Reflections and Stray Thoughts by HQ Chowdhury is a pure gem. It tells the stories of the author’s growing-up in Old Dhaka, his love for cricket, classical music and movies.
Book Review by Shafiqul Alam
This book is a pure gem. Recommended by a friend, who is a niece of the author, I bought it at the Dhaka LitFest 2023. And I just loved it. HQ Chowdhury was a physicist who set up Plasma Plus, Bangladesh’s first private R&D science laboratory. He is now in his 70s and quietly lives in Dhaka.
Reflections and Stray Thoughts tells the stories of the author’s growing-up in Old Dhaka, his love for cricket, classical music and movies and all the stars he met and fell in love with in the 50s through the 80s. His essay on Bangla and Urdu filmstar Shabnam and her music director husband Robin Ghosh and the impact the formerly Jharna Basak had on Pakistani movies is simply brilliant. It sews some gaps in my knowledge about the 1960s.
And his tribute to his boyhood hero Kabir, the Choha, and his late incarnation in the US, sums up the kind of man the writer is. I have never read a Bengali man ever expressing his love for his Bihari boyhood hero who introduced him to the art of batting and injected a lifelong love affair with cricket. He writes about the music scene of Dhaka during the Pakistani period and about Suroor Barbankvi, a Dhaka-based Urdu filmmaker, who made some brilliant movies with Shabnam.
Reading luminaries like the late Professor Anisuzzman and present-day patriotism-laced memoirs gives an impression that the 60s were a dreary time when Pakistan was under Ayub Khan’s martial law and his funny invention called Basic Democracy. And that people were fed up with a repressive regime. But Dhaka emerged as a multicultural melting pot in the 1960s. Urdu films made by Ehtesam and Mustafiz became blockbuster hits and every Bengali director including great Zahir Raihan was trying their hands in Urdu movies.
HQ Chowdhury’s Reflections were an honest portrayal of that bygone era. The greatness of his writing is his stories are not confined by narrowness. My only regret is the stories are very small. I wish he could shed more light on the local movie and sports scenes, especially cricket during the 1950s and 60s. I heard similar stories of growing up from Mashuk bhai, a journalist at The Bangladesh Observer and a friend of my late dad.
If you want to know how a young boy actually grew up in Dhaka in the 50s and 60s, this is your book.
[Shafiqul Alam, a journalist, is based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This review was first published as Dhaka Diary on Facebook.]
Reflections & Stray Thoughts
By HQ Chowdhury
Genre : Non-fiction
Binding : Paperback (6″ x 9″)
Pages : 167 pages
Published : 2021