Majeda Haq, a star of Bangladesh birding and a development professional, left us on 6 June, 2019. Her untimely departure - in addition to the death of wildlife researcher Tania Khan in March - made 2019 a painful year for conservationists of our land.
My fondest memory of Majeda is from 2017 during our group tour of Madagascar. One afternoon we were at an urban lake teeming with water birds. Unbeknownst to us (and our guides) some special birds were mixed with the more common birds. As I walked around the lake taking pictures, I noticed Majeda engaging another group of tourists in conversation. After finishing, she came away excitedly and gathered our group together. She had just learned that several rare and endangered Malagasy Pond Herons were roosting in the lake. With her usual alacrity and resourcefulness, she quickly found them. Without her we would have missed this once in a lifetime bird.
I first met Majeda in 1986 just before my marriage. She – along with Shibli, Shireen and Jabeen – were close friends of my fiancé. They were all studying together at Dhaka University. The four friends brought much merriment and laughter to the functions of the wedding.
After our wedding my wife and I returned to California where we began life as newlyweds and were absorbed in the rush of daily life.
Two decades later, we returned to live in Bangladesh. My wife connected with her old friends and I met Majeda again. Learning about her interest and activities in conservation, I told her about my new found interest in the world of birds. I mentioned to her that though I preferred to work alone, I was having difficulties learning about our birds without expert help.
She must have remembered this because one day she called and invited me to join a group of birders on a trip to Tanguar Haor. At that time, I was putting together a photo book on Sylhet and wanted to photograph the beautiful haor, so I immediately agreed. On board the boat that was our home for three days, I met several birders, including Majeda’s husband, collaborator, and founder of the Bangladesh Bird Club, Enam Ul Haque.
In retrospect that trip was a critical one in my birding life. I gained confidence in identifying species and made new friends in the birding community.
I also started attending the monthly Bird Club meetings at Enam Bhai and Majeda’s home – meetings that had been going on for twenty years. She welcomed all members, old and new, graciously to her home, serving snacks and making sure the gatherings were productive and interesting.
Several months after our Madagascar trip, I ran into Majeda at Lavender Superstore. She and Enam Bhai had just returned from a birding trip to Sri Lanka. She spoke with delight about her birding experience there, saying it had been like no other trip.
That was the last time I saw her. She fell ill soon afterward. With her departure, the Bangladesh Bird Club, birders and conservationists, and the wildlife of Bangladesh have suffered an irreparable loss. I will miss her friendship and remember her razor-sharp intelligence, commitment to wildlife and vivacious personality.
To join the Bangladesh Bird Club please sms ‘wish to be Bbc member’ to +8801767291639.