When I asked my mother about the roadside bodies, she got a funny look on her face and said, “You didn’t see them.”
“I did see them.”
“On the way to school. Looking out the bus windows.”
She sighed. “I thought we’d shielded you from them.”
I'd been unsure of this memory, until her confirmation. "So they really were dead?"
“How did they die?”
“Well, some of them died of starvation. And others from the river flooding.”
We lived in New Delhi when East Pakistan rose up against West Pakistan and fought to gain independence. India, geographically between the two, entered the war in late 1971. For us this mean air raids over Delhi.
In the summer of 1972, we moved to Dhaka (then Dacca), capital of newly independent Bangladesh and site of my roadside bodies. Bangladesh is low, and floods regularly. Two years prior, the devastating Bhola cyclone had flooded the Bay of Bengal, killing half a million people and leaving unimaginable devastation in its wake.
Even without disasters, there were many easy ways to die: starvation, smallpox, cholera, malaria, to name only a few. You could even just get diarrhea from contaminated water and die of dehydration.