Even people with little idea about the settings of a cadet college would tell you that life inside it is a cautious catwalk on a shuddering ramp. The inbuilt mass perception of 'disciplined lifestyle' of a cadet college makes many people synonymize it with harshness and punishment. For lot of parents, this becomes the de facto reason for sending their 'uncontrollable' male kids there with the hope of making them 'humans'.
However, this type of outsider's view may not necessarily reflect the actual intimate scenario unless any insider voices his authentic accounts, despite the subjectivity of his approach. In his novel 'Ek Dushtu Cadet-er Golpo', journalist and communication guru Ekram Kabir has taken readers to a world of enigma encompassing the triumphs and tragedies of his generation's six-year-long life in Fouzdarhat Cadet College. Inarguably, Ekram has devoted his jovial honesty in narrating the interior events in the artistry of an addabaj story-teller.
The book revolves round Imrul Kayes, widely popular as Imu, the protagonist with a blend of angelic aptitude and devilish demeanor. Ever since he entered his alma mater, he is the 'kharap cadet' in the eyes of the management. But how bad or naughty was Imu? Readers will find this answer relative. A staunch disciplinarian would view him as a rule-breaker who disregarded the authority and a revenge-monger who abused his seniors. He would also be deemed as an arrogant brat addicted to smoking and hence a constant victim of cruel punishments. But interestingly, readers can spot the humane and benevolent Imu on different situations where others might choose to stay indifferent. The writer now frankly tells his readers how some people around him had relentlessly transformed him into a so-called 'bad' character. One such incident of the orientation day would stun readers' with anguish and force them to rethink about the lapses of value system within some of us. As the freshmen students were placed in two rooms and the form master Mr. Mahmud asked them who wanted to be a leader, all of them raised their hands including Imu who at that time was totally unknown to everyone. But Mr. Mahmud's abusive shout of 'You are a bad boy! You want to be a leader? Put your hands down!' painfully dispirited Imu. Though none could figure out what had made him a 'bad boy' just at the age of eleven, Imu by default turned devil in the eyes of all. The writer later came to know about the bad relation between Mr. Mahmud and Imu's father (also a teacher in that college) that brought out such immoral, un-teacherly behavior toward a tender-aged newcomer. Similar other instances of Imu's victimization of irrational austerity and sadistic outbursts from his senior students will lead tormented readers engage into a self-inquiry: do we need to replace love and affection with torturous corporal punishments? Do the latter anyhow make one better human being? The writer himself wonders too throughout his narrations: at times overt, at times hiding it beneath words. Thus he unfolds the names of a minority of kind and sympathetic teachers Mr. Ibrahim (Imu's dad), Mr. Nowshad, Mr. Nur, Mr. Sinha, Mr. Mondal and above all, Mr. Dobir who had been second to none. Rising above teachership, 'Dobir sir' became the trailblazer for Imu and others. The writer narrates how he utilized every student's creative intelligence hidden at the back of his naughtiness and make him excel in whatever he was good at. The overpowering glory of his loving guidance sweetly affects the readers, the way it had affected Imu. Credit should go to Ekram Kabir that he didn't leave any unpleasant realities floating in the air for infuriating us; he has caringly explored the positivity within.
When Imu in his batch's farewell speech uttered how the cadet college had given him a mind, lots of diehard friends and an education worth for his whole life, and eventually appealed to the younger batches to gain strength from even the worst of the things, all the scattered nothingness of his cadet life instantly transform into a collective somethingness with which readers should identify their aspirations. 'Ek Dushtu Cadet-er Golpo' is therefore a cheering song of adolescence. More precisely, it is a fairy tale of innocence for the children inside us.
The reviewer is a poet and an Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB).