Why good souls leave this earth all of a sudden, I do not know. Perhaps the Almighty has an answer. The sudden death news of Mohamed Mijarul Quayes just came as a disaster. Whoever knows him will not accept his untimely death. As he was an excellent gentleman, humorous and witty, cheerful - very welcoming person with smart thinking power and action. A very lively person gives only good time to his surroundings. I am so blessed that once I came to know him.
My working experience with him was for a few months. But that period was so concrete that it had left a good impact. Later, I met him in many programmes, especially in the foreign ministry and in Bengal Gallery's gatherings. I worked as a conference aide in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for about two months during the 7th SAARC summit held in Dhaka in 1994. A question may now arise whether the vision of SAARC has been realized. One may also wonder whether the SAARC countries are at present friendly neighbours! But at that time - in the mid-90s - SAARC was a beacon of strong bonding among countries - and among peoples. And ultimately, it is people-to-people relationship that matters in strengthening or weakening inter-country relationaship.
In 1994, I was doing my MA degree in the English Department of Dhaka University. Earlier, I did my honours in literature from Eden University College. Just in the middle of the classes, I was stuck in my foreign ministry voyage. It was too exciting, though tedious. Getting chance to work as a conference aide under the Ministry of Foreign affairs was a delightful experience for me. I had gone through an interview or selection process. SAARC chair at that time was Mr. Faruq Chowdhury. He himself led the interview process of the conference aides for the upcoming 7th SAARC summit. The panel of interviewers included Quayes bhai and other foreign ministry DGs. Mr. Faruq Chowdhury asked me, possibly to test me nerves: "What had happened in 1965?" I answered: "India-Pakistan war". I was selected for spoken English and confidence. Faruq Chowdhury chacha is a very witty person. He looked into my CV and noticed my year of birth and asked me that question as a joke. He was a friend of my late father Ali Aksad. His brother, Enam ahmed Chowdhury, is also my father's friend.
A number of smart youths from university and colleges were selected to work with the foreign delegates during the SAARC conference. We didn't get much time for training. In fact, got training on-job. Above all, our team leader, Quayes bhai's broad heart and amicable gesture welcomed and inspired us. We were working along with brilliant foreign ministry cadres. They were so modest; we never felt uneasy. We were young and we used to laugh or whisper all the time.
Mohamed Mijarul Quayes spent much of his valuable time with us, the conference aides. He used to explain every sequence. Actually we were visualizing the SAARC drama then: what would happen, how the guests would appear and react with us. And it was not an easy drama - it was going to be an international drama. Quayes bhai gave us confidence. We did not feel tense at all. The SAARC meeting had a flag-changing event. I was in the dais. I was placed with Indian Prime Minster Narosima Rao, I was standing behind him on the occasion. This moment was historic. To make this moment worthwhile, we were taken to the International Conference Centre for rehearsal. Wearing silk sari, doing such performance was amazing. I still have the ID cards of SAARC with ICCC. That means I had access to every faculty of the conference. Quayes bhai and other seniors used to take us to the different venues purposefully.
Bonding of SAARC started among us. We, the conference aides and the foreign ministry officials, spent good time together. We were then given honourium lunch pay only. That was Tk 250 per day. But it was given later after the conference. Here again, Quayes bahi looked after our needs for lunch. He arranged staffs to fetch our lunch from nearby deshi restaurants in the High Court area.
He was a kind of a hero to us all. That time his two sisters were in our conference aide team. We used to talk about his brilliant career. Nupur was one of his sisters. In those days we were picked up and given drop at home in the evening. So we were divided in small groups in superset micro buses to go home. All the coordination was checked by dear Quayes bhai. Whatever important agenda he had, he always protected his new team with utmost care. He was a leader who looked after his followers.
During this SAARC summit I had talked with brilliant freedom-fighter Shamser Mobin Chowdhury, a former foreign secretary. He is popularly known as Sheru. A conference is a meeting point of knowing people. Some of them stay in memory forever.
The SAARC chair, Faruq Chowdhury also used to inspire us with brilliant talks. The young team was too pampered by leading foreign ministry bureaucrats. The SAARC chair and the SAARC secretary maintained liaison with conference aides for excellent team work.
People do take education as a tool. But in the case of Mohamed Mijarul Quayes, his personality blossomed surpassing his institutional degrees. He was not boastful, he was modest. He achievement in life was superb. He became the foreign secretary and ambassador of Bangladesh also. He truly had represented Bangladesh to the world. He had great fascination for art and literature. Many times I talked to him in Bengal Gallery's programmes. He also spoke on art on various occasions.
The dreamer, who loved art, culture and roamed around the world, died in pains. He spent his last days in Brazil as envoy. He expired on March 11, 2017. Quyes bhai, stay happily ever after wherever you are.
The writer is Excutive
Committee member ,
Bangladesh Peace Council.