Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman remains, in that very heightened sense of historical perception, the Bengali window to the world. It is a niche he earned long ago, years before the forces of conspiracy, which were but a combination of the local and the international, succeeded in their macabre intention to put an end to his life. And what followed for a long period of twenty one years once that sinister conspiracy came to pass was the effort by successive dictatorial and anti-historical regimes holding sway over Bangladesh to try to airbrush him and his ideals out of history. The effort did not succeed, for Bangabandhu towered above his enemies and indeed had become synonymous with the heritage and history of Bangladesh.
In the years since the detractors of the Father of the Nation were sent packing through the restoration of political decency and historical truth in 1996, much has been written on his life, career and ideals. That was as it ought to have been, for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman remains emblematic of all the good and all the promise that have been associated with this country. It is the persona of this man of history, of this moving force behind the emergence of new history in our part of the world which Enayetullah Khan brings to bear in his defining work, Bangabandhu: Epitome of a Nation. To be sure, Khan is reiterating what we have always known about the nation’s founding father. And yet there is something about great men that impels one into endless journeys of discovery and then rediscovery of the small moments and the larger dimensions of their lives. It is these spaces which Khan explores in this truly admirable work on the Father of the Nation.
There are reasons, compelling ones, why this work should be a rich addition to one’s library, indeed to libraries across the country. From one perspective, it is a pictorial representation of Bangabandhu’s life and career, images which have assumed the status of powerful icons in Bangladesh’s history. The entire political struggle which Mujib engaged in all his life, all the way to the end, are brought alive through photographic images encompassing the leader’s passage from youth to middle age. Lest one forget, Bangabandhu’s politics was electrifying enough for him to lead the nation to independence when he was a mere fifty-one years of age. By the age of fifty-five, he was dead. It is this dramatic period, so pregnant with substance and symbolism, which Enayetullah Khan brings alive through the pictorial images in the work. The collage speaks its own tale.
But while there is this pictorial quality to the book that enhances its appeal, there are the accompanying articles which reflect in totality of substance the ideals and the pains and the incessant sufferings of the man who was destined to be the creator of a free Bangladesh. The articles reveal not just the politician but also the statesman who emerges triumphant through the resoluteness of his struggle against successive Pakistani regimes right from the early stages of the state founded by Mohammad Ali Jinnah to the emergence of Bangladesh through a sustained guerrilla struggle twenty four years later. Politics apart, the work brings into focus Mujib the man, the thoroughly determined and uncompromising being who identified with the masses of this country through his long treks across the landscape. And then there were the interactions with his fellow statesmen around the globe. In all councils of the world, Bangabandhu walked tall, in the literal as well as the figurative sense.
Such is the portrait drawn in this refreshing work of Bangladesh’s founding father. It is a rich coffee table book. At the same time, it merits the attention of scholars engaged in historical research, for it contains within its fold the varied aspects of a life lived in richness. Bangabandhu reshaped our world, reconfigured our history. Here, in this work, is proof of the embodiment of heritage that he was, for his generation as also for the generations to be.