Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan : In Memoriam

April 10, 2009

syed-khwaja-moinul-hassan

Crusader against an unjust world

HOMAGE TO SYED KHWAJA MOINUL HASSAN

Fakrul Alam, The Weekly Holiday, Friday 10 2009

 

Looking at Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan, it would have been difficult to imagine the depths of passion in him. He appeared, almost always, a gentle soul, courteous and amiable. A good friend and a popular teacher, he was well liked by those who came to know him everywhere. He was the type who seemed incapable of offending anyone.
   And yet if one takes his poems as evidence, he was a passionate man and occasionally an intemperate one too. The Collected Poems of Syed Khawja Moinul Hassan, published by Kolkata’s Writers Workshop, assembled from five books of verse published in Dhaka and Kolkata, testify to someone continually disturbed by recent history, which he seems to have seen as a record of a world falling apart. “Between Barbed Wires”, the title poem from his first volume of verse puts it thus:
   “The days are terrible and parlous/And the nights awful and fearful”. The nightmares of subcontinental history bothered him a lot as is evident in the poem “Dhaka 1971” where he gives vent to his disgust at the atrocities committed that year: “Filthy joints full of hogs,/Khaki serpents, querulous apes/ crying vultures and barking dogs/All in arson, loot and rape”. The second volume of verse, Inner Edge (1987), continues to reflect the fissures created by history in his psyche in emotion-soaked verse.
   Consequently, Hassan’s early poems can at times sound like rant; there was too much powerful feelings in them, and obviously not enough tranquility had gone into transforming his raw emotions into poetry. His third volume of verse, Ashes and Sparks (1990) record his indignation and hurt at America’s first invasion of Iraq and George Bush the senior’s doctoring of “facts” to justify the unjustifiable. As he puts it in a poem of the collection: “America your Armada is in the wrong Gulf/America come home your house is on fire/There is a lot of smoke in the basement/Where your children spend the night opening coffins/like crates”.
   Indeed, there is intensity as well as dismay in these and later volumes. Such feelings always made him write poetry of outrage directed at a basically unjust world that he wanted to sensitize and change. In Burning the Olive Branch (1995), the last volume of verse reprinted in his Collected Poems, he cries at the plight of Palestinians and against American aggression in the Middle East with characteristic indignation, accounting for his outburst thus: “Whoever is afraid of madness/Is afraid of the truth, /for only in the frenzy of our mad moments do we compel/our creator/to stand face to face/and beg back our mortality”.
   
   Opposed to jingoism
   There were many reasons why Hassan was moved so by the nightmare of contemporary history. Hassan was born in a distinguished family that had moved to Dhaka because of the political impasse that led to the partition of India. He was the son of Pirzada Syed Khwaja Borhanuddin, and the great grandson of Wazir Ali Naqhsbad, Zamindar of Beleghata, Kolkata. In his university years he was witness to the savage scenes that were everywhere evident in 1971 . His stay in the U.S.A. saw the country get stuck in the quagmire of history because of the jingoistic policies of the two Bushes.
   An outstanding student, Hassan was placed First Class First in his B. A. (Hons.) examination and got another first in his M.A. Subsequently, he became a lecturer in English at the University of Dhaka. He left Bangladesh in 1983 and studied at Purdue University, where he was awarded a Ph.D. in 1994 for his dissertation titled “W. B. Yeats, Resistance, and Ireland”. After teaching in a number of institutions in the United States, he settled down as Professor in the English department of Claflin University’s Orangeburg, South Carolina campus. Since this university has a link programme with Dhaka’s Stamford University, he came to Dhaka for successive summer sessions of teaching in recent years.
   
   A friend of Edward Said
   In America, Hassan’s sensitivity to politics and exasperation at U.S. foreign policy was always visible. His outspoken denunciation of the first American invasion of Iraq led to his friendship with the great Palestinian-American intellectual, Edward Said, who not only advised him to cope with F. B. I. intimidators but also nominated him to the Palestinian National Council where he served for a while.
   Hassan’s political activism is also reflected in his scholarship; he co-authored an essay called “The Wretched of the Nations” that has been published by Zed Books in Genocide, War Crimes, and the West: the Culture of Impunity”. (2004) His commitment to Islam and its history and culture is also reflected in his published works. His final publication, co-written with S. Nizamuddin, is called Petals of Light and is a book of forty hadiths.
   Hassan died of a heart attack in the USA on the 3rd of April, 2009. His burial took place in Long Island, New York on the 5th of this month. He will be much missed by his friends, students and dear ones in Bangladesh as well as the rest of the world who will remember him for his gentle yet passionate nature, his sincerity as well as intensity, and his abundant love for his people.
   Dr Fakrul Alam is a Professor of English, Dhaka University.

9 Responses to “Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan : In Memoriam”

  1. Fakrul Alam Says:

    Gentle yet passionate nature

    Looking at Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan, it would have been difficult to imagine the depths of passion in him. He appeared, almost always, a gentle soul, courteous and amiable. Although excitable, he was the type who seemed incapable of offending anyone. A good friend and a popular teacher, he was well liked by all those who came to know him everywhere.
    And yet if one takes his poems as evidence, he was a passionate man and occasionally an intemperate one too. The Collected Poems of Syed Khawja Moinul Hassan, published by Kolkata’s Writers Workshop, assembled from five books of verse published in Dhaka and Kolkata, testify to someone continually disturbed by recent history, by a record of a world falling apart. ‘Between Barbed Wires’, the titular poem from his first volume of verse puts it thus: “The days are terrible and parlous/And the nights awful and fearful”. The nightmares of subcontinental history bothered him a lot, as is evident in the poem ‘Dhaka 1971’, where he vented his disgust at the atrocities committed that year: “Filthy joints full of hogs,/Khaki serpents, querulous apes/ crying vultures and barking dogs/All in arson, loot and rape”. The second volume of verse, Inner Edge (1987), continues to reflect the fissures created by history in his psyche in emotion-soaked verse.
    Consequently, Hassan’s early poems can at times sound like outbursts; there was too much powerful feelings in them, and obviously not enough tranquility had gone into transforming his raw emotions into poetry. His third volume of verse, Ashes and Sparks (1990) record his indignation at America’s first invasion of Iraq : “America your Armada is in the wrong Gulf/America come home your house is on fire/There is a lot of smoke in the basement/Where your children spend the night opening coffins/like crates”.
    There were many reasons why Hassan was so moved by the nightmare of contemporary history. He was born in a distinguished family that had moved to Dhaka because of the political impasse that led to the partition of India. He was the son of Pirzada Syed Khajaj Borhanuddin, and the great-grandson of Wazir Ali Naqhsbad, Zamindar of Beleghata, Kolkata. In his university years he was witness to the savage scenes of 1971. In the USA he saw that country get stuck in the quagmire of history because of the jingoistic policies of the two Bushes.
    An outstanding student, Hassan was placed First Class First in his B A (Hons.) examination and got another first in his MA. Subsequently, he became a lecturer in English at Dhaka University. He left Bangladesh in 1983 and studied at Purdue University, where he was awarded a PhD in 1994. Later, he settled down as Associate Professor in the English department of Claflin University, South Carolina. Since this university has a link program with Dhaka’s Stamford University, he came to Dhaka for successive summer sessions of teaching in recent years..
    Hassan died of a heart attack in the USA on the 3rd of April 2009. His burial took place in Long Island, New York on the 5th. He will be much missed by his friends, students and dear ones in Bangladesh as well as all those who will remember him for his gentle yet passionate nature, his sincerity as well as intensity, and his abundant love for his people.

    Fakrul Alam,
    professor of English, general editor of the Dictionary of Literary Biography: South Asian Writers in English in the well-known Thomson-Gale series


  2. Zindagi ka Safar
    Khwaja Moinul Hassan and I were fellow students – he was a little senior to me – at Dhaka University in the early to mid 1970s.
    At that time I used to write for ‘Holiday’ weekly. When his first book of poems, Barbed Wires, came out Khwaja gave me a copy to review. I was not gentle with it. To me it seemed mawkish, ‘poetic’ stuff, prose lines stitched together with end rhymes.
    A couple of weeks later I saw him at Pedro’s, a rare appearance, sipping tea and staring at the gurdwara. I said hi. He said hi back. He then added that he had read my review – in an impeccably courteous tone. Pomp may have vanished from his nawab family, but pedigree remained in the bone! On an impulse I sat down beside him and did something I’d never done before or since – I tried to explain why I had written what I did. He may not have agreed with everything I said, but at least he understood where I was coming from.
    Then, I don’t recollect how, we suddenly went on to Urdu poetry. Perhaps because of a stray remark about my Karachi school days. He was astonished at how many ghazals I had in my memory bank – all gone now! Khwaja too startled me – any amateur can toss off a little Bahadur Shah Zafar or Ghalib, but it took a pro to know Allama Iqbal the way he did; he knew his Ghalib, sure, but what got me was that he knew Daagh Dehlvi too:
    Zeest say tang ho ai Daagh to jeetay kyon ho
    Jaan pyaree bhee naheen jaan say jaatay bhee nahin
    (If you’re bored of life, Daagh, why carry on this long?
    If you aren’t enjoying it, why keep on with it?)
    I, however, bested him on Akbar Allahabadi and Firaq Gorakhpuri.
    Ai Shaikh gar asar hai duan may
    To masjid hila kay dikha
    Gar nahin to do ghoont pee
    Aur masjid to hiltay dekh
    (O Sheikh, if there be force in your prayer
    Make the walls of the mosque shake
    If you can’t, down a peg or two
    And see how the mosque shakes.)
    We never had a repeat adda. But I felt I knew where his English poetry came from: Urdu poetry, ghazals, couplets, nazms. Perhaps Khwaja couldn’t quite (in my eyes solely!) manage the impossibly difficult task of transmuting that noble, profound feeling for and inspiration from it into the English language.
    We lost touch when later we both left for the USA. After I came back to Dhaka, in 2005, while on a visit to Dhaka, he called me to touch bases. The conversation was brief; too many years had gone by. We promised to meet, but never did.
    Late on the night I got word he had died, I thought of a tea shack and an animated adda over Urdu poetry and poets. And Ghalib’s Zindagi ka Safar couplet came to mind, which Khwaja would undoubtedly have known:
    Rau may hain raksh-e-umr kahaan dekhiyay thamey
    Naee haath baag par hai na paa hai rakaab main
    (Life goes by at a gallop, I don’t know where it’ll end
    The reins are not in my hands, nor my feet in stirrups).
    Khademul Islam,
    literary editor, TheDaily Star. The mangled translations in the above piece are solely his doing.

  3. Syed Badrul Ahsan Says:

    With him went soul poetry

    There was a life-sustaining force in Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan. It had always been an integral part of his character. When we met for the last time – after a gap of many years since he had moved to the United States – here in Dhaka some years ago, he bubbled with the old energy. You and I, he told me, can never stay away from literature, for that is life. And I realized anew the sheer force in those thoughts. He was my teacher in the English Department of Dhaka University. In the classroom, he was a poet, carried away to new shores with every line of verse. To me he was in the tradition of Shelley or Byron or both.
    In early 1976, Moinul Sir (and that’s how I have always looked upon him, despite the very little difference in age) and I acted in a comedy cobbled together by the English Department and shown on BTV. It was called When Shakespeare’s Gentlemen Get Together. I was Hamlet and I believe he was Petruchio. There were four others. It was a rollicking time we had. Moinul Sir kept everyone merry. He had this huge capacity for laughter, a laughter that came from deep within his heart.
    Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan led me by the hand one January afternoon in 1979 to the Dhaka YMCA. Thereafter, for many years, I was a teacher there. One rainy evening in April that year, he and I spoke of the tragic end of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who had been executed in the predawn hours of the day. On my yearly visits to London, it was a thrill getting calls from Moinul Sir from distant South Carolina, where he taught at a college. The conversations were long, the subjects all-encompassing. He was an incorrigible romantic.
    And with his passing goes the gleam that underlines the poetry in our souls. I still hear that laughter streaming from the waterfall that was Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan’s heart.
    Syed Badrul Ahsan is current affairs editor, The Daily Star.

  4. Rubana Huq Says:

    The last laugh

    He taught Romantic poetry at the Dhaka University, got his doctorate degree from Indiana, worked at Claflin University in South Carolina, had three books of poems published by Writers Workshop in Kolkata. That is all I know of him. After all, I had met him only through his poems.
    Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan’s first Writers Workshop volume of verse, Inner Edge, was in 1987. The book is dedicated to an ‘Estella’, his “Gateway to Xanadu”. The book’s introduction is by Margaret Moan Rowe, Graduate Studies director in the English department and Hassan’s dissertation supervisor. She credits him as a poet having an “active vision” with which he honoured his readers.
    Hassan’s vision had a clarity that could only breed hurt. No ‘Tajmahal’: “the myth of a moth-eaten civilization” bound him; no Partition set him free:
    “I have always been taken for somebody else
    At Allahabad, right after the War,
    They wouldn’t let me in…
    At Multan they wouldn’t finalise a deal
    Taking me for somebody else…
    For how long can one afford to lose himself
    Be taken for somebody else,
    Rendered nationless on pretended realities…”
    Hassan’s second collection of verse, Ashes and Sparks, published by Writers Workshop in 1989, has a foreword by Professor Jacob H. Adler at Harvard University – who did mistakenly call Hassan an Indian and appreciated his poem ‘Pakistan’:
    “My heart bled and I could not see
    By raising walls how a people could be free.”
    A second introduction in the book is by Professor Timothy A. Brennan,Columbia University, who compared Hassan to the young Brecht: “Some I am told eat to live, some live to eat/and some I have seen eat the living.”
    Hassan’s third WW book, published in 2003, is a collection of his poems from his two earlier WW books plus selections from Between Barbed Wires (Provincial Books, Dhaka, 1977), Burning the Olive Branch (Ankur Prakashani, 1995). This book is dedicated to his wife, Labiba, and three children who have just suffered the severest of blows.
    While his family and friends will have memories to hold on to, readers like me will accidentally and occasionally read him, cherish him, and know that the poet at the end indeed had The Last Laugh:
    “He was a deserter running away
    From a war he could no longer believe
    Into a neutral country
    But there was none,
    Now he could not speak even if he wanted to
    Nails all over his tongue
    Made words heavy,
    Sick of telling the truth
    Afraid of fighting
    He dies in a second crossover.”
    (‘The Last Laugh’: Ashes and Sparks, 1989)
    Rubana Huq is a poet and researcher at Writers Workshop, Kolkata

  5. Khademul Islam Says:

    Zindagi ka Safar

    Khwaja Moinul Hassan and I were fellow students – he was a little senior to me – at Dhaka University in the early to mid 1970s.
    At that time I used to write for ‘Holiday’ weekly. When his first book of poems, Barbed Wires, came out Khwaja gave me a copy to review. I was not gentle with it. To me it seemed mawkish, ‘poetic’ stuff, prose lines stitched together with end rhymes.
    A couple of weeks later I saw him at Pedro’s, a rare appearance, sipping tea and staring at the gurdwara. I said hi. He said hi back. He then added that he had read my review – in an impeccably courteous tone. Pomp may have vanished from his nawab family, but pedigree remained in the bone! On an impulse I sat down beside him and did something I’d never done before or since – I tried to explain why I had written what I did. He may not have agreed with everything I said, but at least he understood where I was coming from.
    Then, I don’t recollect how, we suddenly went on to Urdu poetry. Perhaps because of a stray remark about my Karachi school days. He was astonished at how many ghazals I had in my memory bank – all gone now! Khwaja too startled me – any amateur can toss off a little Bahadur Shah Zafar or Ghalib, but it took a pro to know Allama Iqbal the way he did; he knew his Ghalib, sure, but what got me was that he knew Daagh Dehlvi too:
    Zeest say tang ho ai Daagh to jeetay kyon ho
    Jaan pyaree bhee naheen jaan say jaatay bhee nahin
    (If you’re bored of life, Daagh, why carry on this long?
    If you aren’t enjoying it, why keep on with it?)
    I, however, bested him on Akbar Allahabadi and Firaq Gorakhpuri.
    Ai Shaikh gar asar hai duan may
    To masjid hila kay dikha
    Gar nahin to do ghoont pee
    Aur masjid to hiltay dekh
    (O Sheikh, if there be force in your prayer
    Make the walls of the mosque shake
    If you can’t, down a peg or two
    And see how the mosque shakes.)
    We never had a repeat adda. But I felt I knew where his English poetry came from: Urdu poetry, ghazals, couplets, nazms. Perhaps Khwaja couldn’t quite (in my eyes solely!) manage the impossibly difficult task of transmuting that noble, profound feeling for and inspiration from it into the English language.
    We lost touch when later we both left for the USA. After I came back to Dhaka, in 2005, while on a visit to Dhaka, he called me to touch bases. The conversation was brief; too many years had gone by. We promised to meet, but never did.
    Late on the night I got word he had died, I thought of a tea shack and an animated adda over Urdu poetry and poets. And Ghalib’s Zindagi ka Safar couplet came to mind, which Khwaja would undoubtedly have known:
    Rau may hain raksh-e-umr kahaan dekhiyay thamey
    Naee haath baag par hai na paa hai rakaab main
    (Life goes by at a gallop, I don’t know where it’ll end
    The reins are not in my hands, nor my feet in stirrups).
    Khademul Islam, literary editor, TheDaily Star. The mangled translations in the above piece are solely his doing.

  6. Fakrul Alam Says:

    Gentle yet passionate nature

    Looking at Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan, it would have been difficult to imagine the depths of passion in him. He appeared, almost always, a gentle soul, courteous and amiable. Although excitable, he was the type who seemed incapable of offending anyone. A good friend and a popular teacher, he was well liked by all those who came to know him everywhere.
    And yet if one takes his poems as evidence, he was a passionate man and occasionally an intemperate one too. The Collected Poems of Syed Khawja Moinul Hassan, published by Kolkata’s Writers Workshop, assembled from five books of verse published in Dhaka and Kolkata, testify to someone continually disturbed by recent history, by a record of a world falling apart. ‘Between Barbed Wires’, the titular poem from his first volume of verse puts it thus: “The days are terrible and parlous/And the nights awful and fearful”. The nightmares of subcontinental history bothered him a lot, as is evident in the poem ‘Dhaka 1971’, where he vented his disgust at the atrocities committed that year: “Filthy joints full of hogs,/Khaki serpents, querulous apes/ crying vultures and barking dogs/All in arson, loot and rape”. The second volume of verse, Inner Edge (1987), continues to reflect the fissures created by history in his psyche in emotion-soaked verse.
    Consequently, Hassan’s early poems can at times sound like outbursts; there was too much powerful feelings in them, and obviously not enough tranquility had gone into transforming his raw emotions into poetry. His third volume of verse, Ashes and Sparks (1990) record his indignation at America’s first invasion of Iraq : “America your Armada is in the wrong Gulf/America come home your house is on fire/There is a lot of smoke in the basement/Where your children spend the night opening coffins/like crates”.
    There were many reasons why Hassan was so moved by the nightmare of contemporary history. He was born in a distinguished family that had moved to Dhaka because of the political impasse that led to the partition of India. He was the son of Pirzada Syed Khajaj Borhanuddin, and the great-grandson of Wazir Ali Naqhsbad, Zamindar of Beleghata, Kolkata. In his university years he was witness to the savage scenes of 1971. In the USA he saw that country get stuck in the quagmire of history because of the jingoistic policies of the two Bushes.
    An outstanding student, Hassan was placed First Class First in his B A (Hons.) examination and got another first in his MA. Subsequently, he became a lecturer in English at Dhaka University. He left Bangladesh in 1983 and studied at Purdue University, where he was awarded a PhD in 1994. Later, he settled down as Associate Professor in the English department of Claflin University, South Carolina. Since this university has a link program with Dhaka’s Stamford University, he came to Dhaka for successive summer sessions of teaching in recent years..
    Hassan died of a heart attack in the USA on the 3rd of April 2009. His burial took place in Long Island, New York on the 5th. He will be much missed by his friends, students and dear ones in Bangladesh as well as all those who will remember him for his gentle yet passionate nature, his sincerity as well as intensity, and his abundant love for his people.
    Fakrul Alam, professor of English, general editor of the Dictionary of Literary Biography: South Asian Writers in English in the well-known Thomson-Gale series.

  7. AUM Fakhruddin Says:

    Poems of classic elegance and intensity:
    Let us see what Jorge Luis Borges says about river: “Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.” Honestly, it is not intelligible to me. But the fifth collection of poems by eminent Bangladeshi poet Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan, North of the Old Ganges, allusive of the Buriganga river, is a bouquet of classic elegance and intensity. An attempt to churn out a thousand words or so as a critical appreciation of these contemplative poems rich in introspection will be puerile. Refraining from doing so, here I make an attempt to introduce North of the Old Ganges.
    Five decades ago Dhaka’s waterfront, the Buriganga river, with its sparkling wavelets on the limpid surface, was a delightful sight when summer breeze rippled the water. Decades back the Old Ganges [this is the literal meaning of ‘Buriganga’] was the lifeline of sorts for many who depended on it for their livelihood and sustenance. Like many great rivers of the world the Buriganga helped the growth and evolution of Dhaka city when waterway was the mode of transportation from here to other parts of the country.
    The ageless Old Ganges with its timelessness stands silent witness to the rise and fall of dynasties that ruled and reigned on her north bank spanning from the Lalbagh Fort in the west, built during the Mughal rule, and the Ahsan Manjil, the palace of the great Nawabs, in the middle, to the eastern extremity near Postagola. Today’s Dhaka, which has a fairly long history, is not recognisable from its size in the seventies. It has undergone astounding changes over the past three decades. The city now has many more high-rise towers and buildings than there are in Kolkata or Chennai.
    Poets and writers have lived in Dhaka city, enjoyed their stay here and must have derived delight from the river’s beauty but none wrote a poem in praise of her. And that task has been admirably accomplished by eminent poet, teacher and scholar Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan, who was born and brought up in this city, loved the Old Ganges, and has offered a lasting tribute to the city in verse entitled “North of the Old Ganges. ” Published in 2005 by Stanford University Press, Dhaka, it is priced at Taka 50. A painting in ochre and dark brown shade of Bara Katara area in older part of Dhaka city by Asem Ansari embellishes the cover of this large-format book.
    This is a real work of “emotion recollected in tranquillity” because all the poems in it were written far away from the poet’s home, in America, where he is Professor of English at Claflin University, South Carolina.
    Hassan published several volumes of poetry in English since the seventies: Between Barbed Wires (Provincial Books, Dhaka), 1977; Inner Edge (Writers Workshop, Calcutta), 1987; Ashes and Sparks (Writers Workshop, Calcutta & Provincial Books, Dhaka), 1989; Rhymes for Muslim Children, Iqra International Educational Foundation, 1992; and Burning the Olive Branch, (Ankur Prakashani), 1995. Hassan was mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English (Volume 2) published by Routledge in 1996. He is a recipient of the Governor’s Distinguished Professor Award, selected by the governor of South Carolina in 1996.
    ”North of the Old Ganges” contains Dacca 1971, Dhaka is the Big Mango, The Dhaka Paradox, Letting Imperialists In, We Sin For Not Sinning, Lessons I Learnt At My Father’s Knee, A Prayer for My Daughters, Grand Design, In this World of Contrasts, Kolkata and Dhaka, Memory Stings, A Pakistan That Never Was, To Faiz Ahmed Faiz, As Creatures Helpless We Are, Let the Name of Ahmed be the Key, Voices of the People, Raindrops on the Krishnachuras, Dhaka: A Pearl of the Asian South, Rubaiyats and some others.
    Hassan’s Dhaka poems are impassioned tribute to the city of his birth. In America they liken New York city to a Big Apple; by the same token Dhaka too can be called a ‘Big Mango’ – hence the poem “Dhaka is the Big Mango.” Dhaka city saw the ravages of the genocide in the year of the vultures in 1971 that left an indelible agonising imprint on Hassan when he was a teenager as is evident in the poem Dhaka 1971.
    I recommend this latest volume of poems North of the Old Ganges by Hassan to all lovers of refreshing, reflective poetry.

  8. M. Z. Mashreque Says:

    I am profoundly saddened by the sudden transition of my friend.
    Our Dacca University days with timeless adda, poetry, cricket, days of the States with reawakening spirituality, politics, profession, family, and these final defining phases of his life with all-out ravaging onslaughts of illness, puzzling abyss of isolation, and then helping hands of the Divine intervention…
    Reminiscences like overwhelming floods of lights reinforced from a disarrayed disordered projector, keep breaking into the silver screen of my hapless heart. The motion and emotion know no end.
    But this haplessness does not give rise to a total picture. The totality lies in the essence of the man we the lost have lost– in his making a singular connection between this material world and the other Eternal, in his love for his Lord Allah, leader Muhammad (Sm), Deen Islam, family, near ones, and friends, in his compassion for humanity, in his concern concerning fallen angels and rising demons in us. The very element in all these amazes me.
    It leads me to a realm of understanding. Everlastingly, it makes him my soul mate.
    Moin has been a visionary in the Islamic sense of the term. We the erroneous tend to fail such men as we fail to perceive the passion in their visions. In such cases the Almighty takes the matter in His own hands.

  9. Syed Badrul Ahsan Says:

    Musings
    Tales of Three Dead Men

    No one expected Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan to die so young and so soon. He was only in his mid-fifties, which for many of us is but the beginning of life in all its aesthetic celebrations. But Hassan is dead. Because the inevitability of dying is a force no rampart can hold back, we say farewell to him. He is gone, like all glory that passes. Life, like dreams, is fleeting. Expand the term. Life is that fleeting phase of experience which must sooner or later succumb to the finality of death.
    There is something in the mind that tells us that the end of life must be met with fortitude. But then the heart comes in, with the old message that remembered realities and fading dreams do not let the sea of emotions in us die. In these past few weeks, images of death have been all. Shakil Ahmed was killed in a brutal manner. His murderers shot him, then bayoneted him and then appeared to want to burn him to ashes. His eyes were open when the last breath escaped his body. You watch that horrifying image on the internet and ask, in deep sadness: Is this the friend I shared conversations and coffee with? You try brushing away that horror-drenched image from your mind. You remember the way he smiled, the gentleness of his conversation. Deep in the night, though, that image of tragedy drifts back into the dark regions of your mind. You think of your friend in the grave, suddenly shaken into the realisation that you will never again have a conversation with him. It was only days after Shakil Ahmed’s gruesome end that Rafiqul Islam called. As a colleague of the slain general, as a general himself, Rafiq was general officer commanding in Jessore. He was sad, made infinitely morose by the way fate had dealt with Shakil. And then, in a freak accident where the helicopter carrying him got entangled in electricity wires before hitting a tree and plunging into a rural pond, Rafiq died. He was a handsome man, with greenish eyes. He was tall, and his walk revealed the dignity in him. Rafiqul Islam was every inch a soldier, whether he was commanding troops at home, working at the Bangladesh High Commission in London or keeping the peace in a strife-riven country in Africa. There were moments when righteous anger came over him, and that was when he saw wrong being committed when right should have been in focus. Like Shakil Ahmed, he abjured elitism. He radiated confidence in people around him, through cracking jokes or breaking into laughter. When it came to food, Rafiqul Islam made his preferences known: plain rice was what he relished. No pulao, no fancy food for him. He loved his wife and his children with a passion, making sure that they had their regular holidays and learning a little more about the ways of the world.
    And now Rafiq is gone. The world keeps getting increasingly poorer with all the departures that happen before you. Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan’s passing leaves a gaping hole in your world of literary sensibilities. There was forever the poet in him, a gigantic wish to be transported to the shores that once reverberated with the lyricism of Shelley and Byron and Keats. Think of the Wild West Wind that Shelley celebrated once and you will have a fairly credible idea of what it was to be Khwaja. His poetry was a series of conviction outbursts, a demand to be heard in a world that had begun to love listening to its own capricious voice. In his vibrant rendition of the poetic spirit, Khwaja reminded you of the glorious traditions of the subcontinent that men of shallow thought so crudely left divided, burning and heartbroken in a blazing August years ago. He came of the Nawab clan and yet he was careful to shed the conservatism that had characterised it for the better part of generations.
    Syed Khwaja Moinul Hassan admired the brave and the striving. His respect for Sheikh Hasina was as deep and abiding as it was for Benazir Bhutto. Both women, he thought, were fighters, individuals who kept hope alive in the troubled souls of their nations. In distant South Carolina, he knew his heart was always where it wanted to be — home here in Bangladesh. And so it was that when he came back to Dhaka, as part of a programme arranged by a local university, he went travelling back into the old streets and joints of his past. You had that sure sense that given a choice, he would not go back to his adopted country. But then, life is short on choices and long on compulsions. He kept going back to Claflin College. His living soul hovered somewhere over the mountains and the high seas.
    The stories of the dead are never-ending. These men come to yyou in your dreams, in mist that does not explain itself. Do they come to tell you that you too have arrived at twilight, that the night comes fast — to bury your daylight in its core for all times?


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