The last time I spoke to Zaglul Bhai, it was a few days before I left Dhaka for London. He was always happy speaking to me and I to him. He made it a point to remind me every time we talked that I was a younger brother to him. And he said it with affection that was genuine. For myself, I had known of his reputation as a journalist for a long time, long before I myself entered the world of the media. By then, of course, he had truly become a famous name in the country. My interaction with him only deepened my respect for him. More importantly, it gave me an opportunity to learn about journalism, indeed about journalistic perceptions, on an increasingly better footing.
I recall the time not long ago when Zaglul Bhai called me one afternoon. He had just read one of my articles on South Asian politics and asked me in a humorous vein why I had intruded into his territory. Slightly confused, I asked him what he meant. He laughed and said he had all along thought he was the South Asia expert in Bangladesh and then quickly added, 'Badrul, that was a joke. Don't take it seriously.' He then proceeded to tell me that he had enjoyed the write-up. When an individual of Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury's stature lets you know that he liked reading what you wrote, it makes a whole world of difference for you. And it did for me.
On this cold night here in London, I try to let the truth sink into me that Zaglul Bhai is really and irrevocably gone from our world. A friend in London called a while ago, to speak to me of the huge pleasure he had meeting Zaglul Bhai quite a few times on his visits to Dhaka. He spoke of the gregarious man that Zaglul Bhai was. Come to think of it. There was nothing of the humbug in Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury. In a society which yet values designations, ranks and positions --- even in journalism --- as yardsticks of human interaction, Zaglul Bhai made light of formalities. He served in senior positions in his long journalistic career, had the good fortune of mingling with some of the more illustrious figures in the media and in politics in the subcontinent and yet did not give you the impression that he was arrogant about his connections.
Zaglul Bhai was not a name-dropper. He was a man of the back-slapping kind, one who enjoyed the company of unassuming men. His laughter was infectious. And his conversations, particularly at many of the diplomatic receptions where he and I were both present, were always laced with humour underpinned by seriousness. There was this special ability in him to make friends. He would walk up to a total stranger and engage him in good conversation. That was indeed the way he and I came in close contact. There was absolute chivalry in him, of the old-fashioned sort, when it came to interacting with women.
Zaglul Bhai passes into the ages without keeping a promise he made to me the last time we spoke. Having read my articles on music, indeed on old songs, he quickly let me in on his own fondness for such songs. Along the way, he enlightened me about some other individuals he said were aficionados of music. He informed me that our much respected Golam Sarwar, editor of Samakal, was one individual who knew nearly everything there was to know about old songs --- the names of the singers, lyricists, music directors, et cetera. 'Come back from London', Zaglul Bhai told me, 'and all three of us (he meant himself, Sarwar Bhai and me) will have long sessions on music.'
Those sessions will never be, now that he has said farewell to this temporal world. Tonight, as I brood over the tragedy of his passing, I recall the manner of his laughter, the incisive nature of his reflections on South Asia and the gentle ways in which he expressed his views in private conversations and on television talk shows. He was a friend, an elder brother, a human being who reached out to all, a journalist for whom professionalism was all.
A good, humble, knowledgeable journalist is gone from our midst. It only deepens the gloom of winter.
is Associate Editor, The Daily Observer. E-mail- [email protected]