We fondly called him 99. Bent as a bow, but sharp as a tack, one year shy of a century, he was on a hunger strike — protesting against the demolition of a school where Pritilata Waddedar used to teach. That was my introduction to Binod Bihari Chowdhury, one of those youngsters who stormed the citadels of colonial rule in 1930, and for the first time, liberated a town.
The next day, I accompanied him to the European Club, where I was treated to a first-hand account of the Chittagong Uprising. “How did Masterda (Surya Sen) recruit you?” I asked. His reply was prompt and sharp. “He did not! In fact, he refused to take us in. He said you are too young. I reasoned, pleaded and argued with him for over a year. Then I told him, ‘Do you think you are the only revolutionary leader? If you don’t take me, I will go to Dhaka or to Calcutta. It’d be my misfortune not to work with you, but nothing shall stop me from fighting for freedom!’” Indeed, there is no age limit for the fight against injustice. Even at 99, he reminded us of that. I met him again in 2012 after my movie Chittagong had released. He was 103 now. His health had deteriorated. But his spirit hadn’t – not one bit. He was excited like a little child that the film had been completed and received well by critics and audiences alike. His eyes danced with joy as he saw bits of Chittagong on my laptop. That’s the last I saw him.
The Chittagong Uprising achieved what nobody thought could be done. But perhaps an even bigger contribution was the element of continuity. The death of Surya Sen did not ring down the curtains. Nobody gave up, and the movement flourished in different forms. The last of these Chittagong revolutionaries has now passed away, but people who dare to dream, dare to challenge, and dare to create something new always remain an inspiration for the rest of us.
(Bedabrata Pain’s Chittagong has won the 2012 National Film Award for a Director’s first film.)