Vol. 5 Num 133 Wed. October 06, 2004  

'Agattya', mosquitoes and more

In our health culture, mosquitoes have since been in the centre-stage, albeit with a negative stance. I am nevertheless tempted to recall the anecdotes of the early fifties about mosquitoes that invaded the Dhakaites bitterly and made their life miserable.

Driven to desperation, a reader of "Agattya", a popular Bengali periodical of the day, wrote a letter to its editor asking what was the way out of this veritable nuisance. The editor replied quoting a line from a hit song of a Bollywood movie, Barsat, "Hamse na puchho, puchho Baharse" which obviously directed the letter-writer to refer his question to Mr. Habibiullah Bahar who was then the provincial health minister under Pakistani regime. Quip aside, novelty of the reply was no less striking.

Mosquito-oil in those days used to be sprayed in derelict spots in the city almost regularly by the employees of the Dhaka Municipality. In their rounds, the DM employees used to spray mosquito-oil in the surrounding area of the office of the daily Azad -- the premier Bangla newspaper of the time -- in the vicinity of the Dhakeswari Mandir in old Dhaka. The DM employees were given complementary copies of the paper whenever they came to the Azad premises on their rounds. As indeed, over the period, mosquitoes decreased considerably, but the premises were not out of the woods. When asked the reasons, the DM employees were embarrassed; they however came out in the open with their reply. They said they deliberately left some unkempt spots unattended to allow mosquitoes to breed. They feared if all the mosquitoes were gone they stood to loose their job and their families would starve. The Azad authorities were stunned by their reply. An unspoken "truce" was enforced tout de suite between the two sides, and the matter was left at that point, not to be raised again.

To note, over time, health minister Mr. Bahar accomplished an excellent job in ridding the Dhaka city of mosquitoes.

Coming back to "Agattya", may I request our noted academic and cultural personality, Mostafa Nurul Islam (as one personally involved with the "Agattya") to do a piece recapitulating its role in promoting the cause of the Bengali people along with the contribution of a band of those pioneering journalist-writers who ventured to bring out "Agattya" confronting great odds of the day. It remains a signature-periodical in the realm of our socio-cultural movement, and merits a space particularly in our history of journalism so patently.

Lastly, a word on Mr. Mahbub Jamal Zahedi. A founder-editor of the "Agattya", Mr. Zahedi is now a paralytic patient. We wish him early recovery.

Syed Badrul Haque is a former Public Relations Officer to the President.