Roushanuzzaman, one of Bangladesh's most celebrated journalists, has passed away. A star in Bangladesh's media sky has fallen. Introvert, quite and with a rare soul of kindness band integrity are possibly a few words that best describe the 70-year-old man. A mentor to many and a friend to all, had a huge heart to absorb, but not to react.
"Respected and loved irrespective of age, Roushan is a mentor to many journalists of the country," headlined one Dhaka daily in the story of his passing away.
He was my professional mentor and I learned the skills of English journalistic writings after my basics training at the United Nations in New York in 1984 as a Dag Hammarskjold Fellow under some of the world's best scribes of that time.
It was great luck that from foreign greats, I soon landed with the Bangladeshi greats. Thus as a journalist, any standing that I have, is for Roushan bhai. Salute to you fallen star!
My first mainstream media job on return was with the national news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS). After hanging around for sometime without a table assigned to me, I was allowed to share the table of a senior colleague in his absence. In fact, he was hardly around!
That table was my luck. My neighbour was no other than Roushanuzzaman, my Roushan bhai. With his usual half smile which showed the goodness inside him.
Soon we became friends and shared so many jokes, experiences and pains. That pain of his cost him dearly professionally at one point, but he was up and going everytime.
He taught me the use of catchy English words and adding flair to each piece of my story where possible. He was a master in playing with words and I tried to learn all those, but never could get close enough.
Roushan bhai left us for his heavenly abode on Wednesday and he was laid to eternal rest the following day close to his home in Uttara Model town. He was suffering from lungs complications which is very natural a for chain smoker like him.
In some ways, now I think, maybe it was good I could not join his last rites due to COVID-19 as I want to remember him alive with that smile from the corner of his lips.
To his wife, Parveen Sultana Zaman and rest of the family, my deepest condolences and apologies for not beint there at the last rites. You should not grieve, but feel proud to be the wife or children of such a great man with a great soul. A man of rare quality. Allah will definitely keep him in the best of Janna and in His tender care
Our last meeting and being professional
Our last meeting was on 13 February 20 in Uttara's Crescent Hospital with oxygen pipes helping him to breathe.
I could see his happiness to see me. "Hey, Nadeem you have come," he said from his bed.
Roushan Bhai replied to my apologies for not coming earlier "O no. You are busy, I know. I sometimes read your pieces. Good. Carry on. Write a lot."
"I am 70. It is time to go. I know I will not be around long," he just muttered those words so easily as if all was done for him in this world and death was not a fear factor for him.
Before I left that day promising to return soon to see him, I took off his oxygen pipes and took a selfie. Little did I realise that Allah took me to Roushan Bhai that day to ensure I met my mentor because his time in this world, which he did not exactly love, was going to be over soon.
I am still amazed that how could he be such a rare professional and which he passed it onto me. Former Associated Press (AP) Bureau Chief late Hasan Sayeed bhai, another great journalist, and Roushan bhai got along very well. After I signed for AFP the two greats gave me one common advice: "Be professional in a country with partisan media and only go to the National Press Club for professional reasons, but not for addas or playing chess."
Both Roushan bhai and myself never derailed from the word "professionalism," no matter what others might say. We stuck to established facts in our copies for AFP.
After a few months of joining AFP fulltime, I was promoted as the Special Correspondent which was rare in the organisation. It was Marie France-Rouze, my South Asian boss, who honoured me. I cannot forget how it became a matter of great joy for Roushan bhai, especially one, because he mentored me and two, the promotion was confirmed despite major hurdles in Dhaka.
A time to say good bye
The last hooray for myself and my mentor was the day my posting as Minister (Press) in our London high commission was made public.
He was possibly the only person who was genuinely proud of my posting. He did not make it to London "at least once" during my stay despite repeated requests. Yet, I knew his blessing was with me always.
We were poles apart on our political ideology and beliefs but I never saw him "distorting history" while writing for AFP or local media houses. The last, very importantly, that factor never came between us as we were faithful to facts and nothing but the facts.
Quoting two eminent media men about journalist Roushanuzzaman to conclude:
Afsan Chowdhury, the famed journalist and writer, in a Facebook post wrote (in Bangla): "After serving the profession for 50 years he left us all. 70 years of age is no big deal, but disease is not kind to age. The all favourite person is no more.
He knew the time (to go) is close. After years of adda, commitment, sorrows and anger so common for journalists, he took the last boat filled with all the memories to his final home. Stay well Roushan Bhai."
In his Facebook post Hassan Shahriar, the former Newsweek coorespondent for Bangladesh, said "It is difficult to believe that veteran journalist Roushanuzzaman has passed away. He would certainly top the list of English writing reporters in Bangladesh who knew how to play with the language. By all standards, he was jewel of a person. To the best of my knowledge, he had no enemy. My association with him was very deep-I will miss him so long as I survive."
Rest in heavenly peace my mentor, my Roushan bhai. May Allah bless you!
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