Living by example since childhood: Sheikh Rehana on Bangabandhu
On the occasion of the 101st birth anniversary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his daughter Sheikh Rehana captured the imagination of children by sharing stories of his childhood in which mischief and prank were pitted against humanity and compassion.
At an event organised yesterday at the capital's Scholastica School, paying tribute to Bangabandhu, his younger daughter shared anecdotes from his personal and political life.
The speech was broadcast live from Bangladesh Awami League's verified Facebook page.
Born in Tungipara of Gopalganj on March 17, 1920, Bangabandhu became the architect of the independence of Bangladesh, paving the path for the country's presence on global map.
"My grandparents, aunt, mother, and my father himself narrated these stories to me and the 'Unfinished Memoirs' written by my father revealed some others… As it appears, the mellifluous tune of azan, the lapping of Madhumati river, and the birds singing in the sky rang in the birth of the child. The entire village took on a festive mood, and villagers were treated to sweets, clothes were donated to the poor, and religious rituals were performed as well," Sheikh Rehana said.
"He was a gem that everyone loved to see. His two elder sisters cuddled him almost round the clock. Growing up, he started learning Bangla, English, Persian, and Mathematics. His initiation in education was through my grandfather," she went on to say.
"Mujib was a bit different and elderly people in our household, teachers, farmers, boatmen, and everyone else admitted without any reservation that he stood out from his peers. This boy had a big heart and could reach out to anyone who needed help. Some of his feats such as taking off his own shirt to give it to someone else and sharing food with everyone earned reverence and blessings from the people around him."
"Little Mujib was curious about everything, asking one question after another to his father, who also answered all his queries. He used to read out stories of legends, spiritual lessons from religion, and scientific information to him. My grandfather and my father were like friends. While they could share everything without any reservation, their relationship didn't miss out on mutual respect. My grandfather never resisted his child from undertaking any feat."
Sheikh Rehana narrated to children how Mujib reached out to poor and helpless people.
"Once a natural disaster wreaked havoc on the crops in his locality. People didn't have food, which little Mujib couldn't stand. Requesting my grandparents, he started donating rice from our stocks. Along with his friends, he used to collect rice from door to door and donated that to the people in need."
"Once my grandfather returned from Kolkata with a beautiful shawl for Mujib. Clad in that shawl, Mujib went out. After a while, he was coming back and spotted a weak old man shivering in freezing cold under a tree. Mujib took off his shawl and gave it to him. Then he came back home shivering."
Mujib underwent an eye operation in his childhood as he had been suffering from eyesight issues. How he had to endure it to his dismay also came alive through the story narrated by his daughter.
"My grandfather used to buy a lot of books. He used to read out from books on history, geography, English, Bangla, religion, science, literature, stories about legends and the repression committed by the British to his child."
Mujib was admitted to a missionary school when he came to Gopalganj from Tungipara. He lived in Gopalganj town.
"The beautiful boy with spectacles didn't take time to befriend his peers. As he was older, they used to call him 'Mia bhai' or 'bhaijaan'. This teenage boy could mingle with people of any caste and creed with ease. Whoever got in touch with him became a fan. He was like a magnet that could attract everyone around him."
"Young Mujib was then a popular name in Gopalganj. With his rising popularity came some hurdles as well. Some students and people became envious of him. They started circulating negative stories about him to my grandfather. Sheikh Lutfur Rahman had an unwavering faith in his child. He certainly knew of one or two mischievous acts of his child and believed strongly that his son couldn't do anything unjust. If my grandfather inquired about any wrongdoing, Mujib admitted that lowering his head.
"His world was colourful with sports, humanitarian activities, and more. There was an organisation called Brotochari that was vibrant with songs and dances. Playing a 'dhol' (a traditional percussion instrument), they used to sing and dance to narrate the plights of men and women. Mujib joined this group as well. That helped the youths stay physically fit and the stories of human plight and sufferings were narrated to people as well."
Once there was a football competition between students and government employees where Sheikh Mujib was the captain of the team of students against the team of his father! Sheikh Lutfur Rahman's team came victorious.
Sheikh Rehana also shared the stories of Mujib's entry into the political arena. In 1938, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Huq went to Gopalganj. While coming back at the end of the programme, Suhrawardy scribbled down Mujib's name and address and gave his Kolkata address.
"While returning, Suhrawardy said, 'Mujib, form an organisation here with Muslim children under the name of Muslim Parishad.' Mujib was on cloud nine hearing this as if he heard exactly what he wanted to hear. That was his initiation in political life and that too through someone like Suhrawardy!"
Talking about her parents, Rehana said, "Mujib's best friend was Fazilatunnesa Renu. There was nothing in this world that these two friends couldn't share. They also bid farewell to the world at the same time."
Reflecting on the impact of Sheikh Lutfur Rahman on his son Mujib, Rehana said, "Sheikh Lutfur Rahman was the most revered person in my father's life and his teacher as well."
While talking about Bangabandhu's assassination to the children, Sheikh Rehana said, "Dear children, you must love to watch cartoons. I love them too. The way Lion King was betrayed by his closest, Mujib was also betrayed by some of his close people whose envy and conspiracy cut my father's life short."
On August 15, 1975, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated along with his entire family. Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana survived as they were abroad during one of the darkest episodes of Bangladesh's history.
Referring to their struggles, she said, "We, sisters, are broad shoulders for each other. We support and love each other."