Thank you, Your Excellency!

Published : 16 Jun 2022 08:26 PM

Our first meeting came to me as surprise, as although I was aware that the party where I was invited will be having important guests, including diplomats, but had no clue that this fine gentleman was going to be one of them. We have been connected through face book, but from my face booking experience I know very well, that one hardly knows most of the virtual friends when the friend list is already full and on top of that there are thousands following. Actually, our jam-packed routine hardly allows us space to explore the face book walls of most of those on our friend list. Our face booking is basically for our self-propagation and for inquiring into those who matter in our lives, like friends and family. Also, this virtual social media is vital in exposing us to the world beyond our four walls where so many interesting things are happening every moment, be it a clearance sale in a favorite outlet or the Russians trying the clear the Ukrainian south, from what is happening in the play grounds to the events unfolding in the political arena. We utilize this modern marvel according to our individual taste and necessity. Therefore, I shall be knowing him was expected, as he is representing one of the leading developed countries of the world in Bangladesh, not to forget that his country was a strong supporter of the liberation war of Bangladesh and has remined our trusted friend ever since, during our 5o years of turmoil-some journey of nationhood. I am talking about His Excellency Naoki Ito, the present Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh.

As we got introduced, he was in our traditional Panjabi, which was no surprise to me as I have seen his face book post of his Panjabi collection. His fondness for this traditional attire of ours will be clear to anyone following him on face book. He was chatting with two eminent Trustees of Muktijuddho Jadughor, sharing with them the experience of his not one or two, but four visits to this museum. Even that was not too surprising for me, although I must confess that I had never expected a foreign envoy visiting our liberation war museum four times in his such short span of serving in Dhaka. Nor have I visited any such museum in Japan more than once despite my more than 15 visits to the country since 2007. What however struck me by surprise, was as one of the two Trustees of the museum was introducing me to him, to not only my, but to the utter disbelief of all of us we found that he knew me very well and that also from face book. He has been monitoring my face book posts, specially during the hard times when the pandemic broke out. At that time, I kept on performing diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopic procedures both in public and private sectors. It was a time when such procedures had ceased not only in Bangladesh, but globally with the top opinion leaders across the globe advocating that we refrain from performing such procedures till the pandemic is over or only with appropriate precaution, like in endoscopy suites with laminar airflow and hepa-filters to name a few, as otherwise these aerosol generating procedures would pose serious health threats to the patients and endoscopy suite attendants, not to mention the added risk of further spread of SARS-CoV-2. I had, on the contrary, adopted a SoP in consultation with my Hepatology colleagues and published it on behalf of the ‘Bangabanddhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Hepatology Alumni Association’, of which I am the founding President. 

We have performed thousands of procedures uneventfully during the pandemic. In order to encourage others at home and abroad to do the same I would post photographs of performing procedures in PPE. My posts had attracted His Excellency’s attention, although he is neither a Hepatologist, nor a health professional. That is how he came to know me and that also so closely, that he could identify me in a party, where there was no other physician other than my better half Professor Nuzhat Choudhury, the moment I appeared before him.  

Not to mention that I was highly impressed, extremely flattered and felt hugely honoured, if not anything more. However, on top of all these, to me this was clear demonstration of his in depth understanding about us and our people and our beloved Bangladesh and also the deep interest he takes in our matters. However, my surprise was yet to be over as I had more of it waiting for me. His Excellency joined others at the post-dinner session of Tagore songs. It was not what we occasionally see in TV shows with foreigners singing a line or two or a full song max. He kept on singing one song after another and it was evident from his facial expression and from his emotions that he could understand and realize each and every verse by Kobi Guru. On most of my visits to Kolkata in the pre-COVID-19 days, I would keep Thakurbari at Jorashako in the heart of Kolkata city on my itinerary. From those experiences I know that Rabi Thakur had fondness for Japan. 

He had visited the country on multiple occasions and the Japanese also possibly wanted to see the Bengali nation through his eyes. It I am sure won’t be incorrect statement if I say that if one wants to study the Bengali nation, one should study Ravindra Nath. The Pakistanis knew this very well, the reason why they banned Ravindra Nath, so that the Bengali people gradually forget their own identity. However, that back fired, as we all know and eventually Bangladesh became a reality on the world map, thanks to Bangabandhu Shiekh Mujibur Rahman. 

The party continued beyond mid-night well beyond our expectation and as we were heading back home, I was a relaxed man. I was relaxed as I knew that in today’s post-(COVID) world war era, when all the global major players want the geo-politically strategic and economically vibrant Bangladesh on board, we have a great friend with Japanese passport in Dhaka, who is a Bangali by heart, who wears Punjabi, follows our society closely through Kobi Guru’s eyes and sings Tagore song fluently. What more can I expect from the Ambassador of a great civilization like Japan?   

Professor Mamun Al Mahtab (Shwapnil) is Head, Interventional Hepatology Division

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University & Member Secretary, Sampritee Bangladesh