Celebrating Life Special
Life is a Celebration
Mahfuz bhai was desperately running around trying to find some water. By the time he found some, I could see that Nawajesh bhai's eyes were as still as stone. This was a man who even five minutes ago had held the rapt attention of an audience of thousands with his speech, with his usual mix of intellect and wit. Seeing him now, in this state, was something my mind just would not - or could not - accept. He attended the Celebrating Life 2009 Awards Ceremony as the Head of Jury's Panel of the photography category of the competition. Here, on this periphery, what was really real: the man who delivered that speech with such vigor, with so much life, or the one lying here, completely still.
When we had reached the National Heart Institute, and then NICVD, the doctors on duty, after thorough examinations, pronounced him dead. When the authorities came around asking for his next of kin, I looked at the ones around me, journalist Mannan Mashhur Zarif, and photographer Srabon Reza, who held on to memories of Nawajesh bhai with such profound love and affection that it made me wonder. What does it mean to be next of kin? Are they the ones that are the closest to us? Because it seemed to me that in this moment, there was nobody closer to him than Zarif and Srabon. Despite our lifelong struggles to achieve things that go beyond our individual selves, we remain just that, individuals; individuals that can only rely two absolutes: birth and death. Beyond these, our lives are a sequence of unpredictable moments, in a world that is constantly in flux. In this moment, I am sitting here writing this article remembering Nawajesh bhai, in the next moment might be my time to be remembered.
Nothing is permanent in our lives. In these heady times of technological and social progress, we are so busy trying to keep pace with the world around us that sometimes forget ourselves, moving away from the values and ideals that are central to our being. So when I find individuals that have not lost themselves in this mad dash towards progress, my spirits rise, for it not only gives us hope for ourselves, it reaffirms the immutability of our humanity. I hope Zarif and Srabon will ultimately prevail in their struggle to hold on to themselves even in the face of such overwhelming odds, and continue to be beacons of hope for us all.
Nawajesh bhai's work revolved around nature and humanity, focusing on the inter-connections that bind these two entities together intimately. He has observed nature deeply. Perhaps that is why his manner, the way he went about his everyday life, was so austere and unaffected, so natural if one could call it that. This allowed him to mix easily with those around him, regardless of any distinctions. He was a poet of nature, marrying his keen observations with his complete devotion to produce one of the largest and most significant bodies of work on nature in Bangladesh.
He has led a very dignified and productive life; but it was also simple, and never to far away from his natural roots. And the manner of his passing, in its simplicity and grace, was somehow fitting, and mirrored the way he had lead his life. His final act was to take the stage at Celebrating Life to talk about the passion of his life, photography, and pass away, quietly and gracefully - so characteristically - in the midst of everything that he loved, culture, photography, and the people. Perhaps this was nature's way of paying tribute to one of its greatest sons. Dr. Nawajesh Ahmed has left the stage, but he has not left our hearts.
In Memoriam to Nawajesh Ahmed
Photo: Srabon Reza
(R) thedailystar.net 2009