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     Volume 9 Issue 44| November 12, 2010 |

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Book Review

Tales of a Simple and Honest Life

Azizul Jalil

Published by Bijoy Prakash-2010 Price Tk. 600

I have known Shamsul Huq Chishty since 1950, when we both got admission into the Dhaka University. He was in the History department. Reading his recently published Bangla book- “Padmar Bhangone Jibaner Joyagan” I now know why. This was because of his close friendship with another classmate of ours, Obaidul Akbar. Chishty wanted to study economics like me but there were compelling reasons for taking up history. Obaid, also a history student, could buy the textbooks and was going to stay at the Fazlul Huq Hall, where he would stay. The required books would thus be available to Chishty, which he could not afford to buy. In his book, he mentions that he wanted to play tennis at the hall but could not afford a racket. So, he waited until Obaid finished his game and borrowed his racket to play. I had seen Chishty riding together with Obaid in the latter's bicycle in the University area-that is how his transportation needs were solved. He was made a member of the hostel mess free of charge thanks to the generosity of the rest of the members.

The book is replete with such tales of determined improvisation and perseverance in the face of acute adversity. It would seem unbelievable to some who did not have to experience such misfortune. Chishty was undaunted by uncertainty of the next step in life and the course of studies at every stage of his school and college years. Fortunately, he was a consistently good, scholarship-earning student, who could also get extra income through tutoring younger students from his school days. In the pursuit of his ambitions, he had the ability and good luck to find opportunities for support and sympathy from known and unknown people. After finishing his masters he employed at the Mohenjodaro Museum in the then West Pakistan under the Archeology Department and later inducted into the Civil Service of Pakistan. Until then, his life was an uphill task. He never gave up, though. His life and diverse work experiences, national and international, are covered in great detail in the book published by Bijoy Prakash in June this year. It is a frank and well-written book of nearly 600 pages. For me, it was a good, interesting read because I know the author, the places he served and many of the stories and characters he mentions. However, the author could have shortened the book by being brief in his narration and more selective in his anecdotes- that would have helped to sustain the interest of general readers.

Chishty did not have the benefit of 'uncles' backing him for various positions. What he achieved was through his own good work and merit. He was first appointed as a probationer in the police service in 1957 but after a few months got the opportunity to join the Civil Service Academy in Lahore. Though he had only three months of training there instead of the full nine months, Director Burgess thought highly of him. Ever since, in a succession of field level and secretariat jobs in both East Pakistan and Pakistan Central Governments, he distinguished himself as a thoroughly competent and honest officer. He was amiable, polite and loyal and had no enemies anywhere. He succeeded me as SDO Chandpur and also in the Establishment Division of the President's Secretariat in Rawalpindi. I came to know that he did well in both the places. He rose to be chairman of government corporations and later secretary to a number of ministries in Bangladesh. After his retirement, he was elected as executive director of the International Jute Organisation in Dhaka.

In his personal life, he suffered a great loss when his best friend and brother-in-law, Obaidul Akbar, died accidentally as a result of a hand- grenade explosion during training with the army in Comilla Cantonment. That story and the death of his wife's nephew Rumi, a freedom fighter in 1971, are vividly recorded in the book without too much emotion, reflecting Chishty's stoicism and even temperament. Throughout the book, one can notice his great respect and gratitude for the assistance and love that he received from Rumi's mother, the well-known Jahanara Imam, whom he calls bubu.

Chishty deserves to be congratulated for leading a clean and successful life, which has also served his country well for decades. In this day and age, his example will serve as a beacon to all others who have the ambition, courage and perseverance to struggle in life in the face of odds. Though moral and ethical standards have dipped, in many ways there are now more possibilities in Bangladesh to improve oneself by the sweat of one's brow. If young people facing constraints take up the challenge and persevere to educate, train themselves and honestly improve their lives, the author's efforts in writing this book will be well rewarded.




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