Dr Shah Alam, one of my very close friends, died on August 31. We were friends for the last 54 years and our friendship began in 1966 at the Rajshahi Cadet College.
Shah Alam was truly an all-rounder with remarkable accomplishments: a stellar performer in academic, exceptional performances in virtually all sports - cricket, soccer, and hockey - and an icon in "After Dinner Literary Activities" (ADLA) in Rajshahi Cadet College.
I remember his extraordinary performance in " The Bishop's Candlesticks," a play based on the famous French novelist Victor Hugo's great novel Les Miserables. He played the lead character Jean Val Jean. He also brilliantly played the role of the main and only character in the play, Nemesis, written by Nurul Momen.
After graduating from RCC, we enrolled at the Department of Economics at Dhaka University. He was my roommate at the Surja Sen Hall. Probably, in August 1971, he told me that he was leaving the capital to take part in the Liberation War.
After the country's independence, both of us got scholarships to study at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. Shah Alam decided to go to the Soviet Union in 1972, while I did not. While he was in Moscow, I regularly kept in touch. He was concerned about the chaotic situation in post-liberation Bangladesh. Once I wrote a 55-page letter to him from Dhaka about the political, economic, and social condition of Bangladesh.
Shah Alam was a social person. While we were at Dhaka University, he invited me and another friend to his village home in Munshiganj. There we met his parents and eldest brother Shah Jahan bhai, who is a well-known journalist. I still have vivid memories of his parents' affection towards us. Shah Alam's father, a poet, read some of his poems to us, while his mother prepared sumptuous food throughout our visit. We visited his family again when Shah Alam was still in Moscow.
As part of the programme, Shah Alam learned the Russian language and wrote a PhD thesis on a timely topic: the Law of the Sea. During his stay in Moscow, multilateral negotiations on the Law of the Sea were going on in the United Nations.
The negotiations concluded in 1982 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) came into effect in 1994. While he was writing his thesis, on his request I sent many scholarly articles which were relevant to his thesis, from Canada.
We used to exchange letters while I was at the University of Manitoba in Canada and he was at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. A Canadian friend who shared an office with me once joked, " Am I sharing this office with a KGB agent?" Later, Shah Alam was the advisor to the Government of Bangladesh on maritime negotiations with India and Myanmar.
After returning from Russia, Shah Alam joined the law faculty at Rajshahi University. Whenever I visited Rajshahi, I would meet him. Later, he joined Chittagong University and became the Dean of the Law Faculty.
While in Chittagong, Shah Alam was struck by a tragedy. His only son Aditya, fell into a ditch and died while riding a bike. It was a shock from which he never recovered.
Shah Alam was a great scholar. He served the law reform commission with dedication as a member and as the Acting Chairman. Once he arranged an informal meeting for me with the Chairman of the Law Reform Commission, Justice Abdur Rashid, about legal reforms concerning labour laws in Bangladesh.
Shah Alam wrote several books on legal matters, which he gave me as presents. An important book written by Shah Alam is Selected Writings on International Law, Constitutional Law & Human Rights, published in 2015 by New Warsi Book Corporation, Dhaka. I was amazed by the fact that despite his physical ailments during the last several years, he continued his research work.
While visiting Dhaka, I met him and his family numerous times. I, along with my wife, met with Shah Alam and Bhabi in New York City when he came to the USA for his academic work. When our daughter Sanjana was a child, Shah Alam gave her a toy ( a panda), which has remained a favourite toy for her.
I met him, the last time, in 2017 in his office when he persuaded me to have homemade lunch with him. Last year, when I visited Bangladesh, I talked with Shah Alam; unfortunately, I could not meet him.
Shah Alam used to tease me that I am a machine without any feelings or emotions. This was never true; certainly, it is not true after his death. He embodied all the essential traits of a magnetic personality.
The author is the Professor & Chair, Department of Economics, Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada.