My silver lining

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 17 Aug 2017, 19:53:41 | Updated : 17 Aug 2017, 20:10:26
In memoriam

My silver lining

Sarah Anjum Bari
Today marks three years since my grandfather's demise. Written shortly after he passed away, an earlier version of this article had started with a different introduction. "Businessman and politician to the world, but so much more to his close ones," it had said. I've come to realise, however, that that wasn't entirely true. The reality is that Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain was much more than just a businessman, or a politician, or a philanthropist to anyone who knew him, perhaps especially to those who knew him professionally. 

A more formal introduction would require me to mention Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain's roles as former President of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and Sponsor and Founder Director of the Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd. These tenures, in combination with the successes of his manpower-export organisation Bay Eastern Ltd., made pivotal contributions to the Bangladesh economy at one time. His service as a thrice-consecutively-elected Member of Parliament for Feni 3 and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts changed countless lives for the better. As gratifying as it is to bear such a lineage, it pales against the ways in which he impacted those closest to him. 

Entering my grandparents' house used to be a blow to the auditory senses. Nana would be lounging on his chair in front of the television, watching an extremely loud Kolkata TV show or reading one of the countless books in his collection. He'd call out with a singsong "Nana!" or a nickname for his three daughters. If it were his birthday, he would laugh when we wished him, asking "Ajke amar jonmodin naki? Ki mone hoy, amar boyosh koto?" His delight would be modest but palpable when we knocked off a few years in our response. 

A person can be a lot of things; to judge the purpose of their existence is beyond the realms of our understanding. All we can understand is the role that they play in our lives. 

Age 5: My grandfather had a great sense of style. How many people can say that? He would draw an outline of my feet on a piece of paper before leaving for every business trip abroad. He'd come back bearing a stylish pair of shoes, fashionable clothes, and the most unique toys and candies. It was the closest thing I experienced to an encounter with Santa Claus. 

Age 11: Travelling with Nana was an overwhelming experience, especially for a child, with people walking up to shake his hand every few minutes. It was a family game to guess, through the most imperceptible confusion in his otherwise kind smile, whether he'd actually recognised the person he'd just met or if he was just being polite. More than his popularity, I was awed by how genuine his warmth was even for people he wasn't able to recognise. He was my first idea of a celebrity. 

Age 14: Temper tantrums and teary episodes with my mother and grandmother; I was a teenager with all the works. Amidst all the fuss and the fighting, Nana's would be the calming voice. No, I didn't have to stop watching that movie. No, I didn't have to eat those vegetables. But would I consider tasting them if he fed me himself? 

He was the source of peace, and my first lesson in diplomacy. 

Age 16: He would insist that he's capable of disciplining us too, that he also has a temper, all the while smiling with a gleam in his eyes that made it impossible to take the threats seriously. From his bemused response to the children gossiping - "Ki hoche amake ektu bujhay bol nah" - to switching the channel to a cricket match right before my father's favourite football team scored a goal on TV, his actions were the reason laughter reigned at our house.

Age 18: He was the one we went to when I needed help writing an essay, when my cousin needed information for a school assignment. It was from his collection that I first read the works of Agatha Christie, Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown and so many others, their first pages bearing Nana's signature and the date that they'd been purchased from each airport that Nana had travelled through. With his incredible literary collection, his ceaseless thirst for knowledge and his ability to recall historic moments of a newborn Bangladesh, verbatim, he was our one-stop source of wisdom - a well of inspiration. 

Age 21: He was fading away, succumbing to the weights of old age and a long-standing heart disease. But it was for him that we rejoiced every few months when he came back from a successful medical trip, refreshed and temporarily cured. When he passed away three Augusts ago, it was for him that my aunt flew down from Canada and the family came together to grieve. 

Three years after his demise, Nana still lays claim on all family conversations. He is still the reason for an excited Skype call when he visits one of us in a dream. Throughout his life and even in death, through his presence and his absence, Nana was, and is, the glue that holds us all together.

I left out an important part of his career earlier in that introduction. In 1963, Nana started his career as Publisher and later Managing Editor of The Concept of Pakistan, a journal whose regular contributors included the likes of Former Chief Justice Syed Mahbub Morshed, eminent lawyer A K Brohee, and renowned journalist, politician and literatteur Abul Mansoor Ahmed, father of Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star. In 1993, he became the Sponsor and Founder Director of the International Publications Limited (IPL), which owns The Financial Express, managing and actively participating in around three other publications in the interim. 

As fate would have it, the granddaughter he is used to pamper has grown up to become a passionate aspirant of literature and journalism today. As I set forth on a career path that seems subconsciously to be tracing his very humble beginnings, now, for the first time, I miss more than just my grandfather. I miss Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain, the journalist, the man with an amazing way with words. 

Sarah Anjum Bari is a graduate of Economics and English from North South University. An earlier version of this article was printed in the PEN Bangladesh Journal, Volume 7, 2015.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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