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     Volume 8 Issue 77 | July 10, 2009 |

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To me, Abu Syed Mahmud was Dadu Bhai

With Dada Bhai.

Most tribute or remembrance authors will write about Abu Syed Mahmud's accomplishments. The main one being the founding of Ekushey Television. Most will also mention how he got his start in the oil business. Then becoming one of the directors and shareholders of Transcom and later moving on to start the Daily Star Newspaper. Most will certainly have the word “visionary” in the piece somewhere. Because that is what most knew him as. A business man, an entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a visionary.”

To me, he was just “Dadu bhai.” The old man who sat on the sofa, read the newspaper and smoked his pipe. The man who had a sweet tooth, but because of his diabetes, had to keep close watch on his sugar intake. Every time a relative went abroad, they would bring back special diabetic chocolates for him, which he shared with me on a regular basis, thus starting my love for the treat. We would often share a bar. I frequently asked him to give me the larger half, but would end up eating his share as well. And he, very willingly would let me have it. Amused, he would always say, “Sarah, I buy so many chocolates for you here and abroad, but you still like to eat the only one that I can have and the only one that everyone else finds revolting.”

Just like imitating his eating habits, I liked to copy many other routines. On a family trip to Shillong, my grandfather had been cleaning his pipe with various objects, one of them being a Swiss Army Knife. As I went to emulate the process I ended up accidentally cutting my forefinger as I tried to close it. Poor Dadu was horrified. I remember he and Didi immediately running my finger under cold water. I know Dadu had cared for me more than anything because even though it had been the smallest of wounds, for him it was the most devastating incident. As embarrassing as it may be to admit, on that same trip I had gotten a bad case of diarrhoea. Everyone had left to see the sights, but Dadu stayed back to take care of me. Later when I was older, he would often recall such incidents.

I was Dadu's only granddaughter and he never failed to mention this. He always treated me like I was the most important thing to him and I knew that I was. He consented to my most outrageous demands. He had once taken me, when I was quite little, to a stationary shop because I had asked him to buy me some paint. Upon entering the store I noticed an oversized, blue, desk, pencil sharpener. I had never used one before and I immediately changed my mind from wanting paint to this gargantuan alien device that I could barely pick up with one hand. The shopkeeper taunted me and remarked that this was for the official use for adults and that a child would “break it if she laid her hands on it.” I was on the verge of tears from the shopkeeper's comment. Dadu immediately bought me the colossal pencil sharpener along with some paints, coloured pencils and a ludo set, which we played later that day. He let me win. Every time I use a mechanical pencil sharpener, I always remember that day.

Dadu loved Bangladesh more than anyone I have ever met or ever will meet. He told me stories of how the Mukti Bahini would seek refuge in his and Didi's (my grandmother's) house. Of course he was too humble to tell me of how he planned to stop giving fuel to the Pakistani army when he worked for Burma Shell Oil. This is what led him along with others to be a target for assassination. Luckily, he had escaped although it was a close call. Dadu loved his country so much that he felt that he should instil the same pride and nationalism into me at a young age. On the anniversary of Bangabandhu's assassination, my grandfather took me to Sheikh Mujib's house in Dhanmondi. I saw countless bullets still lodged in the walls, blood-stained clothing and of course the blood spattered staircase, where Sheikh Mujib's body had been. I finally understood why Dadu loved Bangladesh so much and why he had brought me here to witness this gruesome scene. Even though it was horrific, I'm so thankful to him for exposing me to the massacre, because it made me truly love my country and be grateful to the people who fought and died for my grandparents and parents and for me to exist today.

Dadu always had big dreams, even before Ekushey Television. He always wanted to open a school sans tuition where children of every class could attend. A school that children actually wanted to go to everyday. He used to say, “The two of us will open a school where children enjoy themselves and want to learn. Where there is no classism.” One of the things that pained him the most was poverty and inequality. He had always taught me to treat everyone the same no matter who they may be or whatever their background.

When I see the Ekushey Television offices from the street below, I feel like I have been transported to the past. Often, I used to visit Dadu in his office after school. Still in my school uniform, I remember running up the steps of the building and heading straight for Dadu's office. Most of the time I would request to sit in his special chairman's chair. He would gladly abdicate for me and say that one day I will soon take over. Once the building is out of sight, I remember that that will never be a reality anymore. And that same charm that Ekushey used to have years ago, will never come back. It seemed to have died with Dadu.

My grandfather always saw the good in everyone; even the people who tried to take advantage of him. When Ekushey was still just an idea, during it's conception, many wanted to take it away from him. But Dadu fought hard for his brainchild and won the battle. Yet in the end, we lost the war. For the while that Ekushey was under my grandfather, it seemed like it was something extraordinary. As I had the amazing opportunity to work at ETV, I was lucky enough to be able to experience the magic first hand. Many didn't want to leave the Ekushey office after office hours. Yet that magic is now long gone along with my grandfather.

The people who drove my Dadu bhai out of his beloved country, eventually lead him to his demise. They took away his dream. The name Ekushey said it all. It was explanation in itself. Many who did not like the idea of ETV, those who did not support our liberation, tried their hardest to get him to change the name, but Dadu stood his ground. To him Ekushey wasn't just a television channel. It was an ideal. It was something we try to live by. It was a tool to educate our fellow people. It was something that had also taught me a great deal.

Many who were against my grandfather believe that his defeat was in his death. But his values, his ideals and his spirit live within the ones he made an impact on and those who love him the most. The ideals Dadu Bhai believed in are what I live by and are the things that I will keep fighting for.



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