The family of poet and writer Iqbal Kagji, 65, is not affluent. Like others, he has also been affected by the flood. He was forced to take shelter at a different place for seven days. He was ready to accept the loss of his house, furniture and other belongings. But the loss that is breaking his heart is the ruin of his 30 years' huge collection of books and local and foreign magazines. It is difficult to determine the loss in monetary terms only.
Iqbal Kagji lives in a small tin-shed house in Hajipara area of Sunamganj district town. He lives with his wife and two daughters. His daughters are students of Dhaka University. He is known as a straightforward personality to all in the town.
Speaking to Prothom Alo over the mobile phone on Monday, Iqbal Kagji said, “I am not in a good mood. I am devastated. The wealth I collected for over the last 30 years is all ruined. Please recover my books. I don’t want any relief material.”
Kallol Talukder, researcher and writer of ‘Sunamganje Bangabandhu o Tatkalin Rajneeti’ (Bangabandhu in Sunamganj and contemporary politics) lives in the Ukilpara area of the town. He also lost many books from his collection due to the floods. Suppressing his own grief, he went to the house of poet Iqbal Kagji to inquire about his collection of books. He was quite hurt to see the ruin of Kagji’s 30 years' collection.
He wrote on his Facebook wall, “He never had run after money in his life. A Life lived in abject poverty. He is quite happy to have as little as he needs to survive. Maybe the meaning of life is different for him! But the wealth that is in Kagji’s house is not even in the house of many highly educated elites. His house is full of books. He has made a huge collection of books over the years. His house, which stands ignoring poverty, is like a temple of knowledge.”
Referring to Kagji’s wonderful and varied collection, Kollol Talukder further wrote, “Whenever I need a reference book, I go to Kagji bhai first instead of any library. Even no library in our town has such a rare collection as Kagji bhai, let alone any person. About 14 to 15 years ago, I was working on the traditional use of herbal plants of haor areas. Once I told Kagji bhai that I wasn’t finding any credible books on the flora of Sunamganj. He asked me to go to his house. I went there one day and he gave me the 11-volume book ‘Chiranjibi Banoushodhi’ (everlasting herbal medicine) by Ayurvedacharya Shibkali Bhattacharya. He said, ‘See if it comes to any use’. Since then, our friendship deepened gradually.”
“Several writers and researchers have been benefited by him in various ways. Many haven’t returned books after borrowing it (from Kagji). Many of the books have been lost. But he was never bothered about that. But, this year’s devastating floods have swept away his collection of life, which can never be recovered. The water rose head-level in his room and nothing could be saved. Even if the loss of other books in his collection is endurable, the loss of rare books and magazines is irreparable. The computer he used for writing was also submerged,” Kollol added.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said, “The damage to poet Iqbal Kagji’s collection is irreparable. He is mentally broken. The loss of books is haunting him the most than the other losses due to the floods.”
* The report, originally published in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten by Ashish Basu