Bangabandhu's Heart In Love
Md. Hasan Khan PhD
Pakistan Army is seen surrendering to Allied Force of Bangladesh. (Collected)
I don't want to write about Bangabandhu the Revolutionary today. Neither do I want to write about Bangabandhu's days in prison. Today, I want to talk about a different Bangabandhu, a side of him that isn't spoken about.
It was the month of June in 1969. Bangabandhu was returning from an Awami League convention at Ambika Maidan in Faridpur where he had delivered a speech. On his way back, he spotted a policeman on duty in front of the house of a local jailer, and stopped the Jeep carrying him. He called out to the policeman, "Alamgir!" Alamgir came over, and Bangabandhu spent some time catching up with him. A witness to this whole encounter was economist Md. Abdul Baki Chowdhury Nawab. He had thought that the policeman Alamgir must have been some relative of Bangabandhu. But as it turned out, he and Bangabandhu were not related at all. Alamgir used to serve at the Central Jail some 15 years ago, when Bangabandhu was kept there. They had only met each other two to three times. Bangabandhu had remembered the name and face of an ordinary policeman he had met thrice, 15 years ago. Such was the memory of Bangabandhu!
There's another incident from 1965. Student leader Abu Ahmed was a student at Gunabati High School, Cumilla. Bangabandhu was on his way to Chattogram to campaign for an election. On his way there, hundreds of people had gathered at Gunabati Station to hear him speak. When the train stopped there, Abu Ahmed took the opportunity to communicate to Bangabandhu the wants of the general public. Bangabandhu listened to him, and then spoke to those gathered. Before leaving, he had told Abu Ahmed, "Come to Dhaka and meet me." Nine long years passed after this, and in 1974, Abu Ahmed met Bangabandhu again for work related problems. By then, however, he was the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. They hadn't remained in contact throughout these 9 years, yet, when they met in 1974, before Abu Ahmed had a chance to say anything, Bangabandhu quipped, "What is it Mr. Gunabati? What do you want?" It was clear that having met Abu Ahmed of Gunabati High School just once in 1965, Bangabandhu was still able to recognize him in 1974.
Journalist Syed Badrul Ahsan mentioned a similar incident at a speech commemorating Bangabandhu's 97th birth anniversary. He said, "A young man once showed up, he needed a job. We were all gathered around Bangabandhu. He asked the young man, 'Where are you from?' The young man said he was from some place in Khulna. Then Bangabandhu asked him his father's name, and after that, he mentioned a woman's name and said, 'Isn't that your mother's name? Does she still make pithas the way she used to?' This left the young man speechless, he had forgotten that he was there to ask for a job, and broke down into tears. A man of such stature, asking him questions about his mother, he was overcome with emotion!" Bangabandhu had remembered a mother from a nondescript village who made pithas.
In 1946, Bangabandhu was acquainted with Indian journalist Nikhil Chakravarty. He came to Dhaka in 1972 to attend Bangabandhu's first press conference as Prime Minister. Nikhil Chakravarty was sure Bangabandhu wouldn't recognize him after so many years. "He sat right at the back of the Darbar Hall in Bangabhaban. The only thought in his mind was that his old friend wouldn't remember him after so many years, he had no reason to. Bangabandhu entered the Darbar Hall and looked around. Eventually, his gaze settled on the Indian journalist. 'Hey, aren't you Nikhil?' Nikhil Chakravarty was mesmerised. He could only ask, 'You still remember me? After all these years?' He had used the second person pronoun "apni", which is an honorific, to address the Prime Minister. Bangabandhu corrected him, 'Why "apni"? What happened to "tui"?' "Tui" is how you address a friend, someone close to your heart. Bangabandhu gave Nikhil Chakravarty the hug of an old friend. This was Mujib the person. He had no pride, no distance in heart from any man." (Source: Journalist Syed Badrul Ahsan's speech)
I onced read a column in the Bhorer Kagoj by Dr. Abdul Khaleque, former professor of Psychology at the University of Dhaka. It mentioned an incident related to Bangabandhu's memory. He wrote, "Bangabandhu once met the relative of an ordinary Awami League worker called Joynal Abedin after an interval of many years. He saw him and said, 'Aren't you Joynal's brother-in-law?' According to psychology, a beautiful way of making someone feel close to you is to remember their name. The reasons that allow a person to remember the names of thousands of different people are - a sharp memory, curiosity towards people, and genuine affection. But only a few people in the world have these extraordinary qualities."
I want to speak of another important story. From 1972 to August 15, 1975, Ali Mehdi Khan was the Security Officer to Bangabandhu. From him, his son Mohibul Izdani Khan Dablu heard stories of Bangabandhu's extraordinary memory. He writes, "One day, an old gentleman came to the Ganabhaban to meet the leader. He was wearing a lungi and panjabi. The policeman on duty at the gate was not letting the old man into the Ganabhaban, when my father and Bangabandhu were entering through the same gate. My father was sitting in the front seat of the car. Bangabandhu asked to stop the car when he noticed the poor man standing helpless by the side of the gate. He got out of the car, embraced the old man, sat him by his side and took him into the Ganabhaban. After spending some time talking to the old man in a room inside the Ganabhaban, they came out together and Bangabandhu announced to all who were present, 'This man you are not allowing into the Ganabhaban, none of you know of his past. You are not supposed to, either. When the Pakistani police were chasing me around the country trying to arrest me, this man gave me shelter at his home at the risk of his own life. I am forever indebted to him.
I can never forget the love, and the help I received from him.' The most surprising thing was that this man had not come to Bangabandhu to ask for anything, he only wanted to meet his leader. This is who Bangabandhu, the Father of the Nation, was as a man."
The year was 1955. Footballer Zakaria Pintoo was a student at class seven in Mothbaria School, Barishal. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had gone to Mothbaria on some political work. Pintoo was obsessed with playing football at that time. A friendly game of football was organised between Mothbaria High School and the local Officer's Club in honour of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Zakaria Pintoo later said that he had scored two goals to ensure the Officer's Club team's loss in the game. After the game, Bangabandhu asked Pintoo to come to him and praised his performance. He affectionately put a hand on his head and told Pintoo's father, Captain Nazimuddin, to encourage his son to pursue football further. Zakaria Pintoo said in his remembrance that, "In '73, the Bangladesh National Football Team went abroad for the first time to participate in the Merdeka Cup in Malaysia. Before travelling , the entire team went to the Ganabhaban to meet Bangabandhu. Something quite unthinkable happened at that time. As soon as I greeted Bangabandhu, he recognised me at once and said, 'Didn't I say you would become a big footballer?' This was our Bangabandhu. If he met someone once, he remembered them forever."
All the stories above are stories of Bangabandhu's memory, which was extraordinary. He also had the unique ability to love people. He could remember the names of thousands of party workers and everyday people. He could recognise someone even if he met them after twenty or thirty years. And why wouldn't he?
He is Bangabandhu. For him, the people of this nation were his only family. Who else but Banganbandhu had the ability to love people the way he did? And who else could embrace the general public, shelter them into a sense of security like the safe shadow of an old tree, but him? This is why he is the greatest Bengali in millennia. We are one country, one flag, with only one father of the nation. This man is our only identity.
Father of the nation Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina is our honorable Prime Minister today, and the people of Bangladesh are her family too. She cries for the people, she touches them with affection. She can reach into the hearts of the public. Everytime we see her, we feel like we have our own Hasu bubu. We feel as though there is nothing to be afraid of. She will carry all our worries by herself. She is a flame, a flame that conquers all the powers of evil. We pray that we are blessed with her goodness for as long as she lives. May Hasu Bubu be victorious. Joy Bangla. Joy Bangabandhu.