It was an early spring evening. The sun was setting behind the trees on the bank of the river Shitalakkhya on the opposite side of Palash in Narsingdi. We all gathered on the riverbank on the way back home after The Financial Express (FE) Family Day programme in February last. FE News Editor Abdullah M Hasan was also waiting on the riverbank like others for boats that would ferry them. One of our colleagues begged his consent to figure in a photo with him. Abdullah Bhai readily agreed and posed with him on the riverbank with the lush-green landscape in the background. Did he ever know that months later that picture would go with his obituary report?
Our beloved Abdullah M Hasan left this world on July 17 2020 at a hospital in Dhaka, losing his battle with coronavirus that made him more vulnerable to his other physical ailments. His 72nd anniversary of birth was just 10 days away. He was born on July 27 in 1948 in Rangpur.
When the news of his death swirled around, a pall of gloom descended on the FE family, not to mention that his own family members were left devastated by the loss. If one works in a newspaper, one is pitted against time. We also did our round of the race against time, preparing his obituary report. Then his photo on the riverbank was used with it. It was the latest available photo of a good soul that he was-a bearded, innocent-looking man with a serene look on his face. He wore beard after performing Hajj and that made the picture outstanding. There was no other piece that could match it.
Everyone in the FE family could not believe first what they heard. None could accept the hard reality that a smiling man like him would be no more among them. He never hurt anybody-both materially and mentally. He was never rude with anybody, irrespective of their positions. How could he do it? Maybe, it was possible because of his nearly fifty years of experience in journalism. He entered the realm of journalism in 1972 as a sub-editor of the now-defunct Morning News soon after completing his double MA from the Dhaka University. He witnessed many twists and turns of this profession over the years. After the Morning News, he had served different other newspapers before the curtain fell on his long career while working with The Financial Express. He saw many newspapers go into oblivion while some others struggled to stay afloat. Because of his vast experience he could easily visualise the behind-the-scene workings of a newspaper. So he was never guided by emotion. That was the area where we learnt a lot from him-his handling of things, befriending the people and a lot more. He never let others realise what he was. He loved to conceal the level of his skill and the horizon of knowledge. In our profession that is far from taking an institutional shape in Bangladesh, a man of his nature is very rare.
There are instances that in newspaper politics the staffers often get involved in infighting only for material benefits. They have little respect for their seniors, as they lack the ability to judge them by merit. They forget to remember that journalism is not a field where they will flex their muscles. Rather, it's a field where one should hone one's skill and work diligently to raise the level of efficiency. It is unfortunate to note that many of our master-degree holders do not know how to talk to their seniors. It's true that the newspaper culture is far different from that in any other profession. Here the seniors are often found to be very liberal. That does not mean the seniors do not expect their share of respect from their junior colleagues. One should not suffer from complacency after obtaining one or two master degrees. The real challenge in life begins, when one enters any profession. To do better in the profession one needs to work hard and learn every day. It's an endless process. Our National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam could scale the pinnacle of fame, as he kept learning until he fell ill. He was not a master degree holder. Still his name is on every lip. We all know what he did in the realms of literature and music. He was sincere in doing whatever he did. Once he was hired as a music director of a film. The film featured a song that was composed based on the culture of an ethnic community. As the date for recording the song neared, Nazrul was found nowhere. The film director became anxious. But just before the recording date Nazrul appeared. The film director heaved a sigh of relief and asked, "Where had you been for so long?" Nazrul replied, "I had been in the tribal area to stay with them." "But what about our song?" the film director asked. Nazrul said, "The song is ready. Let's go and record it." Then they recorded the song "Khopai para nurir mala jhumur jhumur baje re." When Nazrul had been with the ethnic people, he studied their culture and music style and learnt from them. Then he composed the song. Not only Nazrul, every great writer learnt from the lives of people around them, the sky, the river and whatever else there. Creativity does not come without any effort.
Once an editor of a local English daily commented: "It takes twenty years to produce an efficient subeditor." For a financial daily the job is more challenging. One needs to choose a particular field and study on it to handle things adeptly like a professional. There is no short-cut way to shine in this profession. But sadly that is missing in our profession. But Abdullah M Hasan was not like that. Maybe, it was because he had been in this profession for nearly fifty years. There is an adage that an empty vessel sounds much. Abdullah Bhai did not talk much. He always kept his cool and he had a smiling face. He possessed an amiable character and because of his that quality everybody in the FE held him in high esteem.
I wonder why a man of his calibre had been in this profession of journalism while there had been many other options. Perhaps, when he entered the realm of journalism in 1972, journalists commanded a lot of respects in society. Then there were some big names who shot to fame doing journalism. Maybe, Abdullah Bhai had felt inspired by their success stories and chose journalism as a career despite all the challenges involved. But what could journalism give him? Not much. If he had been in any other profession, maybe, he had been far better-off and it could be a different story. But we are fortunate that a talented journalist like him had been with us. We thank God that he had been lent us, though too briefly. These days talented students are reluctant to join journalism. They don't want to tread the path of uncertainty. If we can found the newspaper industry on a sound footing, that will be the best way of honouring the memories of Abdullah Bhai.
The writer is Additional News Editor of The Financial Express