Where do the memories live? Why and when do they appear and reappear?
Where do the memories live? Why and when do they appear and reappear? Are they birds of shadow as Rabindranath would call them? Or are they like the Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s friendly ghost, who would tell the aspiring poet “of a new epiphany”, advising him of the “time to swim/out on our own and fill the element/with signatures on your own frequency”?
A trip down the memory lane. The event I am narrating here probably took place in December 1990. I was then doing masters in literature at the Department of English. English Department Alumni Association (EDAS) had started its journey in 1986, thanks to our visionary, great teacher Ahsanul Haque (1933-2016) whom we all loved, admired, and respected, and still hold in high esteem. He had engaged some of us as volunteers to work for the first EDAS get together held at the TSC on December 26. Or was it December 25? The maiden reunion had set the trend of publishing the alumni bulletin with information: activities about the alumni and their creative works. Fortunately, its scope has broadened these days as it includes more poems, stories, articles, and memoirs alongside photo features.
The episode I have in my mind involves the story of the publication of the Alumni News for likely the 1990 Reunion. I was made Executive Editor and provided with a modest amount to bring out the magazine. I received advice and help from quite a few of my enthusiastic juniors as well as my friends including Toufique Imrose Khalidi, now Chief Editor of bdnews24.com and Sajedul Haque, who is a faculty at ULAB. And then there was Abdur Razzaque (NAEM, Dhaka), who would always follow me even if it rained.
Indeed it rained! Rather unusual for December. Yes, the unusual thing occurred to cause more worries and troubles for us. More because we had already encountered quite a few of them: the typist we hired disappeared all of a sudden (Bangladesh, you may note, was yet to see the technology boom); gone with him were the composed pages; few sheets containing the raw data were also missing. And on top of that, it was raining incessantly!
One of the juniors could compose, but then none of us had a computer. Toufique became our saviour. He was then working for a weekly English magazine as its Executive Editor. He convinced his Editor to allow us to use the weekly’s comps.
We were left with barely a week and had a lot of work to do. We were literally running out of time. After the composing were done, we went to a printer at Arambagh, but we didn’t have much money! The manager bailed us out. We came to know afterwards that he had helped us because one of his cousins was a DU student. Those days, printing was time-consuming and tedious. Tracing, pasting, plate-making, printing, binding—so on and so forth. When we finally managed to get it done and reach the TSC, the Reunion program had already started!
In the News section we published a piece by poet Shamsur Rahman who had passed a year or two at the English Department in the early 50’s. He did not finish his degree though. Shamsur Rahman’s piece, his reminiscences of his days at the department under the title “Ora ki shob chayyar Pakhi”, was published in a magazine called Protiti with which I was associated. I asked my friend Chandrasekhar Das Asish to translate it. Asish was more than willing to do it. He later told me that he had loved every moment of the activity.
Where are those days now? Where are Ahsanul Haque, Ashraf (Poet Khandaker Ashraf Hossain) sirs now? And where is ever-smiling Babulda (Babul Prosad, English Department staff)? Are they gone forever? Shall I ever meet them again?
Ahmed Ahsanuzzaman is Director (In-charge) of Fine Arts Institute, Khulna University