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The Symphony of our Times

Comments of contemporaries

Published : Friday, 23 September, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 499
Mizanur Rahman Shelley

Comments of contemporaries

Comments of contemporaries

Writing about my closing days in Dhaka collectorate in late 1969 I feel compelled to take a little detour. This is because of some of the avid readers of the 'Symphony of our times' who send me their inspiring comments which need to broadcast. Among these distinguished readers are my friends in London Amir Khausru, Professor AK Mostafa Sarwar in New Orleans and junior friend Helaluddin Akbar in Dhaka. I have sighted Amir Khausru and written about him in an earlier episode. This time I am tempted to quote both Professor Mostafa Sarwar and Helaluddin Akbar as their reactions on my writing about the Ramna Restaurant are at once nostalgic and relevant to our present life. Writes Mostafa Sarwar:

Dear Shelley Bhai,
I quietly enjoy your articles. You are an extraordinary writer. Your delightful article on Ramna Restaurant and Ramna Park aroused my faded memories. I went there many times from late sixties to early seventies while I was a student and later a lecturer of physics at Dhaka University. It had been a romantic place surrounded by awesome beauty. Who could forget the splendid flowers, lovely shrubs, and beautiful trees? I had been mesmerised by the melodies of the birds, the untroubled water of the placid lake, and the intoxicating scent of the blossoms. Its culinary culture was also attractive. I enjoyed the ambience to the brim. Thanks for bringing back my memories.
With warmest regards, Sarwar.
Helal was equally inspiring in his remarks on the Ramna group and its picnic. He relates it to his classmate's regular activities to refresh the camaradarie in Dhaka University.
Observes Helal:
Dear Shelly Bhai,
On your symphony on picnics, I wish to share with you that we have an unregistered association of 1964 DU master's group (all subjects): Dr Farashuddin, the founder president, Dr Shahadat Ali, former Pro VC of DU, Dr ATM Shamsul Huda, former CEC, Nargis Mannan & former secretary Abdullah Harun Pasha. Incidentally, I am the present president & former ACC chairman is the GS. Let me tell you here that nobody is interested to shoulder a work responsibility; we have to insist apparently capable members for the posts. We usually hold about four annual get-togethers on various occasions like, Baishakh, Spring, Eid, etc and a picnic outside and away from the busy city dweller's life. Members with spouses enjoy these occasions immensely and we virtually go back to those DU days, but unfortunately gradually in keeping with the unavoidable laws of nature, membership is gradually dwindling with members passing away every year. I understand there is a similar group of 1962 DU but am not really sure how active this is now to keep everyone within the fold.
Thanks & regards. Helaluddin Akbar.

Herald of change: The season of autumn never failed to fascinate me. Inspired by its varied colours of change and opulence I once wrote: 'Autumn everywhere strives to strike at the roots of limited perception. Sometimes it succeeds: but most of the time, tragic failure adorns it like a crown of thorns.

'Yet autumn is stocktaking. A time of mellow mist, it is the season of doubt and also promise. In Bangladesh, it has been a season of opulence since time immemorial. The Bengali autumn has always been a period of promise even in those areas of Bengal which lie outside Bangladesh today. It has always marked the end of long days of incessant rain threatening all pervading floods. With the thrill of nip in the air, autumn in Bengal has brought the promise of clear blue skies, plentiful harvest and a time of joy and festivities.'

It was at such a time that I gradually began to rap up matters in the Dhaka Collectorate of the late 1960s. Days were busy with hearing court cases, dealing with administrative matters, especially those pertaining to the proceedings against delinquent tahsildars, assistant tahsildars and seasonal assistant tahsildars and other matters. Even in the midst of it all, we had time enough to indulge in small talks and enjoy our tasty lunch from the Hotel Myrinder or Delhi Muslim Hotel across the road. Most of the time senior magistrate Hadi Hossain picked up the bill. Food from the Myrinder was costlier and therefore, we all contributed our fair shares to settle the bill.

The surprise summons:Shahed Shadullah, Khashruzzaman Chowdhury and I often went to the office rather late. Khashru and I were late-risers; Shahed was not. Yet to keep us company, he also came late to the office. A dutiful and obedient person, he suffered the prick of conscience and warned us that we would one day get the punishment we deserved.

The day of reckoning seemed to have come on a forenoon. One of the special turbaned orderlies of the deputy commissioner found us in Hadi Hossain's room. He told us that the DCSahib had sent his salaam to us. It meant that he wanted us to see him immediately. Shahed's face fell and he almost shook with apprehension. He said, 'Shelley Bhai, this is it! We will now get what we deserve for our deviant behaviour.' Then he added with provocative sarcasm, 'You lead the group since the deputy commissioner likes you.' I too had my trepidation but there was nothing else to do but respond to the DC's summons. Taking courage in our hands we walked with fearful steps to the DC's chamber upstairs.

The deputy commissioner MK Anwar looked his usual serious and solemn self. His eyes did not reflect his mood but to us, the offenders as we thought, he seemed to be grime and dissatisfied. He asked us to sit and then brought out an old metallic cigarette case and opened it to offer a cigarette to me. That immediately ended our apprehension. Whatever the deputy commissioner wanted to say had nothing to do with our almost regular late attendance. Khashru frequently complained against the DC offering cigarettes only to me. He said that it was probably because I was the senior-most among the probationers. On that day, however, he was happy that the cigarette given to me signified the coming of a joyful message. After sitting our tea, we listened to the DC's words. These were like sweet honey. He said, 'Tomorrow evening, please come to dinner at my residence with your wives.'

Dinner next evening was no gala affair. Khorshed Anwar in his impressive and spacious DC's bungalow at 28 Minto Road lived a simple and modest life. Among the guests were the additional deputy commissioners and their wives. Despite the frugal dishes, the sincerity of the hosts and the colourful nature of the company made the occasion memorable for us, the young travellers on the long path of our civil service career.
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)

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