|Nazrul Islam and His Long Shadow|
Nazrul Islam (NI) has passed on to what many of us believe as an eternal place; a place from which there is no return to our current mortal life. Such passing though sad and tinged with grief is not uncommon; we observe it around us all the time. However passing of some people creates a void so big that a sense of emptiness brings in introspection and a compelling need to revisit ones connection with that mortal soul; in this case NI’s long shadow on people around him, particularly mine.
Nazrul Islam (1971)
I met NI in the year 1988, an important year in our life. On early part of that year we arrived in Australia after being in the USA for ten years. Personally I had no compelling need to come to Australia; I had a research grant in a good University in Boston/Cambridge area and that university wanted to keep me there. Tulip and I came to Australia around April and I came to Canberra to give a seminar at CSIRO Plant Industry. When I arrived in Canberra NI picked me up from Jolimont Centre and dropped me to the University House. Thus became an acquaintance that blossomed into a life-long friendship of deep consequence. We both Tulip and I liked this new country and our links with the Islam family and in particular NI cemented our link with Canberra in the early days.
NI was a turbulent consequential person who affected anyone who met him a quick profound way. His turbulence was his direct kinetically charged friendliness whereby he would show his genuine benign interest in the affairs of someone he has just met. This endeared him with new friend instantly. He would then nurture it actively if there was a genuine meeting of the minds. He would remain courteous and social even if there was no genuine meeting of the minds. Once I met him I found that we agreed on many things and that became a basis of lasting interaction and friendship. His house at 56 Fincham Crescent at Wanniassa became a site of many of our family gatherings. Our enthusiastic discussions with the whole Islam family consisted of socio-political analyses of everything under the sun including the gulf war that started in early 1990’s. NI and I disagreed on many topics but there was no shortage of reciprocal good will.
NI was a deeply and actively patriotic person and played a seminal role in consolidation of public opinion in favour of Bangladesh liberation movement in Australia. His appeal to the Bengali officers of Pakistan High commission in Canberra went unheeded and no officer defected as was the case in many countries of the world. Unfazed by this NI charged on and created a whirlpool of action by dint of his relentless energy and singular patriotism. The photo above shows him talking after one of these citizens meeting in favour of Bangladesh. Australian senator Bob Mcmullan and John Langmuir told me about the relentless zeal of Naz (as he was known to Australians) for Bangladesh so much so that they considered him a de facto ambassador of Bangladesh to Australia. True to his form and philosophy NI never showed any dissatisfaction that he was not singled out by the government of Bangladesh with any recognition or award for his singular seminal role in 1971. I used to tease him about it by reminding him a quote from my own mother who always told me that “Let all praise belong to Allah”. NI liked this a lot; He liked to do good but never wanted anything in return. He was a positive example of a genuine good Samaritan.
Today he is no more. Holy Quran says “Qullu Nafsin Zaaiqatul Mout”; physical immortality remains beyond our reach. However certain people are born; born but rarely, who leave behind, when they go away, a long shadow created by their actions and force of soul. That shadow is a solace crafted in memory. In the scorching sun that is life, NI has left such a shade. Indeed forever now NI’s memory is that shade-refugia, for me and for many others who knew him. He is now forever an extension of his once-living existence; his immortal and lasting memory in our hearts.
Dr Abed Chaudhury, Canberra
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