There were heaps of humility in Mohammad Badrul Ahsan. Unassuming to the nth limit, he lived a simple life, in the way all men of limitless knowledge conduct their lives without hubris taking over. He was my brother Sadrul's classmate and friend and then became a family friend. We used to converse long and seriously on the phone, the seriousness interspersed with anecdotes, indeed with good doses of humour. Badrul's treasury of humour was vast. And he gave us those yarns in a quietude of manner, leaving all of us in seizures of laughter.
At a time when I was beginning to plan on getting in touch with him again on my return to Dhaka from Kolkata came news, from my brother Sadrul and our good friend Andaleeb Rashdi, that Badrul had passed on. The feeling in me was one of disbelief. How do such men of inherent goodness fall silent so swiftly? Why must the gods zero in on these men of sharp intelligence and ready wit and take them away from us when we least expect them to? A few years ago, Badrul and I spoke of our collective shock when our friend Syed Fahim Munaem, Tipu bhai, passed on. The three of us were a team. When Tipu bhai's life came to a sudden end, Badrul and I talked of the fleeting nature of existence. Today, that truth has manifested itself once again, and ironically, through silencing Mohammad Badrul Ahsan.
Badrul was a brilliant writer, his columns in the Daily Star --- until he stopped contributing to the newspaper --- eagerly awaited by readers. There were all those times when he called me to give me yet another instance of readers mistaking him for me and me for him. E-mails addressed to him came to me and those intended for me went to him. The two of us relished all of this. Who could blame our readers? They overlooked the 'Mohammad' with his name and the 'Syed' with my name. Their focus was always on 'Badrul Ahsan'. We enjoyed it all.
To Badrul, I was 'baiye' in our traditional greater Dhaka dialect; and he was my 'sodo baiye'. He was happy when I contributed a weekly column to his journal, First News. I could feel the enormity of sadness in him when the magazine ceased publication. The two of us often wondered if we could not at some point launch a journal on our own, our thoughts getting impeded by the question of whether there were any financiers ready to lap up the idea. It was an idea that had its beginnings when Tipu bhai was around. Then Tipu died; now Badrul is dead. The idea is as good as buried.
Mohammad Badrul Ahsan was a perfect gentleman. A bachelor, he had the courage of conviction to turn his back on an influential position he held at a multinational bank and return home to immerse himself in full-fledged, committed journalism. Integrity was all for him. Unlike so many editors and so many media outlets, his First News made it a point to regularly pay its staff and its contributors their dues. How many such media people do you have around you today?
Today, the world is empty without Mohammad Badrul Ahsan. Along the streets of this city, in the spaces where good conversations used to be, an eerie silence has descended. In the imagination, it is a cemetery which rolls out a new winter song as it waits to receive our friend Mohammad Badrul Ahsan.
It is an elegy which breaks the heart. The pieces lie scattered all around us.
(Mohammad Badrul Ahsan --- journalist, writer, raconteur, former banker --- passed away in Dhaka on 6 February 2020)