A tribute to Professor Naiyyum Choudhury - Dr. Ashfaque Hossain

Naiyyum Sir was one of the few teachers who will forever have a place in my heart. Good teachers are very special as they not only teach but also motivate, also have tremendous influence on the mindset of the students. I am a teacher myself. I have been a teacher in 5 different countries in different parts of the world. The Medical University I am teaching now has students from 29 different countries. I know how students look up to their teachers not just as a teacher, but as a guide, as role model.  Of course the parents come first, but good teacher influences the students from the different perspective.

Naiyyum Sir such a role model personality to me. Unlike our imagination of a professor (mostly derived from story books and movies) being absent minded, clumsy, shabbily dressed, Sir was always focused, always nicely dressed, smart person with intelligent eyes, smiling—a sunshine personality. I used feel nothing but good when I was in presence of Sir.  These are a positive side of his personality. Professor Anwarul Azim Chowdhury Sir established the Microbiology Departmnet. When Chowdhury Sir passed away, we almost became orphans as Chowdhury Sir was the only teacher. On that critical time Naiyyum Sir stepped voluntarily, worked with part-time chairperson Professor Mahbubur Rahman for our thesis examination and results publication. Sir name is written on the board of the Department of Microbiology who volunteered their time and contributed significantly to establish the Department.
Although my first job was at ICDDRB, my first job offer was from Atomic Energy Commission. Naiyyum Sir was at the job interview with 2-3 other individuals. The  interview was for selection research officer.   Sir was asking questions and I was answering. Initially he started with simple questions, as I was answering promptly, Sir started to ask tougher questions, and I was answering. Other members were quite, just enjoying the show. Then finally, I could not answer one question, that’s when the interview stopped. I was a little disappointed. But Sir reassuringly, “You did very good. More than expected.” This was a Sir’s personality, always supporting and encouraging. After selection, there was delay in the joining process.  In the meantime, I got offer from ICDDRB.
We visited Sir house many times, in Elephant road, atomic energy commission quarter in Mohakhali and finally in Fuller road. My visit to Sir’s house in Fullar Road was very intellectually stimulating. We used to talk about many things, science, politics, social system, religion. About religion he made one comment years ago which still keeps me thinking about it. He said that our prophet (PBUH) was God’s messenger to the people. His duty was just to give the message to the people, not to control the people. Whereas these days, muslims are trying to control each other, even killing to control them. Allah did not give the authority to our prophet (PBUH) to control people, why are we trying to control people in the name of religion, killing them. Some serious thinking needed is here, I am sure.
I talked to Sir in elaboration about an outrageous plan I have trying to make key people to agree to it—a solution to the scarcity of fund for Biotechnology research. My proposal was to introduce a nationwide Biotechnology Lottery. I wrote to key people in Biotechnology research when all of them met during a Biotechnology conference. Some agreed, some disagreed. My line of logic was if Bangladesh Red Cross can have lottery for years, why can’t Bangladesh Biotechnology Society have one. It appeared that Sir was liking the idea—I got excited and continued-- Government, cannot provide enough fund for Biotech research as huge amount money is needed and Govt. has other priorities. So, we have to raise our own research fund. Instead of looking up to the Govt.  Some states in USA put lottery money in research; in Germany it is a norm. To solve all our problems, we cannot depend on Govt. we have to engage our people to solve the problem and lottery is the way to engage the people in solving our national issues. Sir was quite for few seconds, then he said I agree to your formula to engage people in solving national issues instead of looking up to Govt. for everything. But I have one question—when are you going to join politics, you just gave a political lecture. We had a good laugh.
Sir was the first biologist to serve as the Chairman of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, a remarkable achievement. He was serving as the Chairperson of Atomic Energy Authority, overseeing the nuclear power plants of Bangladesh, highest level of service to the country, which he performed tirelessly.
Sir was such nice and kind person, he treated everybody with respect, including the students. He was very popular among the students for his kind and considerate nature. We, DU microbiologist have an alumni association, DUMAA, Dhaka University Microbiology Alumni Association. From DUMAA we have decided to initiate an award in Sir’s name. It will be go to the Microbiology student who received highest score in GRE in an academic year. I have communicated to madam (Mrs. Naiyyum Chowdhury) about initiating this award, madam has approved. We will give the first award in 2020. This is our minimum, humble effort to honor our beloved teacher. Time goes by, we all will have to leave this world. We all should try to live a meaningful life. Contributing to science, motivating others to work and achieve the max, are criterion of a true teacher; Sir was the perfect example in my eyes.  Sir was person who believed and who not only believed but proved through his action that-“Work is Worship”. May Allah grant Sir the highest place in Jannat. Ameen.
Ashfaque Hossain
2nd batch of Microbiology .
Present Address
Dr. Ashfaque Hossain
Professor and Chairperson
Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
RAK College of Medical Sciences
Deputy Director of Research and Central Research Laboratory
RAK Medical and Health Sciences University
Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
Mobile: +971-551831572
E. mail: ashfaque@rakmhus.ac.ae; ashfaquehossain@gmail.com