The Humming Bird
He was a man of many words, but much of it was spoken with self-dignity as well as that of the listener, and there were so many of them eager ones. He spoke with restraint lest it should offend his companion, with compassion that has endeared man a stranger.
You could say he was a playful brook of rippling riches that meandered almost silently along the path of time, but there was music therein for those who cared to lend ear. He cared naught for listeners; for him music was the vehicle to discover divinity.
About two decades ago or perhaps more, after a Pahela Boisakh programme at the Ramna Batomul, I asked him nonchalantly over breakfast of Bangla delicacies who were behind this extraordinary dawn ritual of ushering in the Bangla New Year. The statement was said in appreciation of the popular event. I am certain he considered me an ignorant pseudo-Bangalee fool in pyjama and panjabee, but short of chiding me he parted his lips to unveil a disturbed smile. Both of us were saved by some others in the room who quickly came to our aid in fact, my aid.
At The Daily Star one could always hear him humming away. What, that was beyond the comprehension of the mere mortals. He could be seen moving about in his pyjama that had elaborately wide bottoms. His onion hued panjabee went beyond his knees. One almost envied the comfort he was enjoying. From behind his heavy spectacles he once told me, in praise or in rebuke I never dared to find out, 'Only you could do it, make use of a Bangla word in an English daily newspaper'. He was referring to our new column 'Chintito' that featured in the editorial page of the newspaper in the beginning. Since I felt encouraged by his words, I assumed he gave me his approval.
Once he allowed me to give him a lift from the Palashi area to if I can recall the Press Club. I was driving. He was sitting next to me. No sooner had I moved to third gear he was humming away some dhoon, occasionally gesturing with the motion of the palm and fingers of his right hand the depth of some raag. At that moment to him I did not exist.
To say the least he was a prolific writer, both in Bangla and in English, a quality reserved for only a gifted few. In the 90s he began an attractive column in a new magazine, and then suddenly stopped after two or three instalments. I asked him why? With no anger in his face, not bitterness in his soul, no pride in his heart, he most characteristically said, 'They began to edit my writing, little bits, but even that is not on'.
His more recent writings in a Bangla newspaper was a forthright column, standing up as a symbol of protest against the anarchy of syndication, corruption, injustice and nepotism that the president of the country and only recently the chief of the caretaker government mentioned in their respective addresses to the nation. Even the opposition political parties picked up some of his cues.
Last Sunday he drew a lot of people to the Central Shaheed Minar. There were poets, teachers, vocalists, students, politicians, actors, cultural activists, architects, painters, sculptors, writers, musicians, media personalities, photojournalists, and of course the common man from all walks of life. The scene was routine, almost monotonous, as it has been for the last half-a-century whenever there was a call from any quarter to stand up against any autocracy and misrule, or there was an invitation to embrace the values of a true Bangalee and his nation, to sing the praise of Man, to pen the essay of humanity. He was always there. He was always there to vent his emotions.
A man of few words, last Sunday Waheed Bhai did not say a word.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007