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'Can't see England win even today'

Through the battered contours of his face, the tiny eyes light up briefly as 101-year-old Binod Bihari Chowdhury says, "Fear is a sin." Nilankur Das reports.
Hindustan Times | By Nilankur Das, Chittagong
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2011 01:48 AM IST

Through the battered contours of his face, the tiny eyes light up briefly as 101-year-old Binod Bihari Chowdhury says, "Fear is a sin."

The voice is almost gone, but the fact that even after crossing the century mark he performs most of the chores himself in his two-room house on Momin Road, is proof of a life lived in austerity.

Chowdhury remains the last living link to a part of the Indian freedom movement that Master da, Surya Sen, immortalised. For him and his fellow freedom fighters, life was but a small price to pay for freedom.

Master da, Tarkeshwar Dastidar and Ramkrishna Biswas were hanged, while Modhushudan Datta laid down his life fighting in Jalalabad. Following that April 18, 1930 uprising, few were left to recount their tale.

"When we simultaneously attacked the armouries, the European Club, the post and telegraph office and the railway tracks here, we knew it would be a matter of a couple of days before the British would hunt us down. "It was for freedom. It was to awaken the youth to rise against the British. We knew our lives won't go waste and India would rise one day," Chowdhury, who suffered a bullet wound in the neck at Jalalabad but still managed to escape, says.

He gets breathless. It is now a Herculean task to even put on the white kurta. "Who is Surya da? He is Master da to everyone. I am surprised the film reviews of 'Khelein Hum Ji Jaan Se' even in Bengal do not say anything. "Did anyone refer to Netaji as Subhas da? Do you think we went in dhotis and kurtas to fight the British?" he says, a touch disappointed. He quickly shifts to cricket. "Is it not why you have come (to Chittagong)? Bangladesh don't have the team to fight the British. India were good. I still can't see England win. I know it's not right but hatred is so deep, I cannot change now.

"I even supported Australia (in the Ashes). That is what I generally do. Doctors have told me not to stay up late but I have been seeing the matches. I got a chance to meet some India cricketers when they came here sometime back. Rahul Dravid was there. But I don't think anybody knew about Chittagong's role in India's freedom struggle," he says.

A few months ago, Chowdhury sat on a hunger strike against city corporation's plan to demolish the nearby Orpona Choron and Krisno Kumari School and construct a commercial complex. The school's presence today is testimony to the centurion's never-say-die spirit.

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