Tuesday, January 12, 2016, Poush 29, 1422 BS, Rabiul Awal 30, 1437 Hijri

?Bangabandhu was the most charismatic personality I had met?: Ved Marwah
M Shafiqul Karim
Published :Tuesday, 12 January, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 40
January 10, 1972 has been a historic Day in our national life. This day 44 years back, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman returned to his dreamland, free and independent Bangladesh after nine and a half months of captivity in Pakistan jail.
Thousands of people thronged to the streets along the road leading to Tejgaon Airport to welcome their hero, who had arrived at Tejgaon Airport from New Delhi by a British Airways flight.
Later, Bangabandhu drove straight to Race Course Maidan (now Suhrawardy Uddyan) in a motorcade that took four hours to reach the venue from the Tejgaon Airport, a distance of merely three kilometres. Bangabandhu preferred to meet his countrymen before his own family.
I was a student of Dhaka University at that time but cannot recall why I could not be a part of the million-strong crowd at the Race Course Maidan on that day. I still regret this since I was present on March 7 at the same place in 1971. In the March 7 historic speech he called his countrymen to prepare to wage a war against the occupation Pakistani forces.
While working as Bureau Chief of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS), I came across the former Governor of Manipur and Jharkhand states, Mr Ved Marwah. The occasion was a commemorative meeting organized by the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi. The High Commissioner, Mr Tariq Karim, introduced me to him, saying Mr Marwah had travelled with Bangabandhu on the same flight to Dhaka from London. I was very happy to meet him and took his mobile number. Before we parted, I told him that I would be calling him. Later, I interviewed him over phone and wrote a small piece for BSS which was published in the Dhaka newspapers.
I still recall my first meeting with Mr Marwah at the Bangladesh High Commission in Delhi and how he had described Bangabandhu. "He was one of the most courteous persons I ever met," he told me.
Later, Mr Marwah also wrote an article where he described Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, "as the most charismatic personality, among many other leaders, I had ever met".
"I have met many charismatic personalities during my service career, including Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and many world leaders, but I must say that among them he was the most charismatic personality I had met," Mr Ved Marwah said while recounting his memories of Bangabandhu.
Ved Marwah was First Secretary in the India High Commission in London during the Bangladesh War of Independence and was asked by his High Commissioner to accompany Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to New Delhi on way to Dhaka.
"I got a telephone call from the High Commissioner, the late Apa Pant. Mr. Marwah was playing tennis at that time and was in his shorts. I was told to pack my bag and reach Heathrow airport immediately. He did not tell me anything more. It was only after reaching the airport that I discovered that I was to accompany Sheikh Mujib to New Delhi on way to Dhaka".
"I could never have imagined that I was going to be a part of this historical journey! We were only five persons in the plane apart from Bangabandhu. Others included Kamal Hossain, his wife, myself and Mr Bannerjee, an attache in the Indian High Commission in London," wrote Marwah in an article titled, "My memories with Bangabandhu".
While describing the details of the flight after the aircraft had taken off, the former Governor said: "After about an hour Sheikh Mujib went round the plane to greet Bannerjee and myself. When he came over to my seat I respectfully introduced myself. He put me at ease by speaking to me in a very informal manner. During this brief conversation, he discovered that I could speak Bengali. He was so pleased to know this that he asked me to sit next to him. For the next hour or so I had the privilege of sitting next to him".
"His warm and affectionate personality simply overwhelmed me. He talked of all sorts of subjects. I was an admiring listener. Here was a man who had just come out of the Pakistan prison where he could have met his end if Bhutto had not taken over the reins of power. But he displayed no bitterness or rancour against anyone. He was only thinking of his people in Bangladesh and their problems. He referred to them as 'my people.'
Narrating the experience, he said "Delhi airport wore a festive look as the plane landed in the morning. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi received Bangabandhu. She by nature was a very reserved person. But this occasion was an exception. I had not seen a bigger smile on her face. She was smiling and prancing like a young girl. One could see an immediate personal rapport had developed between the two."
"I was to travel only up to New Delhi. As I went over to Bangabandhu to say good-bye, he asked me why I was leaving and 'didn't I want to make the journey to Dhaka?' When I explained that my instructions from my government were only to accompany him up to New Delhi, he immediately told me that from then onwards I would be his guest up to Dhaka.
The former Governor described Bangabandhu as 'first a very warm human being and only then a great leader.'
Recalling his meeting with Bangabandhu when the latter visited London as Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Marwah said: "I never knew that a pleasant surprise was awaiting me and my wife when Bangabandhu invited us to tea at the Claridges Hotel where he was staying. I expected a big tea party but to our utter surprise we found that it was an exclusive invitation meant only for my wife and me. He had not forgotten me and the tea invitation was a gesture on his part to express his affection. I, a lowly First Secretary in the Indian High Commission, being invited by a Prime Minister of his stature! That in brief sums up for me his personality".
"For me he towered over all the political leaders of his time," Ved Marwah concluded.
M Shafiqul Karim is a senior journalist in Bangladesh

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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