I am among the lucky ones who have had the great opportunity of meeting the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. When I look back at that day, I still feel blessed.
It was around 9am in the morning in 1974, two and half years after Bangladesh’s independence (I cannot recall the date or month) -- the guards stopped our car carrying my mother, siblings, and myself, at the entrance to road 32, Dhanmondi.
My mother showed the guard the pass she had for entering Dhaka Cantonment and he allowed us. My mother -- Hasna Hena Qadir -- did it on impulse as it was the only pass she had. We laughed about it later.
Then, the security in plain clothes stopped us and my mother told him: “I am here to see Bangabandhu. I am the wife of freedom fighter Lt Col Qadir.” We were then ushered into the ground floor guest room.
One thing I must mention before I go on, we always thought how slackened his security was, considering he was not only the head of state, but the Father of the Nation. Many security officials have stated: Bangabandhu strongly believed he will never be harmed by a Bangladeshi and thus did not like too much security.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was quoted asking his killers “what do you want?,” when they opened fire. Even after seeing savage men with guns, he did not believe they had come to kill him; that was the true testament of his love and faith in his people.
My father’s respect and love for him, my father’s decision to meet him secretly, and my father’s decision to join the war of independence on his call has made me and my brother Naweed his followers. My mother’s teachings added to that emotional effect on us. She cried when the radio announced on the morning of August 15, 1975 that Bangabandhu had been killed, and frantically asked: “What will happen to Bangladesh now?”
We were suffering because my father was martyred and every minute we felt his absence. And then the Father Supreme too was martyred.
Going back in time
We met Bangabandhu, with his iconic pipe in his hand, coming down from upstairs of his house, which is now called Bangabandhu Bhaban. He asked my mother to meet him at Ganabhaban.
At Ganabhaban, the old building opposite to Ramna Park, some officials at his office told my mother he will not be able to see her as he was very busy. My mother argued that since Bangabandhu asked her to come only a short while ago, he will definitely see her.
Her words came true. After about a 30-minute wait, a gentleman came and sought out Mrs Qadir and ushered us into the room where Bangabandhu was waiting to meet us. He greeted my mother saying: “Come in, my daughter.”
My mother broke down while telling Bangabandhu how she had lost her husband and how unsecured she felt alone with her children.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was quoted asking his killers ‘what do you want?,’ when they opened fire. Even after seeing savage men with guns, he did not believe they had come to kill him; that was the true testament of his love and faith in his people
Bangabandhu wanted to see my father’s photo, which my mother showed.
I was a teenager at that time and I still cannot believe a huge tall suave man like him broke down into tears seeing my father’s photo. He told us how my father secretly met him in 1969 with the help of late general MAG Osmany and pledged his support to Bangabandhu’s fight for an independent Bangladesh.
“He was a brave man. You should be proud of him. Do not cry my daughter,” Bangabandhu consoled my weeping mother and touched her head in blessing.
My father, Lt Col M Abdul Qadir, was in active service prior to his death, and left for the then West Pakistan on being posted at Army Headquarters in Rawalpindi.
Bangabandhu agreed to my mother’s request for a job under the foreign ministry. Dr Kamal Hossain and Khandaker Mushtaque Hossain joined and Bangabadhu asked the then foreign minister to take care of my mother’s case.
It did not happen because he was assassinated. But his daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has fulfilled her wishes, coincidentally, in some manner by posting me to London, more than three decades later.
Bangabandhu took me and my three-year-old baby brother Naweed on his lap. Hugged and kissed us, and gave us 500tk each to buy chocolate.
As we bade goodbye we touched his feet in respect, he told my mother: “Come to me if you need anything. You are not alone now.”
My mother left confident, happy, and more courageous in facing a cruel world, but we did not know then that we would lose this great Father Supreme of ours so soon.
He may not be here physically, but he continues to live within us and inspire us to transform Bangladesh into a “Golden Bengal.”
May you live with us forever, Father Supreme.
Nadeem Qadir, a senior journalist, is a UNCA Dag Hammarskjold Scholar in journalism. He is the Press Minister of Bangladesh High Commission in London.
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