Mostafa Kamal Majumder
Apart from two fresh editorials a day the inside pages of The New Nation started getting so much of up to date reading materials that those had to be accommodated through careful planning. Besides regular contributors like AK Faezul Huq, Matiur Rahman, Shahid Alam, Liaquat Hossain and Masum Billah my friend from New Delhi Dr. Sudhirendar Sharma occasionally used to write for the paper. Devinder Sharma, a leading Indian writer on biotechnology issues, and elder brother of Dr. Sudhirendar, also started sending write-ups from time to time. They are world-class writers. I could not pay honoraria to my Indian friends. Instead, I presented them Bangladesh’s famous embroidered quilts when they came on visits to Dhaka. Our Dhaka University Correspondent communicated to me words of praise showered on the paper for the quality of the writings by senio0r teachers of the premier university of Bangladesh. My friend Shahid Alam has published a book out of the articles he wrote for NN.
As a long-time Panos London correspondent, I was a recipient of Panos London features on a regular basis. Soon Panos South Asia came up and started adding more features. The New York Times started sending syndicated articles and features as a part of its marketing strategy and continued this for six months before asking for a subscription. Above all, Project Syndicate, the Europe-based feature syndication service, which in my estimation is now the world’s biggest the most resourceful, started introducing their service in Bangladesh through me. I was also in the mailing list of the New Delhi based Down To Earth articles and features. Plus some foreign-funded local feature services also used send their material for publication in NN. How Many articles can a daily newspaper use? I concentrated on using a maximum number of articles and features that came from different sources by classifying those into different categories for specialised pages.
It is to be noted that the material that the NN used to get from Project Syndicate exclusively on a complimentary basis are now distributed to over half a dozen Bangladeshi Newspapers for pay on an ‘exclusive basis’. This means each newspaper gets its preferred categories of features not shared with other newspapers in Bangladesh. From this one can have an idea of the resourcefulness of Project Syndicate which can cater to demands of so many papers without duplication of article series. Their writers include Nobel laureates, world’s leading economists, writers and thinkers from all over. They were very nice to me when I was with NN. This cordial relationship with Project Syndicate still continues. I did a deal for The Asian Age with the feature service but the paper was unable to pay bills for two consecutive years due to complications in processing payments in dollars. PS, however, bore with this at my request till the time AA could start paying in foreign currency after getting clearance from the Bangladesh Bank. PS is kind enough to send me features on sustainable development for use in my online paper GreenWatch Dhaka.
Coming back to the topic, soon The Hindustan Times, a leading Indian daily newspaper showed interest to share NN contents. They sent a representative to Dhaka to sign a contract. I brought this to the notice of the owners who showed nicety of asking me the sign the contract on behalf of the paper. But I insisted someone from among the owners should sign the document. Finally, Mr Arshad Hosein, second son of the proprietor and a director of the company signed the document in my presence. The Hindustan Times was supposed to pay the NN for its content on the basis of usage. I am not sure if this was pursued after I left NN. It made the content part of Alibaba media and through it sent the material to a global network. NN content became available to researchers from around the world. It was thus no wonder that celebrated American writer Noam Chomsky did start one of his popular writings quoting from the NN. The write-up was published in both English and Bangla in a number of Dhaka newspapers. The International Herald Tribune, now called International New York Times, picked up one NN editorial in one of its pages. The editorial in question was written by Motiur Rahman, a former special correspondent of NN at my instance.
The reading materials also included news analysis items and post-editorials written by me at regular intervals plus commentaries written mostly by the proprietor on a regular basis. The commentaries drafted by the proprietor were repeatedly revised by him after corrections carried out at the paper office. He did not use computers and special computer hands used to compose his handwritten drafts copies. Editing on the composed drafts was again done with handwriting and sent to NN office through the facsimile. Sometimes he used to request drafts of commentaries from me. And overtime his dependence on my drafts increased. Because of my preoccupation with other works in the production of the paper I tried to engage Matiur Rahman Bhai to draft commentaries. He gladly agreed to the suggestion. But after writing half a dozen drafts he declined to continue. Matiur Rahman Bhai occasionally used to write post-editorials. He was a man of high integrity and down to bone honesty. Words are inadequate to repent his loss. In his final months, he had to undergo dialysis twice weekly for his failing kidneys. At my persuasion, he did buy a desktop and used a modem to write for NN. It was me who always used to call him over the phone. I was surprised one day when he called me to convey his desire to resume writing as he said he felt better and capable of writing again. Within a month he expired one day when I was away to Munshiganj with my friend Sayed Tipu Sultan at his garden plus palliative care home.
13 June 2020
Mostafa Kamal Majumder