Sounds of cannon shots.

I thought the war was over. But what was going on outside?

I ran out of my room, one that I shared with Bhaia, and straight to my mother.

“What’s happening, Amma? Isn’t the war over? Where is Abbu?”

“It’s a 21-gun salute. For your birthday,” she said.

March 26, 1972, My sixth birthday! Nothing could be better.

I ran around the whole house looking for Abbu. He is the most important person in my life and it’s his face that I wanted to see first thing in the morning. He was nowhere to be found. Finally Amma told me that he had gone to arrange a parade for me. The things adults say to children to pacify them!

The real story was…

My father, Gen. Safiullah, was the first parade commander of Shadhin Bangladesh. In March 1972 he was Col. Safiullah, Commander of ‘S’ force, which later became the 46 brigade. He later became the first Army Chief of Staff of Bangladesh April 5, 1972.

But, most importantly, he was about to miss my birthday because he was busy arranging Bangladesh’s first Independence Day parade at the old airport in Dhaka.

The whole family went to the parade. I was still under the illusion that all this hoohaa was for me… It was my birthday after all.

Anyway, we went to the parade ground, all decked up and ready for my party and to take my father’s salute.




I was with my mother and brother, sitting in the front row, right behind a small stage, and I had no idea what that was for but secretly hoping that it was for me. Don’t forget, it was my birthday.

But a funny thing happened just before the parade started. A couple of men went up on stage, pretty sure of themselves as if it was their rightful place and not mine!

The parade started and after a while, my father, the most handsome man I know, in his sharp army uniform, was marching past.

I was so excited I couldn’t breathe. This was my day and here comes my father, in all his glory, marching past, belt buckle and medals shining, belting out his parade commands, tilting his head to the right with a sharp salute. ALL FOR ME!




But wait…

Before I could take the salute, someone from the stage did. I couldn’t believe it! Someone rained on my parade!

For rest of the event, I sat quietly next to my mother, which was very difficult for me, waiting for my father to come back and explain what had gone wrong.

He did come, and with him came the man who had taken the salute which I thought was meant for me. A tall, powerful man with a booming voice and a laugh that seemed to generate straight from his heart.

He was talking to my mother, throwing back his head and laughing.




I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to ask him… So I did.


I walked straight up to the ‘big people section’ and came right out and said, “I am Reema and it’s my birthday today. That salute was meant for me but you took it. And how come your coat doesn’t have any sleeves? All of Abbu’s suits have sleeves on them!”

He looked at me very seriously, put his hands in his ‘Mujib coat’ pockets, brought out his empty hands, palms upwards and said, “See, I don’t have any money to put sleeves on my coat!”

March 26, 2016 – and it is my 50th birthday!

If I knew then (in 1972) what I know now, I would have cherished, relished, and preserved that moment when I first met Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Kazi Farhana ZabinKazi Farhana Zabin is the daughter of the first Army Chief of Staff of Bangladesh, Major General Safiullah.

26 Responses to ““See, I don’t have any money …””

  1. Shajahan Chaklader

    I have read with TEARS! How were those days that were filled up with crystal-like feelings and emotions of ‘a 26 March’ immediately after the end of the war!

  2. Zubaida Rahman

    Loved the way you told the story! Nicely written and belated happy birthday Reems Khala!

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Thank you so much Zuby! I am so glad that one one from your generation read my writing and liked it!
      Love you ma.

  3. Asif Salahuddin

    Farhana apa, first of all, its really a nice piece of writing. you have just put your words from your treasure-trove so eloquently with such legends. Its amazing!!!!. How could you keep within yourself for such long 44 years? would like to hear such memories regarding these ignited personalities.

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      We have been working together for a while now and you know a lot of my stories but this is the first time I decided to share it publicly.
      Thank you for your encouragements.
      I will do my best. . . .lets see!!!

  4. Zara

    I always knew you were good at writing. Absolutely loved reading this article. So proud of you!

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Thank you Ammu. . . . right back at you!
      You should try it. I love your writing style as well.
      You are part of my history and I am very proud of you.

  5. M. Emad

    We are fortunate to have Major Rafiq, Bir Uttam (Commander: Sector-1), Major General Safiullah, Bir Uttam (Commander: Sector-3 / S-Force) and Lt. Col. Abu Osman Chowdhury (Commander: Sector-8) among us till today.

    We pray that they will be with us on the 50th birthday of Bangladesh.

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Mr. Hoque
      Thank you very much for reading it and not just that, but liking it as well.

  6. Jalal Uddin ahmed

    A lucid narration of the feeling of a child when she is 50 years old.
    The composition of sentences are so interesting & integrated with each other that no reader can leave reading even for a moment. At least I couldn’t…
    Kindly continue your write up …. I can see a strong & forceful pen in your hand……

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Thank you so much for such strong encouragements and endorsements.
      I never realised the effect it might have on the readers and I am touched and humbled by them.

  7. Jamal Uddin

    Be blessed Reema. I am proud of you with your great heroic father. I salute the boss of the army. I am proud of you really for your heart stricken writing on this occasion.

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Thank you Mr. Jamal Uddin.
      I am indeed blessed to be the daughter of Gen. Safiullah, by whose moral values I try to follow.
      Having the experience of being born before the war in 1971, and seeing my father be part of rebuilding this country, it leaves me a proud Bangali!

  8. Md. Habibullah Sharifi

    It’s a fantastic write up from an amateur writer like you (Farhana Apa).

    You have started in a very interesting way which can be attracted the readers just like a grown-up writer. You finished with nice matured way.

    We who know you from closely, are very familiar with your fashion of talking which has been reflected in this writing. You have not tried lot to do something extra rather you did only which you have got natural.

    I do always persuade you to start writing. You have the natural talent to be a good writer. Don’t pen a full stop on this endeavour.

    Carry on your writing and make us, the readers happy.

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Sharifi, I am touched that you, not only took the time to read my story but also inspired me to venture further with my new found ‘talent’!
      I never realised this enormous responses from the readers but I am honored to have people like you to give me the little push to go on.

  9. Tshams

    Nicely written. Felt like listening to a Storyteller; it is so lively.

    Keep it up, Farhana Apa.

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Thank you so much for the encouragement.

  10. Hrehan

    Now this piece completes my day to the fullest. Awesome write-up.
    For these moments I forgot I was actually reading an article. Rather I felt mylself accompany-ing the author along with others on that very moments of her sixth birthday- from her home to the parrade. Wow so amazing was the story.
    Thanks to the author for sharing the story.
    Salute to the Major Gen Sir.

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Thank you very much for such heart warming words.
      I actually wanted to have exactly such responses and reactions from anyone who would read my writing. I wanted you to feel as if you were listening to the 6 year old Reema!
      I have never written before but such encouragements have inspired me to finally start putting my experiences to paper.

  11. Saki

    Happy birthday Reema, Wow what a fascinating story. Knowing you I can visualise you going up to the stage and talking to Bangabandhu.

    • Kazi Farhana Zabin

      Saki, I am so glad that you read my writing and made the effort to tell me what you thought of it.
      I appreciate it.

Comments are closed.