THOSE who were fortunate enough to know you, are familiar with the phrase “I am happy today”; it's omnipresent in your Facebook posts. Some of us even referred to you as “Happy Ishrat”. In a city that keeps topping the “most unliveable” list, you'd find reasons to be happy about ideas/objects/places we often overlook — a piece of sky that has become a canvas for the sun and clouds, a perfect Kamini flower, a particularly impeccable plate of fuchka after a theatre performance on Bailey Road and so on. Those who didn't know you might perceive this as contrived, but those of us who did, knew that your stubborn happiness was 100 percent organic and infectious.
A year ago, it took me days to fully grasp the reality. On July 1, 2016 evening, as I was turned away from an establishment [the management said they had been asked by the law enforcement to close right away] not far from Holey, I thought it was strange but the severity of the situation still hadn't hit me. Roads in the vicinity were being closed as well. As I waited at a friend's place, for things to calm down, details started to emerge. What some thought to be a case of robbery turned out to be a full-blown terrorist attack. None of us slept that night. Around 2 or 3 am, I learned that you had gone to Holey that evening with some friends. I earnestly hoped that you didn't and that the friend who shared this information was wrong. I prayed Fajr to calm my nerves and probably got a couple of hours of sleep.
On July 2, 2016, as news started revealing names of the victims, it was announced that you didn't make it. Some said you were murdered at the onset of the whole episode; some said you were defiant in the face of imminent death and argued with the terrorists in defence of your friends. I couldn't believe you were gone; a year later, I still find it difficult to believe that you had met a brutal, untimely death. And for what?
I was angry, so angry, for weeks. Angry at the loss of a friend; angrier at the murder of one of Bangladesh's truest and best promoters.
You were a different kind of patriot. Your patriotism didn't shout slogans at rallies. Your patriotism was the quiet love that nurtured and enriched every sphere you stepped in. You were a walking encyclopaedia when it came to Bangladeshi art and promoted local artists at every possible opportunity. You were a steadfast defender of Dhaka any time you felt someone was being unreasonably harsh about your beloved city. You familiarised your many expatriate friends living in Bangladesh with the best our country has to offer.
Your radiance remains undimmed despite your physical absence. It remains in everyone who had the opportunity to know you, to befriend you, to love you. I am happy today, Ishrat Akhond. Happy to have had you as a friend and learn that happiness is a choice.
The writer is the Editor of SHOUT.