But now shrinks the place where you stand: Where now, stripped by shade, will you go? — Paul Celan

With These Thoughts…

17/09/2022: Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my father’s death. He passed away in 2016. These photos were taken in the summer of 2012 during my parents’ visit to Canada after my father had a stroke and almost died in late 2011 and early 2012. 

After his stroke, he didn’t speak much but there was a quiet resolve to enjoy life, to wring out every drop from whatever time he had left. And he found a ready accomplice in this mission in my mother who passed away in December of last year. (In one of the photos my mother is holding the beer bottle for my father.)

The photo in the drawing room was taken at my childhood friend Mirrikh Haque’s house in Mississauga near Toronto. When I met Mirrikh as a young astronomy enthusiast in Dhaka after my S.S.C. exam, I had no idea that my parents had been friends with his parents. On that evening when we visited Mirrikh in Mississauga, my father’s post-stroke quietness gave way to warm loquacious reminiscence about Mirrikh’s parents when both couples lived in a small city in North Bengal and had struck up a happy friendship. That evening, I felt as if the father I used to know but thought had been lost in the stroke had suddenly come out of some hidden corner of his brain.

The other photo was taken by my friend Gordon Hatt at the wedding of my dear friends Sarah and David in Manitoulin Island during that same summer. After he came back from Canada my father used to ask me when he could go back. Having lived half of my life away from them I was very happy that I could give them such a wonderful joyous summer. 

Both my parents were kind and generous human beings with a passion for justice. Both of them were activists in their own ways. My mother never batted an eye when she came across someone in need and jumped right in. My father too, but he would be more discrete in his efforts. (But later in his life after he became a well-known columnist he wasn’t discrete anymore.) As an adult in the 90s, I learned from a Railway TT that my father had saved him from imprisonment by the military dictatorship that plagued Bangladesh during the 80s by putting himself in harm’s way. 

In an essay he wrote honouring his friend Ataur Rahman, who had saved the lives of my mother, my grandmother and a week-old baby Tibra during the Liberation War but was later picked up by the Pakistani Army and killed, my father quotes the poem, “Those who are young should join the struggle…” (I am paraphrasing). My parents never gave us any sermons about what to do and what not to do. My sister and I learned from watching them.

I was very lucky to have such wonderful people as my parents and I try to emulate them and keep alive their values in my own life and my actions. In recent times, my goodwill and commitment to the cause of justice have been called into question by those who should know better, saying that I am belligerent and a troublemaker. I never think of myself as a troublemaker but as someone who is committed to helping those in need by exposing and calling out unjust and illegal behaviour. If that makes me a troublemaker, so be it. I come from a line of troublemakers.

I don’t have children but I do have students. And I am very proud to see that they too are standing up to injustices the way my parents did and the way they surely would have wanted me to do. I cannot take credit for my students’ political activism but I believe that I am a positive influence in their lives in getting involved in the lives of the people and animals around them. Whether they have been influenced by me or not is not important. What is important is that they are growing up to be good human beings and fighting the good fight. Here in Bangladesh, we need more of those.

With these thoughts, I today honour the memory of my parents.

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