Remembering Professor Syed Saleheen Qadri
In the throes of struggling with the Covid-19 scourge, Bangladesh has unfortunately lost many of her illustrious sons in the not-too-distant past. To the utter dismay of many, there has been one more addition to this list. This writer, with a heavy heart, is recollecting his privileged association with Professor Syed Saleheen Qadri PhD, a distinguished teacher, whom the cold hands of death snatched from our midst on the morning of September 1.
It was in the Rotary fraternity way back in 1994 where I had the benefit of knowing and interacting frequently with this soft-spoken personality. Suavity of manners coupled with amiable disposition were the hallmarks of his character and one could not resist being friendly and drawn to him. Whenever he deliberated on the norms and nuances of Rotary of which he was markedly proud, all Rotarians listened in rapt attention. He would readily volunteer to offer valuable and considered suggestions when needed and would go the extra length to read papers and documents thoroughly, encouraging young Rotarians to get acclimatised to Rotary culture. In fact, his companionship very aptly brought into focus the wisdom of the famous saying that, "God has given us the relations but we can always choose our friends and acquaintances we wish to cultivate and cherish for a healthy and fuller life".
His passing assumes profound significance for me and many of his admirers and colleagues because he left us at a time when single-minded pursuit of money has impoverished the mind, shrivelled the imagination and desiccated the heart of many.
Dr Qadri served as Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Dhaka University and lately at Independent University, Bangladesh. His intellectual curiosity and capacity to think clearly made him a true teacher worth emulating. He believed that what we need today more than anything else is moral leadership—founded on courage, intellectual integrity and a sense of values. Such a belief acquires meaning when real life experience shows that intellectual integrity is a much rarer quality than financial integrity. He was quietly resolute in support of his view of life and had the courage to stand up for that.
Dr Qadri had high aims in life and thus it was only natural that he wandered beyond the safe provision of personal gratifications. His empathetic persona and admirable public-spiritedness endeared him to many. It was thus no surprise that he was a distinguished Rotarian for more than four decades and held various leadership positions to his credit. He sought the cooperation of all perceptive persons in the active work of voluntary service. Blessed with the gift of the gab and being meticulous to the pinpoint and having a mastery over the rules and regulations of the Rotary world,, Dr Qadri quite often enlivened the proceedings of many events.
Dr Qadri was, in a real sense, a total Rotarian in that he personified the Rotary ideals and principles in his personal and professional dealings. This is no exaggeration as readers perhaps know that the Rotary invocation is the following:
"We the Rotarians are dedicated to the ideal of service to maintain a high ethical standard in our business and profession and to dignify our vocation by enhancing international understanding, goodwill and peace through people united in the ideal of service". His truthfulness, fairness, harbouring of goodwill and better friendships and above all, concern for the welfare of others, made him a real gentleman.
In carrying out the noble objectives of Rotary, Dr Qadri was an effective and trusted partner of society, providing voluntary services of the highest ethical standards with leadership for the purpose of social development. He earnestly envisioned a scenario where Bangladeshis will unite and take action to create lasting change across the globe in our communities and in ourselves.
His passion for education, particularly science education, was manifest in his founding of the Institute for Developing Science and Health Initiatives (ideSHi), of which he was the scientific coordinator. The mission of ideSHi is as follows: "create awareness, strengthen capacity and power innovations to make Bangladesh a global leader in the field of biomedical sciences and translational research". The vision of the organisation is "to improve lives and help attain better health for Bangladeshis".
The public spiritedness of Dr Qadri lay in his tireless efforts for awareness building and arrangement of blood tests of potential and actual Thalassemia patients in Bangladesh. In the course of his advocacy and motivational discourses, he had been to many public and private offices in addition to colleges and universities, and spoke with the zeal of a missionary.
Dr Qadri had a number of representative scientific publications in national and international journals in his field of specialisation as a biochemist and molecular biologist. I hope that his colleagues of yesteryears and present will comment on his erudition in the appropriate forums. He was known for his research in the industrial microbiology.
Dr Qadri contracted Covid last July but recovered. Unfortunately, he was readmitted with pneumonia. He tested Covid negative but his lungs were in poor condition and he was put on a ventilator. He passed away while on breathing support.
Professor Saleheen Qadri leaves behind Dr Firdausi Qadri, Senior Scientist at icddr,b and recipient of several international honours, including the recent Magsaysay Award, and two erudite sons and a daughter. May his soul rest in eternal peace and may the Almighty grant courage and fortitude to his family to bear the loss.
Muhammad Nurul Huda is a former IGP of Bangladesh.