When did you return in Dhaka?

2 April. I am giving my entire time to the exhibition.

Got busy right after returning home?

My parents will be visiting the US towards the end of this month. I’ll get to meet them there. I came exclusively for the exhibition. The exhibition will be happening at Gallery Chitrak. I am tremendously grateful to Muniruzzaman, executive director and Zahir Uddin, director of gallery Chitrak. I met them three years ago in the Polish capital Warsaw, at the house of Bangladesh ambassador to Poland at the time, Mahfuzur Rahman. They said, “If you want to do an exhibition, let us know. You are welcomed at the new Chitrak.”

Even more delights were awaiting me. Mahfuzur Rahman has returned from Poland now and spending his retirement in Dhaka. He is an art enthusiast and critique. He offered to write about my work in the catalogue. So I confirmed my ticket to Dhaka without wasting a moment. I am even more delighted to say that the exhibition is being curated by extremely talented and young artist Opar Zaman. My artist friend Imran Hossain Piplu is also providing various supports silently. How many more people do I talk about!

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Life is work and death is rest-- living by this mantra, are you?

Pleasure lives within work. I never liked an idle life. If God grants me physical fitness, I wish to work until death.

How many paintings will be there in the exhibition?

Quite a few paintings are supposed to be there. I have brought all the works I have done in last two and a half years after moving from Bangladesh to the US.

Were all the paintings made there?

All paintings were made there. However, I have done one or two large-scale work after arriving here.

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What was the predominant theme of these paintings of yours?

To put it in an easier way, everything that was added to my life or happened around me, how the nature surrounding me was and things that were happening inside my mind- only these surfaced in my work. In actuality, I cannot call them just paintings. They can be considered pages from my diary.

How long will the exhibition go on?

Beginning on 16 April, the exhibition will continue till 30 April.

What is the purpose of painting to you?

Why do people name each other? The tradition of giving names started in the world, so that another person can identify or communicate with that person by the name. We couldn’t have done that if no one had names. So, when I draw a picture, or when a poem is written, it is not that only I will watch the painting or read the poem. Other people will see the painting or read the poem as well. How it would appear to them that is a different issue.

Can people buy you paintings from the exhibition?

That would be wonderful. Every painting of mine is a part of my life. Many people at home and abroad, whom I don’t even know, have my paintings in their collection. It feels like parts of me are scattered everywhere. Anyone will be able to collect paintings from the exhibition, if they wish to.

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Though you remained connected to your family via video calls, you were away from home for so many days. How did you feel when you touched the soil of Bangladesh after so long, what was the feeling?

Most interestingly, Tauquir was driving the car while we were going to the airport. I stayed awake the whole night on the day before coming here, so that I don’t suffer from jet lag after arriving in Dhaka. The excitement I felt while driving towards JFK airport from our home in Long Island, was never like before in my entire life. I kept forgetting many things. Suddenly on the way I said to Tauquir, I have left my laptop at home. He stopped the car and we found the laptop there. After going some way further, I found I had left my phone back at home. We turned back home and got the phone. I don’t think I was being normal until I got onto the flight. I was so excited.

How are you finding life after arriving here?

I love my life. This life, staying with our kids, painting and writing- this is the life I love. Then again, now when I have come to Bangladesh, I am a part of this. Actually, wherever I go I’ll always be a part of this soil. Even if someday I go to the moon or live on Mars, I’ll still not be away from the place I was born in. Everybody on this earth has the right to live anywhere.

When the whole world was going through a critical phase, you were alone in New York. Many were saying that things were getting fearful and dark with the death of many people. Did you ever imagine everything will get back to normal?

At that time, only one thing was everyone’s minds that everybody stays well. Then all were praying to remain safe. Not only I, everyone on this earth were doing it. Even if I start praying at the moment, I’ll pray for humans to refrain from war. No one can live well alone, it’s not possible. Humans can never do that.

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Did painting keep you busy or give you strength at that time?

If art does not become a part of life, then the journey of the artist never is completed. Therefore, not only because of Covid, I have always considered it a part of my life. Sometimes, it is drawing, reading books, listening to music or sometimes it is writing. People will get to know how much painting has become a part of my life when they visit the exhibition.

Will we find you in acting this time?

I am visiting for three weeks only. I’ll be going back on 24 April. So, you won’t see me acting this time.

Do you miss acting?

It would be a lie if I say I don’t miss it at all. Sometimes I miss acting. Especially, I’ll say I’m more interested to work on stage now. The reason behind that is, I don’t think I will able to do the type of drama people want to watch now or are used to watching at this moment. I consider myself a misfit or unfit in that environment. So, I wouldn’t dare to do that (laughter). In fact, I don’t want to cheat the audience because I love them.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Nourin Ahmed Monisha

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