A Tribute to
Justice Mainur Reza Chowdhury
7:15am, I awoke to the sound of my mother crying upstairs.
My khalu--or Alumoni as I have called him
from childhood– Mainur Reza Chowhdury, was no more.
To the outside world that knew him, he was a judge, and a
kind and humble man. To his family who knew him better, he
was really much the same: a relative who would always deliver
ethical advice, an uncle whose smile was always warm and inviting,
and a man who thought less of his own achievements and more
of his nephews' and nieces' school grades. There is no doubt
that in his death, the nation lost a wonderful judge and an
immaculate gentleman. We, as his near ones, have lost something
a million times more valuable.
the same way that one thinks of one's family as beginning
with one's grandparents, it was difficult not to think of
my khalu as a "founding" elder. He narrated
stories of my mother and her other siblings as if they were
still children. Having married my khala when my own
mother was 12, he was certainly not someone who married into
the family but rather someone who constituted it. He was also
the head of his own extended family, serving as a father figure
to many of his own siblings.
is rather unclear how khalu became the person that
he was, especially to those of us who dreamt of emulating
him. But it was obvious that in many ways, he was a gem. From
the beginning of his career as a lawyer to his retirement
as Chief Justice, he always seemed to see his own accomplishments
as gifts from Allah but others' as fruits of their labour
deserving credit and applause. It is thus unsurprising that
under the umbrella of his warm love and persistent support,
his wife my khala became a stellar academic, and
his daughters my dear cousins are talented, confident, and
extremely proficient. My khalu's legacy is bound
up with law, but through his family, he has had indirect contributions
to academia and dentistry.
his extended family, he was always a favourite. He somehow
had a special nickname for virtually every nephew and niece--ranging
from Nagoy to Cinderella, which made us all feel as if we
were Titans walking upon this Earth. After our SSC, intermediate,
and O'level examinations, we always were given applause, regardless
of how well we had done. In his world, it was effort, not
accomplishment, merited the reward. He thought the best of
everyone, he could not conceive of his nephews and nieces
trying any less than their best. Of course, our own parents
rarely shared his point of view on these matters, much to
was a true intellectual and that made him a superb conversationalist.
Though my childhood passions lay elsewhere, he always found
a way to interest me in questions of law and ethics. It was
never really a debate that one had with him, but more of a
discussion. Despite the wealth of knowledge that he brought
forth to legal issues, he treated others as his equals even
when they clearly were not. As such, when it came to law or
politics, he spoke with wisdom, enthusiasm, and a genuine
openness to new ideas.
it be forgotten, alongside his intellect lay cheeky mischief:
a boy who once set his teacher's beard on fire certainly could
not grow to be serious all the time. When teasing others,
he was as determined as ever, and my other uncles and aunts
bore the brunt of his wit. When my elder mama dislocated
his shoulder, khalu developed a sudden strong urge
to tickle his khala, and were it not for my khala,
may have very well yielded to such temptation. His eager playfulness
also made him a huge hit with his young grandchildren, who
considered him their greatest friend.
am not sure if being halfway across the world makes it easier
or harder. It is difficult to be so far away from one's extended
family at such a pivotal moment. Life here at Stanford continues
as it must, but it does inexorably slow down. Even though
I have not seen my khalu in about two years, these
past couple of days without him have felt as long as years.
The realisation that he shall not be there during my next
trip home emphasises the immense loss.
the end, matters of life and death lie not in the choices
we make. We pray that my khalu, Mainur Reza Chowdhury,
has found a better place in death, but we recognise that throughout
his life, he has made our world a better place.
Nageeb Mustafa Ali is a doctoral student in economics at Stanford
(R) thedailystar.net 2004