Being the granddaughter of Nurjahan Begum, the first female journalist in Bangladesh, and Rokanuzzaman Khan (known as Dadabhai), the founding director of the children's organisation Kochi Kanchar Mela, I used to see Apa (Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina) on different occasions. However, I had little idea of who she was. I knew my grandparents loved and admired Apa, and I used to sit casually on her lap, free from worry.
3 December, 1999: Before my grandfather passed away, I perceived her as a very kindhearted person who would help my grandma or any other older adult get up on stage by coming down the stairs and helping them walk up. I saw a very humble leader. The day my grandfather passed away, he had chest pain and so he could not attend an event where Apa was attending as the chief guest; and where my grandfather was set to attend as a special guest.
So he asked my grandma to attend the event instead of him. Apa and my grandma were the first to go to the hospital, before any of his other family members, and before they knew he had passed away.
A Guard of Honour was later arranged by the PM to pay and show her last respects. As I got older, I clearly remember that at my grandfather's funeral, she came, she looked at me, and she tried to ease my pain. I looked up at her, and for a second, the pain subsided. I saw the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen in a person.
May 2016: 5 May, 2016, she was admitted to the Square Hospital and was shifted to the hospital's intensive care unit on 7 May as her condition deteriorated. Back then, I was working for Channel I, and I informed the PM through the media. The PM took all the responsibility for treating my ailing Nanu. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina maintained round-the-clock contact with the hospital authorities regarding Nanu's treatment. She sent her special assistant, Shakil sir (deceased Mahbubul Haque Shakil), to the Square Hospital to see the condition of Nurjahan Begum.
May 2017: I was in India when Mum passed away. I had suddenly lost the reason for continuing to raise the flag. I lost purpose in my life. I did not know for whom I should be doing anything because whatever I did, I used to do to impress my mother. Moreover, she was now gone. For a long moment, I lost my direction in life.
A few days later I was cleaning my room. I noticed Apa's life story in a newspaper, and I immediately wanted to read through the whole article. It struck me that she had lost her entire family. She had lost her parents at the same age as when I had lost my parents. The only person alive was her sister. That was exactly the situation that I was in at that moment. I asked myself if the country could be led by someone who has lost it all, and who has been an orphan for such a long time, then I could also overcome and can begin to hope and dream again.
23 November, 2018: I had so many reasons to thank her, and I was looking for just the correct opportunity. I remember I went to Gonobhaban for an event called "Let's Talk with Sheikh Hasina". I did not want to miss the one moment to thank her for what she has done for my family and what she has inspired in me. I took a chance to ask her whether we could raise the flag together immediately. I travel the world with this Bangladesh flag, and I had been dreaming of this moment forever. Indeed I did; I dreamt of this moment a few thousand times in my life. I had a few minutes of my life to be able to look into her beautiful eyes once again and say thank you on behalf of my family.
As we were taking the photo, I told her that my grandma was Nurjahan Begum, and her beautiful eyes sparkled, and she looked at me with a smile. I can never forget that face. So once again, for this article, I want to say thank you. Thank you for all you have done, not just for the country but for my family and for me. Please remember that every time you succeed; you give hope to another orphan. Thank you, Apa.
The author is known as the 'The Flag Girl'. She is Winner of Miss Culture Worldwide and is currently doing a Masters in Strategic Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney