The moment we got ourselves admitted to the Department of English, University of Dhaka, we knew that we are going to be the part of the legacy, a legacy which is set by the legendary teachers. They were legends not only for our department but for the entire nation. Some of our most treasured professors left us in past two years and started their journey towards the unknown land of death. To commemorate the golden memories of Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Professor Dr Khan Sarwar Mushid, Professor Dr Razia Khan Amin and Professor Dr Khandker Rezaur Rahman, our department arranged a ‘Memorial’ event on February 9, 2013 at the R C Majumdar Auditorium. Our department also lost the most senior staff member of the Department office, Md Rafique, whose memories were also remembered at the event.
The programme was presided over by the Chairperson of the Department, Professor Tahmina Ahmed, where the chief guest was Professor Dr A A M S Arefin Siddique, Vice- Chancellor, University of Dhaka; special guests were Dr Serajul Islam Choudhury, Professor Emeritus of the Department and Professor Dr Sadrul Amin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts.
When Professor Dr Ahsanul Haque was asked to speak, he spoke about his days at the department and shared some of the special moments he had with all of the four professors who passed away. The Film Club of the Department made a special documentary with the interviews of the family members where they shared some of their personal memories and talked about the lifestyles of the teachers who left us in last the two years. Through those interviews the audience got a glimpse of a number of interesting aspects of these legendary figures. The faculties as well as the students were introduced to their beloved teachers as someone’s parent, someone’s spouse and as someone’s friend. We were especially touched by the speeches given by Rafique bhai’s son Mr Asgar and Rafique bhai’s colleague Mr Shushil Kumar Das.
The most interesting segment of the programme was where we heard our current teachers’ reminiscences. Through the speeches of Professor Dr Ashraf Hossain, Professor Dr Manzoorul Islam, Professor Dr Kaiser Haq, Professor Dr Fakrul Alam and Professor Rebecca Haque, we got to know about the time that they spent together, first as the students and later as colleagues of these legendary figures. All our teachers told us about these celebrated personalities’ endeavour towards the intellectual exercises, their passion for both Bangla and English Literature and their devotion for knowledge. We were mesmerised to hear their success stories, their stories of the Liberation war, their role during 1971, and about the emancipation of women. Since they were the senior most teachers, we, the current students did not get a chance to attend any classes of Kabir sir, Razia madam, Rezaur Rahman sir or Murshid sir. But the vivid memoirs of the teachers who spoke at the memorial that day gave us the chance to come closer to the legends of our department.
There was also a section where our teachers read out from books, recited poems and performed some scenes from the books written by the departed professors. Professor Dr Kazal Banerjee and Tasneem Siraj Majboob read from Kabir Chowdhury’s translation of Eugene O’ Neil’s Emperor Jones, Anjuman Ara read from Prasnaga Natok. Dr Kaiser Haq recited his own poem which was written especially for Professor Dr Khan Sarwar Murshid. Ahmed Bashir read a letter written by Professor Murshid, which was sent to Henry Kissinger during the Liberation War of 1971. Dr Rubina Khan and Rumana Siddique read from the books God in the Goblet and Argus under Anesthesia written by Dr Razia Khan Amin. And Bijoy Lal Basu read from The Moral Vision of William Golding written by Professor Dr Khandaker Rezaur Rahman.
The closing remarks came from the Chair, Professor Tahmina Ahmed. She shared her personal memories of the teachers and Rafique bhai and gave the vote of thanks to the faculty and the expressed her gratitude towards the families. Our programme ended with this closing speech and after the speech, the family members, the faculty and the students all merged as one big family over coffee and refreshments. This programme was arranged to pay a humble homage to the souls who were the members of this department, whose loss can never be fulfilled but whose guidance will always be the beacon for every member of the entire English Department.
(The writer is a student of the Department of English, University of Dhaka.)