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Mahbubul Alam, a wonderful human being and newspaper doyen

Mahbubul Alam, the Independent, Washington DC

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Mahbubul Alam, a wonderful human being and newspaper doyen

Mahbubul Alam lead an enviable kaleidoscopic career.  He began his successful professionalism in journalism in 1957 with the Associated Press. He was one-time editor of the distinguished English-language newspaper The New Nation and the weekly Dialogue. Writes Sir Frank Peters

There are people who are born to be invisible throughout their lives. Nobody sees or takes much notice of them. They are truly the silent majority.

There are others who achieve great accomplishments, but, sadly, they dissipate over time like a cool morning mist, and become forgotten. Then there are those who create a niche for themselves in the hearts, souls and minds of people that transcends the grave and time itself. They are immortal in the memories of countless and live eternally.

One such person is Mahbubul Alam, former editor and guru of the Independent English-language newspaper. Even now on the 7th anniversary of his death (06.06.2016), Mahbubul is alive, living among us or fondly remembered, in the minds of many especially those who were fortunate enough to experience his tutelage or be in close vicinity when one of his smiles burst through the surrounding atmosphere.

Speak with any journalist who’s been fortunate enough to breathe the same air in close vicinity to him and I doubt a bad word would be mentioned against him. He’s just that kind of guy… everybody loved and admired him. He was a gentleman of the highest order. Unfortunately, there are not many of them around.

Mahbubul scored an enviable list of achievements in his revered name. The veteran award-winning journalist worked as minister (press) at the Bangladesh missions in Washington DC and in London and represented Bangladesh as the Ambassador to Bhutan which, he said he really loved.

He fell instantly in love with Bhutan and with the Bhutanese people, when he was posted there. He made a point of attending the National Bhutan Day celebrations each year on December 17 to help re-live many happy memories.

It was in 1996 when he and I first met. He was Editor of the esteemed Independent newspaper and a mutual admiration club was formed. We tried to maintain regular personal contact via coffees, lunches and dinners during my frequent visits to Bangladesh and for many years we did succeed.

The horrific traffic jams that plagued Dhaka at the time, however, rudely interfered in our social plans (and, no doubt, thousands of other people) and brought what were spontaneous well-intended get-togethers to a complete halt.

Getting from Gulshan to Dhanmondi in those days took 20-30-minute. Getting back was much the same. So going from one to the other for a coffee and a friendly chat didn’t warrant even a second thought. It’s something you just did. Then Dhanmondi and Gulshan seemingly became separate countries.

It took two hours to make the same trip – one way – without even considering the time you desired to spend there. The traffic chaos changed everything. Our one-on-one meetings became less frequent. Traffic jams transformed from being a curse into becoming total nightmares and, shamefully, they still are.

Mahbubul lead an enviable kaleidoscopic career.  He began his successful professionalism in journalism in 1957 with the Associated Press. He was one-time editor of the distinguished English-language newspaper The New Nation and the weekly Dialogue.

He was the 1,000-watt beam of light and inspiration that led the Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) as its president until his death. He was also a former managing director and Chief Editor of state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS). He held the prestigious and coveted position of Editor of the Independent for 18-years, right up to his departure for his celestial arrival.

Mahbubul was also a former caretaker government adviser. A position he respectfully earned, richly deserved, and cherished, not for his own personal benefit, but it gave him the opportunity to make even a more valuable contribution to his beloved homeland.

Wealth, degrees and honours conferred by royalty, governments or universities and suchlike do not make a person a gentleman. A gentleman is self-made and Mahbubul was definitely one.

It’s difficult for me to write ‘I miss him’ because in many respects I feel he’s still here. His vibrant smiling face often flashes in front of me to guide my path, which makes his demise seem even more imagined than real.

Sir Frank Peters is a regular contributor to Blitz and a crusader against Corporal Punishment.

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