I became interested in painting and drawing and apprenticed with a commercial
artist, whom I called Ustad, or Guru. At home I arranged my easel, canvas, and
pastels so that I could hide them from Father at a moments notice. As a devout
Muslim, Father did not believe in reproducing the human figure. Some art-loving
uncles and aunts in the family became my coconspirators, helping and encouraging
As a by-product of these hobbies, Salam and I developed an interest in graphics
and design. We also started a stamp collection and convinced a neighboring
shopkeeper to display our stamp box in the front of his shop. With two uncles we
frequented theaters to see Hindi and Hollywood films and to sing the romantic
folk songs that were popular at that time.
Chittagong Collegiate School was much more cosmopolitan than my primary school
had been. My classmates were mostly sons of government officials on transfer
from various districts and the school offered one of the best educations in the
country. But its particular attraction for me was the Boy Scout program. The
scout den became my hangout. Along with boys from other schools, I engaged in
drills, games, artistic pursuits, discussions, hikes in the countryside, variety
shows, and rallies. During earnings week we would raise money by hawking
goods, polishing boots, and working as tea stall boys. Aside from the fun,
scouting taught me to be compassionate, to develop an inner spirituality, and to
cherish my fellow human beings.
I particularly recall a train trip across India to the First Pakistan National
Boy Scout Jamboree in 1953. Along the way, we stopped and visited various
historical sites. Most of the time, we sang and played, but standing in front of
the Taj Mahal in Agra, I caught our assistant headmaster, Quazi Sirajul Huq,
weeping silently. His tears were not for the monument or for the famous lovers
who are buried there or for the poetry etched on the white marble walls. Quazi
Sahib said he cried for our destiny and for the burden of history that we were
carrying. Though I was only thirteen, I was struck by his passionate
explanation. With his encouragement, scouting began to infiltrate all my other
activities. I had always been a natural leader, but Quazi Sahibs moral
influence taught me to think high and to channel my passions.
In 1973, in the chaotic months following the Bangladesh War of Liberation, I
visited Quazi Sahib with my father and brother Ibrahim. We drank tea and
discussed the political turmoil around us. A month later, Quazi Sahib, then a
frail old man, was brutally murdered in his sleep by his servant, who robbed him
of a small sum of money. The police never caught the murderer. I was devastated.
In retrospect, I came to understand his tears at the Taj Mahal as prophetic of
both his own suffering and the suffering in store for the Bengali people.
British Parliament asks Amazon to clarify why it pays $9 million in income tax on $23 billion of UK sales.(May 20 2013) Amazon will be called back to give further evidence to members of the British Parliament "to clarify how its activities in the U.K. justify its low corporate...