On 1 July 2016 Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain left this world. His grandfather Latifur Rahman was out of the country at the time. He rushed back to Dhaka that evening upon hearing the news. What moments of horror those were! What pain he must have gone through! He had lost his dearest grandson. Faraaz was called ‘Chotoo’ by his family. And his grandfather Latifur Rahman called him Choton. He had a little bit extra love for his Choton.
Faraaz was born on 15 April 1996. He was a good student. He had the honour of delivering the graduation speech at the American International School/Dhaka. When he was in Class 5 he received the US President (George W Bush) Award for academic excellence. He won everybody’s hearts an undergrad student at Emory University business school in America. Faraaz was no more. On that day, Latifur Rahman’s entire existence must have been torn asunder in sorrow and rage.
On the night of 1 July, Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman took me along with reporter Rozina Islam and photographer Zia Islam to Gulshan-2. What could we say to Latifur Rahman?
The lights were off at Latifur Rahman’s house. He asked for the lights to be turned on when he saw us. Without any other words, he asked for dinner to be served and sat with us to eat. He served us, saying, “You must have heard, they wanted to release Faraaz, told him to leave. Faraaz refused to leave his friends.”
“Yes, that appeared in the New York Times.”
It was about 1:00am when we left and Latifur Rahman walked us to our car, holding open the car door. Later in the car, Matiur Rahman said to us, is there anything to learn from Latifur Rahman’s words? Even in a crisis, he sees the positive, the silver lining to a cloud.
In the four years from 2016 to 2020, Latifur Rahman always thought of his dear grandson. And as before, he always saw the sun peeking out behind the clouds, the silver lining.
1 July 2020. It was as if Latifur Rahman chose this day to depart, the day that his dearest grandson had left this world.
Latifur Rahman won the Business for Peace Award in 2012 in recognition of his ethics, reputation and integrity in business. He was the founder chairman and MD of Prothom Alo. Prothom Alo editor Matiur Rahman and The Daily Star editor Mahfuz Anam claim to be the world’s most independent editors. The investors never interfered with their editorial independence. Quite to the contrary, Latifur Rahman always provided steely support for bold, honest and objective journalism.
He was always optimistic about Bangladesh’s success. He was always eager for good news about Bangladesh. His youngest daughter lost her life in a tragic incident. His dearest grandson lost his life in the Holey Artisan tragedy. Even so, the family holds green passports and never thought of leaving the country to settle abroad.
On 1 July, Latifur Rahman had said to us, “Will we be able to spontaneously display the integrity, the values, the friendship, the courage that Faraaz did in that moment of extreme danger? We may be able to, with due thought and consideration, but spontaneously? Faraaz has beaten us in this test of ideals, but he has left us holding our heads high.”
Today Latifur Rahman is also no longer with us. But his integrity, strength, ethics, and high values keep our heads high. Like Latifur Rahman, we too are assailed by the question, will we be able to display such firmness if our courage, values and integrity are put to test?
Latifur Rahman faced many tests in his life and had left behind a legacy of courage, values, integrity. And young Faraaz, his dear grandson, gave his life as a shining example of Bangladesh’s sincerity towards guests and friends.
Both of them left us on 1 July, left us holding our heads high, left us with ideals of life to emulate and follow. Good wishes to them both.
* Anisul Hoque is associate editor of Prothom Alo and a writer