Mohammed Shamsul Haq (Dinajpur, Bangladesh)
My clan [gusti] from my father's side is actually from Punjab. We used to travel all the way from Punjab to Noakhali to sell warm clothes. My paternal grandfather married in Noakhali and stayed there.
My father's generation was made up of six brothers. The eldest settled in Barisal and died there. The next two stayed in Noakhali and died at home in their village. The fifth brother died young, also in Noakhali, and the youngest, Hakim Khan, worked on a steamer, married a white woman [mem] and stayed in London. I heard they had two sons and owned a wine shop. The mem was crazy about my uncle and never let him return. My father left Noakhali for Noagaon in Assam.
Shamsul's father worked as a line man for the Indian railways. He grew up on the docks of Khidirpur along the Hoogly river:
They used to moor and repair ships in front of our house. There were people from all over the world who talked about all the different places they had visited. This is why I wanted to join. I used to dream of the sea and of travelling.
Shamsul is the eldest of four brothers and has three sisters.
The brother after me lived in Tongi in Dhaka and worked as a Biman [Bangladeshi Airline] customs inspector. He used to be a clerk and must have taken lots of bribes and become very rich. They say, 'Bengalis are thieves and steal even after swearing on the holy Koran [bangalira chor, koran-shorifer opore shopoth koreo]'. My third brother is a moulvi [an expert in Islamic law] in Faridpur and my fourth brother worked as a clerk somewhere in Dhaka. My fifth brother died young. My three sisters were married in Assam and stayed there. One died young in childbirth.
I got married during Pakistani days, I don't remember the actual date. I have five boys and three daughters. Two of my sons are masons, one works in Dhaka, the other in Thakurgaon in northern Bangladesh, two have opened pan shops [usually tiny stores selling cigarettes, chewing-gum, and custom-made betel-leaf preparations etc.] and the youngest drives a cycle-van. My three daughters are married – the youngest one lives nearby, the second one married one of my sons' friends and lives in Thakurgaon and the eldest lives at home with me and my wife after her husband abandoned her.