SYEDA NAZNEEN FERDOUSI
This article is in fond remembrance of my brother-in-law [sister's husband] Shaheed Col Mojibul Hoque, who lost his life in the BDR massacre on 25 February 2009. Much has been said through my writings since 2009 about Mojib, as a devoted soldier who loved his country with his whole being, the pain, agony, sufferings, tears and accumulated anger of his family and families of 73 other valuable lives- wasted in the senseless killing. However, this year I have promised to myself that I'll share my pleasant experience of knowing that remarkable human being and some precious time spent with him.
One of the most enjoyable memories I have in my casket is from Bangkok - when I visited my sister and her family for a holiday in 2004. Mojib was assigned there as the Minister Counsellor at the Bangladesh Embassy in Bangkok from 2003 till early 2007. If I am fond of a country after Bangladesh, it is Thailand. Therefore, this visit was kind of 'butter on ice cream' for me! Imagine the boundless joy of a vacation in my favourite country with my adoring ones!
In this context, I cannot help recollecting my first visit to Thailand for official purpose - which was in April 1988. Since then, I have been to that wonderful country 24 times! The exciting part is the feeling that this lovely country will get many more visits from me---as long as I am capable of travelling. I have to confess that I fell in love with Bangkok on my first visit---it simply left me awestruck!! The city seemed to be everything you'd expect from the capital of Thailand: it's noisy, crowded, colourful, exciting, infuriating, and smile inducing. There are ancient sites to be visited and modern shopping malls that have a kitschy yet high-end ambience. Bangkok can be overwhelming as its life-force smacks you in the face, but it's a fascinating city that represents Southeast Asia's tension between the developed and developing worlds.
It was all the more exciting as Mojib was equally fascinated by Thailand. He thought his professional term there was the most rewarding one. I remember what Mojib said about Bangkok, "The best thing about Bangkok is, it serves as a gateway to many other parts of Thailand. From here, you can hop on a short flight to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and other popular destinations. You can also board a train or hop on a bus for little money, and visit national treasures such as Ayutthaya, Lopburi, and many other gems of the country".
During my multiple previous visits, I had seen much of Thailand and hence, that year's visit was intended solely for spending time with my sister, Mojib and my endearing nephews and niece. My husband and I arrived in Bangkok on 29 March 2004 and meeting my sister, Mojib and my lovely nephews and niece was full of thrill and excitement. Mojib was prominent in our family and friends for his 'out of the world' hospitality! Guests always kept him happy and gratified. He would make anyone feel at home with his warmest gestures. Of course, my sister also owns major share of credit, with her charm and excellent cooking.
I could notice how his eyes sparkled at our arrival and he did not lose any time in enticing us with his plans for the two-week stay at his place. Both my husband and I were delighted seeing their impressive living place. My sister is an excellent home maker and her touch of décor had made the apartment a 'heavenly abode'!
I always consider it an added benefit to have your close kin in a favoured country; things couldn't be better! While we were planning a Birthday bash for Mojib on 3 April, he had already organised a trip to Koh Chang from 3-7 April. So we had to bring the birthday party a day ahead and celebrate on 2 April. The highlight of the event was a musical evening - that remains a memorable one for all us. Mojib was usually the quieter type of person but that day he was in a different mood. It was so wonderful to see him and his carefreeness -cracking jokes and syncing his voice with every 'ghazal' my husband sang! At 12.01 am, we wished Mojib as he cut the cake and we indulged till late hours.
The next phase of fun began on 3 April as we set out for Koh Chang - Thailand's second-largest island, located in the Gulf of Thailand. Koh Chang's beaches and rainforests are its biggest allure. Much of the island is national parkland and many come to the island to dive, trek or go sailing. Ko Chang means 'Elephant Island' in Thai language and indeed, if you'd like an up-close-and-personal encounter with the world's largest land mammal, you can do that there! You can even swim with them at Ban Kwan Chang - an elephant preserve.
Mojib had booked rooms for us at the Amber Sands Beach Resort. The resort was located very near to the sporting beautiful white sand and warm blue waters. At the back of the resort were huge, green mountains. The scenic beauty was captivating enough to keep me under a spell. I felt so thankful to Mojib for choosing Koh Chang. Mojib loved beaches but only to sit on the beach chair with proper beach attire and look at the waves and smile at people having fun. While my sister, my niece and I, love to play the mermaids! My husband's pleasure is more in capturing the moments with his video camera. During our stay, we relished some awesome Thai cuisine, went sightseeing, were mesmerized by the sunsets and made each night young with music and laughter. The memories of those four days in Koh Chang were just fabulous! Time seemed to fly in a blink of an eye! The trip was a precious gift from Mojib which I'll treasure forever.
We returned to Bangkok on 7 April and made the remaining days worthwhile by just being together and enjoy everything that this 'city of smiles' has to offer. The amusing chats with my nephews and the innocent activities of my gorgeous niece made the experience unforgettable!!
Mojib had expressive eyes, so his quiet nature did not stop us to understand how much he had enjoyed our company and the leisure out of his busy schedule.
Mojib was very passionate about music. He was always moved by one particular song that Mukesh sang, "Beeti hui yaadon humey itna na satao?ab chayne se rehne do, mere paas na aao" [O bygone memories, do not torment me so much?let me live in peace?.do not come near me]. It is shattering to think that the song of his heart has now become my song. The difference is that I do not ask the memories to go away; I want them to stay till I breathe my last breath.
May your soul rest in eternal peace, Mojib---our beloved one! While there are countless reasons to remember you with love and respect, there are absolutely none to make me forget you.
Syeda Nazneen Ferdousi works for a UN agency