IT is difficult to believe that Kaiser Rasheed is no more. Not that he died prematur-ely. But what makes it difficult for me to reconcile with his death is that I met him just the other day - so vibrant and lively! Even at the late sixties he was very energetic. He would always wear an innocent smile on his face and talk on any subject with that rare ability to attract the listeners to his conversation. In different social gatherings and homely get-togethers in the capital, the once-famed foreign service official of the erstwhile Pakistan was an attraction. He would keep the ambience lively and exhilarating, and the people around him will listen to him with spell-binding attention. Whoever has not seen him in such atmosphere, he or she must have missed a person who could win friends and admiration in a moment's time. Some months ago I was at a marriage ceremony of a relation. Someone told me, "Let us take a seat in that table because Mr Kaiser Rasheed is sitting there - we will be privileged to enjoy his company". True, his characteristic aplomb made that half an hour we sat in that table all different!
It was more than two years ago that the present Speaker of the Jatiya Sangsad Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury (HRC) invited me for a dinner at his house. The occasion was to meet Mr Eric Gonsalves, the former secretary in the Indian foreign ministry, who was visiting Dhaka. He is an old friend of Mr Chowdhury, who was once posted in New Delhi and defected in 1971 as minister in the Pakistan high commission and led the diplomatic side from there in the liberation war. Several other persons were present at the dinner - mostly eminent people. Mr Gonsalves was a notable cadre-service official of Indian foreign service and later earned laurels as a reputed writer and columnist. Obviously, he was the centre of attraction in the discussions at the gathering - we all were benefitting from his discourse. Then came Kaiser Rasheed. He is the immediate younger brother of Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury but senior to him in service because Kaiser joined foreign service in 1951 and his elder brother in 1953. It is because elder Chowdhury wanted to become a barrister and went to London but later decided to join foreign service and that is how joined government job after his younger brother. Mr Gonsalves joined Indian foreign service in 1949. Like commonality in different professions, the foreign service officials of India and Pakistan in those days maintained personal relations cutting across political differences between the two countries. So, Mr Gonsalves knew both the Rasheed brothers who were senior officials of Pakistan foreign service. After Kaiser Rasheed came in the dinner, focus of discussions centered on him. The discussions on different subjects were so interesting that the dinner was served late. I knew Mr Gonsalves before in New Delhi where I was posted for several years as a journalist in the early eighties. He used to directly look after the Bangladesh desk along with several other countries considered important to India. At the end of the dinner he said, "Kaiser is as usual simply marvellous - he can keep the listeners spell-bound - I knew his name as an outstanding officer much before I met him." Mr Gonsalves had only echoed what most others say about Kaiser. In 1985 when we were in New York for the United Nations General Assembly session., it was decided that a Bangladesh national would be the next president of the UN General Assembly and he would be foreign minister Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury next year. The matter was a big pride for the nation since the country did not occupy this prestigious position before and there was hardly any likelihood that this chance would come again for Bangladesh for many years in the future. At the UN lobby, an elderly European diplomat was asking "is the person going to be UNGA president brother of Kaiser Rasheed? Because the names appear similar". It means even a former diplomat and sitting foreign minister of the country at that time was known at least to some people as the brother of his younger brother! When I told this at a later stage to Mr HRC in a jocular vein, he did not mind. He said. "It is true - Kaiser was known to many people in those days." Then he would smilingly add, "because of our similarity in face - many would mistake me as Kaiser!"What are being mentioned here are no exaggeration. Whoever knew him would agree that Kaiser Rasheed was a person of extraordinary charm and knowledge. Frankly, we would go to his house in leisure time - mostly Friday evenings - to hear many enchanting stories from him. He had very sharp memory but what was most striking about him was his presentation and choice of words. I must admit that only seldom I came across such fascinating and beautiful English that used to come from him. He would also speak chosen Bengali and would frequently quote from Rabindranath Tagore, Nazrul and others. Hasan Shahriar and I were visitors in his house on Fridays when many friends would come. He was extremely generous in treating his guests, who would enjoy listening to him. We spent endless hours in his Dhanmondi Road No 2 residence. Of late, I visited seldom because he would not let you leave the place so early. His was a great affectionate heart. Joining the foreign service in 1951, he continued till 1966 when he resigned. He accomplished many a tough assignment abroad during his professional career. Late Z A Bhutto, when he was Pakistan's foreign minister, watched with great admiration the professional excellence of this officer from erstwhile East Pakistan whom he made director in his office. Sadly, his was not utilised at all in this country despite he being an extraordinary officer of those days. He was a different kind of person who would remain content with good food, golf, lively environment of friends and relations, and, more particularly, enjoy intellectual and other discussions covering diplomacy, politics, literature etc. He would not try or lobby for anything and hence a person of his talents remained without such service to this nation although different governments could have been benefited by his services. "Kaiser broke the serial in service by joining before me and this time he did the same by leaving this world before me although I am elder," a sobbing Humayun Rasheed Chowdhury uttered at his janaza where many people, SAMS Kibria, Abul Hasan Chowdhury, Moudud Ahmed, Rezaul Karim, A K H Morshed, Mohi Chowdhury, C M Morshed, Niaz Chowdhury, Justice Hasan, friends and relations were present. "I will always miss Kaiser Bhai - what a lively person!" said Mr K S Nabi. He was much elder to me by about twenty years and I used to call him "Mamu" as he was a cousin of my mother. But we were more friends. When my father died several years ago, he came to our house to console us: "Mamu - don't feel bad - try to keep yourself cheerful - do not you see I am always smiling - I have my own frustration and bad times but I remain lively". True, seldom in life I have come across such a person who sought to be in jovial mood and smiling all the time. Many of us will miss such a nice person and a great talent.