Thursday, May 12, 2005

Another Frame: Mobin and his Unwritten CV – Part 1

Imran Ahmed Chowdhury -Mobin [1969-2005] RIP
Till we catch up for a Party in Heaven pal!

In the flood of emotions that has overwhelmed all of us since he passed away on 20th April the one I find hardest to cope with is to talk about him the past tense.

There are moments when I have pinched myself hard enough to find out if this is yet another of his “jokes” that he was famous for, and the truth is it hurts, meaning a reality has dawned that he has passed on from this dimension we called life and living, into another we have the faintest of clue.

On his chehlum after the final prayers, I told Harold who was sitting next to me and equally numbed by grief “gOD perhaps needs a good sound engineer UP THERE” and his reaction to that was – “Mac, Mobin would have loved this joke”.

Honestly how do you begin to write anything about Mobin, which would in no way move us away from who he was, a friendly, tireless, honest, “humorous to a fault” practical joker, and importantly a caring human being whose work was his religion?

I have by now received far too may emails from all across the globe to share my insight into this larger than life figure, and found myself stumbling – really where to get this started, until last night something hit me as like a bolt from the blue.

Mobin had been a great admirer of my writing skills and I would dump printed materials on anything that I had written and thought might interest him. Sometimes serious political stuff, sometimes on music and of course, all those bawdy jokes he loved.

I had been a Netizen since 1996, and Mobin always felt he was missing a whole lot and was hungry about information and regretted that he wasn’t wired and worse that he simply didn’t have the money to buy a PC (Taka 1,20,000 in those days). All too often he would quickly scribble on a piece of paper and ask me to check the price or information on technical products like a microphone or effect processor– and there were more.

I think it was mid 1998 that he called me and by the tone of his voice I felt there was something more than a little exciting that he wanted to share with me.

“Can you drop by the studio in the evening Maqsood bhai” – and I said “sure – is everything okay with you”…. reassuring me they were, I caught up with him and on seeing me he pulled me aside for what seemed a secret he wished to share.

“You’ve got to do me a great favor” and I said, “shoot”.

What he was asking would in no way be me doing a favor. As far as I was concerned, and really with all that he had done for me, directly and indirectly, I would just about do anything no matter what it cost, to be able to repay my debts of gratitude.

What he had to ask was so baffling innocent and so typical of him!

He wanted me to write out a “first class CV”, the idea being TOP SECRET, he would use this to post it somewhere in an Internet site, which would bring him close to his cherished dream, a placement at a US University for higher studies in sound reinforcement and engineering.

Not being a technical person, I said, “look Mobin, I could write a few thousand words about who you are and how good you are, but placement is serious business. So, you’ve got to help me fill in the technical details – things like what equipments you use, you existing knowledge about sound and importantly a list of all the great albums you have mixed and mastered: the public record of your works”.

He quickly agreed and pulled out a large A4 size paper asking me to write them in the order that it should be displayed. “On this Maqsood bhai, your judgment is final” all he wanted was for me to understand the urgency of it all, and I said with his inputs in hand, it shouldn’t take me more than half a day to write it out. “Great” he exclaimed and we got to work.

I explained him the difference between what we refer to as ‘Bio-Data’ used in common parlance here in Bangladesh, to what a CV or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ is – and it was important that he list his latest achievements first and work his way backward to where his career started. Since he had no academic qualification to list, and was a self trained engineer it MUST be a convincing CV.

He agreed that he would keep everything ready within the next 72 hours and hand it over to me. I stressed that he not waste time, but concentrate on the technical details and leave me to fill in the “cosmetic padding”. “With all the best chapaabaziz on me you can muster ”…our evening ended as they would typically, with a lot of laughter.

Despite pursuing him for more than a year, Mobin never ever got around to filling me in with the ‘technical details’ I so much wanted, and seven years thereon, here I am guys, writing out his “unwritten CV” – albeit, this would be more about how I saw him up close and up front and it has to start with events and date closest in the calendar.

I will attempt to work my way back to the earliest date I can recollect but I beg readers to be patient as it may take me quite a few weeks to give you the full picture - frame by another frame. Mobin’s death still hurts, and I am not yet completely healed.

In this small endeavor for a loyal friend and a workaholic colleague, help me dear gOD.

6th May 2005: dHAKA moves into the Sound Machine practice pad in Maghbazar and the members are shocked with my decision. We were very happy with our guitarist Russell’s pad in Dilu Road that had been our haunt for over 2 years.

Something Mobin had said about checking out Titi’s studio – adjacent to the pad was working overtime in my mind. The place is larger, the AC better, the drum kit professional and finely tuned, but Mobin…now he wouldn’t stop joking would he!

The full range speakers that project my voice in the pad I am told were “hand crafted and made” by Mobin. Small but hugely powerful, in my first session there, I felt Mobin was around the corner fiddling with the mixer. Those were one of 3 pairs of speakers Mobin specially created for his friend Titi of Sound Machine.

20th April 2005: The first thing that struck me when his ‘dead body’ arrived was how small he was (he couldn’t have been more that 5 feet and a few inches) and how, even till the last, he did not deny himself and us, the dignity in with which he conducted himself in life. I had thought that he would be carried in one of those ugly open pick-up trucks with red flags flying, and blood dripping as is common after such a smash up.

Quite suddenly a microbus arrives and not many realized the ‘object’ neatly wrapped and taking only an extended and flattened out middle seat next to the side door, was Mobin.

Khaled Bhai of G-Series had ensured in the Comilla Morgue that his face was properly gauged up, and first placed on transparent polythene sheet, and later double wrapped in a thick black plastic sheet. So when all of us carried him indoors, it seemed like we were handling a US Army body bag. Mobin would have loved this description!

17th April 2005: After we finished the Onirbaan show, Mobin was adamant that I finished the last peg of Mexican Tequila, which he had saved for me before we left the venue. I begged him that I already had “quite a few shots of whiskey already and mixing Tequila would be risky” – and a huge boisterous laugh reverberated across the room.

Partho of Souls, said "Maqsood bhai, Mobin has been guarding this almost empty bottle for you for over 2 hours – now no nekaami, please drink up".

I pleaded how about getting in some fizz and mixing it with the Tequila, to which Mobin said “come on boss, that’s not what you taught me, go for it - one straight shot” and quickly 2 plates appeared, one with lemon slices, the other with salt. Doing the honor, I did a ‘bottom up’ and the fiery liquid went in more smoothly then I had thought.


Knowing how much I hate flattery, he was always careful about praises on the face. On the elevator, he mentioned very quietly that we had a “great performance” and that was good enough for my small ego – specially coming from Mobin. On the way out, Tarik had arranged a microbus that would take me, Mobin and my pal Khoka (dHAKA Bassist) back home.

After dropping off Khoka in Elephant road I asked if he was keen on breakfast to which he agreed. So we went over to a hotel in the Moghbazar roundabout, and it was like 5 a.m, and no real breakfast was available. We sat down to chicken biryani and beef curry.

In retrospect I recall that he was unduly quiet and I asked him if anything was troubling him, and nonchalantly the answer was “nah – Maqsood bhai”.

He was ecstatic about teaming up with Tarik and wanted all help and advise about Onirbaan, to which I gave him my thumbs up. He also thanked me for “reconnecting” Tinku, of Cool Exposure, who would handle the press for Net concerts with pre and post feeds to newspapers an TV channels.

He talked about the difficulties in the narrow bandwidth of Paltak, and how Tarik would shortly be buying up a huge server, that would not only relay music, but also live stream video images – like a fully capable Net Radio and TV station and really a direction to the future of good music from Bangladesh.

The topic then veered off to LIVE Sound a very sore point for him and he said dejectedly that he now only does it for Warfaze and Black, and the politics against him has not actually stopped.

He talked about his frustrations in the Ampfest concert at Mirpur stadium, when all the processor racks were switched off before he came in, even as much as the talk back, so that the entire duration of the show he couldn’t communicate with Black on stage…and there was more. About one “senior band” he had staked his neck out one too many times in his life, and who have not been exactly kind to him.

I asked him if it would be appropriate for me to intervene (as I had done many times in the past whenever he faced such problems) and resolve his differences…to which he said very sadly “thank you Maqsood bhai….it has come to a point of no return”.

About 6:30 in the morning as I had done so many times in the past, I dropped him off in front of his house in Dhanmondi, and his last words as usual “Take care – we will party with Tarik after I return from the DJuice concert in Chittagong” followed by a loud laugh.

I wished I had said a more forceful “Take care boy” as I left.

I wish he had actually taken more care of himself than he would others.

I wish I had called him on the 18th or 19th April to thank him once again for the tremendous job in the Onirbaan concert.

Strange how we end up with lists of unfulfilled wishes when all is over.

There was no premonition working in me that this would be his last goodbye.

Perhaps he wanted me to be guided by taking a last shot of courage as the Eagles sang in Tequila Sunrise

“Take another shot of courage/

Wonder why the right words never come/You just get numb/

It's another Tequila sunrise/this old world still looks the same/Another
frame ..”

To be continued…….



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