NSUSS: Representing colour and culture
It was in Fall 2001, when I first entered the premises of North South University, a place where I was supposed to spend the next four years of my life. To be quiet honest, I loathed the idea. Growing up in the Middle East, I had a life well-protected from just about anything. The semester was filled with culture-shocking elements for both me and my brother. Despite the colour and the youth, this new life did not seem fascinating to me at all and all I wanted to do was return home, to the couch-potato life devoid of any self-expression whatsoever.
It wasn't long till I discovered the North South University Shangskritik Shangathan (NSUSS), a culture club filled with talented students who organised in-house programmes and a huge Annual every fall which every other student and faculty member looked forward to. That fall, my brother and I auditioned for the 'English song' slot which was open and got selected to sing a duet together at the 7th Annual Cultural Evening (ACE) to be held at the Osmani Memorial Hall. We were quiet excited but did not know what we were in for till we entered the hall on October 27, 2001 at 9 am in the morning for stage rehearsals. I was overwhelmed by everything there, the lights, sound, little devices, the space, instruments, people running about, the tension, the final practices, the last minute covering up of the glitches and the whole aura of the evening coming up ahead. We started to work in the morning till the very end. That night, I witnessed something incredible, something way bigger than life.
NSUSS is one of the oldest and the largest of the 14 students clubs currently running in North South University. Initially known as the Green Club, the organisation was begun by a few enthusiastic students way back in the early 90's right after the beginning of the university. Its purpose is to encourage and promote the culture and tradition of Bangladesh as well as accommodating the modern flavour with the growing society. The Executive Body, back then, even constructed a constitution for the members, which is followed to date. Over the years, NSUSS grew bigger and went through several periods of transitions and a variety of phases, defining culture, colour and identity at each step.
On November 24 and 25 this year, NSUSS celebrated its 12th ACE at the Osmani Memorial Hall, where the theme had been 'Pothchola' or the road which is to be taken by all youngsters who dare to dream. Starting off with Hyder Hussain's popular song Tirish bochor poreo ami shadhinota ta ke khujchi, Roktim opened the evening followed by ripples of appreciation from the crowd. The song went very well with what we are experiencing today in the country, about a man still wondering and looking for the independence that the martyrs had sacrificed their lives for.
NSUSS is proud of its members, more so because many of these members have successfully used the club as a steping stone to climb higher. One of them is Rashed Uddin Ahmed Topu and Emran Khan, two senior members of the club and currently professional musicians as well. Recently, Yaatri, as they call themselves, came out with their album, Daak, featuring compositions made by Topu and a few others as well. One of the songs in the album, Amra Shopne Bachi, was dedicated to NSUSS, a platform where many of us started our musical careers from. This song was presented quite artfully by senior members of the club, namely, Topu, Simin Saifuddin, Gazi Salahuddin, Emran Khan and myself.
Every year, the NSUSS members collect news items from around the campus and present them at ACE. This year as well, Shishir presented the news with help from Fahad, Zico and Trina who helped to report the news items. Collected by many students, including senior member Arif, the news poked fun at the NSU structure of a few buildings comprising the first private university in the country, the long lines in front of the lifts, the never ending promises of a new campus, the general lifestyle of students, the ever-increasing tuition fees and of course tid-bits about all the other clubs on campus. This item, as every year, was well appreciated by the students and considered a comic relief by the faculty members present at the show.
The audience was awestruck at the classical composition performed by Sneha, Ishita and Shopmpriti. Complete with the dance attires, expressions and movements, the girls fused together the art forms of Bharatnatyam, Kathak and Manipuri dances and livened up the stage.
At the annual cultural evening, some of the best and the most talented performers take the stage. The variety of songs enthralled the audience that night, for instance, the folk song Khachar bhitor ochin pakhi by Kanti Nuzhat, Rabindra Shangeet Tomar khola hawa by Anika (day 1) and Marzia (day 2), the famous composition by Arnob, Hariye giyechi sung by Saleh, O nodire re, a famous number by Renaissance, sung by Tanita, Mon ta tomar, a duet number by Navid and Nightingale and a very upbeat Rim jhim jhim bristy pore by ye another colourful personality Tauheed. 12th ACE 2006 also had newcomer Ferdous Ara reciting poetry and Fariba, Mitul and Nafeez singing and smashing away to the song Bring me to life by Evanescence. This performance was followed by a mind-blowing solo fire spinning act by Reza.
Some of the most memorable moments of the show were the skits which were directed by Zico and performed by Zico himself accompanied by Jayita, Afnan, Faisal, Apu, Sakib, Nitu, Adiba, Sunny and Shaon. Not only did these skits make fun of the university students, faculty members and certain university policies, but they also poked fun at the current political mishaps happening in the country. One of these skits even had a very vivid representation of the CEC who was literally stuck to his chair.
Many, on campus, still talk about the modern dance performed by Rintu and Jayita (day 1) and Munmun (day 2). They danced to Habib's Jadu, a number from his latest album Shono. Ripples of laughter filled the hall when Ratul, Nadim and Saleh poked fun at a recent tele-ad of a certain telecom company. This ad was posed as a regular television advertisement in between the NSU news. The show ended with the chorus Drishti amar digonte by Saleh, Sunny, Trina and Shayela. Russel, yet another senior member, hosted the show with great poise, at times making the audience laugh and sometimes telling them stories about the club itself.
The show was well organised by not only the members of NSUSS, but also friends and members from other NSU clubs, who came together to facilitate the show and also help out backstage. Yet another popular club, the NSU Photography Club was present at the show as well, ready with their equipment, snapping away images and performances.
The evening ended with all the seniors, former Executive Body members, Faculty Advisor of NSUSS Dr. Deena P. Forkan, Vice Chancellor Dr. Hafiz GA Siddiqi, Dean of School of Arts and Social Science Dr. Khaliquzzaman Elias, Dean of School of Business Dr. ANM Meshquat Uddin and the present EB members, President Nafeeul Bari Tamal, Vice President S.M. Sarfaraj Ali (Zico), General Secretary Sadequl Arefeen and Treasurer Munirul Islam got together on stage. President Tamal spoke on behalf of the student body when he requested the VC to introduce scholarship and fellowship programmes for students not only excelling in academics, but also extra-curricular activities. Tamal further suggested that a memorial be constructed at the new campus, where students and visitors alike can pay their respects to the martyrs of this country. This in a way further enhances not only our culture but also an awareness of our rich history amongst the students. He had also asked the students to pray for Proctor GM Quasem who was away in Kolkata for treatment.
Sadly enough, later on that night on November 24th, GM Quasem, who was also a faculty member of the Computer Science and Engineering Department and taught math, passed away in Kolkata. It was a shock for the teachers and students alike, to who Quasem sir was a father figure. It wasn't any less for the members of NSUSS who were always supported by Quasem sir. In the previous years, sir would come around to our practice sessions at BTA 100 and observe our activities silently. He would often come up with suggestions of his own. “What is the point in doing the skit if the boy and the girl do not meet and stay together in the end?” he asked one day, after watching the rehearsals of a parody skit where the boy and the girl would separate and go their own ways. The script was then changed accordingly.
As a Student Proctor, it was Quasem sir's duty to go about the campus and check on what the students were up to. He was mostly involved with the students who were always busy with club activities throughout the year. The night before any Annual Cultural Evening, some of the boys along with some professional help would stay overnight at the venue, building the set and designing the programme for the next day. Quasem sir would always make it a point to drive to the venue at approximately 11:30 pm at night and make sure that the boys had enough to eat and would also ask them to grab some sleep, an advice which would always go unheeded.
On November 25th, the second day of ACE, the show was dedicated to the memory of GM Quasem sir. Every organiser, performer, facilitator and the students sitting at the aisle had worn a black band around their wrists and arms in his memory. The senior performers who got up on the stage missed the smiling face of Quasem sir, who would always sit on the front row, encouraging every student who would grab the platform to voice out. The show began with a minute's silence in the memory of Quasem sir and ended with heart wrenching speeches from the EB members and Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr. SAM Khairul Bashar.
It was yet another success for the members of NSUSS. However, along with the joy of accomplishing yet another hurdle, the 12th ACE was filled with remorse, tears and memories.