In Dhaka this summer (2007), we attended the first death anniversary of Syed Mujibul Huq- Mujib Bhai to me, my wife and many others. I noticed how neat and nice the arrangements were for the congregation- a fitting tribute to a man of good taste. Wherever he lived, Mujib Bhai maintained a wonderful garden full of plants and flowers, which he tended himself with great care and devotion. Even though most of the flowers were blooming on that day a year after his departure from the scene, they were, except the pink Lilies, shielded from our view due to the shamiana that was put up. However, I could not help noticing that the high hedge plants of the yard looked as well trimmed as they used to be when he was alive. The same tradition continues.
In the early sixties, we used to spend countless hours together at his house in Chittagong-appropriately named Milan Mandir. It was a small, old house but there was lot of room for heart- to- heart talks and endless adda. Occasionally, Mujib Bhabi would break into her inimitable rendering of Tagore's songs in Mayar Khela, all from memory and without the accompaniment of even a harmonium. Mujib Bhai would sometimes join in the singing. She was equally proficient in reciting from the Koran or leading a milad. Her generous hospitality of home-prepared snacks and dishes was well known.
We lived on the Fairy Hills-one had to climb seventy-four steep steps to reach our hundred-year old official bungalow. Because of this inconvenience, we would often move from Milan Mandir to another location to continue with our enjoyment of each other's company, witty conversation, and some music. With low hills and a garden-like atmosphere, that area was quite aptly called Joy Pahar. Occupied by Azim Bhai, who was a senior manager in a foreign oil company, No. 3 bungalow at Joy Pahar saw a lot of us. We would play cards in the veranda, often sit in the well-kept lawn inevitably ending with a lunch on weekends or holidays, or dinner late at night on weekdays. On weekends, we would often go by car to Mainamoti, Rangamati, Kaptai or Cox's Bazar. On a few occasions on a moonlit night, we would suddenly feel the urge to drive to the sea beach near Fauzderhat. Those were indeed idyllic times- we were all forty-five years younger then and full of the joy of life.
Our job situations took us to Dhaka and Islamabad, but wherever we were, we would see a lot of each other. I still remember Mujib Bahi's lovely rose garden in Islamabad. He had lots of friends, including many West Pakistanis- all attracted by his sweet temperament, good taste, interesting and humorous conversation. In all cities, in East or West Pakistan those days or in Bangladesh, people from different strata of life- high official position or regular, elite or the ordinary, literary and intellectual or not- would come to his house for a truly wonderful and satisfying time.
Mujibul Huq had a special sense of humour. He would often deliberately exaggerate a point or a story, knowing fully that I and a few of his close friends would later tease him about it. And we did just that. Sample: On seeing a bending willow tree, he would cry out “weeping willow.”
He had been to Germany and black, according to him, was pronounced there as “Blaak.” He would exactly copy it along with a guttural (German?) sound. Having started his career in the Customs Department before independence, he used to remind us of its 'Imperial Customs Service' background in the British colonial days. To amuse us, he would repeatedly say that and sometimes join us in the fun.
While fond of company and spending a lot of time in adda, the Mujib couple were quietly taking good care of their four girls and a boy. It was a close-knit and loving family. Whether it was good manners, academic or religious education, or artistic activities, all of them excelled. Growing in a modest household with limited facilities but with lots of love, encouragement and perseverance, three of the children became Commonwealth Scholars-a unique distinction indeed for one family to achieve. Their only son, Ejaz, a Ph.D from Oxford is now a celebrated researcher in space science working in the UK. Some of the children are good singers, an attribute inherited from the parents. I was very impressed by the superb rendition of Milad by Ejaz at his father's death anniversary-it was music to my ears.
Educated at the renowned Presidency College in Calcutta, Mujibul Huq was well read and articulate. He had a keen literary taste, particularly in poetry and music of Rabindranath and Nazrul. Over the years, he had been quietly translating many of their love songs into English. A few years back, he put these together in two slender, artistically produced volumes of poetry, one each of the two great Bengali poets. These have been well received among academics as well as general poetry lovers.
In 1970, Mujibul Huq was deputed to the Enemy Property Board in Dhaka where he served for a number of years. M. A. Ispahani picked him up from there for a senior position in the Dhaka head office of his group of companies. The old Ispahani loved Mujibul Huq for his honesty and integrity. In return, Mujib Bhai gave loyal service to the Ispahanis for many years and maintained his relationship with the company until the last days of his life
When he died, it was the passing away of an interesting and a truly decent and humble man, who will be sorely missed by all his friends for a long time.
Azizul Jalil writes from Washington.
Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007