Sheikh Russel’s private tutor Gitali Dasgupta has shared her memories and said: “His tender mind comprised a soulful blend of merit and thoughtfulness”.
Gitali was speaking at a webinar organised by the web team of the ruling Awami League on Saturday night marking the birthday of the youngest son of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Fifty-six years ago, he was born in his Dhanmondi-32 residence in Dhaka. His life was cut short in the same residence by some disgruntled army officers on August 15, 1975 along with his father and mother.
Before the blood rays of the sun shot through the east horizon, the bloodiest chapter of the country’s history unfolded in Dhanmondi 32.
The body of the father of the nation lay lifeless amid a pool of blood.
The ten-year-old boy Russel’s entreating eyes couldn’t stop the assassins from shooting. They spared none of the family members of Bangabandhu present in the house at that moment.
“Once I taught something to Russel, he learned it for lifetime,” his teacher Gitali said.
“With my exam approaching, I decided not to tutor him. Hearing this, Bangamata Sheikh Fojilatunnesa Mujib said, “30 minutes?” I said, “Not even 30 minutes.” She again said, “20 minutes?” I could not say ‘yes’. Finally, she demanded only 15 minutes and I obliged thinking that a mother was asking for only 15 minutes. So, I changed my mind,” she recounted.
“Then looking at aunty (Bangamata), I said, “Do buses ply this route? How could I travel otherwise? I momentarily forgot whom I was talking to. Then Bangamata said, “So you are going to teach? Then I will arrange the transport for you.”
Recounting her experience about teaching Russel, she said, “He never forgot what I taught him. Sheikh Russel once said, “I will not do maths anymore.” As I persisted, he said, “I don’t feel like doing maths.” Then I was thinking, “How could I teach him?” I said, “Do you go to school with chocolates?” The answer was ‘yes’. I said, “Do you eat alone?” Russel said, “No. I share it with friends.” Then I said, “But, you left these two sums. Won’t they be hurt?”
“Russel said, “Why would they be hurt? Can they speak?” He asked with a surprising look. I said, “See we have a country called Bangladesh. Similarly, math sums have a country too. They can talk among themselves. Then Russel did two sums in no time and said, “They will not be angry anymore. They will not be hurt.”
Reflecting on Sheikh Russel, Novelist Selina Hossain said, “I consider him as the child symbolising the dream of freedom. Since his childhood, he had patriotism, inherited from his family.”
Actor and Sampriti Bangladesh Convener Pijush Bandyopadhyay said: “When the kid Russel wanted to go to his mother, the killers brought him to his mother and then killed him. It is not an instant decision. It was all well-planned. They knew it very well that the blood of Bangabandhu and Bangamata ran through his body and so he shouldn’t be spared.”
Women Affairs Secretary of Bangladesh Awami League central committee Meher Afroz Chumki said: “We don’t know what Russel would become growing up. But, we know that his family lived only in service to people. Therefore, we can understand how much the children of this family could contribute had they remained alive.”
Prof Nasreen Ahmad, former Pro-Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University, said: “The day Sheikh Russel was born, I had the same feeling like Sheikh Rehana that my baby brother was born. When I think of Russel, August 15 flashes through my mind.”
“That was a diabolical moment. We were close enough, heard the rattling sound of firing. Just imagine what went through the mind of that kid. How could they pierce his heart with bullets? How could they be so void of any feeling? Didn’t their hand tremble? Didn’t their heart shudder? The only prayer I have on this day, “Wherever he is, let him be in peace”