It was the year 2003 and we were a part of a delegation abroad. I had already known Mizan for over a decade by then and treated him like a younger brother – even scolding him when necessary. And I scolded him on that trip. We were due to attend a dinner with some important dignitaries and I was in my hotel room, getting ready. I lifted the phone and called Mizan’s room to make sure he was getting ready too, because he hadn’t returned to the hotel with the rest of us. No one replied. It was time to leave and the others were waiting in the lobby, but no sign of Mizan. They urged me to come down but I said, let’s wait just a bit more… and a bit more… that bit more stretched out to almost an hour when my phone finally rang and that booming voice resounded in my ear, “Apa! Ami aschi!” (Apa, I’m on my way!)
“Mizan!” I think I shouted, “Get back here immediately! Have you no sense of responsibility? What will people think? We are almost one hour late because of you… blah, blah, blah..” I ranted on.
Later at the dinner he took me to one side and explained why he was late and I realised he was the real journalist among us. While the rest of us were busy attending all the pre-set programmes of the government-sponsored trip, he had sneaked off to meet and interview none other than Raja Tridiv Roy, the Chakma king who had opted for the other side during the Liberation War and never returned to Bangladesh. And what a timely interview. A few years on Raja Tridiv passed away.
There are so many more memories that come flooding back. Everyone sees him as a veteran journalist, a constitutional expert, an expert on law, a resourceful reporter, a writer, a researcher and more. And he was all of that and more. But to me, he was still that young boy I met 30 years or so ago when I was working for Dhaka Courier. It had not been long that he had come to Dhaka from Barishal and started working at the weekly. His work was to scan the newspapers and create a bank of background material. Even just a few months ago he was recalling that, saying how that tedious exercise that helped him with his research habits in later years.
There are so many reasons why I am glad I joined Prothom Alo and now I am all the more glad because it made me and Mizan colleagues all over again. We had always been in touch and in Prothom Alo, all the more so. I would groan, “Mizan, how am I supposed to translate such difficult articles of yours with complicated constitutional references, legal terminology and more.” Then he would write in English for the Prothom Alo English portal and says “Apa, ektu ghoshe meje nen!” (Apa, polish it up a bit!)
The jurists of the highest level in Bangladesh had high regard for Mizan. When the former Chief Justice Mustafa Kamal was alive, he would speak with high regard about Mizan and admire his prowess in the legal annals. The legendary Masdar Hossain considered Mizan a friend despite the wide difference in age.
But Mizan wasn’t restricted to law and the constitution alone. He was interested in politics, in security, in human stories, never missing a chance to highlight the human side of life, the injustices, the crime and the corruption. It was Mizan who captured the shot of a young man’s hand being crushed between two buses, it was Mizan who wrote about a little girl who was turned away from several hospitals in the city before she finally died. He was relentless in his pursuit for the truth. He may have become the joint editor of Prothom Alo, but the reporter in him lived on.
Today, Monday, 11 January 2021, Mizan passed away. I want to cry out like I did those 17 years ago, “Mizan, get back here immediately!” But this time, he won’t be taking any interview. Perhaps he is the one to be interviewed. I pray you pass with flying colours, brother.