Monzurul Huq’s semi-fictional memoir ‘A Story of My Time’ launched at LWM

December is the month of Bangladesh's glory and freedom, which saw the culmination of the nine-month-long Liberation War in 1971. After the brutal and barbaric bloodbaths across the nation and endless casualties that happened to several million people, Bangladesh finally snatched its hard-earned victory on December 16. The memory lane of the glorious Liberation War has recently been revisited through the eyes of eminent Bangladeshi-Japanese writer, academician, researcher and journalist Monzurul Huq, whose semi-fictional memoir 'A Story of My Time' featuring exclusive watercolour and charcoal-based artworks by artist-educator Biswajit Goswami, was launched on Saturday, December 17 at the Liberation War Museum, Agargaon, in the capital.

The launching event of this book, published by Cosmos Foundation, was joined by an ensemble group of eminent personalities, including art maestro Rafiqun Nabi as the chief guest. Eminent journalist and the daily Prothom Alo Editor Matiur Rahman joined the book launch as a special guest, and the event was presided over by Enayetullah Khan, Founder and Chairman of Cosmos Foundation.

Economist Haider Ali Khan, Professor of Economics at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, USA, delivered the keynote discussion speech on the book, while author Monzurul Huq shared the context of this semi-fictional memoir and read excerpts from it, followed by artist Bishwajit Goswami who shared his insights as the illustrator. The launching event also featured a special exhibition, showcasing all the artworks from the book.

Revisiting the tumultuous years leading to Bangladesh's Liberation War, the book narrates untold stories from the viewpoint of Huq and his family being the witnesses to the unfolding of events, and also participating in some of those events during the stormy days of 1971, as their fate was intertwined with that of Bangladesh.

"The publication of the book in the month of the victory of our glorious Liberation War is both a significant and joyous moment for us," Enayetullah Khan said while delivering the welcome speech on the occasion. "The beginning of the preparations for the war, and the entire context is brought up in the book. The discrimination and deprivation of East Pakistan were the heart of the conflict between the two parts of then-Pakistan; and based on this, the desire for freedom among the Bengalis became strong. A poetic description of our glorious past, Monzurul Huq in this memoir has reflected on a crucial time in our history as seen by someone standing nearby to the unfolding of great events. Though he is humble enough to describe himself as a bystander, his narrative tells us differently."

"Not much has been written in English by those who had seen the unfolding of events leading to our war for independence. The book stands out from this perspective and deserves to reach a wider audience at home and beyond, and the accompanying colour plates focusing on a number of related themes that the book also tells us about have been specially created by one of the most promising contemporary artists, Bishwajit Goswami, serving as an added ingredient for making the publication unique and a sought after one," Enayetullah Khan said at the launching event.

"There are two main themes in this wonderful publication," Haider Ali Khan said regarding the narrative of the book. "One is a sense of duty and affection for one's nation and people; while the other is nature, history, culture, people's opinions, and their acts of valour. The book is significant not just for our future generations, but also for those struggling for democracy and human rights around the world."

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monzurul Huq obtained MA from Moscow State University and also completed another Masters at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London. He started his professional career at the United Nations Information Center in Dhaka in the early 1980s and moved to London in 1990, to start working as a Producer at the Bengali language radio program of BBC World. He settled in Japan in 1994, where he works as a journalist for Prothom Alo and some other media outlets, and regularly writes in several media including Dhaka Courier.

At the launching event, chief guest and art maestro Rafiqun Nabi said, "A wonderful book by design, 'A Story of My Time' is a memoir depicting the untold stories from the 1960s when a politically turbulent climate marked the start of our eventful journey towards the ultimate victory of Bangladesh. As a prolific writer, Monzurul Huq has given masterful attention to details narrating these elements, accompanied by beautiful artworks of Bishwajit Goswami."

Special guest Matiur Rahman gave a thorough introduction of Huq's identity and expertise, stating that the book's development was aided by the use of dramatic and extremely poetic descriptions of the massive and multifaceted movements that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s. "As a witness and observer of those turbulent periods, which have accelerated the victory of Bangladesh in the Liberation War, Huq masterfully narrated his visions and this is a remarkable publication from the Cosmos Foundation, courtesy of Enayetullah Khan."

The book features several of the significant and thrilling stories of the Liberation War, which Huq observed closely as a witness and participator. A dramatic incident is described in the book, where the writer himself was preparing to participate in the war. The training for the fighters including Huq began with dummy guns, and later they were given training on grenade throwing and 303 rifles firing at a secret location. He fired the shots to the aim and hit the target. With such stories in the book, the author describes how a new country is being built, and people were rising up to establish their motherland on the map.

Describing 'A Story of My Time' as his semi-fictional memoir, author Monzurul Huq said that Liberation war is the main character of this book. "Our Liberation War books usually start in March 1971 and end with victory in December. However, this book started in the sixties of the last century and ended on March 24, 1971. For this publication, I have tried to see the context of the Liberation War from a personal point of view. At that time there was a huge impact on the individual, family, friends, neighbours, and the entire country. It was the spirit of freedom that united everyone beyond our barriers, during that significant period of our time."

Conveying gratitude to Enayetullah Khan for this exclusive publication, Huq also thanked Bishwajit Goswami for not only designing the cover but also fulfilling the responsibility of completing a series of paintings that accompanies each chapter of the book. "These wonderful artworks are also convincing testimony not only of his creative talent but also of his sincerity and dedication," he said at the event.

Illustrator Bishwajit Goswami, Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Fine Art, Dhaka University, also shared his side of the story of crafting artwork for Huq's eventful journey to the memory lane of the turbulent period. "While decorating this book, I have learned of many unknown facets of our glorious Liberation War. This is indeed a significant publication for this generation as well, as they will get a lot of information from the stories of that time," Goswami said at the book launching.

The ceremony was joined by a handful of dignitaries including Liberation War Museum's trustee and Monzurul Huq's brother Mofidul Hoque, journalist-researcher and UNB-Dhaka Courier Editor-at-large Afsan Chowdhury, Gallery Cosmos Director and Zonta Club of Greater Dhaka President Tehmina Enayet, renowned Bangladeshi lawyer and eminent jurist Dr Shahdeen Malik, heritage traveller and documentary filmmaker Eliza Binte Elahi, diplomats from the Japanese Embassy in Dhaka, and others.

Monzurul Huq co-authored ten books, mostly in Bengali, on subjects ranging from literary translation to social and political issues. At present, he is continuing his radio broadcasting career at NHK World Japan and has recently retired from teaching after being a Visiting Professor for more than 25 years at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and a number of other Japanese universities.

A member of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan since 2001, Huq has served as an elected member of the Board of Directors of the club on a number of occasions and was subsequently elected president in June 2009. Currently, he is a life member of the club and performs the responsibility of an elected auditor.

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