Sayeeda Jaigirdar's 'London, 1971' | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, November 12, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 12, 2008

Sayeeda Jaigirdar's 'London, 1971'

Sayeeda Jaigirdar's piece "London, 1971" published in 'The Daily Star' on 18 October, 2008 made me extremely nostalgic. In this column, she mentions me also as one greeting them in London's Heathrow airport on their arrival from Nigeria with 'smiles and warm clothes' following her father Mr Mohiuddin Ahmed Jaigirder's renunciation of Pakistan High Commission's diplomatic post of Third Secretary in Lagos to work from London for the liberation of Bangladesh under the leadership of Mr Justice Abu Sayeed Chowdhury.
Our provisional Mujibnagar government had earlier sent instructions to all Bengali officers and staff to resign from Pakistan government posts in foreign countries, particularly from the Pakistan missions. These Bengali members working abroad in one or another capacity with the Pakistani establishments abroad were advised to report, after their resignation, either to the government in Calcutta or to London, the second most important place in our Liberation War outside India. In 1971, Mr Mohiuddin Ahmed Jaigirdar also was following that instruction and advice of our the then government.
Yes, I vividly remember that I had gone with Mr Sultan Sharif, a legendary Awami League leader in London for the last 45 years to receive Mr & Mrs. Jaigirdar and their three young children. I don't think I had with me my wife that day. Sayeeda may have made a small mistake here. This mistake is not unusual: rather, that as a child of 8 years only in 1971, she could remember so many details including our smiles and warm clothes is itself a tribute to her memory of 37 years ago.
I remember, Mr. Justice Chowdhury was not in London at that time. He had perhaps gone on a visit of Europe to mobilse support for our cause. So, the whole responsibility of receiving the Jaigirdars and accommodating them fell on me.
On receipt of the information about their arrival, I immediately contacted Sultan Sharif, one of my closest colleagues and comrades in my three and a half years' stay in London and, as expected, got fullest support; he even offered to host the family at his modest house in Balham, South London. Further, he readily agreed to accompany me to Heathrow airport in my self-driven car for the big event. This indeed was a big event, because any resignation of any Bengali officer or staff from any Pakistani mission abroad in 1971 was seen as a big blow to Yahya Khan's barbaric regime and their claim of all quiet and normal in East Pakistan.
After receiving the Jaigirdars, we immediately faced a problem; how to take them to Balham. We did not know earlier that the Jaigirdar family was that big. The Jaigirdars, Sultan Sharif and I could not all travel in my personal car, an Austin 1300. Moreover they had their luggage also. We could of course take a taxi, but that would cost three pounds; a mighty big amount in those days, more so because we were fighting a war against a ruthless Pakistani army then. We had to save every penny in every conceivably way.
We contacted Nora Sharif, Sultan's Irsih wife, an outstanding person of numerous qualities, a devoted and dedicated lover of Bangladesh and its people. After elaborate discussion from a public telephone booth with her at her home, it was worked out that I would take in my car all 5 members of the Jaigirdar family to Sultan Sharif's home at 25 Balvernie Grove, Balham; leaving behind Sultan with the luggage in the terminal building of Heathrow. About the same time when I was leaving for Balham, Nora would start the journey in the opposite direction in their car from Balham for Heathrow to pick up Sultan and the luggage of the Jaigirdars. Nora would of course leave behind the key to the house at a predetermined place near the door of the house so that I would find the key and enter the house. I remember Nora did not forget to leave behind some light refreshments on the kitchen table for the newly arrived guests.
The plan worked perfectly well. The guests were all comfortably accommodated for a number of days until alternative arrangements were made for them in a rented house. It may now, after 37 years, seem unbelievable, but this is how we had saved three pound sterling!
I sincerely thank her for permitting me also to reminisce about "London 71". I am a fond reader of her occasional columns sent from Canada in The Daily Star. I earnestly hope she would continue to write on a regular basis.

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