We entered the university in 1972, the first batch after independence. Ahmed Sofa was already a "bhai" to some of our teachers, so he was quite senior. But he mixed with all as if that didn't matter. So I can't recognize the "super human" form that his devotees have given him nowadays over the passage of time. Just an ordinary man with many gifts.


It was after the war and the scenario inside the campus was volatile and unruly. But then it was the situation of the entire country, so the University chaos didn't seem like a big deal. Everyone led a canteen-centered life. The political types hovered around Madhu, the arty-literary vagabond types around Sharif and those who were none mingled at the TSC more. A bit too general I know but just that, no more.

We were Sharif Mia's people and I used to see Sofa Bhai there. I used to talk about him and so did others. I mean, he was a Guru type person and people always hovered around him. But though he was a senior yet he reached out to juniors like us all the time. I remember my friend Shamim, who now lives in Australia after an academic career there, had said something on TV which impressed Sofa bhai much. When he came to the canteen the next day, Sofa bhai praised him loudly with words and tea. No holding back. So can you get the man?


Around 1973, my friend poet Daud Haider wrote a poem, which drew strong protest from religious political groups. When it was first published, I did not pay much attention to the consequences, but those who had been silent for so long woke up. In that sense, poetry had a role in the new life of the religious politicos. Meetings, processions were held all over. Daud was taken to jail as a protective custody measure. The then Home Minister Mansoor Ali himself was from Pabna like Daud's family.


Some meetings and processions against "extremism" were planned in the campus. Although Sofa Bhai was not a fan of Daud's poetry, he was one of the leaders in organizing these activities. There were not so many cultural groups and conflicts in the past, so it was easy to organize. Soon Daud left the country for exile in India before the matter went too far. This was followed by Emergency rule in the country due to political reasons, and then what else, things simmered down. However, Sofa Bhai and some others had opposed this "extremism" from the front. It was from outside the political party space. This is what is important. He acted outside the limits or constraints of any party.


Did Sofa bhai have any party loyalty? I didn't see him involved in any. He was involved with people from many different parties but he was not a member of any. He once asked me about my political affiliations. I said no. He was silent. But he was a Leftist, and read a lot, mostly literature. He and I were associated with the same organization, but I was active after he distanced himself from the Bangladesh Lekhok Shibir. Apparently, he disagreed with the way a particular party led group was asserting itself in the organization. He protested and had no further relationship with the outfit.


Sofa Bhai's greatest achievement was his selfless life. He wrote political literature and essays but helped all kinds of writers. Humayun Ahmed was his most important 'discovery" but there are many other names. How many people open their hands to help others so widely these days?


Nowadays, one can read conflicts over the comparative greatness of Sofa Bhai and Akhtaruzzaman Ilyas Bhai particularly on FB which truly makes no sense. I don't understand why it happens though I suspect it's in the interest of the conflict mongers. This is also a kind of factionalism which is both political and opportunistic.

Sofa bhai was a fan of Ilyas Bhai's writings and Iliyas bhai respected him. Sofa bhai asked me to translate Khowabnama into English but I refused. I didn't do it because I didn't have the time and effort that would be needed to do such a work. The generosity of spirit that he had is perhaps a little less in today's society. And that is why he is used in some people's small minded cultural wars.


The last time I met him was when he was admitted to the Nagar hospital. I went to see the ailing icon. We chatted for a long time. I remember the young nurse who attended him. He was so full of affection for her. As if they were dad and daughter. I felt that he was sitting under the shadow of love and affection after a long time. He was a man who may have had many achievements in life but the water in the cup of his heart was only half full.

He had no family, no close near and dear ones. He led a polite and civil bohemian life with no roots laid. I felt that in the hospital, even if only for a few days Sofa Bhai has been able to sit under the shadow of affection and love. Goodbye Sofa bhai and best wishes.

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