Humayun Azad Memorial Reading
"What the hell is going on here?" reads his business card in small wordings under the name "Bowery Poetry Club". And to taste the kind of "hell" going on; you need not die! Not even have to go far. Near the entrance, by the roadside, a big portrait of him by New York Times lies in frame. Still- if you're not convinced, go inside and have a look around. You'd be bound to feel--as if, you were back in time but only in a romantic sense. An old-fashioned cafe, followed by a bar and at the back-space where often discussions, orchestra take place. Funnily, the word "proprietor" poses you a question when you meet him in person we would notice that from his toe to his hair, he is a poet. The very person I'm talking about is Bob Holman whose love for fellow poets is so much that more than once he announced: "I want this hall to be full of Bengali poets." If you've even a slightest taste for literature, then visit Bowery Poetry Club. I bet you'll go back to what it means to be a true New Yorker. ItŐs located on 308 Bowery NY 10012. Website: www.bowerypoetry.com
And that's where "Humayun Azad Memorial Reading" took place on last 5th September, 2004, Sunday, between 4pm to 6 pm. The event was arranged by Shabdaguchha (http://members.aol.com/shbdaweb) poet/editor HassanAl Abdullah, also a long time friend of poet Bob Holman and late Dr. Humayun Azad. The other distinguished speakers were poet Bob Holman, Visiting Professor, Columbia School of Arts, NYC; Nicholas Birns, Professor of English at New School University, (read excerpt in English from Azad's novel "Pak...Baad"); Roselin Solomon, Photographer (recited AzadŐs poem translated by Abid Anwar); Jyotirmoy Datta, Former Lecturer, University of Chicago (1966-1968) Minakshi Datta, writer and renowned translator; Naznin Seamon, poet, short story teller (recited Azad's poem "Lunar Sleep" translated by Farida Majid); and Jahed Ahmed, Member, Advisory Committee, Mukto-Mona(www.mukto-mona.com).
Bob Holman was the host (this philanthropist poet didn't charge any money) while HassanAl was the moderator. Most attractive parts of the program, in my opinion, were- listening to a touchy poem by Dr. Azad recited by Bob Holman ("Take me home, Rickshaw") and watching AzadŐs last trip to his village on huge screen recorded in a video by poet HassanAl. Excluding other parts -- I am translating here the part of Azad's speech, that I noted and translated, during the program.
Date: 07/02/04 Place: Rarikhal, Munsigonj, Bikrampoor
During 1st reception: "Friends, although today here I am standing before you all, you know- I was not supposed to. I was supposed to be dead. ...I know, assualt on me created strong protests both at home and abroad. ...I didnŐt realize before--people love me so much! I wish to hug all my countrymen with love and affection. I'm not a politician; just a writer. Nevertheless, I've been amazed by the extent of love people have showered on me. ....Killers these days are lying in every corner of Bangladesh. Darkness is taking over whole nation but we want light. I solicit all freethinkers to be aware of this phenomenon. We shouldn't let fundamentalism prevail on our land. Men-women, students-teachers, we all should protect our Bangladesh together. Thank you for the love you have shown to me. Thank you all".
2nd reception: "...In order to develop ourselves, we must cultivate the techniques of asking questions. They (fundamentalists) want to stop us from questioning, as if it were a forbidden thing; as if it were a 'prohibited food of Eve'!...Even at universities, today exercise of freedom of inquiry is absent. Teachers too are involved in politics. As you all know--it came in newspapers--when I was asked who tried to kill me; my answer was: go, and grab Nizami-Saidee, you'll get the answer. ...Fundamentalists have turned today's Bangladesh totally into a hell. This is not the country we fought for, we aspired."
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Shabdaguchha, A Journal of Bengali and English Poetry, Published in New York, Edited by Hassanal Abdullah.