As his 107 days in prison came to an end on Tuesday, globally acclaimed photojournalist Shahidul Alam found delight in the city's traffic and even the incessant horns that surrounded it -- something that speaks volumes of the joy he felt as he tasted freedom from captivity.
“Never thought Dhaka traffic, winter smog, and the incessant honking of horns could be so attractive,” he wrote in a post on the Facebook page -- FreeShahidul -- on Wednesday.
He added that he was out but remembered the friends who were still in Keraniganj Jail and the stories they shared.
“I miss the sparrows that befriended me, but find myself wrapped in your warmth.
“It was in Keraniganj that they [the sparrows] told me, 'It is only in jail that you find out who your real friends are'.”
Shahidul, also the founder of Drik Gallery and Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, was picked up on August 5 from his Dhanmondi home following an interview with Al Jazeera about student demonstrations for safe roads. He was arrested on the charges of “spreading propaganda and false information against the government”.
After his release on the night of November 20, he thanked all those who advocated for his freedom.
“For all of you who stood by me through these difficult 107 days, a salute of solidarity and a huge hug of friendship. A just and peaceful world remains attainable. Democracy continues to be worth fighting for.
Together, we are a formidable force and we shall certainly overcome,” he wrote.
He also thanked the “brilliant and tenacious” legal team and the “wonderful group of passionate, obstinate, creative, and freedom-loving people” all over Bangladesh and across the globe.
“Never appreciated the meaning of the word 'Freedom' to such an extent,” he said.
Shahidul's wife Rahnuma Ahmed said the original plan was to admit Shahidul to hospital after he walked out of jail, but that was not possible as he was allowed to leave around 8:20pm and it had gotten too late. He was taken to his residence and was admitted to a private hospital in the city the next morning.
A video clip of Shahidul feeding his pet fish at his home was uploaded on the FreeShahidul Facebook page on November 21.
As he fed his old friends, he fondly remembered the new ones he had made while in Keraniganj jail. “My sparrows must be flying around looking for food. I fed them bread in the morning and rice in the afternoon.”
Referring to his sparrow friends, he murmured, “No, I didn't name them because their number was increasing. Before they were small in number... now their numbers are increasing along with their strengths.”
Speaking to The Daily Star over phone, Rahnuma yesterday said doctors were conducting a full medical checkup on Shahidul and that it would take a couple of days for them to detail the condition of his health.
“He [Shahidul] looked fine and mentally strong. All he wants is to get back to work,” she said.