The country has lost a national treasure with the death of Tareque Masud.
From the Editor
There are some mornings that a nation awakes with a large chunk wiped off the value of its currency, or its stock market. On some mornings it awakes to the loss of important infrastructure or natural resources after some natural disaster. Sometimes it awakes having lost a war, and with it, territory and prestige. None of them are happy occasions, but Bangladesh today awakes definitively poorer, and it’s not due to some dip in share prices, or the rage of some cyclone along the coast, or some skirmish along the border. It is because nothing quite impoverishes a nation like the loss of human endeavour, and in Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier, tragically killed yesterday along with three others in a road accident in Manikganj, the country has lost two of its most shining examples of men pushing their boundaries, and in doing so, constantly redefining the breadth of their potential. With the state of Bangladesh as a nation, the evolution of its society, and the stories of its people so intrinsic to the work both men leave behind, the scale of the tragedy that has befallen the country can hardly be overstated.
Yes, we’ve had far worse days, and accidents as well, if by worse you mean merely the number of lives lost. And yes, the families of Wasim, of Jamal and of the driver Mustafizur Rahman should never be made to feel as if their loss is any less than that of those near and dear to either of the two names that made the headlines. But there is something to the potential in death of those who have done justice to the potency in their lives that presents lesser beings with the opportunity to look within, to start afresh, or to right what is wrong. They are our national treasures, and if life wasn’t enough for them to achieve all they could, death still can be. So if the deaths of Tareque Masud and Mishuk Munier were to spur a movement that finally manages to draw the focused and effective attention of the authorities to the atrocious state of our transportation system, from the poor infrastructure and outdated vehicles to callous owners and careless drivers, we can at least console ourselves that as deep and demoralising as our grief might be, their deaths were not in vain.
And lest we forget, this was quite the most heartbreaking end to not just one, but two of the greatest partnerships that we’ve witnessed in the cultural arena in Bangladesh. Tareque Masud was always insistent that he could never have achieved all that he did, without the contribution, both professional and personal, of his wife Catherine, who was also in the accident and sustained injuries, but is now said to be out of danger. The graceful way in which she moulded a Bangladeshi life for herself out of the love she harboured towards her husband, is second only to the fortitude she then showed, in carving out a name for herself to the point that you know there is nothing remotely patronising about it when each of the films they worked on together is described as a truly collaborative effort. They might be seen to reflect, from the choice of subject matter to how it got treated on celluloid, a Bangladeshi’s battles. But Catherine had adopted these battles as her own a long time ago.
Mishuk Munier was often referred to as the most talented man to operate a camera from his generation in Bangladesh. It was fitting that in tandem with his great friend, he was involved in conjuring the gentle ambience within which the story unfolded so subtly to mark inarguably the greatest cinematic achievement in the history of Bangladesh- the post-modern, neorealist masterpiece that is Maatir Moyna. It was the zenith of a partnership that was set to leave its indelible mark on a fourth decade before the recklessness that is too common on our roads and highways put paid to their aspirations to reach even higher, in keeping with the thirst that chafes the great from the merely good.
Finally, at a time when the fervour of nationalism can often get blindingly discomfiting, what we lost yesterday can hardly be quantified through numbers, or a roll call of awards and achievements. As a nation, the ultimate tribute we can pay to the lives they lived, is a recognition of how they handled their identities as Bangladeshis. The patriot in them was not the kind to set its store according to the wind, and impose itself like a flag. It was imbued in their spirit, and the spirit shone through in their work. They were authentically, and assuredly, patriots. And that has always been rare, in the Bangladesh they lived, and the one they leave behind.