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NATIONAL CHILDREN’S DAY : Up close and personal with Bangabandhu’s memories

We are talking about the most dynamic personality anyone has ever seen – a fierce political leader, a fearless rebel, daunting statesmen, and above all, the biggest dreamsayer for the Bangalees.

And then, there’s this other side of his persona as well. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder of Bangladesh, was very fond of children.

Whenever he came in close proximity with children, he ceased to be the fierce, fearless rebel. For Bangabandhu, the company of children was his one window for a momentary relief from the heavy load of 70 million expectations that he carried on his broad shoulders until the very moment he died.

He had five of his own – three sons and two daughters – and they must have all had many unique memories with their father. Unfortunately, we only have two of them left among us to relive the loving memories. The other three were killed alongside their father in what has gone down in history as one of the most brutal political assassinations in the world ever.

So, what could be a better day than 17th March – the great man’s birthday – to come across as the National Children’s Day of Bangladesh?

This Friday, March 17, 2017, for the second consecutive year, Centre for Research and Information (CRI), secretariat of Young Bangla, organized a two-day program at the Bangabandhu Memorial Trust in Dhanmondi, Dhaka, on his 96th birth anniversary where children had a unique encounter with Bangabandhu’s memories.

The children were particularly fortunate to have among them Mrs. Sheikh Rehana, one of the two surviving children of Bangabandhu; the other one being Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister of Bangladesh.

Just like her father, Sheikh Rehana was so much at ease with the 50 or so children who had gathered there on the occasion. And same applies for the children as well. They spoked, they laughed, they gossiped as if they were friends of the same age. She told them stories about her father – the stories of his life, his quotes, his speeches, how he loved his sons and daughters. They were like peas and carrots!

“Who take you to school?” she asked the children sitting in front of her. Most of the children replied it was their father.

“I wasn’t as lucky as you,” Mrs Rehana said, “When I was your age, my father used to be in jail most of the times, fighting for the country.”

“Every time my father took me school and brought me back home, I used to be happy as if it was Eid,” she said.

She told the children the story of their lives in the house at Dhanmondi road number 32, which was later turned into the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

Mrs. Rehana appeared very happy when she asked the children if they knew about the historic speech that Bangabandhu delivered on March 7, 1971 and they said yes.

Then she and the children recited in chorus those immortal verses from the speech: “Ebarer Shongram Amader Muktir Shongram. Ebarer Shongram Shadhinatar Shongram.” (This time our struggle is for freedom. This time our struggle is for independence.)

The two-day program features attractive displays and installations. There is a wall where children painted Bangabandhu’s image – some of them were surprisingly accurate, while others were interestingly abstract.

CRI has turned Bangabandhu’s famous unfinished memoirs into a graphic novel for children. Each of the children who came to the program was a given copies of the three parts of the novel released so far. The children also took photographs and selfies in front of the Bangabandhu quotation wall. Given a master orator the great leader was, the wall was not a small one.

Cartoonist Syed Rashad Imam Tanmoy, artist of two parts of the Mujib graphic novel, along with his team, set up a separate desk outside the exhibition hall where he drew caricature of all the children who came to the event. Some of the parents of the children also didn’t miss the chance to get hold of caricatures of their own.

There was also a screening room where a documentary titled “Rahman: The Father of Bengal” by Japanese filmmaker Nagisa Oshima and the color version of the 7th March speech were screened.

CRI’s plan is to keep arranging this program in the coming years as well.