Down the back alleys of remembrance
Pindrop silence and an air of awe filled the Cosmic Tent, as four great storytellers took the stage on the third and final day of Hay Festival 2014. Accompanied on stage by acclaimed writers Syed Manzoorul Islam, A Qayyum Khan and Kaiser Huq, the launching of Shahzaman Mozumder's new memorandum on 1971, “The Guerrilla”, by Daily Star Books took place in front of a brimming and absorbed crowd composed of literary enthusiasts and history buffs.
Known by most as the King of Dhaka, a connoisseur of French cuffs and herringbone who runs men's style blog, Mozumder's uncompromising eye for detail is not lost in “The Guerilla”, where amidst excruciating descriptions of guns, tanks and rocket launchers, lies a deeply human story of the events that unfolded in the life of a boy who chose to become a soldier.
“In every page there is a tremendous sympathy for those he fought with, not only those he fought for”, said Syed Manzoorul Islam on Mozumder's larger-than-life chronicles. While explaining his reasons for writing the memoir, Mozumder shared that he felt an overwhelming urge to tell the stories of those comrades who were never recognised for their gallantry, not even in the extensive body of works the country has produced on 1971. “I am not the hero of my book. If you fight with heroes, you cannot help but become one yourself,” he adds. Throughout the evening, Mozumder imparted extraordinary tales of his luck in the war, from escaping arrest as a jasus to being saved from starvation at Teliapara by Major General Matin. “War is not like the movies,” opined the Bir Protik as he confessed to writing only about wherever “the beam of his torchlight fell.”
Sometimes humorous and full of lightness, there is no judgment in this sympathetic piece of work, which refuses to get lost in the murky waters of politics. What A Qayyum Khan describes as a “Huckleberry Finn story with characters out of nowhere” and full of “hilarious and idiotic scenarios”, “The Guerilla” is told with the utmost forthrightness and generosity. Whether he is describing battle fatigue in the tall grasses of the front lines or escaping a shower of shells from the skies, this books promises many things and keeps those promises.
“Hindsight is always 20-20, but that is futile. So far, I had believed that the deaths were necessary, but now I ask, was it truly?” Mozumdar exclaimed in his closing remarks. Although it may be too early, these questions will be asked by our grandchildren, he professed. On that robust note which left the audience deep in thought, the launch of a book that should become part of everybody's collection, drew to an exhilarating end.