How was the city Dhaka in the 1940s? Was it a megacity with numerous problems as it deals with today? Indeed, the city faced with problems but the dimension of the problem was a bit different. The 1940s is considered to be the peak years of Bengali nationalism. Apart from that, this decade experienced the ugly communal riots and the birth of India and Pakistan. All those aforementioned incidents left a massive impact upon Dhaka.
Challisher Doshoker Dhaka, an autobiography authored by Sardar Fazlul Karim, gives the readers a vivid imagery of the 1940s. Firstly, the book embodies writer’s university days as a student and, later on, as a faculty member of Dhaka University. As per the narration of the book, he was blessed with getting some of his teachers; among them, he got many as his colleagues subsequently. On the other hand, he got the touch of his students from the same alma-meter. Interestingly the book overtly and covertly shows an amicable relationship between the teachers and students in the then society that we often lack nowadays. Haridas Bhattacharya, the teacher of Sardar Fazlul Karim, has been eulogized in this autobiography. Sardar Fazlul Karim wrote: when Mr. Bhattacharya used to get back from Calcutta, Delhi or Mumbai University, he would bring some books and tell us pointing any, “This is a must read book. You read it first then I will submit it to the library.” Thus they maintained a friendly and constructive relationship. Notably, the writer described Professor A.K. Nazmul Karim, a sociologist and veteran professor of University of Dhaka, and his affinity with the students.
However, the 1940s is the decade when history witnessed some of its gruesome hours. Sardar Fazlul Karim projected the role of the intellectuals at that right moment. Professor Nazmul Karim along with his fellow Hesamuddin (Bahadur), Robi Guho and others stood courageously against the communal riots of 1946. Somen Candra extended his writing hand against communal riots and so did he pen down Rat (Idur) and Riots (Danga), two famous short stories of Bengali literature. Moreover, this autobiography gives a glance of some other veteran professors cum activists of Bangladesh. Sardar Fazlul Karim reckoned that he was always mentored by Professor Abdur Razzak, who is called the Socrates of Bangladesh. As a friend, he was blessed by the company of Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Professor Zillur Rahman Siddiqui and others.
The book kicks off with the emergence of Sardar Fazlul Karim in Dhaka. Born in 1925 in Barisal, he arrived in Dhaka in 1940. Thus Sardar Fazlul Karim closely witnessed the socio-political ups and downs took place in the 1940s. Hence, arriving in Dhaka Sardar Fazlul Karim admitted in Dhaka College and subsequently in Dhaka University. During his study in Dhaka College, he got involved in left leaning politics. A man having two identities i.e. politician and professor once left his readership and went full-fledged in politics.
To sum up, a few dialects of Barisal region might be unknown to the readers. Nevertheless, the narration and analysis of the events, to be candid, is outstanding. It is worth reading from historical point of view either.