We may not have a Joe Biden to add a new chapter to American history or a Vladimir Putin to push back the boundaries of Russian territory by military might; we may not have a Xi Jinping to invite the world to his 'Belt and Road Initiative' or a Narendra Modi to shepherd Indians towards a one-family world (Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam); we may not have an Angela Merkel to try hard to make good the war damage and reshape a new Germany or a Justin Trudeau to dream of a just society in an unjust world – but we have a Sheikh Hasina, our dearly beloved Prime Minister, whose dearest wish is simply to bring smiles to millions of faces.
Her worthy father, the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman too longed for this. It's no small thing to bring smiles to people's faces. People meant the world to Bangabandhu and it is all the same to Hasina too. Putting smiles on faces of the have-nots embodies the very essence of her political philosophy.
Sheikh Hasina is a legend in her own lifetime. Love of people is her life force. She is our Paramount Leader. We don't need anybody else at this moment in time to promise us the moon or the land of milk and honey. We are quite content with a Bangladesh which has survived the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic and whose people are still having a square meal and sheltered accommodation while countries like Sri Lanka have gone bankrupt. Against all the odds at home and abroad, Bangladesh is rising through the ranks from 'the Basket Case' to 'the Emerging Tiger' under the visionary leadership of Sheikh Hasina – our longest serving and larger than life premier.
We are a peaceable nation. But we understand war. We have bought our independence at the cost of blood, sweat and tears and we will sustain it at all costs. But we don't want to assert dominance over others, we only want to assert our rights. We want our fair share of the cake – in our lands, waters and the skies. We don't poke our nose into others' affairs, nor do we want others to stick theirs into ours. We foster friendship with all and bear grudges against none. This is what the Father of the Nation taught us and we abide by. Our visions, missions and core values as an independent nation are shaping up nicely in the hands of our dynamic and forward-looking premier, Sheikh Hasina.
This is the fourth time Sheikh Hasina is serving the country as Prime Minister. But it was never plane sailing. She has survived as many as twenty attempts on her life after the assassination of Bangabandhu. The enemies were common and lots more have been added to the list. Her strong personality, iron will and lifelong commitment to the Liberation War ideals earned her the enmity of people opposed to them. She faces opposition at home and abroad but never gives in. Despite the World Bank's deliberate non-cooperation in the country's largest construction project, US Government's sanctions on the elite paramilitary force RAB (Rapid Action Battalion), and the global post-COVID-19 economic depression, Sheikh Hasina is carrying on with her development work.
Hasina is easily the epitome of what a prime minister of a 50-year-old country and a custodian of a nascent economy should be like. As one of us, she is guiding 160 million people on how to reach a common goal. We have seen her cooking food in the kitchen, wearing a handloom saree, wrapping its edge around her waist and grinding spices on the stone with her own hands; we have also seen her making rabble-rousing speeches at the Paltan Maidan. We have seen her walking barefoot on the sandy shores of the beach; we have also seen her taking local rickshaw van rides among village folks breaking security barriers. We have seen her giving the Rohingya children big hugs at their ramshackle camps; and we have also seen her striking the war criminals with iron fists. Hasina is a beautiful blend of simplicity and toughness.
Today is Sheikh Hasina's 76th birthday. Wishes come flooding in from home and abroad. I have also a lot to say. But words fail me. On Tagore's 80th birthday as Mahatma Gandhi sent a telegram saying "Four score not enough. May you finish five", Tagore, wearied of age and illness, replied with thanks: "Four score is impertinence [and] five score intolerable." But on her 76th birthday, our HPM is quite hale and hearty. She enjoys life through work. She gently scolds the newsmen for reminding her of her age just for the fun of it. For sure she has proved that she has the 'impertinence' to live for 4 score years minus 4; and to finish full four and then five will not, perhaps, be 'intolerable' to her as it never appears that she has outlived her usefulness. She has approached 76 chronologically, but age could not wither her. She never feels old and weary. Except for 5 hours of sleep a day, she spends the rest of the time thinking of the good of her country and her people. She could have died with her parents on that fateful August night in 1975. But she survived. Maybe, in the nation's relay race, nature wanted Bangabandhu's baton to be passed on to her. Fortune smiled upon Bangladesh and we had Sheikh Hasina as the worthy heir of Bangabandhu and to his politics. She is our pride and joy.
The writer is an academic, fictionist, columnist, translator, media personality and former vice chancellor of Kushtia Islamic University, Bangladesh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org