The film 'Jalshaghar' (The Music Room) by Satyajit Ray depicts the end days of a decadent zamindar in Bengal and his efforts to uphold his family prestige while facing economic adversity. Actor Chhabi Biswas played the role of the zamindar, the protagonist of the story. The zamindar hosts a musical show every year and spends lavishly. By doing so, at one stage, he notices that there is little left to spend on the next musical show. But he will arrange it anyway, because it is a tradition. So he orders his men to sell whatever precious belongings he has -- to meet the expenses. The order is carried out. The palace is lit up once again. The most prominent dancer is hired for the show. People from far and wide come to enjoy it. Thus the show is held with all its usual pomp. After the show, he has no money left to pay for his men. Still, he won't bow to anybody or ever put himself at the mercy of others, because it will be unbecoming of a zaminder. He ordered his most faithful employee to bring out his horse. The employee tried to forbid the frail, old man to go for a horse ride. But all his efforts went in vain. The horse was brought out. The zamindar rode it and it started running as fast as it could. At one stage the zamindar fell from the horseback and died. Until the last day of his life he was a zamindar. He lived like a zamindar all along.
The last days of the life of late Biplab Zaman, FE news consultant, were almost like this. He died alone in his living room at the age of 57. Days after his death, everybody came to know that he had passed into eternity. The police recovered his body from his flat by breaking open the door on January 21, 2023. He had never put himself at the mercy of others. He had lived his life as he wished. For several days until the recovery of his body, nobody could say where he was.
Biplab Zaman, whom we would fondly address as Biplab Bhai, was born into a journalist family. So, journalism ran in his blood. His father, M Anisuzzaman, was a renowned journalist who served as the chief editor and managing director of Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) between 1997 and 1998. His grandfather, Moulana Ahmed Ali, was the editor of the Kolkata-based Bangla daily Nabayug in undivided India under the British rule. His elder brother, Humayun Zaman, was also a journalist. He died in 2015, at the age of 61, while working as an associate editor for the New Age.
Biplab Bhai was a Dhaka University English Department graduate with all first classes up to the honours level. When he did his Master's, he stood second class second. Growing up in a family of journalists, it was quite natural that he would go on to follow in his family's footsteps. He served at several national English dailies, including The Daily Star, New Age, the now-defunct Independent and The Telegraph in various capacities.
One of his long-time colleagues, Syed Mamun, a former sports editor at the BSS, reminisced about the early days of Biplab Bhai in journalism: "He was a brilliant sub-editor groomed under Afzal H Khan, former MP. Possibly in mid eighties (he was) working with Mahmudur Rahman at the New Nation in sports section."
Later he served at the Morning Sun, Daily Star, The Telegraph, Independent, New Age and finally settled down at The Financial Express as its news consultant.
He was a simple, quiet and well-behaved guy and a workaholic and always loved by the management for dedication and sincerity. "We were close as we worked together in New Nation, Daily Star and The Telegraph," Syed Mamun said.
"Afzal Bhai, Mahmudur Rahman, Monju Bhai and myself were very close to Biplob Bhai".
In his tribute to Biplab Bhai, Bangladesh Bureau Chief of AFP Shafiqul Alam wrote on Facebook: "Biplab Bhai became very religious and was possibly one of the rare faces in English journalism who would be fully clad in an Islamic robe and skullcap 24/7."
However, while working with him, we, particularly me (this scribe), never found Biplab Bhai discussing anything other than work, possibly because he understood the difference between his personal life and professional life. He always talked to us with a smile on his face, as if, he valued it highly because simple deeds like a smile were Sadqah and he was aware of it.
Former BBC Bangla Editor Kamal Ahmed, in a reaction to Mr. Alam's tribute to Biplab Bhai, wrote: When I first met him, he was almost like a foreigner - a tall man with bright skin and curly hair. We worked together at The Daily Star and Telegraph." In another reaction, former UN Communications Professional Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury said, "Biplab Bhai was a colleague of mine during my very short stint in The Independent. He seemed to have an amicable and soothing personality and.…probably gave me a respect that I didn't deserve."
The day Biplab Bhai was found dead, this scribe tried to know more about his life by reading news reports about him. However, there was little information available about him, beyond the fact that he was a journalist, which highlights the lonely existence that many journalists face, especially in Bangladesh. Senior journalist Shafiqul Alam said Biplob bhai's sad demise reflects the kind of life Bangladeshi journalists embrace when they are fully wedded to the job largely due to their jobs and economic insecurities.
The life of Biplab Bhai was marked by loneliness and dedication to his work as a journalist. Divorced from his former wife, with whom he shared his all three children -- one son and two daughters -- he used to live alone. His children visited him sometimes. He spent whatever he could for education of his children, with the eldest -- a daughter -- now pursuing a degree at a public medical college. May the soul of Biplab Bhai rest in eternal peace!
The writer was a colleague of Biplab Zaman while the latter held the position of in-charge of the Online Section at The Financial Express.