He embraced death as he embraced life
It is a truism that man is known by his manners. By that standard Muhammed Ali Mahbub was a decent man with a warm heart. I do not remember when and what circumstance I first came to know him. My world of activities and his were so different that it was a surprise for us to be so close.
I was a little younger to him also. In his world he had the opportunities to gather vast experience as administrative executive in well-known companies both international and local. He served Phillips Bangladesh, ICDDR,B and other concerns with efficiency and diligence. My world was concerned more with law and public affairs.
Most likely, that we came to know each other through Dr Rashiduzzaman my university teacher and his long time friend. Mr Ali Mahbub's special quality was friendliness for winning people as friends. He was a successful man and satisfied for it but no showing off.
He was a renowned social worker to share his blessings with others who were less fortunate and in need. As a distinguished Rotarian he contributed with open hands for the success of various projects devoted to serve the poor and for their upliftment. His own pet project, as far as I know is the hospital he built in his birth-place Bogura.
To be honest, I do not know much as his long and successful career. He was self-made man. He hardly talked about himself. His favourite pastime was travelling and in particular taking long cruises. We often discussed going for such a cruise together. But it did not happen.
My own impression is nothing made him happier than entertaining his friends with special dishes he himself would prepare. He loved to cook himself the good food items he found delicious on his various tours all over the world. In culinary activities he was a perfectionist. He will bring specially cut meats or salmon fish etc. He will also collect right ingredients to prepare his best-loved dishes. It was not enough for him to prepare delicious food dishes but these must also be served properly. He will ensure that himself. The dishes will be served on a nicely laid table. It was a very special treat to have a dinner in his house. We had many such happy experiences.
He was a man of taste. He lived well and dressed well. To have expensive cars was a passion for him. He was so organised that he did not like to leave anything to chances. One can say he was a control freak and his endeavour was to have full control over his life and work.
He had friends from across the social spectrum. Only thing he did not encourage was partisan political debate as it could become nasty for a nice socials gathering. So he was choosy about guests he would invite. Although he was not apolitical.
Toward the end of his life he showed some interest in politics. He found it not his cup of tea. So he forgot all about joining any political party. He went on serving the country the best he could, by being a social activist.
I noticed him as a loving husband and an affectionate father. The happy family was a remarkable gift to him. This man was lucky in so many ways. His wife Mrs Gul-e-Afroze was the woman behind him and with him as inseparable. She was also a successful careerist. But both were most unassuming unlike many newly rich of the present days. Saju and I were most relaxed and pleased in their company.
Mr Mahbub was always an easy going healthy looking man and meticulously took care of his health. Like a bolt from the blue a dark cloud of misfortune descended on this generous family. The doctors found that he had cancer. Nothing excess was his way. But there is no way of taking precaution against cancer. But when it hits, it hits devastatingly not the victim himself but equally his family and friends for their helplessness to be of no use.
It was a real shock to know he was afflicted with such a vicious health condition. Saju and I went to see him at the hospital in Dhaka. We expected to find them shattered. But nothing like that was visible in them. He was looking controlled but concerned. To buck him up I showed a brave face and said cancer was nowadays treatable and there was nothing to worry too much. He responded by saying with determination that he would fight to the last. I felt better for his determination.
However condition was deteriorating and he again got himself admitted to a hospital. It was heartbreaking to see him leaving us.
At this moment of great crisis for the family we got a card just few days before his death to celebrate his wedding anniversary. Later we found that the arrangement was more a get together of family friends.
Thanks to his wife and children they arranged a small but very somber party at the Hotel InterContinental. We knew it was both a wedding ceremony and a polite way of saying farewell to his friends.
Saju and I were impressed by his will as if like life death was also normal to be embraced. The atmosphere was so surreal. Later we admired his beautiful well-meaning mind behind the idea. Till the last day Mr Mahbub did what he thought right. The wedding anniversary was to be observed. He could not leave his friends without saying goodbye to them.
Mr Mahbub made a touching speech about the blessings of life he was lucky to have and how proud he was of his children.
He thanked his beloved wife for making his life worth living. All in all, he made it clear he was dying a happy and blessed man.
It was such a moving farewell party to remember. I never experienced so cool and calm a man who was face to face with death. He defied the horror of death to touch the face of God.
Mr Mahbub lived and died in style. He made death a human journey and an occasion to recall the blessings of life.
(Mainul Hosein, Chairman, Editorial Board, The New Nation)