I was deeply saddened to read about the passing of former President and Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed. Writes Sir Frank Peters
The loss of a family member, friend, or someone whom you’ve known and admired is always sad.
I was deeply saddened to read about the passing of former President and Chief Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed. It wasn’t the kind of news I welcome into my day, but it couldn’t be avoided. Heart-felt befitting tributes poured from early morning into the media outlets from President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina downwards.
While I cannot claim to have known the learned intellectual and scholar for any great length of time, the gentleman had befriended and was admired by the nation for his noble stance on corruption and moral issues. He was described by those who knew him up-close as a person of high principles – a consummate gentleman and to me he was. He was also a great inspiration and teacher to me although the time we spent together was relatively short.
It is a well-known fact that Allah sends a teacher into a pupil’s life when the pupil is ready to learn. My meeting with President Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed was of a similar nature, a Godsend, if you wish, and a treasured memory I will carry with me forever.
I had gone to his residence at The Bangabhaban in Dhaka to present him with a copy of my tribute to Bangabandhu poster. The poster was the first to encapsulates the famous speech of Bangabandhu of March 7, which is one of the world’s most historic speeches ever made. It inspired the people of Bangladesh to rise up, throw caution to the wind and risk their lives to claim their independence. A speech that achieves that has to be both unique and powerful – and it was both of those – and not just the usual rhetoric dribble one might expect from a politician. The speech has since been recognized by UNESCO for its rhetoric genius.
The amicable President held the gold framed poster at arms length in both hands and showed enormous enthusiasm and appreciation towards it. After his eyes had slowly scanned the printed parchment, as he read the text, he said: “Brilliant!”
My ego, as big as it was then, didn’t even momentarily, assume he was referring to my poster concept, but to the historic speech it encapsulated and I could not help but agreed, since that my inspiration to make it.
As we sipped tea and ate biscuits and cake, we sat for the next hour or so exchanging views on Bangladesh, especially Bangabandhu. I was a relatively a newcomer to Bangladesh and although I had helped Bengalis in Birmingham raise funds in the UK to alive the suffering of those involved in the 1971 struggle for independence, I knew very little about it. Bangladesh was hardly ever mentioned in the British media, except when a boat capsized or some other disaster struck. It’s much different today. The majority of people wear Bangladeshi-made clothes on their backs, whether they know it or not.
The President spoke in a low tone about Bangabandhu with such warmth, compassion and love that I had to force myself from interrupting him with questions that might have broken the flow of the Bangabandhu and Bangladesh knowledge coming my way.
The love expressed for Bangladesh and Bangabandhu came from the mouth of a true patriot, which seemingly are few in number these days. His wisdom and sincerity enhanced my admiration of him.
Privileged are those who have been honoured to have been in his presence for whatever length of time. I know I am.
To this very day I relive the beautiful memory of our get-together as I do the rounds of a park in Gulshan named in his honour – The President Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed Park.
He will be fondly remembered in the hearts of millions. May he rest in peace eternally.
Sir Frank Peters is a regular contributor to Blitz.
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