The Symphony Of Our Times
Early political consciousness
When Baba returned from abroad at the end of 1954, our life was once more filled with delight and joy. Baba's homecoming was followed by a number of large still trunks which he had shipped from Mexico. These were full of various gifts including a variety of books. Newly produced artificial fibre nylon had by that time become the staff of new clothing. The nylon cloths Baba brought were used to make shirts and frocks of various charming colours for us. When we went out in nylon dress our, young friends looked at us with admiration and envy.
There were also exercise books inscribed with Spanish brand names, one of them was titled 'PRIMEVERA', classmates were wonder-eyed when they sighted those foreign copybooks. Since Mexico is a Spanish-speaking country Baba had to learn Spanish. There were some Spanish volumes among the books he brought. I still remember the name of such a book: it was entitled 'Elkamino Real', in English the 'Royal Road'. There were also valuable books on sociology, anthropology and community development.
These were written by famous sociologist and anthropologist such as Ralph Linton. Herkotz vis Melville, Carl Manheim, etc. Although these were largely beyond my comprehension at that young age, I read them then and there. Later in my university days as I studied sociology and political science, these books were of immense help.
Youngest sister Shaki was two when Baba left for Mexico. On his return, Shaki became three. Naturally, she could not at first recognise Baba, and shied away from him. This was a temporary phase and Shaki soon shed her shyness. As the youngest child, she became Baba's darling daughter.
Another wind of change was brought by the change in Baba's job. The process started soon after his return from Mexico. Since Baba had returned with training in community development, the authorities concerned arranged for his transfer to the post of provincial fertiliser controller to that of a faculty member in the newly setup Village Agricultural and Industrial Development or 'V-AID' organisation. He was posted in the new 'V-AID' Training Institute in Dhaka.
It was not only Baba's specialised training which caused this transfer, the process was also the result of change of political backdrop. The language movement of 1952 gave powerful stimulus to the Bengali movement for self-assertion in pre-1971 united Pakistan. As a step in that process emerged the anti-Muslim League united platform, the Jukta Front. The then Awami League, Krishak Sramik Party and several leftist parties and groups constituted the front. It was led by Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque, leader of the oppress masses Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani and famous democratic leader Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.
Among the younger leaders of the front was Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, later the founder of sovereign and independent Bangladesh. The common people including inspired and energetic youth became antithetic to the ruling Muslim League because of its mistakes and failures. Principal among these were the party's repressive policies and actions in its efforts to suppress the language movement. Under the competent leadership of Haque-Bhashani-Suhrawardy the Jukta Front' defeated the Muslim League by a massive margin in the 1954 provincial elections in East Bengal.
In the 300-plus provincial legislature the ruling Muslim League could not win even 10 seats. Subsequently, however, there occurred a split in the electoral unity of the Jukta Front. Crafty moves and repressive policies of the central Pakistan government were largely responsible for this disunity. The 1954 change in government in the province raised high hopes for progressive change and development in government and administration in the minds of Bengali. Nevertheless, the mid-ranking leaders of Jukta Front who were new in power did not have the generosity of their great leaders.
Some of them took advantage of their political power and positions to shower patronage on their kith and kin and party followers. They tried and succeeded in putting their own men in various government posts and positions. It appears that such a negative process worked behind Baba's sudden transfer. Mejo mama Abdul Bari Warsi commented sarcastically on Baba's order of transfer.
It said, 'This posting is made in public interest.' Mejo mama said, 'It is not in public interest but the minister's brother-in-law's interest!'
Whatever it may have been, Baba had to join his new post. The newly established V-AID Training Institute and quarters for its officials were located in the western corner of the then government agricultural farm. The area is now beside the Mirpur road adjacent to Shyamoli. The officers' quarters were built like spacious bungalows surrounded by grassy lawns.
The locality, however, was somewhat lonely and quite. Communication with other areas of Dhaka was inadequate and unsatisfactory. Baba and Ma, however, had no choice but to set up their new home there. Apa and I stayed during the working days in nana's residence in Mahuttuly to be able to attend school easily. The year 1956 was also the time of our sad departure from Azimpur.
Later, Baba was transferred further away. By early 1957 our parents had to leave for the then sub-divisional town Gaibandha in Rangpur district in North Bengal. All brothers and sisters save Apa and me accompanied them. In Gaibandha Baba joined the newly setup V-AID Training Institute as a member of the faculty. He had to stay in that job until 1960. After that he was transferred back to Dhaka. Consequently, in 1960 and 1961, we got a chance to reside in the Azimpur estate again for a while. We lived there until 1963. Prior to that, from 1949 to 1956 our life revolved around Azimpur.
The abiding theme that inter-linked the varied and colourful experiences of our childhood and adolescent between those years was life in Azimpur. Flowing life move childhood into further distance, pushes adolescence far away, brings youth on the doorsteps of middle age but cannot obliterate vibrant memory. Life is change. Through changes, it will at one time reach the portals of death. That is the natural end for all mortals. Ma, Rezia Rahman never tired of saying so.
The graveyard is located right beside the Azimpur Estate. Grief-stricken near and dear ones marched in solemn processions with the body of their kin on the way to the cemetery skirting our residence in building No 1, Azimpur. The processionists rhythmically recited the holy name of Almighty Allah as they took their lifeless kin to his final resting place. Visitors from other areas asked Ma, 'Do all these not make you sad?'
Ma's face lit up with soft and tolerant smile when she replied, 'Yes, we were deeply saddened by such sights during the first few weeks but soon got used to these. After all, every one of us will meet the same end, each at the appointed time!' When we were children and adolescents, in Azimpur sprightly life lived beside serene death like intimate relatives. They still do.
The author, founder Chairman of Centre for Development Research, Bangladesh (CDRB) and Editor quarterly "Asian Affairs" was a former teacher of political science in Dhaka University(1964-1967) and former member of the erstwhile Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP) (1967-1980) and former non-partisan technocrat Cabinet Minister of Bangladesh (1990).