Crazy summer, football and …
One of the first Bengali Muslim chartered accountant, survivor of the swinging sixties London, print and TV media pioneer, and a colourful political life of many digbajis — starting out as a moderate critique of Zia, becoming a strident opponent of Ershad and the first Khaleda governments, before his current incarnation as a leading pro-BNP intellectual — Shafiq Rehman would make a great character for a movie or mini-series. And if writing a script on his life is too difficult, his political ‘novel’ Jai Jai Din would make for a great script too.
Rehman’s protagonist is Moin — a divorced business executive having affairs with old flame Mila and her friend Lata. Mila’s husband is Akram, part of the urban noveau riche. Lata is married to an army officer close to Gen Zia. The other major character is Moin’s American neighbour Carl. Serialised in now defunct Shandhani during the fag end of Zia’s regime, Jai Jai Din is the best account of Bangladesh of that era. Someone should make a movie of it, with full depiction of Moin and Lata consummating their passion while the Zia regime comes to a violent end.
When Rehman launched his political magazine of the same name in the mid-1980s, Moin and Mila returned in the weekly column Diner por din. Every week, the lovebirds would have detailed telephone conversations about the news. They would dissect what has happened, and predict what would transpire. And the whole thing would be done as ‘fantasy’ — 1980s was a different era, government could shut down anyone for having a dissenting opinion, so opinions had to be presented as fantasies. Indeed, Jai Jai Din itself was shut down twice, Rehman was exiled, and not allowed to attend his father’s funeral.
Anyway, I digress. Let’s get back to Moin and Mila’s conversations. I am thinking of one particular one they had in the summer of 1986.
That was the summer when Gen Ershad held a parliamentary election. Sheikh Hasina said anyone joining the election would be ‘national traitor’, before joining it. The opposition won 226 seats, before the election result was postponed, and two weeks later it was announced that Ershad’s Jatiya Party had an absolute majority. And we got to watch TV during the day for a three days in a row —BTV election special. More importantly, takind advantage of the adults’ preoccupation with the election chicanery, a few of us got to watch Jayashree Kabir’s curves in Shimana Periye.
That was one crazy summer.
But the Moin-Mila conversation I have in mind happened a few weeks after the election.
That was also the summer of the best World Cup football ever. That was the Cup of the hand of God. Is there anyone over the age of 30 who has no story about that Brazil-France match? That was the first World Cup accessible to most of the country thanks to television.
In that crazy summer, with the election failing to resolve the country’s political problem while Dhaka was gripped by the World Cup fever, Moin and Mila wondered what might trigger a people power uprising. Their answer: a power failure during the final. They wondered what might Ershad do to improve his standing: bring Maradona to Dhaka, and give him honorary citizenship — after all, Zia got a lot of mileage out of bringing Ali to Dhaka.
As the years have gone by, summers have become hotter, and the electricity situation has worsened. Meanwhile, Bangladeshis probably have become even crazier.
Imagine if there are sever load shedding during the Cup? What would the Brazil and Argentina supporters do?
There is a popular, democratic government in power. They don’t need upstart irritants like Mahmudur Rahman (or Shafiq Rehman) to tell them what the people want. People want to watch the World Cup uninterrupted. And the government will deliver. If necessary, procurement rules will change — red tape cannot be allowed to stop people from enjoying themselves. If necessary, power companies connected with cabinet ministers will be given priority — after all, who is likely to be more patriotic than anyone connected with the current government? Certainly not those conspirators and anti-liberation forces who call themselves nationalists! Everyone knows they are all Pakistani spies.
Ah wait, the government has already acted to resolve the power crisis by throwing out procurement rules and giving contracts to companies owned by the brother of Commerce Minister — see here. Well, as I said, the government knows what the public wants — only snag is that these won’t add any electricity to the grid until next year.
So I am afraid the risk of power failure during the Cup remains. And since Shafiq Rehman thought about this 24 years ago, and since he has since then joined the dark side, maybe the government should arrest him — one can never be sure what kind of crazy plot that old chap is hacking.
Did I say the 1980s was a different time because the goverment used to shut down media? How stupid of me. Government still shuts down media for dissenting views.
Opinions are out. Let’s revive fantasies. Moin-Mila are too old. In Digital Bangladesh, we need digital fantasies and satires — anything else can lead to remand.
Just ask Mahmudur Rahman.