Mother of Bengal

Mother of Bengal


translation DEBASHISH DEB

(for Rashida Asma and Atoshi Rahmanj)

French translator Roland Ngwee Ngijol after comple-
ting translation of my epic monologue `Ami Sheikh
Mujib’ [I am Sheikh Mujib] portraying the persona- l
ity of the architect of our nation state Bangladesh,
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, advised me to
write another monologue depicting the personality
of Renu the wife of Sheikh Mujib. I promised Roland
that I would do that. After that day I thought about it
for about a year. I discussed it with lots of people; but
nobody could add anything to say about this noble
woman of history.

There are huge write-ups and memoirs on the great
hero of the history of the birth of Bangladesh Banga-
bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; on the other hand,
there are no basic write-ups containing data about his
wife Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib. Bang-
amata herself felt comfortable doing the right thing
at the right time being behind the veil, not being in
focus. She was so unwilling to come into the public,
breaking the veil.
It’s obvious that she is an inevitable noble at the
centre of the epic, along with Bangabandhu in the
grandiose history of the birth of Bangladesh. A sop-
histicated picture of the personality and psychology
of Bangamata could be imagined from write-ups
and memoirs of her husband Bangabandhu Sheikh
Mujibur Rahman, nuclear scientist M A Wazed Miah,
Nilima Ibrahim, Sufia Kamal, A B M Musa, Abdul Gaffar
Chowdhury, Aminul Haque Badsha, Sheikh Hasina,
Sheikh Rehana, Nationa Professor Rafiqul Islam, Baby
Moudud and Syed Anwar Hossen as there is prevail-
ing a bareness of fruitful scholarly research on our
history and politics. I got notable help from the book
`Bangamata Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib’ edited by
Khaleque Bin Joyenuddin and Malek Mahmud.

I have written the book `Our Bangamata’, an epic mo-
nologue of the exceptionally great woman of human
history, with the help of my study-plan, imagination
and history. This epic monologue is written for the
young readers; at the same time it is a complete
drama of single character producible in radio and

From the premiere of epic monologue ”Mother of Bengal” at Dhaka University,February 2023 photo: Anisur Rahman

First Episode

[House 26 of road 18 of Dhanmondi, 1971. She was
talking to herself, alone, sitting on a blanket, or at times
going up to the window; though her children and house
helps were with her in the surrounding – such was the

I am Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mijib. Nickname Renu. My
husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is the undisputed
leader of this country.
He is the other name of this land.
Coming from Tungipara we have been scattered here
and there.
We are all confronting this frantic jeopardy uttering a
Our patriotism is that spell;
the living spirit in all of us.
My father left this world when I was only three.
Except me, my elder sister of five years, mother and
grandfather were in the family.
After two years mother also left the warmth of earth.
Left here to live were us two sisters and grandfather.
This I heard from others; I can’t remember what hap-
pened since I was only three.
As my grandfather wished, at that age my marriage
with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was solemnised, he was
13 and his nickname was Khoka.
My grandfather was the uncle of my father-in-law
Sheikh Lutfor Rahman.
He called his nephew and told him, I will solemnise
the marriage of my youngest granddaughter with
your eldest son Khoka.
Marriage was registered.
Then, when I was seven, grandfather also left us.
Thereafter I went to my mother-in-law, leaving my
parents’ house.
From that time she was both my mother and my
I also called her father at a tender age.
Out of old habit, I still call her that sometimes
People have fun bringing it up
And my mother-in-law has taught me everything and
has raised me as her own daughter.
Why do all these memories come back to me today
like this?
The reminiscing appears in front of me like a flood
I am drowning in the ocean of jeopardy.
The first day when I sat on the lap of my mother-
in-law, she introduced me – this is your Didi [elder
sister], this is your grandfather, and the rest is one.
He was her eldest son Khoka.
I pointed at him with my finger to ask – who is he to
He is your Dulha [bridegroom].
That Dulha is my husband, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The two of us met in a bridal room in 1942.
Our first son was born in 1944.
He died.
It was terribly upsetting.
I broke down physically and mentally.

My husband will go to Kolkata. What is there to say?!
A great pain in heart, his aching; but he’s thirsting
to do something for the country and for the people
of the county – I don’t want to keep him from doing
But yet, I express my concerns, `You don’t want to
come back from Kolkata once you’ve been there – for
now, please come back home when the holidays

In those days, the man was very busy with politics
and studies in Kolkata.
He had neither time nor space to come home.
Once he would go to help the people of an area in
India, torn by riots. with the leader of Bengal Huseyn
Shaheed Suhrawardy.

From the premiere of epic monologue ”Mother of Bengal” at Dhaka University, February 2023 photo: Anisur Rahman

Mr. Suhrawardy said, ’Mujib, take some time off from
your wife.’
My husband Sheikh Mujib wrote to me asking for
In his letter he wanted to know whether he should
come back to Tungipara or go out to help the riot-torn
people together with Suhrawardy.
I believed I would come to terms with living with the
family here.
He should go out helping the people of the country.
If he doesn’t go out to serve the country, who will?
So, that was the opinion of my letter.
Hearing about my letter Mr. Suhraweardy told him,
`Mujib, she is a very precious gift to you from God.
Don’t neglect her, please.’
How could he neglect me?!
His heart is full of love for me!
It doesn’t matter where he stays – Kolkata, Tungipara
or Delhi; we are tied to each other with love.
Live or die, our lives are intertwined with each other

I came to Kolkata so that he could appear at the BA
examination, read well and study with the utmost
concentration .

The gang of Hyenas could do no harm to him, thanks
to the immense love and blessings he receives from
the people.
Whereabouts of Kamal?!
There is neither time nor place to find out the whe-
reabouts of other family members.
It’s as if we’re all in severe danger.
This child Russel, who is seven now, I came to my in-
law’s house at this age.
Day has gone, night is passing, and there’s still
nothing I could feed this child with.
Well, prisoners have rights as well, among these
three meals of food.
Can’t we at least have that?
Did my husband fight to see this today for beloved
Pakistan with the leaders of the country denying all of
his hope and aspiration of life?
I wish I’d asked Mr. Jinnah this when visiting his grave.

Second Episode


In the meantime my second child Hasu, the sunshine
of my life, has come.
In 1949 he got the news of the birth from Kamal,
when he was imprisoned.
The man is not concerned.
He’s not tense; he is relaxed,
handing over the family burden on me.
He is for the country, for the people of the country.
I expect that as well.
Well, let him be busy with the country.
How can the country be free if everyone’s busy with
their families?!
I am proud of this.
From home, I will support his strength all of my life.
Has two homes; one is jail and the other is at No. 32.
Where’s the chance for him to be plain?
He can rarely sleep at home.
Financial problems of various kinds – all to be atten-
ded to by me.
I’m not afraid, I won’t be worn out.
The man is the canopy of my world.
For this man, I could leave everything in my life
The refrigerator in my house – my husband has
brought from America.
I sold that refrigerator.
I told the children, cold water causes cough, could
cause ache – it’s not healthy to drink cold water.
So, I hope I will sell it now.
I will not tell them that I’m in need of money.
I provide for the family as well as helping the leaders
of Awami League.
A worker of the party is ill; I have to give him/her
I don’t want my children to know about the lack of
To avoid the lack of curry, I prepare hotchpotch as a
variety of food.
The children are happy to eat this too.

My husband gets imprisoned year after year – orga-
nising a party without him, keeping the party going,
communicating with him, one fabricated case against
him after another– contesting all cases – I have to
handle everything.

In 1953, Jamal was born.
Now, I must be of that man’s help;
I believe there is negligence
Returned to Dhaka; took a house at Rajani Chowd-
hury Lane at Gendaria.
His dream is to live on the land of Bangla as a man;
not as Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist or Christian.

My husband became a minister again.
I don’t feel encouraged to be the minister’s wife..
The first time he became minister was very hard for
me, for all of us.
The time when he lost his ministry was even more
The man went to Soviet and China.
The family has to be looked after by me.

After that, he gave up the ministry and became the
General Secretary of the party.
Next to that he also became the chairman of the Tea
Martial Law was promulgated, martial law of Ayub
Service of the Tea Board, and house – all lost at once.
The man was imprisoned.
We left the house.
Then we began looking for a house.

From the premiere of epic monologue ”Mother of Bengal” at Dhaka University,

We got a notice to leave the house within three days.
Found a house at 76 Segun Bagicha.
That house was under construction; rent taka 300 per
A music teacher and private tutor were told to leave.
Now, what do I say to the children?
I will teach them myself, and find a better tutor.
The children were convinced they heard something
from me.

There were fourteen cases against my husband
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman;
These cases were not on him;
These cases were all on me;
Going to the lawyers;
Preparing papers;
Conveying order to party members;
Everything was in order.
But, the most difficult task was to raise money.
So many things were lost; stolen by others; things
that were kept earlier, to somewhere else.
Many things had to be sold.
The Radiogram was a favourite to that man;
This was saved.
It’s the only companion in the loneliness
It’s better, time passes listening to songs.
The man too sings Tagore’s song, murmuring.
This must be kept a secret.

The man got out of jail in 1961.
Politics was banned.
Service at insurance;
The man had only one duty, to go to the office and
come home.
Money gave no headache;
Father and mother in laws would come to Dhaka.
Teachers started coming.

We started living at Dhanmondi 32 house in 1962.
The same year the man was arrested again.
Mr. Suhrawardi went to London in 1963 when sick, the
man was with him.

Thereafter Mr. Suhrawardi died in Beirut.

The lawyers were reluctant to handle the cases.
Some of them were unwilling due to fear.
What could I do?
Along with Mr. Moejuddin and Mr. Gazi I started rai-
sing money, travelling across Dhaka.
I kept running cases, and cared about the whe-
reabouts of the party workers who were in danger.

Ayub-Monem wished to exploit this whole country
while keeping this man behind the bars.
They would put down the 6 points movement.
What did they expect?
The man was in prison, and all the frightened workers
would flee?
He was in prison, so what?

Everything carried on, according to his orders, eve-
rything carried on.
As I can understand him;
I can also understand the way people think
The people of the country would even die fighting for
6 points.
I was not one to give up the fight either.
I would face all kinds of adversities.
He would be free; all imprisoned party workers would
be free.
Six points would win.

Members of the intelligence are still standing in front
of the house.
No room to sit;
Storm, rain, sun;
Feeding etcetera was uncertain.

Call them; let them sit in our living room.
Give them snack water.

What else could they do?
They were also human beings!
Espionage was their service.
They comply with the order;
Getting paid for it, keeping the family going.

I can’t bear the sufferings of people as a human.
They might be spies;
I would still entertain them;

Don’t care about what could happen to us.
I know all the top leaders of the party.
Some of them are very timid.
I also know about their opportunistic characters.
They are trying their best to get him free on parole to
send him to the meeting in Pakistan.
It can’t be done anyhow.
It’s a conspiracy of the ruling party.
Once he goes to Pakistan on parole, the anger of the
people will subside.
On the other hand the prisoners will still remain
behind the bars.
Thereafter all political prisoners will be punished as
they wish.
If release is granted, it must be completely uncondi-

If he gets released on parole and then consults the
leaders and the editors, whatever I think about it, the
door to 32 Dhanmondi will be closed for him.
I’ll be sitting down taking Boti [sharp knife used to
chop vegetables in the Bengali kitchen].

Wazed, let’s all move to cantonment.

Hey Hasu?
Yes mom!
Don’t be sad, It’s not as the leaders say.
Nothing will happen to your father; he will be relea-
sed today or tomorrow.
Their words will not come true.
They don’t follow the pulse of the people.
The people of the country will never stop before the
The ruler’s throne has become unstable.
The release must take place
There is no alternative.
People of the country love my husband.
He is so popular!
This is my pride.
When does he have time to care about money and
I make a fund even while being in hardship so that he
doesn’t face problems.
When he is well, I am well.
Who will be glad, who will be happy if he becomes
I will protect him even if it would cost me my life.

Now I can remember the time of the Language Move-
ment of 1952. He was in jail, then.
He was seriously ill. He put himself in the worst pos-
sible state by going on hunger strike.
No one understood how badly I felt when I saw him in
such a condition.

`After receiving your letter, I realised that you would
do something.
I was anxious to see you.
Who could I tell it to? Can’t tell Abba, it would be
Naser Bhai was not home.
Got the news in the paper, so I ignored the embarrass-
ment and told Abba, just to take me there.
Abba started to prepare. We boarded our large boat
with three boatmen.
Why did you starve?
Didn’t you think about any of us?
What if something happened to you?
How could I live taking these two feeding babies?
What happened to Hasina, Kamal?
You’ll say, we wouldn’t have suffered from eating and
Do people settle for just food and drink?
And if you die, how would the movement for the
country go on?’

To tell the truth, my husband surrendered to me.
He handed over the responsibility of the children to
I also decided not to be away from him anymore.
He was in Kalkata, we were in Tungipara.
This could not go on.
Thinking about this, I went to Dhaka.
Thereafter he became minister.
We got a house at number 3 in Mintu road.
After some time he lost ministry.
He was arrested.
We were out of the house with three days notice.
Thereafter nobody wanted to give us a home.
Thereafter, minister again.
Government house again.
He became general secretary of the party, leaving the
Leave the government house again.
These things were happening all the time.
Everything that happened and all the troubles kept
crashing in on me.
Yet, I’m happy if it brings welfare to the people of the
country, and if my husband can bring back the good
luck of our countrymen.
I will raise my children with proper education; I will
not let them be foppish.
Politics is banned.
Husband is in prison.
Selling ornaments, I am saving money for my family
and for the case.

My husband has been released.
He has become involved in politics again.
He has declared Six Points.
Sheikh Mujib’s popularity is now at its peak.

Ayub Khan brought many leaders with him, providing
facilities like these.
Only they couldn’t buy my husband.

The crew after the premiere of epic monologue ”Mother of Bengal” at Dhaka University, February 2023 photo: Masud Rana

They’ll never be able to buy him.
I know my husband.
He doesn’t back down from his ideals.
And I will never let him do so.

Six Points are the points of the freedom of Bangali.
I have seen so many Ayubism!
He tries to allure us with presentations through Fazlul
Quader Chowdhury.
I laugh silently to myself.

Ayub’s condition is to abandon the demand of Six
If so, my husband will get crore [10 millions] of taka
and also a ministry.
It could even be as the governor of East Pakistan.
Sheikh Mujib, my husband, could form a provincial
ministry with his own people.
49 percent shares of Gandhara Industries, when the
money of these shares will be given to Ayub.
Hearing this proposal, Sheikh Mujib said, ’Let me talk
to Hasu’s mother.’
He had fun! But, Fazlul Quader Choudhury could
conceive the fun.
Mr. Chowdhury thought, ’The elephant has eaten half
of the banana – the next half will also be eaten.’
After two days Mr. Chowdhury came to our house.
I was rude to him. I didn’t spare him;
`Brother, I will ask you.
Ayub Khan wants to send Mujib to jail, I don’t care.
He wants to invade our house, it doesn’t make us sad.
We ask you, please don’t try to buy our minds.
Don’t try to make Sheikh Mujib into Monaem Khan.’

I was so rude to him!
He will understand now.

There is only man in our country to free us from tortu-
He is none other than my husband Sheikh Mujibur
He will be the envoy of freedom of the people of our
No criticism is a headache, no prejudice is a
I know he will reach his goal.
He will find out the way of freedom for the people of
this country.

’Go alone if no one comes when you call.’

[This song of Rabindranath tagore will be on play]

Even though my husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman
and his party have decided to walk alone, progressive
political leaders, intellectuals and students of this
country have been behind him, responding to his call.
My husband Sheikh Mujibir Rahman has been arre-
We have been homeless.
Our children have been discriminated against in
They have made all sorts of threats against our lives
and livelihood.
I will face this strike and strike back.

Poet Sufia Kamal is like our elder sister.
Her house is also at 32 Dhanmondi.
Whenever the police take Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,
she rushes to our house after hearing the news.
She accompanies me, encourages me during hard
times, tells me to be confident.
She has come today too.

The injustice concerning us, our country, my husband
will end one day – certainly end.
Nobody can get permanent settlement while injustice
continues being committed.

Silently, I will do my duty.
I will go ahead, sweeping away obstacles so that the
followers won’t face any adversities or fall behind
being hurt
I’ll do the absolute best I can

My duty is to communicate with the workforce of
Awami League and Chatraleague; and convey the
direction of my husband Sheikh Mujib to them.
Managing the party and family, along with facing the
cases, and working according to the directions of my
husband for the movement of freeing the party men –
everything has to be coordinated by me.
Who else is there?

Many have been arrested, many have absconded.
Some keep quiet, being afraid of the steamroller in
the form of Ayub Khan.
Then again, when good days come, many of them will
be in the frontline.
I don’t know, I haven’t been informed about eve-
rything, nothing will be understood by conceiving
everything – nothing I will say.

My husband is not only mine – he’s the leader of all,
he’s the great example of kindness; will make it all by
The pace of his movement is like the songs of Rabi
Thakur [Rabindranath Tagore].
If nobody comes hearing his call, he walks alone;
everybody comes following his movement – this is his
He is a man of the power of attraction.
He is the harbinger of all, a place of confidence, hope
and aspirations for the people of the country.

The Ayub government sent the leaders to jail.
My husband has addressed an audience there, and
has been arrested.
Again I have brought him out of jail.
Again he addressed the meeting, again he was arre-
This is going on all the time

The government is panicking about Six Points.
Six Points has rocked the throne of Ayub’s governme-
I have warned my husband earlier that he could be
hurt in cases from which there would be no escape.
Don’t be afraid.
Don’t back down from your goal.
That’s it.
I was correct.
He has been made the number one defendant in the
Agartala Conspiracy Case.
Now he has been confined in a room of the officer’s
mess of Cantonment Board.
There is no air!
Only a bulb is on.
Soldiers are always on watch.
I’ve got this information after the first three months of
his confinement.
Before that, people didn’t even know where he was;
or if he was alive or not.
There were many rumours in the air!

I guess that he is in captivity of the army when they
come to interrogate me
They left with threats of taking me to the cantonment
too, when they didn’t get the answers they wanted
from me.
My husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has no fear; nor
does his wife Sheikh Fazilatunnesa Mujib.
They have to understand this.

They asked my daughter Hasina, `What type of
daughter are you when you won’t let your father
Do you want to see your mother as a widow??’
My daughter immediately replies, `I can see my
mother as a widow; but my father can’t betray the
people of Bengal.’
My words have come true.

Everybody has been released, cases have been
withdrawn in accordance with my husband’s de-

My husband was released today.
All leaders have been released.
In a grand reception my husband is titled Bangaband-
Taking this title he joined the round table conference
with the government.

That iron man Ayub Khan resigned the chair and fled.
The triumph of truth is inevitable.

There is a song –
We shall overcome some day

[this song will be on play]

General Ayub left.
General Yahya has come.
Declaration if national election

I know my husband has become the symbol of the
movement of freedom of people of the country.
His party Awami League will win the election.
He just has to stay healthy with the blessings of
Almighty God and of the love of the people of the
My husband has been in jail permanently since May
Thereafter he became the main defendant in the
Agartala Conspiracy case.
Relatives, political companions, students and labou-
rers thought that Sheikh Saheb will not be released
this time.
His life is doomed.
His family will be finished.
His politics will be finished.

But I, Sheikh Fazilatunnesa, am not the person to give
Your apprehension will turn out false.
My force of assistants are young student leaders; they
will shine like sparkle.
I’ll make them confident, with hope and aspirations.
Sheikh Saheb will be released.
His politics won’t be finished.
He will also be there.
His family will be there too.

In 1967 we solemnised the marriage of Hasina and
Wazed Miah with several aspects in mind. He is a
brilliant student – the elected VP of Fazlul Haque hall
student union of Dhaka University.

The 7th June strike of 1968 must be successful.
So, we have to be clever in building a movement.
I leave the house and go to the houses of relatives.
Having arrived there, I have to change dresses – wea-
ring sponge sandals and hood.
Have to deceive the spies.

Now the people can understand the Six Points.
People can’t be confused by this.
There is no power that can separate the people of this
country from Six Points.
Now the Six Points are to be taken in One Point.
This One Point is the unconditional release of all poli-
tical prisoners including Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
They must be released.
They will certainly be released.
Everything will be washed away in a massive upsurge.

There will only be one demand after the release of
political prisoners; that is the freedom of this country.
Whatever you believe in, the freedom of this country
is inevitable.

Threatening me won’t give any benefits to the ruler.
I have to get my husband Seikh Mujibur Rahman out
of jail along with other prisoners.
The consequences will not be pleasant for those who
are in power today.

Injustice can never be endless.
The martial law regime will not exist after facing the
anger, demands and blessings of the people.
The freedom of the people of this country is inevita-

I have no fear.
I will not give up my endeavours.

My husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has not betray-
ed the affection of the people of this country, he can
do it; I will not betray either.
With the help of well-wishing expatriate Bengalis, I
brought the internationally famous lawyer Sir Tomas
William from London to move the Agartala Conspira-
cy Case.
I will face the case too.
I will continue the movement.
I will see the end of injustice.

My words have come true.
I forbade Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to join the round
table conference at Rawalpindi on 17th February,
discussing release on parole.
I wanted unconditional release.
Eventually, that has happened; all prisoners have
been released.

Today 23rd February 1969, a mass of students
have titled my husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as
`Bangabandhu’ in a vast rally at Race Course Maidan.

There is a letter from my husband in my bag, luckily
the letter was kept in a letter-bag; the band of hyenas
has burnt letters, books, everything, along with all
other materials.

[Renu will be reading the letter of Bangabandhu]

Dhaka Jail, 16/5/1959

Accept my affection. You have come to meet me after
Eid; didn’t bring the children; because you didn’t
do Eid. Children didn’t do Eid either – that was very
unexpected. Children want to be amused in Eid;
because everybody does it. Do you realise how much
they have been hurt?
Father and Mother will be concerned if they hear
about it. Next time you come to see me, bring them. I
can’t understand why you are worried. It’s uncertain
when I will be released. Only you have to do is to
educate our children. Write to my father if you need
money. He could give you some now and then. Tell
Hasina to read carefully. Kamal’s health is not well.
Tell him to eat regularly. Take heed so that Jamal
reads carefully and draws pictures regularly. Make
sure that he will bring a picture this time when we
meet; I will look. Rehana is very frisky. After a few
days, send him to school with Jamal. If you have time,
read a bit yourself. I would feel lonely in previous
days; now I have got used to it. Don’t be worried. Take
care of your health.

Yours Mujib

The man is like that by nature.

He wants to die before me.
What would I do if he dies before me!

Third Episode


I can remember Hasina’s time of birth.
Hasina was born on 28 September 1947.
How happy
everyone was!
Me too, when
looking back.
That girl will be a mother now. Our situation is
beyond description – no place to sit, food is uncer-
tain, all of the family are scattered.
Parents in-law are in Tungipara.
Their misery will know no boundaries if the Hyenas
attack them.
I don’t know where my husband is or how he is.
Will he be killed?
No, I don’t want to think such terrible thoughts.

Today I can remember very much that auspicious day.
The speech of 7th March; my husband was tense.
I asked, ’Why are you tense?’
He said, ’I am thinking about what I will tell the audi-
ence at today’s rally.’
`Everybody is looking at me.
’They have to be given directions.’
I said, `Don’t be tense.
`Go there with a calm mind.
`Just tell them what you’re saying, there’s no point in
thinking before.
`I know you’ll know exactly what to say.
`You will know what to say when you look at the
people who are there.
`Beware, people are in front of you and bullets are
behind you.
`Only you can do what your mind wants.’

[Sheikh Fazilatunnesa is entering into the room talking
to herself; Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is sitting on the
dining table]

portrait: Kamal Uddin

Today is 23rd March; how many days has it been?
You have discussed for so many days, but told me
nothing about the result
.But remember, if you compromise, people of the
country will be angry with you.
On the other hand, the army of Yahiya Khan will kill
you at any given time.
People want freedom.

The night of 25th March; at 12.1 O-clock suddenly I
saw some army men wearing helmets entering into
the No. 32.There was relentless firing.
We were all in Kamal’s room.
My husband stepped in front and said, `I am here.
Shoot me.
’They said they had come to arrest Bangabandhu.
I packed his suitcase;
Inserted Duri in the Pajama;
A number of pipes for smoking, pot of tobacco.
We left the rented house of Malibagh Chowdhury
What more could we do?
They are afraid of us; we are the family of Sheikh
Mujib.The army will burn our house down to ashes.
The army blazed after we had left the area.
Now Badrunnesa Ahmed gave us shelter on their
ground floor.We had nothing.
The neighbours have helped and given us many
Plate, cauldron – we got nothing with us.

We are not safe here either.
Even though this house is not visible from the main
road, a devoted man of my husband gave away the
address to the military.
The military came and took all of us.
Now our confinement starts at No. 26 of road No. 18
of Dhanmondi.

I am Renu.
And uncle Khoka is with us.

We have a shelter which is in the grip of Pakistani
Hyena soldiers.
And we have gone to many places for shelter to save
our lives.

Who will give us shelter?
Everyone has anxiety.
Everyone is in danger.
The soldiers are looking for us, as frenzied as mad
All to whom we go just say no, no.
Nobody will give shelter to the family of Sheikh Mujib.
This is coercion; this is oppression.
This can’t go on.
I know someday it will end.
The country will be free of the enemy one day.
But, till that day we have to survive.

Hasina, Rehana and Rasel are only with me.
Hasu went to hospital at the end of July.
When I was ready to leave, I couldn’t even go with her.
The soldiers stopped me from going there.
They said, ’Are you a doctor, since you have to
go tothe hospital?’
Hasina was taken to the hospital.
I was not permitted to go with her.
Being a mother, how can I remain calm?

Another one said in a threatening tone, ’Are you a
doctor who has to go with her?’
How can a gang of hyenas possibly understand the
importance of a mother’s presence with her pregnant

I cried all night long; could not sleep.
`Barir pashe arshinagar’ is also a favourite of mine.
[This song will be playing]
Neighbours live there
I could not see him for once ...

This song is also my husband’s favourite.
I went to the hospital; for that reason the armed men
misbehaved with the nurses.
They go too far.

One day I yelled at them.
`I will report to your officers.`
`How dare you?
`What are you going to do?’

Oh! It’s unbelievable what we remember at times.
Rehana and Rasel are with me.
They are children too?
Where will we go?
What will we do?
What will we eat?
Where will we sleep?
How much does Rasel the child understand?

How long will the boy endure the pain of fasting?
Everything has become such a mess.

It was May 13th.
My legs were shattered.
Got a blanket and an empty cauldron
We passed the day and night fasting.
Even little Rasel
What pain it was for a mother!
How can I explain it?
A vehicle brought food to the soldiers on watch duty.
They ate with pleasure.
I saw it with my children.
Military blazed the house in Tungipara into ashes.
Preventing parents from leaving with us.
What to do?
I asked Doctor Nurul Islam to get them admitted to
PG hospital.
He remembered what I asked him, which gave me
many opportunities.

Every day I’m free to meet them.
I get the what-abouts of Kamal in jail.
Get the what-abouts of Moni.
Have an opportunity to meet others.
PG has become the main meeting point.

On 5th August, the birthday of Kamal, Jamal was

I was frantic about losing my son.
I said to the soldiers, ’You took my son to the canton-
You have killed my son, bring him to me.
Rehana knew everything, out of fear she didn’t say
Later, realising my situation, she spoke, told me that
Jamal had gone to the Liberation War.

We heard the voice of Jamal – brothers, they are
killing men, come on, we will kill the beasts.
Rehana made me hear the voice.
This is the voice of Jamal.

Okay, he has arrived, I see.
There is Kamal.
There is Moni.
Nothing to be worried about
I have bought five hundred cups to serve tea to the
leaders and party workers.
All of those were beyond my disposal.
The house of No. 32 is in ruins today.

Today, in this time of war, the chief of Tehrik E Ishte-
klal Party of Pakistan Air Marshal Azgar Khan arrived
in Dhaka, and went to PG hospital to see my sick
father in law.

There I met him.
I said Azgar Khan, Pakistan army is committing ge-
nocide on the people of Bengal.
Raise your voice about this genocide to the people of

the country.
Protest it.
I did not tell him about the release of the man [Mujib]

The country will exist if the people of the country
If the country exists, the people will set their Banga-
bandhu free – I believe this.
One day the household boy Abdul brought a basket of
broken cup-plates.
A man was struggling with Abdul to get them, and
started arguing.
Though those were broken, I was happy with my lost

After the genocide of 25th March, our pet dog Tomy
was in the house of No. 32.
How did he find house No. 26 of road No. 18?
Only God knows!
Tomy was pushing the gate with the
claws, and thegatemen opened the gate.
You don’t open the door for me, but you open the
gate twice a day for my dog.

I couldn’t hold back anymore.
How can people say such unbelievable things?
This will go on until the arrival of Hasina’s father in
the country.
This is all disgusting!

Today 16th December, the commander of Pakistan
invading force Niazi surrendered.

My children were very happy.

The invaders who keep us confined have to surrender

Hey Habilder, your Niazi has surrendered, now you

Today 17th December, the Indian Major Shoke seized
the house of road No. 18 with a company of soldiers.
I got this information earlier.

Now the time is ours.

`Habilder, Hatiar Dal Do.’

[The members of Pakistan army keep surrendering put-
ting their arms one after another]

Now, it is our turn.

Now we will stampede the flag of Pakistan. 
Will ablaze
Now see, who will come to protect.
Joy Bangla.

Kamal has come back.
Jamal has come back.

The Freedom Fighters are returning one after another.
Waiting for my husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to
The last week of December of 1971
I went to the house of Professor Nilima Ibrahim at
Fular Road, taking Rasel with me.
Arrived there at 8 am
The maid of their house ran inside the house and
said, `Amma [mother], Sheikh Mujib’s wife has come
.’I could hear the voice of Nilima Apa [elder sister] –
how would she come here?
’Yes mother, she is standing at the door of your
I don’t understand what you’re saying, how can you
recognize her?

After their conversation, Nilma Apa came, took us
inside the house and offered us a seat.
`Nilima Apa, so many journalists from around the
world come and ask all sorts of questions.
Everyone answers as they wish, some which I can
understand, some I can’t.

So, you have to be with us until morning when your
brother comes back.
We went back home, taking Nilima Apa with us.
Mr. Syed Nazrul Islam wants to bring a sofa set.

Let the man come first, and then all this will do.
Everyone who will come to my house, will sit on this
Mora [a local sitting instrument made with bamboo
stick or cane] and the chair.
When your brother is out of jail, the bricks of my ve-
randa will fall down when the brothers of Mujib Bhai
are strolling by.
And when he was in jail, in those bad days, Quazi
Golam Mostafa and some other keen friends stood by
our side with shopping bags.

Nilima Apa. I have frequently learned how to swim
and drown.
Didn’t let the children be foppish.
Apa, come, see, what Moshtaq Bhai says today.
He says, Thajuddin Bhai has sold out the country.
I have to speak, communicate with leaders and jour-
nalists from home and abroad; perhaps I have to
goon doing that until my husband returns.

Fourth Episode

Today 8th January. BBC Radio announced that my
husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been released.
We got a telephone line at home immediately.
I heard his voice first time I telephoned.
My time was passing on Jainamaz and Tasbih.
10th January, he has come back; first he went off
tothe Sohrawardi Uddyan in public.
After that, he came home to the family.
In the big embrace of the man, I got my shelter back.
The family, the house of No. 32, is as damaged as the
Now it is time to rebuild the family, as well as the

The man has no time or opportunity to pay heed tot
hese matters.
I know and understand that.

portrait: Noor E Alam Siddiquee

In the meantime his birthday 17 March of 1972 has

He put his garland on my neck with affection, which
he got on his birthday.

The kindness of the man is as vast as the ocean.

[On the road of Dhanmondi in an evening in a car with
son Kamal]

Look Kamal, this man is wearing my towel.
Kamal couldn’t believe it; my mother in law would
wipe my body with that towel after bath.

Made in Germany is written on that towel.
Kamal talked to the man and returned with the towel
after giving him some money.
Here it is, the writing, made in Germany.

There are many conspiracies and crises in this war
torn country.
How many incidents are there?!
Some of these come to me too.

With one brick after another and the help of my
friends I have built this house in No. 32.
It was a barren area then.
One day the critics will be answered.

The truth will come into light.
Now I have no time to think about the critics.
I feel very happy to wash his pipes.
I get a sweet feeling when I arrange his pipes in order,
one by one – up to ten.
Only I can feel it.

I am sick.
Why do I feel like this?
I didn’t feel like this earlier.
Nilima Apa, come, have a seat.
Apa, I don’t know whether I will live or not.
Apa, please pray for me.

In 1972 my husband had a gall
bladder operation.
Then he went to Geneva. I got the opportunity to
serve him on the tour.

In 1973 I became sick again.
I went to London for treatment.
In 74 I went to Moscow with him, to bear my responsi-
bility of course.
I myself hadn’t got the opportunity to study, to say;
studied up to class five.
But I have read books; read to the house tutor.
My husband would also encourage me to read.

Fazlul Haque Moni was my nephew, like a son; I sent
him to study MA in Bengali.
He will be a journalist after graduating, it was my

Moni has bought a press and is publishing a paper,
Banglar Bani; has become an editor.
It makes me very happy.

You Nilima Apa, I am angry with you all.
You have made your brother Bangabandhu, me Bang-
amata; couldn’t I be Bangafriend?
Have I become so old?

Everybody there had a lot of fun with my comments.

Hasina, Wazed, Joy, Putul have gone abroad. Rehana
also went with them.
I would feel a bit happier if the girl was back.
He is busy with his work, twenty four hours a day.
Two daughters in law arrived only a few days ago.

Men of all stages in society – driver, household, villa-
gers from Tungipara always had a gathering.
I get a lot of information from them; I’ll give it to him
later; it will help him in his work.

These notebooks are of his autobiography and the
diary of the jail.
I keep these hidden in a corner of almirah. He wrote
these at my request.

These will be published in books; has he got the time?I will talk to Moni.

Quader Bepari of Shajahanpur is our well-wisher.
He cultivates many vegetables, like cauliflower, gourd
He must give the first vegetables of his land to us.
He keeps doing so whether Hasu’s father is in jail or
Quder Bepari couldn’t enter the Ganabhaban with a
basket of vegetables.
Then, in anger, he poured the vegetables in front of
the Ganabhaban.

He came back, saying you men have tried to kill
We have kept him protected.
After hearing the news, I am very upset.
I will call Mojaffar Hossen Poltu Bhai and ask him to
bring Quader Bepari to our house earlier.
I will not have breakfast until he comes.
Poltu Bhai had to request that he be brought here.

His anger hadn’t cooled until then.
He will return without having food.
I couldn’t help my eyes tearing up.
At last he confessed his sorrow to me and said, ’Okay
Bhabi, I was wrong’; and after that he ate with me.
Then I could feel free of burdens.

Am I the wife of the Prime Minister or
President, orthe First Lady?
I’m just Renu from Tungipara, mother of Hasu.
It will bring apocalypse if we don’t remember the
men of the time of helplessness.

How will my husband manage if I don’t care about all
Everyone comes here with various requests; such as
lobbying, transfers, promotions, foreign tours etc.
People like Quader Bepari come here without any

By this time my father in law has left us.
We’re all in Tungipara on the occasion of his Chehlam
[post funeral ritual].

The party workers who have come to Tungipara will
return after Chehlam.
Hasu’s father has seen the off.
But I could not pay attention to them.
Hello brothers, no one of you can go today.
Tomorrow, I myself will cook for you, after that you
will eat and then leave.

I, my husband and his doctor Nurul Islam were in
My husband was still not fully sound.
Oh! The gang of flatterers was also in the land of
foreign countries.
The doctor’s advice was complete rest.
On the other side the yes men were in a picnic and
fun mood.

`Your accomplices have arranged these for their
`You don’t need to join there.
`Flock of flatterers like this are around everywhere,
looking after their own interests.
`Keep the doctor’s advice in mind.’

Indira Gandhi of India came.
I asked Indiraji to remind him to eat timely and to
take care of his health.
She remembered what I asked her to do.
Indiraji said to the man, ’You work all the time, don’t
eat timely, don’t take care of your health – it is very

He became president, became prime minister; this is
for the country men.
I never believed that I would be the state guest to-
gether with him.
He didn’t believe it either.
Our bond is of mind and of life.
He is the man of my heart.
I am the person of his heart.
And that is all.
We have no room for showing state culture.
He came home to 32 at the end of the day, after com-
pleting all of his duties in Ganabhaban or Bangabha-
ban all day and night.

He could do Bakshal; or whatever he wanted!
I will never change.
One day was in Ganabhaban, the next day was in

I didn’t have dreams like that.
I know how difficult it is to move.
My address was Tungipara and No. 32.
I needed nothing more than that.
May the country be well; my children have their own
lives; my husband be well – this was my wish.
Let him be free from the grip of opportunists – was
this what I expected?
’Hi Musa Bhai, please come, take Paan [betel leaf].’

My husband raised his head from the newspaper and
said, ’Get a jar full of Paan, eat as much as you like.’
[Brass made jars of betel leaf will be set neatly contai-
ning Paan, nut, jorda, dokta, and tobacco-leaf]

I am a person of my environment.
A person does not step forward unless they are in
I fought for cases, various needs, needs of the party,
went door to door to get him and his party members
out of jail, walked behind the lawyers.
It was the struggle of existence; struggle of living.

But on the stage, in front of lakhs of people!
No, I never thought I wanted any of this.
My mother in law didn’t make me like that, neither
did my husband.
I didn’t want it either, never wanted it.
My husband requested so much that I had to go along
with it.
That was for Indira Gandhi.
She tried her very best in lobbying all over the world,
keeping her life at stake, keeping her country at stake
to save my husband’s life; for the freedom of the
people of our country.
I had to go along with it in honour of her.

I came into the public eye; stood on the stage.
Though I didn’t know this truth, my husband knows,
Hasina knows – I know.

Various people from all parts were conspiring.
There were conflicts among relatives, among party
They would bring the apocalypse!
There are many people who engage in conflicts; they
don’t think about the country or the welfare of the
people of the country.
How would he handle all of this?
I couldn’t bear it any more.
I couldn’t understand why and upon whose advice
did he make Bakshal.
I couldn’t understand it.
I told him, `You should be in Ganabhaban with your
accomplices, not here.’

This is a war-torn country; there were marks of
destruction in the society, family, village and town –

There was lamentation everywhere; the problems of
the people were as big as mountains.
The man had to handle every nook and corner.
Among them was a group of people who just wanted
things for themselves.

I see everything, hear everything; I don’t tell anyone
I could only talk to my husband at the dining table;
after that, the crisis talks with him were never-ending.
People would come until midnight.

No one would be denied.
People would come from early in the morning; to
the front of the gate, to the drawing room, the road
outside the house, or the bank of the lake.
Of course, not everyone came just to get something
out of self-interest or greed
Some would come only for the sake of love.
They always knew what we were up to – regardless of
good or bad times.
I would recognize them.
They had my attention.
Their hearts would never be hurt..
I would be hurt if they were hurt.

I knew that the country would be free someday.
And freedom would come under the leadership of my
husband Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The liberation would come under his leadership.
It was time for the change of fate.
That was more difficult.
I had taken an oath that I would serve the distressed
mothers and sisters of the liberation war;
I would see to that they got treatment.
I would stand by their side; would give consolation to
I know how much the Pakistan army tortured our
mothers and sisters; I kept their information in anyway I could.
I want the tortured mothers and sisters to go back to
their normal lives with honour.
I would give my heart and soul to them.
Who would come for them if I didn’t go?
Everybody should stand by their side from individual
If this nation could hear their sighs and curses, it
wouldn’t stand up straight with its head raised.
Their pain and misery hurt me immensely.
I can’t sleep when I remember their situation.
They are the mothers of our liberation, the symbol of
the motherland of 1971.

Last Episode15 August 1975

This was a war-torn country; the signs of destruction
were everywhere; in society, families, villages and
towns –everywhere.
Lamentation was heard everywhere; the problems of
the people were as big as mountains.

The man had to handle every nook and corner.
Among them was a group of people who just wantedt
hings for themselves.
I see everything, hear everything; I don’t tell anyone
I could only talk to my husband at the dining table;
after that, the crisis talks with him were never-ending.
People would come until midnight.
No one would be denied.

People would come from early in the morning; to
the front of the gate, to the drawing room, the road
outside the house, or the bank of the lake.
Of course, not everyone came just to get some
thingout of self-interest or greed
Some would come only for the sake of love.
They always knew what we were up to – regardless of
good or bad times.
I would recognize them.
They had my attention.
Their hearts would never be hurt..
I would be hurt if they were hurt.
I wouldn’t survive if my ties with the man were seve-
We can’t make garlands without threads.
I live to embrace him.
It’s our eternal bond.
I could not understand.
Where was the pain, where was the fury?
It was as if everything was just slipping away.
At the age of three, I came to my in-law’s house.
Holding the lace of mother in law’s Shari, I pointed at
him and asked who he was.
Mother in law told me, pointing at one after another
,’This is your grandfather, this is brother, this is sister.
’Then who was he?
Mother in law told me, touching my mouth with as
mile, ’This is your Dulha [husband].’
That Dulha; he is Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, man of my
heart, my husband, bangabandhu, architecture of
Bangladesh and father of the nation.
That Dulha; that man of hearts would then live like
within himself on an isolated island.
How could I not know where his thoughts and pain
was that day?

Kamal got his companion.
Had become the partner of Jamal; his childhood
After a few days when Jamal’s wife Khuki would be a
bit better, I would take some time off.
In the meantime the two daughters Hasina and Re-
hana, son in law Wazed, their children Joy and Putul
– had all gone to Germany.
I always feel empty inside.
I told Rehana, ’The house is empty, you come back, I
don’t feel well.’
The girl said with glee, `Why, two of your daughters
in law!
’My marriage will be arranged next, get used to it.’
The love of a child can never be explained; no child
can replace the other even if one has a thousand
My daughters in law; they were also my daughters,
the joy of my house.
I asked the girl urgently, please come back.
`Joy, Putul, Hasina – no one is home; you’re not here
`You’re only being playful at home.
’Are the daughters in law as playful as you?’

What hellish sounds!
Fire was everywhere.
Kamal’s loud cry came from the ground floor.
Did they harm Kamal?
There was no room for calling.
`Where is Rama?’
By the time he had gone out, his voice was heard.
`What do you want?
`Where are you taking me?’

Oh! The sound of fire!
`Hi Naser, what about you? Where is the blood co-
ming from?’
`Bhabi, I was wounded by a bullet.’
`Come here.’ [she tore her shari to make bandage]
`Be everyone in one body.
‘If you die, all will die in one body’

`Hi Rama, what happened?
`Who has been shot?’
`They shot Bangabandhu.’
`What did Rama say?
`Hey, all of you get inside.
Khuki, Rozi, Rama, Jamal – all of you, get inside.’
`Hey you, why did you shoot him?
`Why do you tell me to go with you?`
Kill me, as you killed him.
`I will die here.
`Where will you take me?
`I will not go anywhere.
’I will not go, kill me here.’
[Instantly the soldiers shot Bangamata, she fell]

Uttoriyo Theatre, Dhaka in collaboration with Teater
Upplitt, Sweden and Scandinavian Study Centre,
Dhaka University produced the play/epic monologue,
’Mother of Bengal’.

Script: Anisur Rahman Direction: Dibbendu Udas
Design: Mosharraf Hossain Tutul
On stage/Mother of Bengal: Mazumder Jhumu