It was to be a busy day. Tomorrow is the meeting of our construction advisory committee. Many renowned architects and engineers of the country are members of this committee. We are fortunate to have them all together.
Among them was the well-respected Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury. He was the chairman of the committee. He scrutinised all the documents of the meeting, a lifelong habit for him; there was no way to avoid the details.
Yesterday, he called Ashraf (Ashraful Hasan), who is the central figure in all our construction projects, to get some more explanations regarding the documents.
But the flurry of activities of the busy day stopped suddenly. A shocking news came and crushed everyone. Jamilur Reza had left us all.
He was such an integral part of our work, that we could not imagine doing anything without him. How was this possible? How do we accept it?
I heard a lot about him at the University of Southampton in England. I went back to Bangladesh after resigning from the teaching profession in America. It was June of 1972. On the way back, I went to the University of Southampton to meet my brother Ibrahim.
I had heard various stories about Jamilur Raza from everyone there. A few years ago, he returned to Bangladesh after completing his PhD from this university. Who knew my feelings for this person would one day turn into a deep friendship — a lifelong friendship.
My friendship with Jamilur Raza grew in 1993 centring Buet's convocation speech. That year, Buet invited me to give their convocation speech. In the speech, I spoke about our home loan program and the role of architects in many programs there.
As I was criticising the government in the presence of the prime minister, the teachers and students took warmly to me. Jamilur Reza, among them, deeply supported my statements.
Since the inception of Grameen Bank, I had been trying to learn how to use a computer. I always consulted Jamilur Reza about what could be done in this regard as there was no technical framework for using the internet at the time.
If you wanted to send an email from Dhaka, you had to collect it and send it to Singapore first. The arrangement to send it immediately hadn't been made yet. I used to send all the emails to Singapore one by one. It could only be sent twice a day.
To buy a computer, government permission was required, which was also a complicated matter. It was mandatory to get permission to buy fax machines, also. We vehemently objected to this.
Jamilur Reza also showed that the government reasoning behind this was illogical. Although the government did not change the rules, it refrained from enforcing those.
In 1996, the caretaker government was formed. Jamilur and I had the opportunity to work in this government at the same time. We felt that the government should take this opportunity to remove the barriers and create a legal framework to facilitate the use of computers and the internet.
I established Grameen Communications in 1997 to expand computerisation and the use of the internet.
From the beginning, Jamilur was a member of the board. I assumed that amid his thousands of engagements, I might find him only occasionally present at board meetings. Surprisingly, he not only attended every meeting but also gave his views and advice on every matter.
His interest in technology knew no bounds. Since the launch of Grameenphone in 1997, he had become very enthusiastic about the possibilities of mobile phones. He constantly advised us on what its recent use might be.
When we asked him to be a board member of Grameenphone, he gladly agreed. As always, he never attended a board meeting without scrutinising all the documents of this huge organisation.
He has left an outstanding mark on running technology-based companies like Grameenphone. Only death could cut short his dedicated role.
Jamilur Reza was a worldly man. We were fortunate to have him among us. He not only enriched our world of technology and infrastructure, he also enriched this country and its people permanently with his talent while inspiring the youth.
Thank you, Jamilur Reza Choudhury. We are grateful to you. We will express our gratitude to you by holding you in our memory forever.