Yesterday (January 12, 2016) I spent quite an evening--charged and vibrant as it was--with none other than Badruddin Umar at his own residen...

Badruddin Umar || Azfar Hussain

7:01 PM Editor 0 Comments

Yesterday (January 12, 2016) I spent quite an evening--charged and vibrant as it was--with none other than Badruddin Umar at his own residence after nearly half a decade.

The poet Alfred Khokon generously accompanied me to Umar’s place. The country’s foremost Marxist thinker and most uncompromising militant activist--one who has been fearlessly speaking truth to power for nearly six decades now--Umar is the author of countless articles and more than a hundred books, some of which, including his monumental multi-volume work on our language movement, is groundbreaking. Indeed, we are yet to assess the entire range--staggering as it is--of Umar’s contributions to such areas as politics, the politics of culture, and historiography, among others. I had the privilege and honor of working with Umar quite closely for several years in the 1990s, as I worked as the Acting General Secretary of Bangladesh Lekhok Shibir (a national organization of writers, artists, and activists on the left), an organization founded by Umar, among others.

The evening yesterday was full of Umar’s energetic and spirited presence, accompanied by his unflagging verbal zest. He told Khokon and me many stories of his life, including the ones that are not covered in his multi-volume autobiography published now. Even at 84, Umar continues to "rub his conceptual blocs together in such a way that they catch fire," to use Marx’s own words. Although I worked quite closely with him, I did not know until yesterday that Umar could recite so wonderfully well! And he recited to us--at one point--verses first from Madhusudhan Dutta and then from Rabindranath Tagore. And finally from--guess what?--Ghalib and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. His memory and enunciation are both phenomenal at 84.

And speaking of Faiz, Umar fondly recalled his meetings with Faiz, while telling us how he felt when he received a lovely letter from Faiz at a time when Faiz was visiting Algeria, as Umar also fondly recalled his several conversations with the Marxist Ernest Mandel, the author of _Late Capitalism_ as well as his (Umar’s) exchanges with the American Marxist political economist Paul Sweezy, both of whom, so far as I know, respected Umar a lot for his work. It’s not that Umar always agreed with them, but his appreciation of their committed political work, by and large, appeared evident.

Our conversation with Umar was a freewheeling one. We talked about numerous things—way more things than I can possibly recount here. At one point when we asked him about his pathbreaking book on Iswarchandra Vidyasagar, he told us how it went almost unnoticed in our own country. But he gratefully acknowledged the enthusiastic responses to his work on Vidyasagar he had received from such figures as Kazi Abdul Wadud, Annada Shankar Roy, Abu Sayeed Ayub, Bishnu Dey, and--of course--the filmmaker-activist Ritwik Ghatak, some of whose "drunken" moments Umar joyously and humorously recalled in our conversation yesterday.

And, of course, we talked about Bangladesh and the future of revolutionary politics a great deal. I cannot go into the detail of that part of our conversation here, but I intend to write at some length about that part for Bidhan Rebeiro's magazine soon.

But one last thing: At one point when I impersonated my favorite writer and thinker and activist Ahmed Sofa bhai--who was, of course, a great admirer of Umar and who once ardently maintained, "I feel proud of being alive in the time of Umar"--my teacher and comrade Badruddin Umar couldn’t stop laughing. Umar knows how to laugh with his comrades and laugh at his enemies. Indeed, our evening yesterday was full of love and light and laughter.

Photo: Alfred Khokon


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.