Humayun Kabir is no more with us. It's hard to believe this fact. He left us on July 2, 2015. Humayun bhai was a great person and a wonderful human being. On the one hand, he was a very successful business entrepreneur and on the other, he was a very conscientious and empathetic social entrepreneur. Having both these qualities in one person is rare in this world.
I came to know him through BRAC. Humayun bhai was the chairperson of BRAC for a long 19 years, since 1982, thus being the longest serving chairperson. I worked at BRAC from 1979 to 2004 as the Governing Body Secretary of the organisation. As a secretary to the Board, I was a silent observer and listener of the dialogues, debates and policy making discussions that took place at the board meetings. I was a witness of how Humayun bhai carried himself as the chairperson, effectively conducting the sessions.
Humayun bhai was an avid reader. He used to read all the reports, both financial and narrative, would internalise them and then come to the board meetings well-prepared as he asked inquisitive and meaningful questions to Abed bhai (Sir Fazle Hasan Abed) and others to understand the logic behind every decision, and then give his feedback and guidance. I am sure Abed bhai also learned from that and implemented steps accordingly. I, as a full time staff member of BRAC, would listen to Humanyun bhai and reflect what I learnt from him in my own organisational work. BRAC tremendously benefited from the advice, guidance and inputs that he made in his deliberations on the board.
Humayun bhai had a tremendous thirst for learning. I could feel that he would ask questions to learn. He wanted to know how things were going on the field, what were the experiences of programme participants. Periodically, he would visit the field of BRAC, talk to the staff and the women members at the grassroots, debrief them to benefit from firsthand learning. He had an inquisitive mind and he did all of this with an extremely positive attitude.
Humayun bhai made an extraordinary gesture by donating 51 percent of his shares of his successful enterprise Renata Pharmaceuticals to the foundation he created in the name of his wife, Sajida Foundation. Thus he ensured that Sajida Foundation was self-financed. It was a rare example that he had epitomised.
Humayun bhai was a perfect gentleman. He would always say things with a smile. I never heard him talking harshly with his managers, staff and people in general. As a manager, he was extremely successful. He was an example that a top manager, or for that matter any manager of any organisation, could be tough without being harsh. He gave very strict directions, carefully monitored, but always in a nice manner.
I was very fortunate to meet Humayun bhai after some years at the last Annual General Meeting of the BRAC General Body, on June 11, 2015. I had a brief discussion with him as well, as I asked him about his well-being. He, with his usual smile, enquired about my work and my family.
I was present at the last doa mahfil commemorating him at the Golf Garden. There were many speakers who reminisced about him. All talked about his capability and good qualities that helped him manage and lead both business and social organisations. However, I was most impressed when two of his seven grandchildren spoke about their dada/nana, about how he loved them, played with them, inculcated good values in them and guided them. I realised that this person knew how to love people, and in return, deservingly received all the respect and love from people.
I heard about his generosity to the disadvantaged people. Out of that generosity and love for them, he founded the Sajida Foundation, which continues his dream of doing good work. His vision, thus, is being translated into action.
As I was about to write something in a book condoling his death at the doa mahfil, I was lost. There were so many things I wanted to write, but there was a long queue waiting behind me. So finally, I wrote a sentence expressing my respect, honour and admiration for Humayun bhai. I wrote, “Ekjon biraat manush haralam” (lost a giant of a person).
The writer is former Pro-Vice Chancellor of BRAC University and Excecutive Deputy Director of BRAC.