Thursday, June 13, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

There was no one like Kazi Shahid Ahmed

Instead of following traditional business paths, he innovated new avenues

Update : 01 Sep 2023, 02:49 PM

My acquaintance with Kazi Shahid Ahmed began in the late eighties of the last century, when the weekly "Khoborer Kagoj" was published under his editorship. I do not remember the date, but I still remember our first meeting. 

A play was being staged at Mohila Samity, and while watching it, I saw some dear friends of mine chatting outside the auditorium. 

I remember Momtazuddin Ahmed, Mamunur Rashid, Keramat Mawla, and one or two others who were talking with each other. They were talking to a kind and smiling man.

I was told that he was Kazi Shahid Ahmed, a businessman, journalist and editor of Khoborer Kagoj.

We got to know each other, exchanged greetings and he asked me to go to his office.

"We will eat singara, fuchka, have tea, and I will tell stories," he said, telling me he printed the boldest stories eagerly. 

Then he left. Maybe he came to drop someone off.

Our relationship gradually deepened; I was introduced to his various projects, and I saw many of his dreams come true. 

But the impression I had of him that day was no longer shaken—he seemed an earnest man, each of his many identities worth asserting, but unwilling to step under the light himself.

The simple invitation he extended to me, including a list of what to eat, remained unchanged.

In the invitation letter for any event at his house, he would tell in simple terms which fish or what kind of daal or bhorta would be on the menu that day.

Kazi Shahid Ahmed had a knack for making people his closest acquaintances. Initially, I knew him primarily as a journalist. His business identity did not intrigue me, given my unfamiliarity with commerce. 

However, I later understood that his entrepreneurial spirit had greatly contributed to his business's expansion. In essence, he did not just conduct business; he crafted it. 

Instead of following the traditional business paths, he innovated new avenues, such as the business of organic tea and other organic materials.

Wherever Kazi Shahid Ahmed invested his efforts, he succeeded. This was because he had his feet firmly planted on the ground, even when his visions reached far. 

He incorporated what is termed "modern management" through his life experiences. 

Once, during a speech, he advised young students not to only gaze at the kite, thinking it soared high on its own. It is the string that lets it fly. If the string is cut, the kite will undoubtedly drift, but that drifting will eventually lead to a fall.

Over time, I discovered that Kazi Shahid Ahmed had served in the army, was educated in engineering, and was enthusiastic about sports. I also learned that he turned to autobiography writing and fiction in his later years. 

I have not read his autobiography "Jiboner Shilalipi" in Bengali, but I have gone through its English translation by Arifa Ghani Rahman. I have also read "Bhoirob" and "Opekkha", two of his novels.

"Bhoirob" became popular among readers due to its intricate plot, vivid descriptions, linguistic flair, and vibrant characters brought to life, accentuated by their subtle emotional nuances.

Once, I noticed that whenever Kazi Shahid Ahmed—whom I had affectionately come to call "Shahid bhai" (Brother Shahid)—invited anyone to his home for a gathering, he never could say no.

His engaging conversations would always draw people in. He had a subtle sense of humour and with his composed demeanor and cheerful face, he possessed the ability to express complex matters simply and with clarity. 

The army had taught him discipline, self-control, and the ability to seamlessly integrate with others.

Kazi Shahid Ahmed was beloved both by the elders and the youth. He was truly an example of a man of simple virtue.

Shahid bhai had asked me to write for Ajker Kagoj when he took on the additional responsibility of editing along with publishing. It was impossible to decline his request. But he had only one condition— to present the truth with courage and avoid unnecessary embellishment. 

Having observed Khoborer Kagoj, I saw how Kazi Shahid Ahmed was redefining journalism. He emphasized authenticity, displayed a commitment to history, and held culture in reverence.

Consequently, Ajker Kagoj had pledged its allegiance to the core ideals of the Liberation War, a commitment it held firm until its cessation in 2007. 

This newspaper faced backlash from the government and various circles; its office was bombed, and countless lawsuits were filed against it. But Kazi Shahid Ahmed and his newspaper remained unyielding.

In 1994, I wrote an article about why Ajker Kagoj was popular. At the time, its impact was palpable everywhere. Everyone would wake up, read it, reflect upon it, and become active, not just for themselves but for society at large. 

I wrote about how this newspaper captured the sentiments and opinions of people from all walks of life and how its editorials daily fuelled people’s thoughts and actions. 

In my view, Ajker Kagoj transformed the style and presentation of column writing. It showed us the multitude of perspectives from which a topic could be viewed.

Shahid bhai gave his journalists complete freedom and always stood by them. He brought about a significant change in Bangladeshi journalism.

When Kazi Shahid Ahmed decided to establish a university and invited me to join him, I gladly accepted. This was because I knew he had identified liberal arts as a significant area of education, and he knew specialized knowledge that bypasses broad humanistic studies does not serve society well. 

In today's tech- and media-driven era, we realize the need for a broader humanistic perspective.

However, at the beginning of this century, when the internet was just emerging in our country, Shahid bhai realized that his efforts to integrate education into society would be fruitful. 

The University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, which he founded, though small and with limited resources, continues to carry his vision forward.

Kazi Shahid Ahmed wore many hats, but to me, three of his roles stand out because I witnessed his dedication to them — as a journalist, a writer, and an educational entrepreneur. I am sure many others would emphasize different facets of his identity as equally important.

I pay my utmost respects to him.

Syed Manzoorul Islam is a fiction writer and educator.

Timeline: Death of Kazi Shahid Ahmed
01 Sep 2023, 10:00
There was no one like Kazi Shahid Ahmed
29 Aug 2023, 18:19
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