Bangabandhu…and the fragrance of roses

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Published on March 20, 2023
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Syed Badrul Ahsan:

I have seen him stride through the valley of roses, the fragrance reaching out to the hills and the valleys beyond. He laughed, and the laughter welled up from deep within him, as he embraced his peers, bantered with them. In his voice was resolution iron-clad, for he was the man of the future. On that soft summer evening, I basked in Bangabandhu's warmth. In the brilliance of the low stars, even as the mountains watched, he touched my cheeks, pulled them in affection. My joy knew no bounds. The warmth of his hands, the affection in his gaze. The roses went on giving out their scent.

And I have sat beside his grave on a moonlit night, twenty-one years after a foul conspiracy had shot the life out of him. And yet in that nocturnal hour, as the monsoon breeze made the grass on his resting place dance in waves, as the clouds swam past in the heavens above, I heard his voice. Bangabandhu was alive, in all that historical sense of the meaning. He was the Father, the great man who had caused a revolution that shook the world. I sat through the night, and behind me was the coffin, washed and wiped by me in the indescribability of love hours earlier.

As the rains seeped through the leaves of the tree outside Ganobhaban, as the summer heat burnt the earth all over town, I waited beyond the gates of the famous structure. I waited, for Bangabandhu would appear from within and I would wave at him from without. He would go home to Dhanmondi at the end of one more day handling statecraft; and I would not miss this moment to see him. He would see me standing under that tree, smile and wave back at me. And then he would go home to Dhanmondi. I would retrace my steps back home to Malibagh, happy remembering the glow lighting up the features of the Father of the Nation.

In the terror we lived through in the year of our strenuous war for freedom, I heard his voice every night on Swadhin Bangla Betar, in surreptitious mode under a quilt in the summer heat, to convince myself that he was with us even as he remained out of touch with the world, a prisoner in enemy land. On those nights of fear, of the boot sounds of the enemy on the street only feet away, it was the songs celebrating his greatness that I heard on freedom radio. And I prayed for him to come back home, come back in glory to his homeland.

In that year that would be our annus mirabilis, I saw a nation praying for the safety of its leader in Ramadan and on Eid. No one celebrated the religious occasion, for Bangabandhu incarcerated was truly an image of his nation in chains. We were in chains and yet we were free, for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had with his magic woven into our souls the song of liberty. Our hands went up in prayer for him. Seventy-five million people spoke to God of the purity of soul that was Bangabandhu. And God heard.

I have relived the day when I hung on to the truck carrying the Liberator, through the cheers and joyous tears of millions of his countrymen, from the old airport to the Race Course. Bangabandhu wept copious tears, for in his absence millions of his people had been done to death by the enemy. Even as the enemy prepared the gallows for him away from home, a thousand miles away, villages and towns in his beloved Bangladesh were put to the torch by men out on a macabre mission to obliterate the dreams he had passed on to his people.

Bangabandhu wept and not one of us could keep our tears from flowing on that January afternoon. We heard him speak. He reshaped the landscape of the future for us. He was filled with joy that Bangladesh had come through a transformation, had risen above its existential crisis, to inform the world that it was finally a sovereign People's Republic, that he was back home to take charge of the land and rebuild it out of the ashes of war. Our tears gave way to rainbows in the mind. We went home. Our lives were safe, now that the leader was back among us.

Ages have gone by. The clouds have sailed on. And I have travelled the world, that precious green passport in my hand, informing men and women that the passport carries the legacy of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, that when the national flag flutters in the breeze anywhere I hear the majesty of inspirational politics composed in poetry by Bangabandhu.

I walk through the village. I hear the multitudes, humble and happy, laugh and converse in the rural markets. I see the peasant working his field of rice and jute. I rejoice in the rains creating charming havoc on the roof and forcing the palm trees into dance and music. And I remember the Father of the Nation. Because he was around, I breathe in freedom. Because he showed us the Promised Land, we have arrived at our destination.

In the starlit landscape of undying memories, the fragrance of roses fills the air. I see yet again Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman – tall, imperial, courageous, principled – striding across time and space, speaking to us of the necessity of belief, of patriotism, of the vibrancy of heritage.

And I stand, bowed in fealty to the greatness that was Bangabandhu. The roses go on dancing as the night deepens. They dance through the passing of the seasons.

Writer: Senior Journalist and Author

Courtesy: The Business Standard