One can hardly believe that Subir, a friend of mine for years together, has passed away.
I knew he was suffering for months with a reported brain tumour. He was receiving treatment in Melbourne, where he had gone for an exhibition. He felt drowsy and would get uptight about any mishandling. But one can now understand his getting into a towering rage if anything was amiss at the Bengal Gallery of which he was a director. I had hoped that he would respond to chemotherapy. I was upset by the tears and agony of his wife thorough all the medical intervention but I was confident that Subir would overcome all odds and come back to us. He was like a lost brother in the big wide world of arts.
I remember when he invited me to the many functions organised by Abul Khair Litu. Was I glad to go do the story! Subir was basically kind and gentle. If he knew that you were ruffled about something, he would come and pat you on the head, as if you were his younger sister. He always aimed skyward and had many plans for Bengal Gallery that he wanted to transform into the best gallery in Bangladesh. “Rooted creativity” was a great success and so were all his projects. When he took artists overseas, he tried his best to see to their needs. He was a tall, broad-chested man and appeared dapper on all occasions. The staff of Bengal were in awe of him. They literally trembled when he roared at them about one mistake or minor faux pas. When he was working at the Shilpakala Academy, he was always helpful to people like me who were in search of information. I never came away without a good story when I met him.
Basically he was a very gentle and helpful person. If one were squeezed for time, he was only too willing to lend his car and chauffeur. He always apologised profusely if there was something amiss on his part or the artist he represented. He was kind and caring and always made sure that one had lunch before leaving the Bengal Gallery premises, on a press briefing day. One always knew that there would be nice hot lunch, with “mishti doi” to follow as dessert.
Qayyum Chowdhury and Rafiqun Nabi said recently that they missed Subir as he was such a perfectionist as reflected in Bengal Gallery. He was really an epitome of perfection when arranging press briefings through all the hartals of recent years. He always advised journalists to ignore the call for non-cooperation, and get on with the task of disseminating knowledge of art and music.
He was practical and down to earth. He wanted the Gallery work done at any cost. He was the most efficient worker one came across. Everything had to be running smoothly--whether it was Shilpakala Academy or Bengal Gallery. He made brief notes which he distributed at press conferences. He made sure that knowledgeable people were invited to press conferences of Bengal Gallery, who could supply listeners with adequate information about the subject at hand. The Bengal brochures were full of useful inputs and photographs. The speeches at Shilpakala Academy were also helpful and comprehensive for those who came to the lectures. Of all the many galleries in town one felt that these two places were the best equipped for journalists and visitors.
When the press briefings were held, he was always alert and ready to make every gathering a success.
He was forthright and honest. He worked very hard days ahead of any event at Bengal Gallery. Everything was immaculately done. He was very well thought of by all his artist friends, be it Mohammed Kibria, Safiuddin Ahmed, Qayyum Chowdhury or Rafiqun Nabi.
He was indeed a man of remarkable qualities and surpassed many other gallery heads with his dedication. His whole existence seemed to revolve around the institution that he headed.