"You have to dream before your dreams can come true.” As I remember these words by APJ Abdul Kalam Azad, I say to myself, they resonate so perfectly with what our late Mayor Annisul Huq believed and expressed as much in a speech the graduating class of Daffodil University.
As the Asr Azan rings in my ears, I can see the Army Stadium fill up with the masses from my window, the road in front chock-full of cars trying to reach the place on time for the janaza.
I have just finished listening to his speech to the graduates on YouTube. His statement were logical, rational and emotional. He spoke on behalf of his own generation, those of us who did not have the good fortune of choosing from many options for higher studies. Only we know what he mean by this. Dhaka University was the only place to study and a close second was Jagannath College in Dhaka. And of course, there was Chittagong and Rajshahi University. But no big dreams could be nurtured at the time unless one went out of his or her way to pursue their own dreams and struggled against all odds.
In one breath, the Mayor uttered the whole truth—a fact that cannot be ignored or sidestepped. Annisul Huq said “[I] envy all of you who are sitting beyond the second row of this congregation.” He will never be able to go back to his youth and see the future bit by bit and build a dream step by step. What a harsh reality Annis speaks about, standing on the podium only a year back. Little did he know that he had but one page of life left to live.
I have always felt that youth is the exceptional blessing of life. In one's green days, life is bountiful—you are fit, you are alert, and you are full of passion. All your senses are active and raging. What else can one ask from life? It is a harsh reality that all these attributes start to decay as the years go passing by.
Putting aside these thoughts, Annisul Huq moves on to encourage the youth to never be discouraged by the things that they may not have. Keep on fighting, he says. So what if you have not studied in a good university abroad? So what if you cannot speak English as well as the boy standing next to you? You can always win the race if the will is there. It is true that we are daunted by the slightly better, the more fortunate, walking by our side.
This part of Annis' speech reminds me of what a nephew of mine told me the other day. He was relating his experience in Dhaka when he came from his village to study for the HSCs. As he looked at the boy sitting next to him back in college, he had said to himself, “So what if I have studied in the village and got a C in my SSCs. I can make an effort and get a much better grade.” He went on to say, “I dreamt of an A and I achieved it in the end.”
It is past Maghrib and our dear Mayor is being laid to rest in the Banani cemetery, but his words still ring in my ears. The men who were there for his burial tread out of this place of eternal rest. As I watch the people homeward-bound, Annis' face comes to my mind. He would always speak about getting his mother's doa—he sought it on every occasion. He spoke of the miracles that would come from his mother's prayers. We all ask for our mothers' doa, at all times. There is not a single home in Bangladesh where “Doa koro, Ma” is not uttered. I, for one, will not embark upon any venture without Amma's doa.
Annis felt the pulse of his people and the youth of Dhaka city. In his speech, he also paid tribute to his partner Rubana, describing the challenges she had to overcome to be in the place she is now. I thought this was indeed a modern man's speech for the youth of today.
I am convinced that Annisul Huq was a man who religiously followed his duty.
Time and again Martin Luther King's “I have a dream” speech came to mind while I was listening to the late Mayor. Maybe Annis was inspired by that historical speech, for example, when he says man never stops dreaming. He talked about his father, who at the age of 95, wanted to visit his village home. With his charismatic smile, he tells the youth in the audience, “But I can't carry him to his village, even on a helicopter, but this does not stop him from dreaming to go back to his roots, to his dear village.”
Our Mayor's speech was given to the youth from his position as Mayor of Dhaka North and it was no less than a call to action to Dhaka dwellers. “There is no limit to dreaming. A man dreams even minutes before his death,” he said. Annisul Huq wanted Dhakaites to have a dream and to act upon that dream. In the same way he had a dream for Dhaka and acted upon it, we too wish to have the Dhaka of our dreams and we must take a vow that we will act upon it.
Sara Zaker is a theatre activist, media personality and Group Managing Director, Asiatic 360.