Syed Badrul Haque
On 16 May 2016 while I was surfing the TV channels my eyes suddenly got stuck to the scroll: ‘Senior journalist Sadeq Khan is no more’. I was stunned beyond belief. The burden of trauma was overwhelming; I was seized by nostalgic evocation, for how long I didn’t know before I could perceive the hard reality.
It was barely a week ago I talked to Sadeq Khan on phone, exchanged pleasantries after remaining incommunicado for several months. He was warm and hearty as always, insisted me to visit his Baridhara residence. Evidently that was not to happen. His abrupt departure from this mortal earth put everything in disarray. Nevertheless a feeling of guilt overtakes me for failing to see him early.
I came to know Sadeq Khan in the early fifties when we used to live in the same locality, Luxmibazar in old Dhaka. Motibhai restaurant was the common venue where Sadek Khan, Obaidullah Khan, Mizanur Rahman and Harun-ur-Rashid and I used to spend time over cups of tea. Later I lost contact with Sadeq Khan as many of us had moved out of the locality.
In the intervening period before he joined the Sangbad in mid-fifties, Sadeq Khan went through a turbulent phase of his career. His long detachment from family life coupled with uncertain underground period consequent to his connection with the banned Communist Party as its central leader exacted a heavy toll on his health. He was afflicted with tuberculosis. He had practically withdrawn himself from active politics since then and joined journalism. Sadeq Khan was actively involved in the Language Movement right from the beginning. In 1948 when language movement was brewing up, he was summoned to the Police Station for participating in the language march. In 1952, he was picked up by the Police right from the meeting venue of the Central Action Committee of the language movement and was jailed for one month.
There is a collage of episodic memories to recall in the span of over six decades I had known him.On one occasion Justice Abdul Jabbar Khan, his father rang up Press Club to enquire about his son, Sadeq Khan. Sadeq Khan was not on hand at that moment. So I responded in his absence. His father was much worried about his health and asked all his friends to see that Sadek Khan took his food regularly on time which I conveyed to Sadeq Khan.
I accompanied Sadeq Khan to the Dhaka Central Jail where he had to deliver books for his younger brother, a political prisoner who was to sit for university examination shortly. As we were returning, he seemed to lapse into childhood memories. He remembered his mother. He said she had a great passion for books. Whenever she found time she used to read books. I was touched. I could feel his voice.
Reminiscing Sadeq Khan, the memories of Ahmedur Rahman, the noted columnist of the popular Bangla daily, Ittefaq, who used to write the regular column ‘Mithekora’ under pseudonym Vimrul comes into focus in my memory. Sadeq Khan, Moidul Hassan and me along with some other friends saw Ahmed off on Topkhana road before his departure for Cairo the next day. Mournfully, the inaugural flight of the PIA plane in which the guest passengers were travelling crash-landed killing all on board including Ahmed.
The old Press Club building [which was once the residence of the renowned Physicist Prof. Satyen Bose] was virtually the second home to many of its members. One morning when Sadeq Khan and I were about to take our breakfast at the Press Club, the actor Golam Mustafa joined our table. As we were partaking our breakfast abruptly, much to our shock and bewilderment, found the actor Golam Mustafa gasping for breath as one roshogolla got stuck in his throat. Much to our own relief, he however returned to normalcy after he took a cup of hot water which fortunately was readily available. A terrible moment to recollect.
In the early sixties, Jinnah Avenue (now Bangabandhu Avenue) was the smartest shopping district of Dhaka city showcasing good restaurants, local and Chinese. Sadeq Khan along with his friends, Faruk Aziz Khan, Mokammel Huq, Nurul Qader Khan and me used to visit Qasba, a small but cosy restaurant on the avenue to savour its tea and ambience. In such a company witty comments and light humour were never in short supply to make a lasting impression.
Sadeq Khan, a recipient of Ekushey Padak, was a prolific writer, both in Bangla and English. He and his younger brother, Enayetullah Khan, Founder-Editor of The Holiday contributed importantly to raise the standard of English journalism to its present-day commendable height. He was an instant writer. He could produce excellent editorials or articles in an amazingly short time practically with no recourse to research materials even under unhelpful surroundings. He would never lose his thread of argument in flowery prose. To all his writings, he brought a sharp, probing intelligence and put issues in intellectual framework. He remained engaged to the moorings of our nationhood and to discover the essence of our national identity. If the message is weighty, the reading was remarkably easy.
As art critic Sadeq Khan was among the pioneering few in that period. He was the inspiration to many who latterly took to this discipline.
He was a multi-faceted talent. He made his foray in filmdom as a prominent character in the film ‘Dur Hae Sukh ki Gaon’ directed by A J Kardar. Sadeq Khan directed the film ‘Nodi-o-Nari’ based on the famous novel by Humayun Kabir of the same title. He had directed several documentaries and produced two movies.
Sadeq Khan was circumspect, polite and urbane. The senior-most journalist, he was more than a living history. He had tremendous faith on the extraordinatry potential of our people, particularly of the younger generation. We are all part of the same fabric of our national society. He never lost his elan. His enthusiasm was infectious. He would never lose his cool even under severe provocation. He wore his intellectuality lightly.
His contribution to our Liberation War was quite significant. Much earlier to the Liberation War in March, 1971, Sadek Khan through his persistent writings in newspapers contextualized our liberation on a solid plank. On behalf of the Bangladesh Government-in-exile he played an important role in securing international support for our Liberation War.
Surprisingly Sadeq Khan embraced a romantic mind. The beauty of his character was that romanticism and his pragmatic concerns —- apparently the two discordant elements—-were in absolute harmony in his personality. He celebrated life in all its glories.
To note, well-known columnist Abdul Gaffar Chowdhury while paying tribute to Sadek Khan (Vide Mashik Ganosasthya: Jaistha, 1423) said with his departure a star of the fifties faded out from our socio-political arena. He lamented that the media did not give importance he deserved on his passing away. The present generation of journalists know Sadeq Khan only as a columnist, and not at all aware of his contribution to construct a modern, forward-looking society free from the curse of communalism for which he had to undergo a lot of sufferings.
With his exit, indeed a light in our intellectual arena has gone out. Filling a void by such an iconic journalist is always a challenge.
[Syed Badrul Haque is a Contributor to Holiday. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Syed Badrul Haque