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Book Review

Humour and humility walk hand in hand!

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06th-Mar-2020       
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Mahbubar Rahman :
George Barnard shaw, on education, once made his critical observation that a person can be classified as truly educated whose past three generations are educated. When a writer or a poet in his self introductory note informs that he comes from a family root stretching back at least three past generations, by both father's and mother's side, are enlightened with modern education, then Shaw's above observation pertinently find relevance to the fact that a poet, writer or a man of letter who is genetically blessed to inherit education from his last three generations, is educated with its core value in the real sense of the term. Yes, I am speaking of a well-bred man as reflected in his trait from head to toes; a former bureaucrat turned poet and cultural activist of fame and repute named Ahbab Ahmad. Despite having a bright academic and service career, in all humility, he admits that he has never been a meritorious or brilliant student in his academic life; rather he achieved all his bright academic results by resorting to memorizing and cramming lessons day and night ceaselessly. Although Ahbab Ahmad, in his great humility, claimed that his all first class academic records do not reflect his brilliance in any way, then we have to reason that his such claim only manifests his being a down to earth man blended in unalloyed humility which again reminds us of an adage saying that a ‘fruit bearing tree always remains bent down.’ With his ‘non-brilliant’ all first class academic career, in one fine morning, he exclaimed with wonder that he became a CSP officer --- an elusive golden deer that the young and bright University Graduates and Masters used to chase after for making a bright career in life. Further, reflecting a great sense of humor in his characteristic feature, he wrote that instead of earning a degree in Public Administration Training Methodology, which actually he did, from the Manchester University, UK, he grabbed a certificate from there and further studied for sometime in the Sussex University, UK and Cornell University, U.S.A. In equal humor, he wrote that he entered the Civil Officers Training Academy (COTA) as a tiny needle bearing the portfolio of a Head Master (!) (Chief Instructor) and later took an exit as a robust coulter of plough with holding a position of Director, where he had had all the good opportunity, without being a Bahadur Munshi by name sake, to demonstrate his bahaduri (chivalry) and munshiana (penmanship) blended with his extensive erudition, unmitigated skill, knowledge and wisdom by way of instilling those rare qualities to the trainee officers facilitating them to make good officers and citizens as well at the end of the day. In COTA, as a Course Director, he emphasised on physical fitness of trainee officers and organized Tennis and Badminton game in the premises as routine exercise. As a connoisseur of Tennis, he used to play Tennis regularly in nearby Dhaka Club Tennis Complex and shed a bucket of sweet from his body and later filled lost substances by drinking gallons of water in the evening in the club's  lobby.  A Sportsman as a matter of conviction, he continued his practice of playing rigorous game of Tennis till such times he was cautioned by his ripe age to shift his position form Tennis court to Swimming Pool of elite clubs to keep himself physically fit and nimble. In Bangladesh Public Administration Training Academy (BPATC), with the rank and status of a senior secretary, he ornamented the coveted position of Rector wherein he created a soothing ambience well for shaping the mind-set of senior officers pursuing advance courses to prove themselves equal to the task in the corridor of civil administration.
Ahbab Ahmed headed three ministries of the government as secretary and after finishing his glorious career in the Civil Service, he worked for sometime in Magsaysay Award winning NGO Summer Institute of Linguistic (SIL) as its Chief of Bangladesh part. Finally he worked for United Nation's Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO) as National Consultant for few more years before walking the twilight of life and immersed in the world of composing poetry and other creative works with flashing his intellectual competence.  
Being an avid believer in rural heritage, Ahbab Ahmad tailors shirts as his humble wear using Gamcha fabrics and loves to be draped in that fashion with scurf wrapped around wizened skin of the neck by a Gamcha and further love to be known as Gamchawala to his friends and well wishers. In his walking around the corridors of elite clubs in Dhaka in the evening, he is often fondly called Mamu by all and sundry, amongst his friends and admirers with whom his routine presence sounds conspicuous by his bursting and lilting laughter gushing from within while remaining engaged in intellectual discourses with matters of varied interests blended in literary and poetic grandeur.
As an avid lover of Tagore, Tagore's songs constantly play in his lips with his stentorian voice which he claims to be of 'out of tune' and discordant rendition. Sher and Shairee of Mirza Ghalib often visit in his arbor of imagination which he transforms candidly by recitation with pure Urdu phonetic. Having already authored a few poetry books, Ahbab Ahmad, of late, has rightly taken up the work of translating the couplets and poems of Mirza Ghalib in Bengali in his own unique style of pristine charm which is now in the pipeline of being published and will reach the hands of discerning readers to cause spark in their thoughts and imaginations anew while reading Mirza Ghalib in Bengali.
Ahbab Ahmad has been pursuing over the years to write Japanese Haiku---season based 17 syllables poetry. Season is the soul of Haiku which spreads in 5-7-5 form. As previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masako Shiki at the end of the 19th century. In his ‘few words on Haiku’ in recently published book Nishorge Nimogno - Lost in Nature --- an anthology of short poetry in two volumes in Bengali and English respectively  in  haiku format,  Ahbab Ahmed wondered if  one can really compose poems in 17 syllables. In order to deciphering the secret he was first seriously attracted to the English version of Japanese haiku and accordingly read few books and gave his serious thoughts on contents no matters in what names and titles they are called or identified; before he penned an anthology of haiku as stated above.
Nishorge Nimogno - Lost in Nature as it is named and titled in two volumes---Bengali version and English version respectively, Ahbab Ahmed, in his speech in a well attended Book Launch Ceremony held on February 14, 2020 (Valentine’s Day evening) at Gulshan Club with Dr S A Samad --- a poet and cultural activist and former seasoned bureaucrat as Chief Guest, refuses to call it haiku and rather feels content to call it Baiku---a non-syllable which, he explains, has no place in Bengali dictionary or in any local or colloquial dialect. Then where this manufactured terminology Baiku comes from. It deserves an explanation and Ahbab Ahmed has rightly explained it to his reader while writing a ‘few words on Baiku’ in Nishorge Nimogno - Lost in Nature which discerning readers will eventually come to know while perusing the pages of the book.
Speakers including the Chief Guest in the book launching ceremony came up with words of praises and appreciations for the scintillating work of Ahbab Ahmed and imbibed themselves for sometime in the beauty and grace of baiku/haiku. The ceremony ended with a melody of Tagore’s song: Phoole Phoole dholey dholey bahe kiba mridu baay ..........” sung by Palki ......one and only daughter of Ahbab Ahmed amid roaring cheers and applauses.
Leaving aside baiku/haiku in the intricacies of jigsaw - puzzle - box for the curiosity of poetry loving readers, I have the pleasure of appending below a few baiku/haiku of English version as contained in the Lost in Nature from which, I trust that the readers will take a pinch of taste of baiku/haiku as an appetizer before consuming its full taste spreading over wide range of choice as soon as they browse the full contents of the book at their earliest convenience.
1.    “Grasshopper gallops: from flower to flower--- dating all together”
2.    “Papiya the pretty: Sings mod-pop---trees start to rock nonstop”
3.    “The bird is desperate: to rush for dating --- with sexy flower”
4.    “Sun: sinks fairly fast in sea--- flirting with colored clouds differently.”
5.    “Sun: repository of endless light---yet it is the ‘mistress’ of night.”
6.    “Bird’s concert: morning and evening ---- muse herself conducts the ceremony.”
7.    “Garden party: butterflies invited? ---Villain bumblebee gate crashes.”
8.    Hena: more they are crushed, smashed --- better they become deeper, brighter.
9.     “Chicks: scavenge bit by bit --- as poor terribly hard hit.”
10.    “Hurricane: comes in hurry with lethal cane---to clobber the culprit.”
11.     “The plants are pretty: wingless fairies ---- unmoving beauties, move story hearts.”
12.    “Kashful on river shores: smiling treasure - totally lost in pleasure.”
13.    “From dirty caterpillars: beautiful butterflies born --- as love from burnt lust.”
14.    “Without you my love: my gorgeous garden --- becomes ghastly as grave.”
15.    Leaves of pages: to poets they are the pages --- of their writings.
If the above few short verses of baiku/haiku serve as an essential appetizer, then the readers must be feeling hunger pinch by this time for consuming wide range of the savoring contents of the book both in Bengali and English.
Discerning readers with unwavering love for poetry will hopefully browse the pages at random and relish the taste of contents in one gulp the way the mythological god Augusta Mooni devoured all the waters of seas in one gulp.
The book Nishorgey Nimogno or Lost in Nature by whatever name you may call it is an easy and pleasant read and readers will accompany the poet in easy steps in the arbor of imagination from where these baikus / haikus are fermented.
                                (The writer is a former Civil Servant)

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