Today is the greatest most special day of my life. Because the greatest, most genius human being coming to my home today. I cannot contain myself, sir. Who would ever think, a boy from Magura whose father is simple farmer will have this kind of good fortune? I am not a much educated boy but Alhamdulillah, Subhanallah, today I am the luckiest of all Allah’s Earth.
Who is the greatest Bangladeshi in the world today, do you know this? It is not Muhammad Yunus and it is not Sheikh Hasina, even if they are both fine fine people, shining stars in our galaxy, Allah bless them. No sir, the greatest of all is Shakib Al Hasan. Shakib bhai, our pride and joy. Before Shakib bhai come along, many people do not know Bangladesh. They say: Bangladesh? What is Bangladesh? But now they know. Now everybody knows Bangladesh. And it is because of Shakib bhai, the lion of Bangladesh, our run-scoring machine.
You will now ask, I know, you will ask: who is this young boy daring to talk of Shakib Al Hasan? Why will a simple jute farmer’s son be meeting and talking with and entertaining with Shakib Al Hasan? You will be thinking: this boy does not sound much educated, maybe he never went to Dhaka even once in his life. Sir, in that regard you will be wrong. I may be a simple boy from Magura, but two times I have visited Dhaka. In Panchagarh road, everybody knows my name. You know that restaurant where all the buses stop on the way to Dhaka from Khulna or Khulna to Dhaka? Just go and ask them, go ahead, ask them: who is Nannu Miah? And everybody tell you. Oh Nannu Miah? They will say. We all love Nannu.
Let me tell you about me. You know that tin shed behind the post office? That is where I was born. I nineteen years old. No, twenty, no nineteen. Forgive me, my mother is a simple woman and she does not know the date I was born, and my father say there was bad harvest that year so have no time to remember my arrival and no money to feed me but Subhanallah I have grown up strong and healthy and smart, please pray for me.
I have six other brothers and sisters. I am the last one, I am number seven. One day when it is raining outside and Abba comes back from the field soaking and he start to beat my mother because food is late and he start shouting and yelling there is not enough food I ask him: Baba why did you make such big family if you have no money and no food. He beat me then and there he beat me till I bleed from the nose, and he tell me I am useless, more useless than the other ones.
Now I have no time to think about my father. He is a useless man, always talking talking and no doing. But me, myself, yours truly, I am a doing man, not a talking man, no sir. Two years ago when I am seventeen years old I start the Shakib Al Hasan Hero Society. I can tell— you are impressed. You are looking at my posters so you are thinking maybe I am a member of Shakib Al Hasan Hero Society, and you are correct. But you did not guess I am the founder and president. Well I am, and Shakib Bhai has heard about it too. Please do not make expression of doubt, do you know where he is from? Right here sir, Shakib Al Hasan is a son of Magura. They call him Miracle of Magura, and he never forget his home town, no sir. Every year Shakib Bhai send money to the town. I am hearing he will start a heart hospital in the city center, and next to that a restaurant where they will sell fast food American Thai Chinese Burger Pizza.
Sir, can I ask you a question? Which TV channel you are working for? BTV? Oh yes, maximum number of people in Magura are watching BTV. It is the best channel on television sir, and it is free. In my house, I am not having cable, only BTV. Because my father, you know, he is not a rich man, he is unsuccessful farmer so we only have BTV in black and white. Most league games you can watch on BTV and world cup football too. But when there is no BPL or world cup, BTV is much boring, sir. Sorry sorry sorry. No no I don’t mean like that. For TV I usually go to Selim Shikdar’s house behind the lake. They have direct connection to dish antenna. Selim likes to watch foreign programs. He likes foreigner girls, you know? They have white skin and golden hair. Selim is telling me he will marry a foreigner and move to America. They are very rich. Do you know Selim Shikdar? His uncle owns biggest department store in Magura: foreign perfume, shoes, mobile phone sets, whatever you are wanting they will have. Inshallah I will also save up and go to America one day. Over there are also playing cricket but they have different name for it. I cannot remember it now. Maybe I will remember later. Then I will tell you.
Alhamdulillah Shakib bhai is here I think. I saw a car go by. I see him twice before. I have been to Dhaka twice to see Shakib bhai. First time I come very close, I almost touch him. Second time, he get out of his car and into his hotel before I can say hello. I become very sad after that but Selim tell me he didn’t see me, and Shakib bhai doesn’t know that I am president of Shakib Al Hasan Hero Society. Now he will know, maybe he will come and see our headquarter. I love him, I really really love Shakib bhai.
Excuse me I don’t realize why you have come here with your cameraman and asking me these questions. You already know me. Oh I should have guessed, sorry sorry. You will make video of Shakib Bhai when he comes through here, is that right? Like a real life movie film.
Oh right right right. So you already know Shakib bhai is coming to Magura so you talk to me because I am biggest Shakib Al Hasan expert and president of Shakib Al Hasan Hero Society. I am so stupid. I am just talking talking talking, and you are already knowing everything. So you are saying Shakib Al Hasan come here with film crew to visit him mother home in Magura town because they want to make video of him going into his childhood home? And you will make video news of them making video of Shakib Al Hasan? And you talk to me because maybe you ask people, who is best to give opinion and they tell you Nannu Miah. But you didn’t know my name, sir. So how?
Oh! You just see me glue posters to wall so you come to me. Well good choice. It is good luck for you Alhamdulillah. You meet me by chance. But now you know who I am. When Shakib bhai come I will also tell him I am Nannu Miah. You can make video of us, you can take pictures.
Look at me, I am talking talking. What is your name, sir? Where you are from? Do you have any more information about when what time Shakib bhai coming? No one is coming out of that car and they block off the area with security guards. One was very rough with me earlier in the morning. Right after Fajr prayers I put on best scent and wear this new shirt. I take Shakib Al Hasan posters we make last year to celebrate Dhaka Dynamites BPL victory. Some posters are left so today I will take them with me when Shakib bhai come here. Nobody tell me the time he will come here so I start early in the morning. He will come this way, I know. I am standing as long as I have to. Do you know anything sir? Can you call any TV friend and find information?
My name is Sadiq Samad. I am 37 years old, and I have been a feature reporter for Bangladesh Television for the last 12 years.
The word ‘feature’ tends to elicit condescending smiles from my colleagues at the newsroom; they think their work is much more important—focusing on real news, as they would call it. But I have no interest in that sort of thing.
Two reasons: in Bangladesh, there was only a very narrow window when anything resembling real news was possible, and that was in the early nineties after the fall of Ershad, when yours truly was only ten years old. The slogans still ring in my ears: let the autocrat fall, and set democracy free! The autocrat did fall, but the level of censorship stayed the same, and news remained neutered, defanged, catering only to the government. By the time I joined BTV, news was dead. Also, everybody had stopped watching BTV anyway.
The second reason—and forgive me if this sounds holier-than-thou—is that feature reporting allows me to go all over the country and connect with human beings, and collect their stories as I go along the way. I was born in Dhaka, and have had the privilege of attending an English medium school in Gulshan, and have been overseas a few times. But at the beginning of my career at BTV, I had seen shamefully little of my own country, and I wanted to change that.
I have been on the road ever since. In Kushtia I met a quadriplegic girl who paints using her mouth to hold the brushes. She comes from a family of crushing poverty, but when I saw the collection of paintings she had done, there were tears in my eyes. In Patuakhali I met a family of four who started a chutney business 15 years ago in their kitchen, and now they have a free delivery service that caters to the entire district. After interviewing them, they would not let me leave their home without taking two complimentary jars with me. I was greatly moved by their hospitality.
Today in the sleepy district of Magura where nothing ever happens, other than buses destined for bigger cities passing through to refuel, I met a young man by the name of Nannu Miah. Although he claimed to be around 19 or 20, he appeared younger. My assignment was to go around town and talk to some of the locals about Shakib Al Hasan. The footage was to be shown as part of a larger story on the famous cricketer’s visit to his home town.
Camera crews would film him reminiscing in his childhood home, or strolling through the premises of his old school. I am not a fan of cricket, and even less of a fan of Shakib Al Hasan, who I have always found to be arrogant and insufferable. But my task today was simple: get a few minutes on tape of how the locals of Magura feel about the “Miracle of Magura.” The clip is to be edited later down to a few seconds or so.
Nannu Miah, the self-proclaimed president and founder of Magura’s Shakib Al Hasan Hero Society—an organization I am not sure has more than the one member—was utterly thrilled at the prospect of meeting his idol, Shakib Al Hasan. Coming from a poor family run by an abusive father, Nannu seemed to have grown up with a lack of healthy role models in his life.
He idolized Shakib Al Hasan; the great all-rounder infused Nannu with a sense of optimism and purpose—in fact, Shakib to him played the part of a kind of fantasy father figure, and pulled him out of his dreary life.
Nannu Miah is a wonderful young man whose zeal for the game and self-confidence has touched my heart, and I am sure, Shakib Al Hasan has given millions of poor, rural Bangladeshis the one thing that is in short supply in Bangladesh these days: Hope.
Nannu Miah did not get to meet his hero today—Shakib’s schedule had changed. But I know that Nannu will not stop trying. And the Shakib Al Hassan Hero Society will go on.
Abak Hussain is Editor, Editorial and Op-Ed, Dhaka Tribune.