There was never such an active and creative platform for the youth in the English print media before in Bangladesh, and I wonder if there ever will be. It was the tabula rasa onto which we poured our hearts and minds... and souls too, perhaps. It was the slate on which we scribbled our thoughts, the mirror of the sheer exuberance of our youth.

The man behind the scenes

He wasn't really behind the scenes, but pretended to be so! Who was the wizard who opened the magic door to our field of dreams? Who was the man who ran The Junior page? We knew him as 'Modhu Mama', our dear beloved Modhu Mama. Of course Modhu Mama wasn't his real name. So who was the man who used this sweet sobriquet? It was Farook Uz Zaman, though he'd never admit it! When we turned up at the Morning News office, or met him at picnics, at the award ceremonies or other events, there he was, handsome, dapper and debonair, Mr Farook Uz Zaman. We would exclaim "Modhu Mama!" and he would feign confusion, look around perplexedly and say, "Where? Where is he?" Like bratty kids, we would yell, "You are Modhu Mama, you can't fool us!" And he would shake his head in mock regret, "No, no, he sent his apologies, he can't make it today. He had some prior preoccupation, and asked me to stand in for him."

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Modhu Mama (let's stick to that name because that is what he will always be to us) played a vital role in shaping our lives. There was so much talent out there and he tapped this talent to create the wonderful world of Juniors. He nurtured us so lovingly and carefully, without us even realising the priceless investment being made in our futures.

So many years have passed, decades, almost half a century, most of us had lost touch with each other, spread out all over the world... families, careers and histories of our own, scattered to the four winds. Then one day, very recently.. Voila! we met! Who should we thank? Haroon? Mumtaz? But the biggest prize of all is that, after all these years, we met none other than our dearest Modhu Mama! A small group of us got together and called upon him at his apartment in Dhaka. There are no words to express our experience. It was like time travel to the past, or like our past selves had been catapulted into the future.

We may be seniors now, but we'll be Juniors forever!
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There he stood in person. Years have been more than kind to him. He stood there, tall and handsome as ever, now with a white beard, dressed in white, emanating a sense of calm and peace, a spirituality that only comes with immense faith in the Almighty. We could not hold back our tears when we saw him and nor could he... so much had happened, so many joys and tragedies unshared, so much to say, so much locked in our hearts and minds all wanting to gush forth like a waterfall.

We were saddened to hear his dear beloved wife, the beautiful and talented Mumtaz Renu Maryam had passed away. He sat there before us, her pictures and her books all around. She was a prolific and multilingual writer, more than gifted, a mystic indeed. We pray for the dear departed soul and for Mama to bear this irreplaceable loss.

I was compelled to write this piece not just as a little note to preserve those precious memories, but more as a humble acknowledgement to the Morning News, the Juniors and, most importantly, to the one and only MODHU MAMA. We may be seniors now, but we'll be Juniors forever!

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