Kaikobad, a face of humanity
Kaikobad, the valiant man who sacrificed his life trying to rescue trapped garment workers from under the rubble of Rana Plaza in Savar, was in fact going to his construction site in Gazipur on the afternoon of April 25, a day after the building had collapsed.
A Good Samaritan from childhood, the 35-year-old could not sit quietly after he had watched television reports on the disaster, said his elder sister Nurunnahar.
On the afternoon of April 25, he started for Gazipur on his motorbike. As he reached near the collapse site, he parked his motorbike in front of a shop and jumped right into action. Over the next five days, the father of two did not think about anything other than the rescue of the victims.
Kaikobad had rescued alive at least 26 people, said rescuers and his family.
Kaikobad's family came to know about his involvement in the rescue operation a day later through TV.
With his lanky physique he surprised the members of the armed forces, fire brigade and other rescuers by slipping through narrow openings of the collapsed building and leading dozens of trapped men and women out to safety.
"As he prepared to go down through a narrow tunnel, a bag around his waist was getting in the way. Kaikobad took off the bag and handed it over to me saying that he had some money there. He asked me to keep the bag until he had finished his job," Kaikobad's wife Germin Akhter quoted Maj Mahbub Hasan Chowdhury as saying.
His motorbike and the bag had been returned to the family, said Germin.
On the first day of his involvement, Kaikobad found eight victims trapped in debris. He told Maj Mahbub and others to get some oxygen cylinders, masks, a rope and a rod cutter. The army major immediately gave him the items and soon Kaikobad disappeared into the tunnel.
Shortly after, to the rapturous welcome of rescuers, he led the trapped men and women out of the rubble.
Kaikobad worked ceaselessly for five days and nights.
"He talked to us over the phone a few times and told us that he would come home only after the rescue was over," said Kaikobad's wife.
"They need me here," he told his sister.
"I have promised many trapped people that I would come for them. How can I break the promise?" That is what he told his wife over the phone.
On the fifth day, on April 29, as Kaikobad descended into a tunnel, he made contact with a young garment worker, Shaheena Akhter, who was trapped inside the wreckage and was desperately pleading to be rescued.
At around 10:00pm, he took up the challenge. He was lowered into the tunnel. He inched towards Shaheena to get her out through a hole he had drilled.
But her body would not slip through the tiny opening. Just then a fire broke out from sparks from the drill machine, and it engulfed the tunnel. Kaikobad received serious burn injuries. Shaheena could not be saved either. She breathed her last trapped inside.
Kaikobad was first whisked off to Combined Military Hospital. On May 3, on the instructions of the prime minister, he was flown to Singapore. He died there two days later.
Hearing of his death, an army officer said, "I have wept for Kaikobad. During those five days I closely watched this brave soul and grew to respect him."
On May 7, Kaikobad was buried at Banani graveyard in the capital with full state honours.
Originally from Hatiya in Noakhali district and the youngest of two brothers and two sisters, Kaikobad went to Ideal School and College in Dhaka. He grew up in the capital's Farmgate area. Lately, he had been earning his livelihood by supervising construction sites.
Hasan, an old friend of Kaikobad, said he was an excellent badminton player.