Mostafa Kamal Majumder
It was a tense day in the Dhaka University Arts Faculty building area. Members of Biplobi Chhatra Union wearing red bends on heads were toring apart festoons and banners of rival organisations. It should be in December 1974. Students who were not involved in the brawl ran for safety. Those who were at safe places in the corridors at different floors on southern side of the building observed what was going on in their front.Probably my movement was noticed by some of my friends . Foremost among them was Sheikh Kamal who to my surprise sought to know if I was a journalist. I replied, ‘yes’ with a pause. Which paper, he asked. The Bangladesh Times, said I. Why you didn’t tell me? Well, I shall take you to Moni Bhai (Sheikh Fazlul Huq Moni) proprietor and editor of the paper who was Sheikh Kamal’s cousin.
Sheikh Kamal and I were classmates at the Dhaka College for two years before getting admitted to the University of Dhaka in 1969. He was in the department of Sociology and me in Political Science. We were neighbours during the college days as I used to live in Sukrabad along with my paternal uncle Tajul Islam’s family and the location of the house was just opposite to Road No.32 of Dhanmandi Residential area where Sheikh Kamal lived with his mother and siblings. Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was in jail. Sheikh Kamal used to drive a Datsun car and on some occasions gave me lift to or from our college. In the second year at college we elected him captain of our section. He was popular among us. In the first year Abdullah Shibly was elected captain. Since he used to avoid mixing with other students, Sheikh Kamal and Nazrul Islam (Shaheed Nazrul of Hasanpur, Daudkandi, Comilla) did campaign for him to ensure his win. Then East Pakistan Students League had nominated Shibly because he was the most meritorious student in our section (he stood first in the combined merit list of Dhaka Board from the humanities group).
Anyway, I thanked Sheikh Kamal for his offer to introduce me to Moni Bhai saying, I had already been introduced. I did start working for The Bangladesh Times as a stringer because since late 1973 my parents had difficulty maintining my educational expenses because of all-pervasive poverty. Our family was dependent on agricultural income and crop loss in the 1974 floods had put us to an extremely difficult situation. One of my maternal uncles, Abul Kazem Miah, a book publisher and seller based in Jessore, did support me at the instance of my mother Piara Begum by sending by postal money order every month since December 1973. I did private tuition to support myself. In those days this was neither very rewarding nor interesting to me. So I looked for a part time job. Mafizur Rahman of our village home used to work in the general department of the Dainik Bangla and introduced me to some senior journalists of The Morning News which was still in publication at that time from the same building at No. 1 DIT Avenue. Despite some assurances, I did not get a job there. The Morning News was on decline at that time and a new newspaper – The Bangladesh Times – started coming out with new get-up and improved content as it managed to pool together some of the best hands in English journalism in Bangladesh at that time.
The Bangladesh Times was at that time blessed with the columns from legandary editor of The Bangladesh Observer, Abdus Salam, founder of the Dhaka University department of journalism, Atiquzzaman Khan, noted teachers from Dhaka and Jahangirnagar Universities. The Paper also had in its pay roll luminaries like Bangladesh Times editor Shahidul Haque, editor of The Independent, Mahbubul Alam, Editor of the Naya Diganta, Alamgir Mohiuddin, editor of The Bangladesh Times, Raquib Siddiqui. It had vibrant editorial, reporting and feature sections. The paper was also marked for its new look without demarcation lines on pages. It was a successful venture and attracted readers within a short span of time. I was taken to then News Editor AM Mufazzal who sought to know of my background, and asked if I could write on academic and related problems in the University of Dhaka. He asked be to bring one such write-up the next day. A short news story that I wrote on lighting problem in the DU Library reading rooms was printed just dropping its last paragraph. I was asked to submit reports regularly. By the end of the month I received a letter of appointment dated back from the day a submitted my first report, and salary. I found Abdullah Shibly, who took up edonomics, and Jubair Ahmed, who studied in the Faculty of Commerce were also doing part time jobs there.
25 Dec 2016