My mother once showed me an old newspaper photo of a man with his face thoroughly beaten into an unrecognizable pulp. Giggling, she told me that the man was my father.
I looked over at the portly clean-cut man sitting across the breakfast table, wearing a starched white shirt and a navy-blue blazer. He averted his gaze, managing to look sheepish, amused, and defiant all at once.
The story of how my father fell victim to the infamous Bangladeshi Gonopituni (public beating), briefly, is this. In the springtime of his life, Shafat Sattar went to see a performance of his favorite singer, Mitali Mukherjee, at BUET, a famous engineering institute in Dhaka (“Porir moto gola – she had the voice of an angel”, he comments wistfully). He was disappointed. The music, the tune, the beats, it was all wrong. The next day, fuming, he marched up to the composer responsible for this disaster to demand an explanation, an apology, some sort of penance. He was not satisfied with the answer, and promptly did what still, today, strikes him as the only thing he could have done.
He slapped the composer, a student of BUET – in the middle of the BUET cafeteria. What followed is fairly predictable. A minor scuffle ensued, which swiftly turned into the entire BUET campus attempting to deconstruct young Shafat Sattar’s face. “The bugger,” he observes now with an objective air, “deserved it”.
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