An evening with Smita-Anannya-Mouli

Ajoy Roy
It took me a week’s time to gather enough courage to face the wretched family members of one of my great colleagues Dr. Humayun Azad, a poet and a linguist of no mean reputation. If for nothing else, I shall always remember him for his scholarship in contemporary Bengali Philology and linguistics that found expression in his masterly works: Bhasavijnan (1983), Pronominalization in Bengali (1953), Banglabhasa (Part I, 1985) and Banglabhasa (Part II, 1988). I can’t single out another pundit of outstanding scholarship in this field of language and philology in Bangladesh after late Professor Abdul Hye.

As I pushed the calling bell of 14/E, Fuller Road, the residential apartment of late Azad, Smita & Anannya opened the door for me. I just couldn’t look up to see their face. It is a terrible situation for me. I could neither solace them, nor I find any ward to break the ice. I just managed to utter ‘how are you ? ‘It sounds so ridiculous! Annanya saved the situation by saying ‘Ashun Chacha (come in),’ He led me to Humayun’s Bedroom where his wife Mrs. Azad was found sitting in a melancholy mood with another elderly lady. Mouli greeted me with a faint smile enquiring about my health. Honestly I was never been in such a homely atmosphere during Azad’s life time. A week has gone by, but still the atmosphere of shock, sorrow and despair prevailing.

Bhabi, expressed her gratitude to Azad’s colleagues, more particularly to students and teachers of the university for standing behind the family at this hour of distress.

I remember I came again to visit the family exactly after 2 months. Then, I came to see him a week later after his return from Bangkok. But this time Dr. Azad is not here to greet me with a smile coming from his disfigured face, a permanent curvature engraved on his face by his attempted killers, nay the true killers. Had they not attacked him fatally on that dreadful night of February, Dr. Azad would still have been with us. No, never, I would pardon those cowardly killers.

Mouli told me, in course of our conversation, that Azad left for Bangkok on way to Germany on 7th August by Thai Air Ways. In the afternoon, he talked to Mouli and other members of his family from a Bangkok hotel lobby. He informed them that he would be staying overnight at Bangkok as the air-flight to Germany was on the following morning (8th August). Mouli told me that her father again rang them at night, but as children were then asleep, Mrs. Azad had a little chat with her husband.

Dr. Azad duly arrived at Germany (perhaps Frankfurt air port) on 8th August afternoon. He was perhaps, as reports came by, received by PEN president (German Chapter) Mr. Eyohannes Strassar at the airport, and arrived at Munich, about 300 km south east from Frankfurt in the evening. As Daud Haider informed us that he had a dinner with the PEN president on 9th August. Mouli told me that on 9th night, her father talked to each of them but very briefly as he was talking to them from a public booth, and it was quite costly. He assured them he would ring them again on the following day, bit alas that phone call from their beloved father never came. Before he left Dhaka he taught her younger daughter, Smita how to handle ‘e-mail’ business as he would use e-mails rather than telephone for communication as his fellowship is not liberally enough.

Before I went to see the family, I had the occasion to talk to Charge de affairs (in charge) Mr. Hermann Nicolai of the German Embassy the same afternoon in a British Council function. We sat side by side. At tea break we had a nice talk and naturally episode of Humayun Azad crept in. He told me that it is now sure, that Dr. Azad’s body would be flown in on Thursday (26th August) from Frankfurt airport by Bangladesh Biman. On my inquiry, he assured me that his body would be carried by a motor vehicle to the airport on Wednesday (25th August) because some formalities have to be fulfilled that takes little time. It is hoped then that the body would finally arriving at Dhaka airport on the Morning of Friday (27th August).

The German charge de affairs himself explained why so much delay – the formalities between the German Government, Foreign Ministry of BD, and the family of Azad took lot of time to complete. There was some confusion regarding who would pay the cost of transport. Initially it was thought that PEN would bear it. It however turned out that insurance policy was not fully formalized as he died on all a sudden. The insurance company involved told PEN, as reported by Mr. Nicolai that since the preliminary autopsy report categorically mentioned cause of death were due to ‘heart attack’, and death was ‘natural’, his preliminary insurance coverage did not include ‘heart ailment’. The charge de affairs disclosed to me that autopsy report indicated that ‘Humayun had a weak heart, and he had suffered series of heart attacks in the past, although he might not be aware of these.’ The insurance company told the PEN that this information was not revealed to them. So until the full report of autopsy is available with the company it couldn’t decide either way because of the bindings of rules. When I pointed out to the charge de affairs that ‘weak heart’ is a medically vague term. There is no such term in medical science ‘weak heart’ or ‘strong heart’! Question is whether Dr. Azad was suffering from any ‘heart ailment’ before he departed for Munich. It sounds very strange to me that Azad had a serious heart ailment or heart trouble. ‘What kind of heart deceases Humayun was suffering from’ did the autopsy report suggested – I asked the diplomat. He had no answer. Any way the financial part of the transport has been overcome, said Mr. Nicolai. There should not be any problem now. He also said that when the German embassy receives the full autopsy report which would contain full investigation of report of his cause of death, the effect of any drinks alcohols included and food taken within twenty four hours, medicine taken within last week etc it would be passed on to Mrs. Azad privately, as German law does not allow them to make it public.

I reported back the gist of my conversation with the diplomat to Mrs. Azad and Mouli. I asked Bhavi categorically whether Azad had any heart problem whatsoever. If he had, why it had not been detected during his thorough medical treatment in CMH as well as at Bangkok. Mouli told me that his father never suffered any heart attack, serious or mild. At CMH his heart condition had been continuously monitored. “The doctors would have certainly detected and revealed to us. He had only slight high pressure for which he used to take medicine regularly.”, said Mouli. As I am myself a heart patient, Mouli asked me, ‘Chacha, is it possible to have an heart attack in sleep with out any sign of body movement, or other physical sign because of severe pain and discomfort a patient then go through.’ I told her that it is possible to have a heart attack in sleep, but physical symptoms would be apparent, although the patient might not be aware of because of deep sleep. But surely outsiders would not fail to recognize it. Perhaps the doctors had noticed it.’ Mouli told me that as far as they could get the information, his was found in a condition as if he were in sound sleep. I had no answer to this hypothetical situation. But I fully understand her young mind’s query and agony what led to her father’s sudden death. I don’t think any one of us, including have any answer to this painful question. From such a long distance we can only speculate, but perhaps we would never, never get to the near of the truth. Truth is such an illusive element!

I took leave of Bhavi and her three charming children after about two hours. I felt so depressed and pain, and thought to myself, ‘What life all about?. Is it because of these immense sufferings of the mortals, the Prince Sidhartha left his royal place to become Lord Budhha for the emancipation of the mortals, the Nirvana.’ No, I have no answer. But my anger has no limit – those killers are still at large, and long hand of our justice and law appeared so short that justice would never come to us.

In my last dispatch posted on 14. 05. 04 entitled. “Meeting with Dr. Humayun Azad” I ended my posting with the following note of pleasure: “At about 4-30 p.m. we took leave of him wishing our best wishes from the core of our heart. His pretty wife and two lovely daughters gave us a smiling farewell, the smile that returned months back. It is good to see a happy wind started blowing in the family.”

Now what should I say, I wished I should not have visited them – these shattered faces of the children are simply unbearable. The wind of melancholy, the wind of pain and sufferings has overwhelmed them. God knows how long they would suffer from this misfortune, who knows?