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       Volume 10 |Issue 33 | August 26, 2011 |


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Ode on Remembrance

Rebecca Haque

Death has been on my plate these last few days. I am surfeit with it. I stare blankly at the flickering images on the screen. The wailing mother, the distraught wife, the forlorn son. My eyes burn, there are no tears. My heart bleeds. Teardrops will fall later, at odd, inexplicable moments. Even in sleep, one weeps.

I remember Bhashon from my first days as a student at the University of Dhaka. A friend pointed to him standing across from us on a parallel corridor at the farthest end of the English department, and she said in reverent tones," that's Munier Chowdury's son". I never knew him personally, never heard his voice, but I can recall his languid walk and his wavy long dark mane. For me, he was enshrined in the halo of his martyred father, and in my mind I found the poetic English equivalent word for his name: eloquence. Today, after nearly four decades of separation, I see him again, hunched over his dear brother's battered body. I look away to mourn in silence.

I remember Munier Chowdhury. I remember how he propelled the Bangalee people towards progress and the dream of universal literacy with his brilliant invention: 'Munier Optima'. Mishuk Munier returned to take up the struggle. I remember Zahir Raihan too –whose flame was rekindled in this land by Tareque Masud. Tareque found his destiny and true vocation and a gifted soul-mate. Today, I salute Catherine Masud for her passion and dedication.

Photo: courtesy

Zahir Raihan's face was etched in my memory as I wept and watched 'Stop Genocide' one particular night at a place one thousand miles away from my motherland. I remember the long months I spent trapped in the army camps at Bannu and Mandi Bahauddin; days and nights of wakefulness and alert immersion in every new development in the nascent democratic nation to which I yearned to return. I prepared myself to meet my own destiny; in that barbed enclosure I quietly made myself ready for my chosen vocation. As chance would have it, I entered the class of First Year (Honours) batch in the Department of English on December 6, my birthday, in the year 1973, five months after classes had begun, after repatriation via Lahore on a chartered Interflug flight on December 3, 1973.

I remember that we all– class-mates and batch-mates in other departments—lived at a time of such buoyant optimism and vibrancy that joy was visible in our jaunty footsteps on the thoroughfares and avenues of Dhaka. Eyes luminous with the quest for knowledge, we were a loud, merry band traversing the open grounds of the beautiful Campus. The hundred flowering trees rejuvenated us every Phalgun with a riot of glorious magenta, yellow, white, and purple, interspersed with a profusion of the majestic scarlet of the Krishnachura. Future economists, historians, sociologists, lawyers, administrators, entrepreneurs, and litterateurs, we would parade in groups up and down Fuller Road up to BUET, or down from TSC to the Fine Arts Institute for the sensual, visual experience of the latest exhibitions and mounted displays, and oftentimes we would sit awhile gazing at the artist breathing life into clay or canvas.

Oh, what thrill it was to be alive in that dawn of our time! Creation was alive and we echoed its creativity. But today, it seems the cosmic Joker has our land in the cold claws of calamity. Such great and needless devastation, such irreparable loss, such sharp inconsolable pain. A foul odour reeks in the city. The clouds weep acid rain.

Yet, softly, I sing to you, my brothers and sisters, do not despair. The future is ours to save for our progeny. I remember my own dark abyss of despair in my personal odyssey of grief. I remember I looked up at the silver moon and the twinkling stars to steer my spirit. Hemanto and Barsha and kalbaishaki fanned the dying embers slowly into a flaming will to power and life again. I say to you, we have the strength, we have the power. Why should we blindly grope in darkness when the light is within each of us? Therefore, rise up, my fond friends, and before the final parting, raise arms against apathy and moral degradation and dumb anarchy. Let today's tears become a catalyst for an anthem of regeneration and purification.

Steel yourselves for the struggle, and ask, shall true-blood sons die in vain? Shall the dream of Sonar Bangla fade away with the flight of the dusky Doel?


Rebecca Haque is Professor and Chairperson, Department of English, University of Dhaka.


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