Konedine Ashiben Bondhu
What do you say about a man who deeply loved Tagore, who loved music and had a way of enriching the life of every person that he was in contact with? That Professor Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury was a complete human being, never saw the dark side in anyone, always illuminated the place he went to with his brilliant smile and exquisite manners. That too was unintentional; he wanted to remain in the background. He once confided to me, "I am happy with the role of a prompter, which I once had." 'What does that mean?' I asked He said that was the closest he had ever gotten to acting!
We were in the middle of a celebration to commemorate the tenth year of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), which was his last workplace. He said that during his student days at Dhaka University (in the late 1950s), as very few women appeared on the stage, he had taken the contact details of Jharna Bashak alias Shabnam (noted film actress). Jharna agreed to play the lead female role provided there was a prompter; she didn't have time to memorise her dialogues. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury agreed to be the prompter. He did so till the day God took him away from us on December 30, 2010.
He prompted the university colleagues, prompted the Trustees, prompted the students, prompted the non-academic staff and all the other hands responsible for logistic support at an institution. He knew each and every person by name and showed the same respect to the menial labourer at IUB as well as eminent industrialists who shape the future of IUB! He never took centre stage, he was always in a pursuit of actors who would take centre stage and act out the role.
There was not an iota of self adulation or glorification in him.During his days at Rajshahi University (in the 1970s), Prof Salahuddin was called the Jesus of Campus No.1 and Professor Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury of No 2. I met him first in 1996 as the Vice Rector of IUB where I joined. Together we spent long hours developing various curricula outside the periphery of my limited knowledge. His trust was simply complete, and through the long fourteen years of association, I realized why people called him the Jesus of the campus. Once I was in Darirampur (where poet Kazi Nazrul Islam once lived) and was about to commence singing for a national event commemorating the birthday of the National Poet. BMC (as we lovingly addressed him in short), called me on my mobile. He was looking for my father and I could not decipher his voice, due to the din. When I shouted loud into my mobile, `Who is this?' he said ,`I am Bazlu, I am looking for your father'. I noted that he was able to shed all man-made addresses (for example, VC of IUB or Dr. Chowdhury) and present himself simply as `Bazlu' the way his friends addressed him.
Often, he would praise our careers and make himself sound so humble by saying that he had gone to the University of Aberdeen and was just a professor of sociology, not an alumnus of some prestigious Ivy League school! As I got to know him as a sociologist I found out that many Ivy Leaguers would shy away from the deep knowledge and understanding that he had of life, living, culture, arts, crafts, painting and above all people. The first time I visited his home for dinner, I found two portraits on the wall, one of Pandit Ravi Shankar and one of Bismillah Khan. His wife, Zakia, looked at me and said,`Nashid, Bazlu himself put up these portraits!' There was no other portrait of anyone else in his living room. The second time round, I found portraits of his grandson, the apple of his eye.
I sensed his sensitivity and during long discussions found out that during his student days he shared his hostel room with renowned vocalist Syed Abdul Hadi. He watched as Mr. Hadi practiced his voice in the morning and he had deep respect for musicians. He took deep interest in music and often during my tours to Kolkata to attend programmes on Tara channel he would request me to bring albums of new artistes. One last request was of the new Tagore exponent Saheb. I went to Kolkata New Market but could not find his album and shall never be able to gift it to him. The day before he passed away I was on a programme on NTV and it could be at the exact moment when he had his heart attack that I remembered him on stage. One of his favourite songs from my grandfather's collection was `O ki o bondhu kajol bhromora re.' I was singing this particular song and remembered his playfully hurt expression in my house when he requested my aunt Ferdausi Rahman (also his class friend in sociology) and my aunt expressed her inability to oblige him. I had learned this song for BMC and although I can no longer sing it before him, myself and all his admirers at IUB long for his presence and say `konedine ashiben bondhu koya jao koya jao re'
Nashid Kamal is an eminent musician and Professor of Biostatistics at North South University.