Those whom the gods love die young. This adage rang only too true when Subir Chowdhury, director of Bengal Gallery, passed away. Why did he depart so early, asked major artists Rafiqun Nabi, and Qayyum Chowdhury at the Bengal Gallery where the elite had been invited by Abul Khair, to hear eulogies on this man nonpareil.
In speeches in memory of Subir , one was only too aware of the vacuum caused by the demise of this promoter of the arts. The receptionists wore whitish salwar-kameez and saris, while the men from the organisation wore black in mourning. The invitations for the Iftar had been sent by Abul Khair. It was a serious moment for one and all.
Speaking extempore, Nabi said that he had accompanied Subir to Australia where the latter was hospitalised. “The doctors reported that Subir had a small tumour in his brain, and this was the second stage of cancer. The doctors, however, concurred that the ailment could be cured. Dr. Baber Ahad was among the doctors consulted in Melbourne. Subir was struck by the malady on the first week of April. All the artists and members of Bengal Foundation were concerned and failed to wear the usual welcoming smile when they met him.” They had gone from Canberra to Melbourne. Subir had insisted on remaining in Canberra, as he had a multiple entrée, Nabi said, “He loved us so much that he gave all he had to us.”
Qayyum Chowdhury wept each time Subir's wife had given vent to her grief over the past two months, after hearing of her husband's deadly ailment. He too spoke from the heart, without any notes. He said that whatever he had painted for a long time was due to Subir's encouragement. Earlier, whatever had been achieved at Shilpakala Academy was due to this man of great integrity.
Qayyum had gone to different countries, and different parts of Bangladesh with Subir -- who dedicated himself to promote artists and art. At Chuadanga, flower petals were strewn on the streets, when the artists had arrived, and this was Subir's suggestion, Qayyum said. A book on the 12 leading artists from Shilpakala was also due to Subir's painstaking efforts. He also knew how to persuade the government for grants to promote the artists. Qayyum said that he would never forget this man of promise. He said he went to several places like Australia and Japan with Rafqun Nabi, and it was this man who gave him the confidence in such a faraway place like Australia. But Qayyum could not travel, on reasons of his health and age. And when he had grumbled and complained over this, it was the last time that he saw this Braveheart of Bangladesh, who was accorded the full honours of a freedom fighter, in front of Shaheed Minar. It was he who made Bengal a viable gallery, he said.
Professor Anisuzzaman said that Subir had given his utmost to artists and the promotion of art. He said no one expected him to depart in this tragic way from earthly existence.
Ramendu Majumdar said that Subir had dedicated himself heart and soul to art. He was a tremendous and unequalled worker. He said he knew the unparalleled Subir from his Shilpakala days. When artists like Qayyum Chowdhury had problems, he would rush to the rescue.
Education minister Nurul Islam Nahid, writer Syed Shamsul Haque, Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam, artist Syed Jahangir, Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh Giorgio Guglielmino, among others, paid tributes to Subir. They said that Bangladeshi artists would not be where they were without his guidance. He even brought foreign artists to Bangladesh to deliver lectures and hold workshops.
Shama Rahman, Aditi Mohsin and Bulbul Islam performed songs at the event, while a documentary on Subir Chowdhury was also screened.