If you remember, we first met at a restaurant at Eastern Plaza. What was the name? Probably La Luna.
Some people were meeting together, considering forming some kind of an organisation to save the tigers and Khosru Chowdhury thought of inviting me there. I still recall, then Pakistan chief conservator of forest Mr Karim was also present. And of course you. That was probably in 1990 or even earlier, probably 1988.
You were a young conservationist, full of ideas. But you were too shy to speak. You and I exchanged a few words and the friendship began.
It turned into a one-way friendship. You were the giver of love and knowledge and I was the taker. You would appear at The Daily Star office in the evening, sit beside me, light up a cigarette and then say, "Let's go Inam bhai. To this amazing place."
And like a moth to the light, I would follow you. The next day the two of us would end up somewhere offbeat I had never heard about before.
How many nights have we sat by the rivers, you describing the watercourse, the ebbs and tides, the fishermen's prattle, the fish that one catches along the banks? Then you would fall silent and just look at the stars, smoking non-stop.
Do you recall that hot afternoon on the char? We were walking around and you were closely inspecting the small depressions filled with water created among the dunes, looking for insects and frogs. Then the afternoon light suddenly changed and a black, no, it was rather a deep blue-hued cloud that appeared on the horizon. We saw this strange white wall at least a few thousand feet high approaching us fast.
You said, "Run". And we did.
The fierce sandstorm caught us in the middle of the char. We lost sight of each other. We could not even see our own hands. We did not exist at that moment. We held our hands before our eyes and did not see anything but a hazy whiteness. There were the terrifying noise of the storm and the stinging sands pricking our bare backs. We thought that was the end of us.
But the storm blew over in about 15 minutes and we were standing there with sand all over us.
Later that day, you and I sat by the river and watched the lights in the distance. The terrible storm just a distant memory.
Dear Anis bhai,
Do you remember our walks in the forest? Silently. And then you would break the silence and show me some bird, or its nest. One day, you caught a snake and showed its fangs to me. I still have the photograph in print in an old album, your hand holding the snake's head.
One morning you came and said, "Let's go to Sherpur. Somebody has caught a pangolin." We took a microbus and found the pangolin tied to a tree. You had a talk with the Garo man for some time and the captor agreed to give it up. You and I took it to the Nalitabari forest and let it go. I was doubtful it would survive; you were not.
One day, we found some fishing cat cubs. They were tiny. I called you at night, you were in Dubai working for the Dubai municipality. You said it would be difficult to keep the cubs alive because they needed special milk.
You remember that day we were coming back from Chandar Beel in the winter and saw this man returning home herding lambs? Among the herd, there were these two cute lambs and we fell in love with them. We bought the two babies for 500 taka. You paid the money.
We took them home as pets. You and I would call each other just to know how our babies were doing.
And do you remember we went to the Padma chars in search of pratincole nests and discovered them. And on a cold winter evening, we were walking on another char with the rising river mist pressing in. It was not safe to walk along anymore but you were deep in conversation and showing me how land was formed, has been forming for millions of years with the sand flowing in from the Himalayas and the moss gathering on it and mixing with bird droppings and the microbes growing. You were kneeling down and scooping up mud to show me the wonder happening. And then you pointed out a tern and related its story – how it flew all these thousands of kilometres from the cold arctic region to spend the summer here.
And one day, while walking aimlessly you called out to me excitedly and showed me a plant – I have forgotten the name and pardon me for that – so unique. It had five different types of leaves of five different shapes. I have never seen anything like that before.
Do you remember my dog, Puppy? You were a fan of his and we would take Puppy with us on our field trips. One day, the silly dog had jumped into the beel to chase some ducks and then got totally soaked and exhausted. You were doing some bird nest surveys. At night, you discovered a leech stuck to the tiny dog's nose.
I still recall your sadness when Puppy died tragically. Thanks for your deep feelings for my dearest pet.
Dear Anis vai,
While you were working on setting up a dolphin sanctuary on the Padma, you had invited me so often. But I could not make it. I am so sorry. But one day I surely did go your way but ended up at Shahjahan Sardar bhai's place where we sat out the night under the mango trees. Every so often, ripe mangoes were dropping around us all night.
That night I was recalling your nature conservation efforts, the organisation you set up named Nature Conservation Movement (Nacom), the work of which we have seen in Manikganj and elsewhere.
When the pandemic swept in, I was worried about you and called you to check if you were still pursuing your madness. In your usual careless style, you said Covid will not get you. So you are travelling as before, tirelessly.
Strangely, in the last few weeks, you were entering my mind every now and then and I felt the pangs of missing you and wanted to call you. I was thinking about that strange plant and wanted you to take me there for another look at its strange leaves. But that did not happen.
Covid did not get you, but something else did you in. With your reckless lifestyle, it was coming. But at least you must know I am happy that you were still doing what you liked most as a field biologist – research and survey - while you closed your eyes to the world. Forever.