Paul Kalanithi: A man between Triumphs and Tragedies by Shahid Khan
Few weeks ago, I came across an extraordinary book titled ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ – a memoir of Dr Paul Kalanithi’s heart- wrenching and moving yet riveting account of his life, love, wisdom, hope and passion for human kind as well as his illustrious journey from being a young brilliant neuro- surgeon/scientist to a decaying patient with lung cancer.
The theme of this book struck me and I read it in two days amid moments of tears and sorrow, pride and praise for this person with whom I felt I have a connection – An inseparable human connection. The book shakes the very being of the reader as it offers a poignant whiff of realism, idealism, and bitter truths of life which we all human beings sooner or later encounter: The fragility of human life against the tick-tock of the clock. It leaves the reader with some optimism about life to pursue dreams but the book also provides an undertone impression of grim realities of life, yet inspiring and mind-blowing in its nature.
Waking up at four o’ clock in the morning to the horrific news of appalling murders of freethinkers and culture-minded citizens in the hands of fanatics at home is not a new phenomenon for many Diaspora Bangladeshis for the last few years. The grim events that began in early 2013 turned out to be a systematic terror attack on all secularists in Bangladesh. Regardless of atheist, non-atheist, activist, blogger, academic, devotee, left and liberal writers, students, University teacher, publisher, harmonious LGBT rights activists, of Muslim and Hindu background, every free thinker and believer of secularism has been living under blasphemy and death threats in a so called independent nation-state, namely Bangladesh. The year 2015 was a nightmare while the year 2016 takes us to even more disturbing episodes of double-murders of harmonious rights activists in residence in a supposedly secular state.
On Saturday the 23rd April, my mobile beeped at four a.m. GMT to wake me up with a shocking message that assailants were able to cut the throat of a peace-loving Professor at broad day light in the publicly accessible street in Rajshahi, a town was previously known as relatively secular and progressive, in north Bangladesh. Professor Rezaul Karim Siddique was killed one day after Friday when a Hindu-devotee was murdered at Tungipara. Additionally we have heard about three more brutal murders, including the double-murders of two harmonious LGBT rights activists and a retired prison guard who were killed in similar violent fashion by organised fanatics within two days in the capital city. As if this was not enough, a report in the daily Kaler Kontho revealed that there were nearly 1500 murders in the last four months that went uncovered by national and international media.