Dr Jahangir Tareque, my beloved father, was a perfect man in every way. To name a few of his qualities, he was humble, caring, passionate about learning and imparting his bountiful knowledge, respectful of others and had a great sense of humour. I still have vivid memories of his glimmering eyes and vibrant smile. I would notice it every time he would share an enthralling fact, or made a humorous witty comment. I deeply miss the exciting discussions we had on a variety of topics ranging from life and world affairs to cricket and my favourite cartoon show.
My father was raised in a family where education always took priority. He used to share stories about how my grandmother would always make sure that he slept for a few hours in the afternoon, so that he could study with a fresh mind later in the evening. Despite how much my father hated such rules, being a respectful son, he obliged by them. However, he could not quench his thirst for knowledge from reading his mundane textbooks for school. Hence he would often read a greatly informative storybook under the cover of his blanket, while pretending to sleep. Unsurprisingly, to his utter dismay, he would have to struggle to stay up to study his soporific school books later during the evening. Nonetheless, he could never fight his urge to read and learn more, and this 'trick' became a regular part of his life.
At the age of just 16, his parents sent him to Dhaka from Barisal, to pursue his higher secondary degree from Dhaka College. Afterwards, he completed his Honours and Masters in Bengali from University of Dhaka, graduating with the highest position in his batch for both. Despite his extraordinary academic performance, he always kept to himself, and never flaunted his achievements. In fact, one of his closest friends once shared a story, which strongly highlights the former trait of my father. When the final results of his final year in Dhaka University were released, everyone in his department was crowding around to know his/her results. But my father was just reading in the library. When his friend came running to him and informed him that he stood first among everyone, my father simply said "Oh, thanks for taking the trouble to let me know," and went back to his book. This mere example shows how my father loved learning for the sake of learning. It was not for being acknowledged or extolled. He just simply enjoyed garnering knowledge.
After his Masters, he received an extremely competitive scholarship from the French Government to complete his PhD in Comparative Literature from Sorbonne University. In those 6 years, he mastered 11 other foreign languages, raising the total number of languages he knew to 14: English, Bengali, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Danish, Norwegian, Hungarian, Portuguese, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, and Urdu. He even obtained Masters in English and French. Because of his fervent ardour for learning, he sought to decipher literature by authors who wrote in those languages. Hence, he opted to self-teach himself, and became fluent in those languages in such a short period of time. I cannot even imagine the amount of dedication he had in order to do so. We still have all the books of his titled 'Teach yourself' at home.
Other than being engulfed in a sea of knowledge, Dr Jahangir Tareque was a loving father, husband and son. After completing his PhD, he returned to Bangladesh, so that he could look after his mother. He was always very caring and respectful towards my mother. They were married when she was just eighteen. My father always inspired her to believe in herself, and pursue her interests. Under his constant support and encouragement, my mother completed her Bachelor of Arts degree after having her third child (me) and has been teaching in a well reputed school in Dhaka, South Breeze, for over 13 years. I attended the same school, and my father would eagerly drive us to school every morning without a dint of discontentment. His immense support for the entire family has always guided us in every aspect of life. I attribute all my achievements to his words of wisdom. For instance, at the very young age of 15, when I learnt of the great opportunity to pursue the International Baccalaureate Diploma (equivalent to grade 11 and 12) on full scholarship in a renowned international boarding school in Hong Kong called United World College, my father encouraged me to apply right away. He believed in me and knew that it was a great opportunity for my personal growth. When I was selected, he did not even hesitate once before allowing me to leave home so young. Unfortunately he broke my heart and passed away the summer before I started school in Hong Kong. Similarly, he had guided my other siblings to success as well.
Although I had the privilege of spending only fifteen years of my life with my father, I am very grateful. He has set a great example for me, and I thrive to follow his steps and be like him every day. He left me with a heart full of wonderful memories, and a gaping wound from losing him. But whenever I feel low, I remember his inspiring words, and remind myself that he is watching me from heaven and will always be with me throughout every step in life; guiding me and cheering every milestone I attain. I love him dearly and hope I can make him proud some day.r
Inara Sunan Tareque is Fourth Year undergraduate student, Mathematics and Economics, Grinnell College, USA