can explain documents and data in the food ration card and medical prescriptions.”
14-year old Khotija loves to draw and plant flowers around their shed.
The box rocks vulnerably every time the boat rides on a cascading wave. It has travelled to hell and back with the asylum seekers from Philippines. Together they have encountered pirates who kicked the box to scare the little children on board. It has also served as a table for scanty meals taken once a day and for spreading out the map, needed to steer the vessel on starry nights.
Once when water was gushing into the hull, it soaked the box so wet that the cardboard was about to fall apart. The inexperienced sailors took a while before they found the leak and siphoned desperately. To save the boat from capsizing, the travellers thought of throwing the box away with other belongings, but spared it somehow at the last minute.
As they cross the Australian border, tension mounts within the passengers and some of them try to stand on the box to get a better view. However, the battered box has reached its threshold and does not support anyone.
Soon the Australian Navy intercepts the boat. A young cadet notices the label on the box and quips about fresh pineapples seeking refuge in the country. The boat people don’t know enough English to get that. They cast it a bland look before leaving for Christmas Island.
The box has served its purpose well and would be fondly remembered by the first generation of these refugees.