One by one, most of the names of my own past are tiptoeing away from the scene. It’s not just the elderly but the near contemporary like Ali Imam bhai who was just a couple of years senior to us. We were both students together in the same university many moons ago and into cultural activities as well. It was soon after liberation and cultural freedom was in the air. Somehow we all ended up in the TSC auditorium so many times, me more an organizer and him, more a participant. He was already one of those young ones who was already a star.
Ali Imam bhai was not the only one of course and there were others like M.Hamid bhai, K.M. Harun bhai and others. Interestingly many of these performing artists ended up in the TV world, BTV. It was then the lone star and Ali Imam bhai went there too. And for him there was no looking back.
“Let a storm rise”
I remember a set speech competition where my task was to hold the cup from which various participants picked a topic and 5 minutes later would deliver a speech on it. It must have been the winter of 1973. Ali Imam bhai picked up the topic ,a line from a famous song, “ emon ekta jhor uthuk” (Let a storm arise ) and spoke scintillatingly on it. Of course he won the top prize but more than that it showed his ability to articulate on any topic and not just make sense but speak forcefully too. He was gifted and he went on from achievement to achievement with an ease few can muster.
We met professionally several times in our life but when I was working for UNICEF we were close. He was also freelancing for Channel I and Faridur Reza Sagar bhai. Together they made a team and while Sagar bhai was the organizer, Ali Imam bhai was the creative soul. Later on , he became even more closely involved and ran a UNICEF project on media and children. He knew children, he understood the media and together they made the best combo.
His achievements as a writer for juveniles literature was unparalleled and it was not the Bangla Academy award that certifies it but the fact that he wrote more than 300 volumes plus. He probably would have gone on to write another 100 had ill health not cut him down in what could easily have been his literary prime.
For him and many others, 1971 was a storm and it threw to the fertile earth many talents and unleashed the power of several generations that has constructed the socio-cultural framework of Bangladesh. He was one of the architects of that.
Time and farewell
I remember years back when we met at the Bangla Academy book fair. We sat down at one of the impromptu tea stalls and sipped tea discussing nothing in particular. I asked him about a book he had mentioned doing with me on history for children. He replied,“ Oh, Afsan, how I wish I had enough time to do all the projects I have planned. I just have no time. “
Farewell, Ali Imam bhai. Now you will have all the time in the world.