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Dhaka     Tuesday   23 July 2024

While still remembered Mahbubul Alam will never die

Sir Frank Peters || risingbd.com

Published: 16:16, 6 June 2024  
While still remembered Mahbubul Alam will never die

Thursday, June 6, 2024 is a special day of remembrance, especially within the Bangladesh newspaper industry.

It marks the tenth death anniversary of Mahbubul Alam, that wonderful human being, consummate gentleman, and newspaper doyen who once walked proudly among us casting his blessings of goodwill, peace, and harmony among us.

Mahbubul was one of those rare kindly gentlemen and old souls whom you’d never forget just after one meeting. Sure he was a gentleman, acting to perfection scripts seemingly written by divine authors. And undoubtedly he was also an old soul. Only Allah knows of his true mission to earth, but one can be assured his influence was honourable and inspiring. He departed from here in 2014 leaving a legacy to be appreciated, admired, and emulated. 

Not only was Mahbubul liked and admired in Bangladesh, but across many continents. He worked as minister (press) at the Bangladesh missions in Washington DC and in London, and as the Bangladesh Ambassador to Bhutan.

His career in journalism had surpassed its Golden Anniversary of fifty years and he was also the managing director and the chief editor of state-run news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS). He got around, did smiling young Mahbubul, and made friends wherever he went.

I remember in 1996 being taken to meet him for the first time at his Independent newspaper in Dhanmondi by Muhammad Musa, President of the Bangladesh Freedom Fighters.

Before entering the building the famous Bengali author and historian forewarned me: “You are about to meet a genuine upstanding, honest, and sincere Bengali gentleman, the likes of whom are rare.”

Having been given an introduction like that, I half expected to find a bright glowing halo above Mahbubul’s head. I didn’t, but after several one-on-one meetings later I discovered he had concealed it in his heart.

Mahbubul was a rare specimen of man. To describe him merely as a gentleman would deprive him of accolades and platitudes he so richly deserve, and, in so doing, generate a shameful miscarriage of justice.

Born in Munshiganj in 1936, the affable Mahbubul graduated in political science from Dhaka University.

His successful career is the sort of success many pen-pushers and two-finger typewriter thumpers aspire to achieve from their early teens.

In 1957 he began his fruitful career in journalism at a woodworm infested corner window desk with the highly reputable Associated Press. The clanking and clacking of Imperial, Olivetti, Underwood and Royal typewriter machines, in many stages of dying, filled the air like a well-disciplined orchestral performance that was music to his ears. Most journalists nowadays, with their ultra-silent keyboards, non-sticky keys, and personal separation booths have no experience of such rousing, soul-appeasing music. Such a pity,

Mahbubul was never far from a leaky BIC ballpoint, tattered doggy-eared spiral notepad, and second-hand typewriter since leaving school.

He was one-time editor of The New Nation, the first English-language newspaper in Bangladesh, and the weekly Dialogue. Continuing on his successful path he landed the equally prestigious position of Editor of the Independent, which he held for 18-years until his death at 9:25am on Friday, June 6, 2014, at the BIRDEM hospital in Dhaka. He was 78. Eight years later his beloved Independent newspaper consumed its last printing ink fumes on January 30, 2022.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took time off from her hectic schedule and was among the first to offer condolences. President Md. Abdul Hamid and BNP chief Khaleda Zia also condoled the senior journalist's death. His wife and three daughters who currently live in the US survived him.

In 2007, Mahbubul became the Information Affairs Advisor to the caretaker government. Among the other accolades that peppered his illustrious career, he was the beam of light and inspiration that led the Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh (NOAB) as its president until his death.

If you take a casual stroll through the newsrooms of most eminent newspapers and online newsoffices in Dhaka and Chattogram today, there’s at least one member of the noble profession who’s worked with Mahbubul and who remembers him with great admiration and great fondness.

It’s men like Mahbubul Alam who give journalism a good name and bring honour and respectability to the nation in which they were born. 

Mahbubul had the rare gift of making people feel special. People warmed to him instantly. He was a complete gentleman and a consummate professional. He walked tallest among the tallest. 

While still remembered, he – like the Freedom Fighters of Bangladesh – will never die. And he deserves to be remembered.

 (Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, foreign friend of Bangladesh and an honorary member of the Bangladesh Freedom Fighters. <[email protected]>)