Dhaka, July 5: Nila, meaning 'Blue', is now in the prayers of people all across the world. This Ramazan, the Dhaka terror attacks have taught us many lessons-of friendship, bravery, humanity and humility.
But Nila, or 'Nila Apu', also known as 'Ishrat Akhond' was one of the 28 dead in Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka on Friday because she refused to recite the Quran when the terrorists asked her to and because she did not wear the hijab. Not that she did not know the verses. She was a devout practicing Muslim, but probably she chose to be a human first.
Nila has been breaking the barriers all the time, as her friends remember her.
Human Resources Director of one of Bangladesh's largest garments manufacturing company - ZXY International FZCO, Nila was an art lover and a philanthropist. On that ill-fated night, she was dining with two Italian designers who were visitors in Bangladesh. Having studied management in different countries including the Australian Institute of Management, Sidney, she was nothing close to what she did professionally. She called herself an 'art provocateur' and had been patronizing art in Bangladesh for quite a while now.
She had an art gallery 'Gulshan' in her flat, which was at a stone's throw distance from the site of the attack. It exhibited young artists' work.
Not that alone, she showcased unparalleled business calibre from being a member of the Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce, which is a bilateral business organization promoting trade between the two countries till a few years back to becoming a member of its election committee.
One of her former colleagues said, "she was an invaluable member of the Chamber and had just recently finished conducting its elections. But her real love was art. And she was constantly promoting young artists. When I went to her place for dinner last year, she wanted to discuss a number of issues, including what she should do in the future. Her flat, in Gulshan I, was absolutely beautiful, each wall and corner adorned with beautiful art."
Another close friend from Kolkata said, "After China, Bangladesh is the biggest manufacturer of readymade garments. But an ugly truth about the industry in Bangladesh is that it employs child labour. I remember Ishrat being disturbed by this and we had several conversations regarding the issue and I had told her that she must do something about it. Like other outlets, the company she worked for also employed children. Ishrat fought a lonely battle to make sure that the children were taken out of the factories."
He further added, "She got in touch with UNICEF and numerous other NGOs and ensured that the children were rehabilitated, that they were sent to school. It took her some time but she did it. They were out of the factories by 2014. She had come to Kolkata for Eid. I had taken her out with another friend of ours and we went to Tollygunge Club to celebrate Eid. That was the last time."