Charming presenter, entrepreneur and the dynamic mayor of DCC, it seemed Annisul Huq had the Midas touch. His winning personality and can-do, must-do approach to life will be missed by all who knew him and by all those who have never met him. His tireless work on improving the city we live in and the cultural world we love touched more people than he probably imagined.
Every time I pass by the mural of Kazi Nazrul Islam beside the Saarc Fountain at Nazrul Islam Avenue, I will remember him. The mural had fallen into a state of ruin through years of neglect. Getting no response from the authorities for a long time, I finally texted our family friend Mayor Annisul Huq. He replied almost instantaneously to my idea of an artiste's protest in front of the mural. He agreed to attend in person and accept our demands.
On May 24, 2016, true to his word he arrived punctually just as Nazrul artistes assembled at the venue to sing inspirational songs beside the mural. As the TV cameras began to roll, cameras flashed---and to the delight of everyone Annis bhai joined us in singing “Durgomo Giri”, an anthem by the Poet. He loved to sing as much as he loved to be in the company of artistes.
Annis bhai patiently listened to our concerns, somewhat baffled that the image of our National Poet was in such a state and that no remedial work had been undertaken. Within a week, he called me to say the mural had been repainted and repaired. Was there anything else he could help artistes with? He asked.
The very last time I came across him was at the Westin Dhaka, lending his weight to a campaign to raise money for terminally ill artistes. Thus in November 2016 was born the “Shilpi'r Pashey Foundation”, very much an Annisul Huq initiative.
Eminent musical personalities Alauddin Ali, Lucky Akhand and singer Shammi Akher who were undergoing medical treatment received Taka 40 lacs, 20 lacs and 10 lacs respectively from the foundation. That was also the last time a frail Lucky Akhand came up on stage in a wheelchair with his band Happy Touch, and sang his hit number “Agey Jodi Jantam”. All present at the event stood by him singing the song in chorus, in an emotional, symbolic picture of support for the artiste.
Only a few months back I sent him a link to BTV's programme Jalsa--meticulously conceived by him in 1995. I remembered how Annis bhai and his elegant wife Rubana had invited us over to their apartment to give us an idea on the rather novel programme. It was an achievement to get so many veteran artistes under one roof from Kalim Sharafi, Nilufer Yasmin, Subir Nandi, Rezwana Chowdhury Bannya, Shakila Zafar. It was more remarkable to get the veterans to agree to sing not their popular songs but the songs of rock bands. He readily agreed to throw me in with Miles, while others mixed and matched with Feedback, Renaissance and Souls.
The production took two months to be completed. Brilliantly produced by Nawazish Ali Khan with limited resources at BTV in the year 1995, the programme was a grand success. Annis bhai had managed the time despite running what was to become one of the largest textile companies in Bangladesh.
After seeing the programme on Youtube (3 million views and counting), he sent me a text message with the words, “Thank you so so much for Jalsha… I can't recognize myself”.
Behind all his smiles, something dangerous caught him unawares, an illness that was draining him. There was a shocked lull in the media, as it kept on broadcasting news that Mayor Annisul Huq was not keeping well and had been diagnosed with cerebral vasculitis. All the prayers and well wishes that must have travelled from people's hearts to his must surely have eased his suffering, we hope. After battling for three months he finally said goodbye to us all last week.
As the sea of people assembled at the army stadium from all walks of life it was difficult to keep one's emotions at bay. Not a dry eye in the crowd, not one without a heavy heart. His love of life and his ever present smile were truly infectious.
If I could text him, I would say- - “Thank you so so much Annis bhai for always being there beside us, for showing us that doing big things start with dreaming big.”
I am sure he will light up the stars in the theatre that he will call his own.