A Journalist's Autobiography

Published:  12:54 AM, 29 April 2021 Last Update: 12:39 PM, 29 April 2021

Somoyer Pothey Prithibir Pothey

By Serajul Islam Quadir Published by Papyrus, January 2021

Somoyer Pothey Prithibir Pothey
It is said almost every journalist has the wish to write a book at least at one point of their life. "Somoyer Pothey Prithibir Pothey" by Mr. Serajul Islam Quadir is the latest to join the club of journalists who have authored books. The 168-page book with 40 chapters has a simple cover painted by Mr. Samar Mojumder identifies the author as one who loves his country with a splash of red and green on a brown background.

The foreword has been written by Professor Sirajul Islam Chowdhury of Dhaka University's English Department. He writes that the book has been enriched as Quadir has used his personal knowledge on different issues as he is a book worm.

Dedicated to his parents, the book in simple Bengali is a kind of autobiography dotted with some his life's journey as a journalist. For Quadir, journalism has been a passion and thus he quit as a government cadre teacher to pursue a profession that has many challenges and charms if one loves what it has to offer.

His career took him to new pastures and the highlight was his time with the London-based Reuters news agency as well as his travels abroad. Each chapter has been dated as has been written over a period of time. Thus this is his diary in some ways.

As a compatriot I have known him for decades as an introvert man, courteous and loaded with economic sector information. The book contains such information as he travelled to some countries for professional reasons. 

A man of English literature, his writing has the touch of a litterateur with quotes and anecdotes of different authors or poets, but very easy reading which is the essence of journalism --- write using such words that even a layman understands.

He speaks of the very simple family that he belongs to and that life was regulated by a fixed budget. An interesting comparison was his life as a young boy and the state of Bangladesh economy in page 69. Quadir writes that he felt ashamed when the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia had to seek time from visiting US Congressmen Joseph Crowly and James Macdormot asked to expedite dues worth over Taka 200 crore to UNOCOL.  He quoted Bangladesh longest serving Finance Minister late Mr. Saifur Rahman as saying "It is a matter of shame."

Then he quickly reflected back to his own life. Quadir writes his father too had to hide his face once when he could not payback a loan on time. But, he adds "A nation cannot run in such a way."

Another of his interesting piece is about his journey to capital Dhaka from Pirojpur home town in 1973 after appearing in his Secondary School Certicate examination and how he was saved from joining the left politics against the newly independent Bangladesh as well as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

 Before that he suddenly came across a meeting of about a dozen people, but did not know that it was a secret meeting of the leftwing politicians or activists who were active against Bangabandhu's government and many rumours of unhappy incidents being carried out by the then ruling Awami League and its student front the Bangladesh Chatra League.

Quadir stayed with a childhood friend on the Dhaka University campus. He had been working for the prestigious Bengali daily Sangabad from his home town and spent the mornings in the capital at the daily's office. He got his appointment letter from Sangbad and as a young journalist he was excited. Quadir like all of us scribes loved the time when his reports were published. In fact it is a great joy for all of us journalists and getting a by-line was like getting the moon.

Let me end the review with his life-changing sudden meeting with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

The author writes "It was my first face-to-face with Father of The Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at his political office and now Foreign Service Training Academy)." He was taken there along with a friend by police after being detained for involvement with underground leftist politics.

"Beautifully ironed white punjabi and pajama with his hair done brushed back. Smoking a pipe and wearing a black pair of glasses. Bangabandhu embraced me and told us if you have any problem then contact him (Mr. Darbesh Ali Khan). Why are you doing all these ... That was the last time I saw him." Bangabandhu forgave us considering our age.

Life changed Serajul Islam Quader to eventually become a journalist who worked until a few years ago with Reuters news agency, one of the largest along with Agence France-Presse (AFP) and the Associated Press (AP).

Lastly, the flow of writing makes the book interesting, but it would have been easier for the readers if every piece had a number along with page numbers.

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