The first time the Pakistani Army entered her office, Monira Khanom thought she was going to be killed along with her colleagues.
She became rigid with fear when one of the soldiers sat at her table; she still remembers his heavy boots and khaki uniform.
"At times, the soldiers began to come every day. As soon as I sensed their arrival, I would swiftly leave my office room, go inside the building, lock the collapsible gate and just hide," she recalled.
In 1971, Monira Khanom was working as a nursing supervisor at the 400-bed Pabna Mental Hospital. She had joined in November 1970 after being sent there on a job promotion from Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
She shared with The Business Standard her experiences during the tumultuous period of the Liberation War when she was a young nurse who had shifted from the capital to a somewhat remote town for work.
Her family was in Chattogram and she was all alone in Pabna. Before she could get used to her new surroundings, the war began.
"On the morning of 26 March, 1971, we got to know about the crackdown in Dhaka. Immediately we left our quarters and shifted to the hospital," she said.
All the hospital staff began to live together in the hospital building. "It did not matter who was a doctor or who was a cleaner, whoever could find a little space, made a bed there," recalled Monira.
They never turned on the lights after sunset; every window was painted black or the glasses were wrapped in brown paper. Candles were used to visit toilets. At night, it felt like a ghost hospital.
Everyone took turns to cook and clean but patient management remained somewhat normal.
Monira said that there was harmony in the way they cohabited with the patients. But they were worried about the latter's safety in case the hospital was bombed.
After 25 March, the Pakistani Army had fanned across the country, supported by air strafing.
The management held multiple meetings and at one time, it was decided that the patients would be released. "We thought this way we could at least save some patients."
But it never happened. Rather, the mental hospital authority sent letters to the families who lived nearby. They were asked to come and take their patients away.
Before Monira went into hiding in April, around 100 patients were taken away by their relatives. It was not just her, many other staff also fled the hospital.
"One of the hospital's occupational therapists offered me to go to her village, almost 11 miles away from Pabna town," she said.
The war was undoubtedly a difficult time for Monira. She had no idea how her family members were surviving. But she also took a life-changing decision during the same time.
Fearing the social repercussions of being single and travelling with strangers, she married her therapist colleague's brother before going to the village with his family.
"Those were different times and I wanted to avoid gossip. Also, my husband was the most handsome man I had ever seen!" she said.
In June, Monira and her colleague, who was now her sister-in-law, came back to the hospital after the government announced public officials would return to work.
The two lived together in a house, which originally belonged to famous spiritual leader Thakur Anukulchandra.
One afternoon, the locals heard of a rumour that the Pakistani Army had no more cartridges left and they could be easily attacked.
With ordinary tools like bamboo poles, people ran towards the Army camp in Pabna town.
Monira joined them too with her sister-in-law, carrying sticks of firewood as they could not find anything else in the heat of the moment!
Breaking into a laugh, Monira said, "My mother-in-law kept screaming and trying to stop us, but we were in no state to listen to anything! We ran and we ran!"
However, they realised their mistake when they reached near the camp and the soldiers began to fire at them.
When she resumed work in June, the 400-bed hospital had around 200 to 250 patients left. After 50 years, Monira had trouble remembering what happened to the rest of the patients.
She would like to believe they were taken away by their families and lived safely somewhere.
"We were given ID cards from the hospital authority to show at checkpoints. The Pakistani Army would bark at us 'show your dandi (a slang for identity card) card, show it!'" she said, shuddering a little.
But she also remembered that every night, they could hear the cries of women from villages nearby as they were being dragged away by Pakistani soldiers and their collaborators.
The atrocities of the Pakistani soldiers left marks everywhere. Witnessing dead bodies on the roads became normal for Monira.
"One day, they came and took away one nurse from her quarters. She used to sit beside me at the office," Monira said, adding that the incident still haunts her.
After liberation, Monira was posted to PG Hospital in 1972.
At present, she is a director at Bangladesh Nursing College. Her long career in nursing has taught her to be grateful and patient.
Although she wanted to join the Liberation War like many of her co-workers, she could not because of family issues. She still regrets it.
After 16 December 1971, when the same Pakistani soldiers, who mercilessly killed and tortured the Bangalees, were leaving their camp and going towards Ishwardi, Monira Khanom was there to witness it.
"They hung their heads in shame, I still remember."