THE New Age office has moved, finally. Almost everyone who has worked with New Age — some of them have left the newspaper and a few have left this world — has heard of the office relocation plan, which began to be heard of about six years after New Age had come out. But the whiff in the air gained force around October 2015 when we heard the building and the land were sold.
We have left behind the Holiday Building, erected in the corner where the road approaching Moghbazar from Mohakhali and the road approaching Hatirjheel from Karwan Bazar cross, now known as Rainbow Crossing, in the early 1980s at Tejgaon — 30, Tejgaon Industrial Area Dhaka 1208, to be specific. New Age was planned towards the end of 2002 in the building, born in 2003 and had been housed there till February 2, 2017.
We have left the building for demolition to put up a hotel and it is certainly sad to leave buildings that have memories long past. Two of us still working with New Age being shifted from Holiday’s journalist staff have treasured Holiday memories associated with the building.
Nurul Kabir, now editor of New Age, who joined the newsweekly Holiday — which till then gave out mostly views — in September 2000 as city editor, had to be in the building almost everyday for 16 years — working actively with the Holiday for two years, partially for close to a year, when New Age was in planning stages and he was in the thick of it, and then with New Age.
When Nurul Kabir — invited by the Holiday’s then executive editor NM Harun and further persuaded by Holiday’s then special correspondent Akbar Imam, who left the newsweekly in August 2000 and died, of a heart attack, on October 18, 2001 — joined the Holiday, I had been off, working with an information technology magazine, for a little more than a year. I joined the Holiday in July 1998 as assistant editor, went off to the monthly magazine towards the end of 1999 and came back to the Holiday again in July 2001 as staff correspondent, working there till New Age came out and still going to the building, for days on end at times, until the second of February. It left me with memories of working at the building longer than what anyone, among the journalists, of course, now has at New Age.
There are three others having long memories of working with the Holiday, and the building, much too older than mine. Md Sakhawat Hossain, who has managed Holiday’s weekly production ever since Holiday came out in 1965, first as compositor at the printer’s near Farmgate, then, again as compositor at the PolWel Press, with an English composing section opened exclusively for the Holiday, at Paltan, and then, working with hot metal type, phototypesetter and computer, at the building when the Holiday moved to Tejgaon.
Ruhul Amin Begh — a trusted man of Enayetullah Khan, who founded the Holiday, in 1965, and New Age in 2003 — is the second to have long memories, now mostly muddled yet having insights into the past, of the Holiday and the building. Khandakar Belayet Hossain — ready to rise against any odds to save Enayetullah Khan — who had always guarded the Holiday Building, had lived around the place and grew with the building before taking up the job of guarding Holiday, every single day and night.
With New Age being in planning stages, the ground floor of the building, which once housed a partly functional printing press and doubled up as being the store room, was converted to be used as the news room, with the editorial, culture, Xtra teams working on the first floor, the general section, dealing with administration, accounts, circulation and marketing on the second floor, and a quarter of the floor left for use by Holiday.
For people still working with either Holiday, which moved to a place at Niketan in the morning of January 30, or New Age, which outlasted the host in staying at the Holiday Building, the place beckons to memories of more years for a few and of a few years for the most of them.
The Holiday Building, which has now ceased to be associated with the weekly Holiday or New Age, had, until almost the turn of the century, only three floors and a quarter, with a wide-gated entrance that had been walled when New Age began. The ground floor housed a printing press, the first floor the Holiday’s editorial staff and the second floor other offices of the Holiday. The room quarter the size of the floor on the third was given out on rent to an IT firm.
The entrance to the building through the ground floor, with the printing press that could print only black-and-white newspapers and used to print three or five of them, including the Holiday, every week, had memories of the preparatory stages of New Age. When Enayetullah Khan decided to bring out New Age, Nurul Kabir was put in charge of the recruitment. The Holiday Building had by then been refurbished, with everything remaining the same but with a new look, reflecting signs of fresh injection of money.
The ground-floor entrance and a tea-stall a few yards off, owned by Mofazzel Hossain Khan who Akbar Imam started calling Mahajan, the chief of the trade, together constituted the place to meet journalists and others coming in or invited to tea for the recruitment or discussion.
The later-day entrance through the passage to the left of the building had earlier been used as a parking space for Enayetullah Khan’s car. The passage, along the Central Storage Depot boundary wall, also led to a low pond of a sort, with an opening, rarely used, onto the Tejgaon end. A building sprang from the pond area, after New Age had come out, to house a printing press, not the one that prints New Age, on the ground floor, the New Age canteen on the first, the New Age library and other offices on the second, and the IT firm that was earlier housed on the third floor of the main building and a conference room on the third floor. The entire building was pulled down in December 2015, which led most of to believe that New Age was, in effect, relocating or, at least, more efforts had been put in.
But between the erection and demolition of the auxiliary building, New Age bells and trinkets such as the weekend supplement Xtra and Trends were housed on the third floor of the main building till 2014. The floor was further extended earlier to house a Bangla weekly, Saptahik Budhbar, coming out from the New Age house in 2009 and closed in 2011. Beginning in 2011, the place on the floor left vacant by the Budhbar staff had housed the New Age online team. When the auxiliary building was pulled down, the library went back into a corner on the third floor of the main building in January 2016. Xtra and Trends teams were brought down on the first floor in the place where the library had previously been housed. There had been small within-the-building relocation of a few sections all these years.
Then it was time for the parting. As days rolled on, discussions become louder about when it will happen and what the new office will look like. A plan about a new office building fell through. Another came in — mostly the fourth floor of a building at 300/5/A/1 on Bir Uttam CR Dutta Road, to the right of the T-junction of the Sonargaon Road and the one approaching it from Bangla Motor. Preparation gained speed, initially going slower than what we thought and then faster than we could and should.
The Holiday was the first of the wave to be leaving, in about two hours on January 30. We reached office and found the Holiday gone. The general section of New Age followed suit, beginning in the afternoon that day and taking all that it needs along, mostly, by the next day. Then, as cometh the hour, on February 2, the building started to darken, with rooms one after another being cleared — with fewer fellows, as the day rolled into night, roaming about, pensively, carrying out the day’s work, or night’s, taking the last of the snaps for keeping. Everything was packed, in boxes with tags as were the desktops so that they could be matched in the new office even if they get mixed when being shifted. Journalists walked out about 3 o’clock next morning and all boxes were ferried off by noon, pulling down the curtain, finally, on the Holiday Building and all of the 33 years’ history that it had.
The New Age office has moved, but taking along the independent editorial stand and the reliable and balanced presentation of news that New Age has come up with all these years, being critical of the government, rising up against injustice and espousing the fearless journalistic ethos dedicated to discharging democratically-oriented intellectual responsibilities in society by upholding political, economic and cultural interest of people of Bangladesh and beyond.
Abu Jar M Akkas is deputy editor
at New Age.