6TH SEPTEMBER, 1965 STRANDED IN DACCA
VIEWING THE WAR FROM EAST PAKISTAN
President Ayub Khans speech resonated in us
There was an institution made by the Government in Pakistan to promote reconciliation between East and West Pakistan. A number of intellectuals were attached to it. Someone, I wonder who made up the plan to send M.A. Rahman Chughtai to Dacca on unity mission to that wing of the country. The artist had already visited the wing around 1952 and this was supposed to be his second visit. A flurry of activities there in Dacca, Chittagong, Khulna and other places. They even took us in river speed boats to Rangamati lake and offered hunting in the Sunderbans. A bureaucrat offered us skying. It was like a magical trip.
All the VIPs were there. We met Zainul Abedeen (the artist), Jaseemuddin, Sophia Kamal, Zainul Abedeen (the bureaucrat), his daughter Nina (who gave us Pink Pearls), Begum Najma Attar (glamorous), Junaid Iqbal, and so many others. Hosted at Music recitals, dinners, visit to tea plantations and what not? Many photographs exist as well as a movie. It ended with a Press Conference of M.A. Rahman Chughtai in the hotel lobby.
The common people were so poor and there were hordes of them. We would try to give money to some of them but we would run out of money, not takers to our offers. We even had a site of Chakmas from the hill in Chittagong. But our main working station was the Shahbag Hotel in Dacca, rooms 303 and 304. The paradise was about to turn itself into a nightmare.
And then came 6th September, 1965. The news had come on radio that Lahore had been over run by the Indians. My father would have literally died there with that news, but the broadcast of President Ayub Khan resonated in us and kept our hopes alive. In the hotel we were literally alone. The hotel stood vacated. There were a couple of glamour girls in a few rooms across the verandah to ours, and a few waiters. Abdul Mannan the waiter kept us company with his bits of information about the latest in war. There was a famous song going on radio that SADAY batalian nay panj so chali maray nain, (our army of 42 killed 540 Indians) an encounter of our Army with the Indian Army. Black out days were observed and sometimes the Siren did sound possible coming wrongs. But nothing drastic happened there. It was the people in Lahore who were not only braving the storm but enjoying the situation with bravery. Cricketnwas still being played on the streets, and people would throng their roofs to see the dogfights of fighter jets of PAF with IAF, and people would shout at their warriors for victory. No one was afraid to die.
Khawaja Shahabuddin was a close friend of my father and the Information Minister. He assured Chughtai Sahib of all help. After many days our passports were made, and we were to reach Lahore, either through China or Ceylon. It was finally Ceylon and we landed in Colombo for some hours. A brother missionary was on the plane with us. We hit Karachi and things seemed normal again. The most funny part of it is that we went to Bambino Cinema and there my cousin working for the Manager introduced us to a young Sindhi in an office there. We had a small introduction. Who could have realized that this Sindhi was the future Asif Zardari, destined to be President of Pakistan one day. It seems a joke, comparing the then President Ayub Khan with another person, completely different in character and approach.
What was the trip all about? We knew how much East Pakistan was part of Pakistran, and that how much the Bengalis believed in the Ideology in which Pakistan was made. Media creates more hypocrisy. Like days in the past let Maharajah Narendar Modi marry Rajput Princess Hasina Wajid, and she should bring Bengladesh in jahez for India. Then we will see see how much sparks will fly, and East Pakistan will be on map of world again.