If April was the cruellest month for TS Eliot's generation, the time has changed thanks to coronavirus. Now each and every month since the global spread of the pathogen that has had its origin in Wuhan, China, seems to be the cruellest month. Yet this November proves particularly nightmarish for the simple reason that one after another larger than life and yet most loved and celebrated personae of national and international fame fell victim to this virus' unquenchable thirst.
On November 15, the Bangalees on both sides of the border lost their most enlightened matinee idol Soumitra Chatterjee. On November 27, Aly Zaker, the country's most powerful thespian takes leave of this mortal world. Just two days before, Diego Maradona, football's all-time great courts the inevitable. A day before on November 24 acting editor of the Sangbad, Khandaker Muniruzzaman breathed his last.
All of them except Maradona became coronavirus victims. But Maradona is one football genius the likes of whom may come on the game's stage once in a century. His second and winning goal against England in the 1986 Mexico World Cup has been declared, not for nothing, the goal of the century. Celebrities of his stature are only a handful in the wide world. Controversial ---not just because of the 'hand of the God' goal ---and colourful, emotional and explosive with a humble origin, he failed to regulate life and did not live up since his Napoli days to the ideal of a superstar of his standing. Yet he has remained and will remain an undying inspiration for the poor and the underprivileged on the planet. His rise from a rancid slum into the hearts of billions of football fans the world over will act as an undiminished beacon for all who want to overcome limitations of their lowly birth.
Of the other three, the two thespians have many things common between them and yet there are differences as well. Their prolonged battle against cancer and various other old-age complications ultimately ended in unconditional surrender. But both Soumitra and Aly lived a meaningful life. An accomplished screen and stage performer, Soumitra perhaps has no equal even on the world stage in terms of his versatility. A poet, dramatist, theatre director, elocutionist, reciter of poems, a painter and a personality of sublime intellectual beauty, Soumitra is distinguished for humility and down-to-earth life-style. The iconic actor known for natural acting made Bangla cinema proud. But his mellifluous influence on politico-cultural arena was no less significant.
Aly Zaker was also a performer devoted mainly to theatre. The audience has been under his powerful acting spell. Like Soumitra, he too was a gentleman personified and the rebel in him made the rebellion's expression known through the characters he portrayed. To him independence was more than that of political. Socio-cultural reawakening was what he strived for. A thoroughly secular person, Aly dreamt of a society free from religious dogmas and intolerance.
Corona has claimed a number of members of the journalist community by this time. Of the few belonging to the select band, Khandaker Muniruzzaman certainly stands out for his liberal views and lifelong campaign against injustice and social inequality and for integrity of character. He may not have enjoyed great popularity, but his columns drew attention of appreciative readers for critical analysis and intellectual enlightenment.
Now the world has lost 1.45 million lives to coronavirus and the staggering figure does not emotionally overwhelm many unless they lose someone close to them. The dead who were someone's husband or wife, son or daughter, father and mother, sister or brother, friend or fiancé have become just numbers. But when icons like Maradona or Soumitra take leave one after another, it is like a demise of stars in the nearest galaxy. The stark truth of the impermanence of life jolts not just the mortal beings but also the very basis of human existence and the sensation is awfully unnerving.