Tasmida stays in the makeshift refugee camp at Kalindi Kunj with her parents and six brothers, three of whom are married. Her family left Myanmar in 2002 and went on to live in Bangladesh. Though they were quick to adjust to the new land they were to call home, in 2012 the Bangladesh government cracked down on refugees forcing Tasmida and many other families like hers to flee the country.
Tasmida is a ray of hope for many Rohingya girls who have never known education or have never left the confines of the kitchen. She could only study till class 3 in Burma, then till class 6 in Bangladesh, all the while skipping a few years. The uncertain circumstances after moving to India made her drop another year. Finally, she got a chance to to study at the Bosco Refugee Assistance Project by UNHCR. Tasmida hopes to pursue medicine and become a doctor.
The language barrier has made it difficult for Rohingya women to explain their maladies to the doctors in India. I want to become a doctor that both represents them and understands us. I don’t want to dropout, instead I want to set an example for other girls like me who have been confined to household chores till now.
When asked what she missed the most about her homeland, she smiled and said, “Jackfruit.” She went on to explain
You people cook and eat the jackfruit, but back home, we used to eat it like a fruit. The vegetables were always fresh in Burma. I think I miss that the most about my home.
Tasmida recalls playing with her friends on the swing on her front porch.
There was a henna tree where we would all gather and play all day. Here the UNHCR volunteers have given us a carom board among many other games. I often play with the girls till late at night, because that is the only activity that I get to do around here. I used to play basketball, volleyball and running is another personal favourite for which I have earned quite a few prizes.
The constant denial of Aung San Suu Kyi of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas from Myanmar and the continued neglect of their community has left many lives like Tasmida’s hanging in uncertainty.
If we continue to live like this, clustered and shivering in one corner, I don’t think we will be able to develop as a community. We need to move out and see the world to understand it. We can’t keep living in one corner, in fear.
Tasmida hopes to return home one day, but only if the circumstances improve for Rohingya Muslims in the country.