Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 89, Tuesday, October 27, 2009



Another camera king in the making

Bakin Rabi plans to host his fifth solo exhibition on photographs of peace and tranquillity, similar to that seen in his last photo display at the Alliance Française. He is full of dash and dare with a mind of his own. He is no Adonis or Hercules but his wit, charm and repartee will knock you over.

His aplomb and flamboyant flow of comments and recollections will win you over, any day. His black-and-white peaceful images, at his last Dhaka display, in the recent past, were lyrical- going by the unusual shots of birds, beasts and peeping, smiling, young children spotted in the Bangladeshi countryside.

Bakin's Kolkata scenes, again, brought in the much sought after element of repose- such as rickshaw-pullers napping in between work on a muggy afternoon.

The only son to the editor of "Anondo", a newspaper in Comilla, with 45 years to its credit, he's been educated at Lille (France) and Dhaka. Incidentally, like many students in France, his study schedule took him to the borders of France and adjacent European countries. His last display at " La Galerie" spoke of joie de vivre of the everyday things of life and reminded one of the Wordsworthian passages, praising man seen against the backdrop of tranquil nature. Bakin's black-and-white happy images swept one away from the humdrum existence of the metropolis.

Bakin is outspoken. He does not indulge in praise for the already well known. Like all connoisseurs with a clear conscience, he'll tell you that Anwar Hossain's decades old black and white images, included in the last exhibition at Alliance Francaise, were the pieces that one enjoyed once more. The more recent ones, Parisian images, centred round his personal life, were blasé commonplaces, says Bakin. The colour photos only reduced one's respect for Anwar Hossain, he says.

Similarly, Bakin admires Dr Noazesh Ahmed. He says, with reservations, that he didn't even cross all other preoccupations to sample Dr Noazesh Ahmed's "Chinnopatra" film or the latest project at Bengal Gallery -- with their nouveau images based on the photographer's experiences in neighbouring Kolkata. He does not, however, deny Dr Noazesh's intellect or role as a pioneer in Bangladeshi annals of photography, as seen in the coffee-table book of the late 1970s.

He does go overboard with the "Birdman" Enamul Haque's presentations with lenses on many occasions and venues over the years. He didn't sample "Birdman"'s childhood friend, Kalidash Karmakar's experiments with the lens. But he did have a taste of his younger brother Proshanto Karmakar's experiments of Parisian images-- seen earlier at the Zoom Gallery, Alliance Francaise.

Bakins' icons remain the charismatic and dare-devilish Ragu Rai from India; Dr Shahidul Alam from Bangladesh -- whose contributions as a pioneer in establishing "Drik", "Pathshala", and arranging the successful series of "Chobi Mela" can never be denied; and some of the South American senior photographers.

Dr Shahidul Alam, incidentally, was one of his teachers whose advice and patience are elements, he says, which have helped him come a long way. As Bakin puts it, the third world photographers, in recent years, are in no way inferior to those from the first world. "Begart" too has shaped Bakins' mind, vision and skill; and Bakin goes poetic over Beg.

Recalling his youthful days in Lille, Bakin speaks of how he and his colleagues went out each day to cover news items, aiming at unusual angles and timings. Lille alone was not the training ground. They went to the adjacent country, as that was the teacher's place of origin, on each weekend. Bakin was lucky to have got a scholarship for this French training. He says, however, when back in Bangladesh, he could not afford the expensive equipment that he had worked with, while in France. What he could afford was, naturally, not that easy to handle. Mastery in the available and affordable cameras took time, patience and energy.

The US based teacher in Bangladesh, along with the other skilled local teachers of repute, were also full of encouragement, says Bakin. They taught him innumerable elements of skill and endurance of work with the lens. Of course, if Bakin had not his father to guide and finance him in his childhood, perhaps his passion and skill with the camera would not have been so remarkable and spontaneous. "Bonne chance!" to Bakin -- with his keen eye and swift fingers.

By Fayza Haq
Photo: Bakin Rabi


Ode to a mother

Rebecca, in her twenties, was beautiful enough to turn heads. Today, very little of it is left in her. Her jet-black hair has lost its volume, her complexion its lustre and her eyes their glitter. Rebecca who was born and brought up in a respectable family of Dhaka, even today, finds it hard to believe how her marriage to an unfaithful man had shattered all her dreams into bits and pieces. In her short-lived conjugal life of four years, she bore two sons. When she left her husband's house, she left it with her sons, for she knew that without a mother's love these children wouldn't live.

At the age of 25, Rebecca began to live the difficult life of a single mother. In the early '80s although words like single mom and divorcee weren't unheard of, people still raised their eyebrows when they heard of women like Rebecca, single and beautiful. Rebecca refused to take refuge at her parents' house, for humiliation engulfed her and her very existence.

It was a love marriage and it didn't work out - she lost her trust in men after she was so utterly betrayed by the one who she thought was truly in love with her. Rebecca says, “I thought I lost everything in my life after the divorce, I thought I wouldn't live long. But my family helped me regain my strength, both mental and physical. I too realised that my sons wouldn't live if I grew weak and lost my interest in life. I understood that I needed to live for them, my sons.”

Rebecca rented a one-bedroom apartment in Shantinagar and began her boutique business. In the morning she used to go to Gawsia, New Market and Chadni Chawk to buy materials for her dresses. In the evening, she used to sew dresses. Every week she took a rickshaw full of frocks, skirts and tops to dress retailers selling children's clothing on Elephant Road.

Her business flourished over time; soon she was able to hire a tailor, who worked at her house in Shantinagar. Even today after 27 years, Rebecca follows the same old schedule. Her sons have grown up yet her life has remained unchanged.

According to Rebecca, she toiled not for herself but for her sons. At night, she dragged her tired body to the kitchen to cook meals for the next day. With heavy eyelids she sat with her sons in the evenings to help them with their lessons. She spent all the money she earned on rent, bills, her sons' education and food. Rebecca said, “I used to shop as little as possible for myself, no fancy clothes or shoes. I'd rather spend the money on toy cars for my children.

“However, there were many days when I couldn't accompany them to their school - the housemaid would take them. It was difficult for me to run a business single-handedly and at the same time look after two children. I couldn't also keep track of who their friends were, where they went and what they did after school.”

Rebecca's eldest son went astray after his HSC exam, he didn't finish his studies and today he is a substance abuser. He blames his parents and their separation for his frustration. Mridul, who is now 28, keeps accusing his mother for her failure to adjust with his dad. Mridul says, “I wish my mom had a little more patience. She has done a lot for my brother and me but we never had a family. At parents' meetings in school, all the other children went with their dads and moms but I could never do that. When my friends asked me about my father, I used to lie. I told them that he lived in the USA.”

Mridul wanted to spend time with his mom, who was always busy with her boutique business; there weren't many weekends when they went out together to eat at a restaurant or to visit relatives. While Rebecca worked tirelessly at home and outside to make ends meet, an emotional distance made its way to the mother-child relationship. What Rebecca calls her everyday struggle to survive with her two sons, Mridul calls it his mother's obsession to expand her business, to live and to eat better and to become an independent woman.

The unspoken emotional war that began at an early age gradually distanced Mridul from his mother. According to him, “I found my shelter in drugs. Drugs helped me forget the grief of my life, the loneliness, the pain of growing up in a broken family.”

When asked about her eldest son, the warrior mother broke into tears. She reiterated how thorny the road to success can be to a young woman, she has fought many battles since she was 25. Although she lost some of the wars, she won most of them.

Rebecca says that she has one more battle to win she needs to bring her first son back to his old life...

Even at the age of 52, Rebecca walks through the crowded alleys of Chadni Chawk to choose materials for her dresses, she stands under the sun with arms full of bags and haggles over fares with the rickshaw pullers. At night she prays to the Almighty for her sons' well-being. She wants to live a few more years so that she can see her first child return to his normal life, and therefore, win the last war of her life.

By Wara Karim


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