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     Volume 6 Issue 45 | November 23, 2007 |

   Cover Story
   Straight Talk
   A Roman Column
   View from the    Bottom
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View from the Bottom

Face to Face with History

Shahnoor Wahid

The nondescript, tiny, one-storey house with ancient bricks taking the beating of weather will not excite a person with no love for the past. It is an old, very old house devoid of the touch of modern-day masonry magic. The tricks of the plastic era have yet to blemish the façade of the tiny house.

To enter the front room one has to duck to avoid hurting one's head. The stark difference in ambience that of outside and inside, would not fail the senses of a sensitive person. While modernity goes whooshing by 50 metres away, the aura of the past clings to everything inside, on the walls, on the books, clothes and furniture, and heavily in the air. Inside that antiquated room I found Biplobi Binod Behari, age 97, sitting up on a bed, reading a journal. His wife, robbed of the ability to perceive things in their right dimensions, was playing with a doll. She did not even look at us.

Biplobi Binod Behari

Biplobi Binod Behari looked up and smiled as we (Shahriar, Dhrubo and I) introduced ourselves. He immediately recognised the newspaper (The Daily Star) and told us that someone came to take his interview a month back but he never got a copy. We promised to look into the matter and send him one if the interview had already been printed. We wanted to hear from him about his association with Masterda Surjashen and Pritilata Waddedar and other biplobi comrades of his time and how they used to harass the British rulers taking risks on their lives. He smiled sweetly and said that some of the dare-devil stories he remembered quite vividly but many have faded from his memory. He said he was in his teens when they had launched the offensive on Chittagong armoury and the European Club in 1930 and 1932 respectively. It was in this last attack that Pritilata got a bullet wound and made attempts to escape. But when she found herself surrounded by the policemen she took a cyanide pill and killed herself.

At this point Shahriar narrated the story of how Binod Behari had joined the biplobi group. He was a student of class seven at that time. Through a reliable source he had managed to reach Masterda and expressed his desire to join the group. Surjashen looked at the frail young boy and smiled and told him to wait alone inside a shamshan (Crematory) at three in the morning. He told him he would pick him up from there to take part in a raid. That night at three Surjashen sent two men to check whether the boy was there or not. To their utter surprise his men found him standing in that dark crematory all by himself. His courage impressed Masterda and he gave the instructions to give Binod Behari the required training.

Binod Behari smiled and nodded his head. He then told us how he and some of his comrades raided a train at Comilla station and shot dead an English officer. Two of his comrades were shot down by the police, but he made good his escape. We were surprised to see how he remembered some events so clearly. He remembered the names of some of his biplobi comrades but forgot that of others.

Binod Behari was strong enough at 97 to walk without help. He had gone to Kolkata last month to inaugurate a book on Pritilata written by a Kolkata based writer. He is in good health and can hear well. He is member of a number of social and educational organisations. A Chittagong-based organisation named Ajantrik is planning to make a documentary film on this great hero of Bengal.

We left his modest house much richer at heart than before. We could not believe that we had just shaken hands with history.

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